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Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) - - - - - - 01392 206229 - - - 07941 880768

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We are a community of faith seeking to discover the face of Jesus Christ in our Church, in our Community and in our Commitment.

Thursday 31 March 2022

Good Friday People - Crucify Him

Shiela Cassidy moves from Torture to the roaring mob outside Pilate’s Palace and hears the hateful words of the Crowd. When I contemplate the Holy Week Gospel narrative, I often wonder if those who hailed Jesus with Hosannas just days ago, where also calmly for his death on that fateful day.

Here is what Sheila Cassidy has to say.

“When the torturers had finished with Jesus, Pilate presented him to the crowd, thinking they would be appeased by seeing him so hurt and humiliated - but they were be moved, and shouted with one voice, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him’. And Pilate who was a weak man, and afraid of trouble, did the expedient thing, and sentenced Jesus to death.

There is something obscene about the death penalty: some- thing much worse than all the terrible things that people do to each other in anger or for lust, for gain or for revenge. Oscar Wilde captures the feel of this in The Ballad of Reading Gaol in which he writes of a prisoner awaiting execution for killing his mistress.

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky,

And at every drifting cloud that went

With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,

Within another ring,

And was wondering if the man had done

A great or little thing,

When a voice behind me whispered low,

‘That fellow’s got to swing.’

Dear Christ, the very prison walls

Suddenly seemed to reel,

And the sky above my head became

Like a casque of scorching steel;

And, though I was a soul in pain,

My pain I could not feel. l

I only knew what hunted thought

Quickened his step, and why

He looked upon the garish day

With such a wistful eye;

The man had killed the thing he loved,

And so he had to die.:”

But here in the condemned Christ, what do we see.  C S Lewis put is this way, “ It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.“ With N T Wright following in similar thoughts, “Jesus' death was seen by Jesus himself ... as the ultimate means by which God's kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God's kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.”

Having read Shiela’s words we may well need to ask where do we stand as we hear the words, “Crucify him, Crucify him!”

Perhaps we should ponder on the statement by William Penn who said, “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine

Lord, our God;

Give us the eyes to see your face

the ears to know your voice

among ordinary people,

both the good and the bad.

Let us not be fooled

by the wrapping:

by dull brown paper

or tawdry ribbon, 

but grant us the insight, 

the patience and gentleness,

to unwrap, to uncover,

the gifts that lie hidden

in all your people.

Help us to share the pain of others,

to learn what it means

to be fully human.

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Good Friday People - Torture

As we daily view the month long  incessant bombing of the Ukrainian people on our television screens, Shiela’s Cassidy’s chapter on Torture, written some 30 years ago, seems to speak with stark reality to the darkness of today. She writes -

“I think it’s my fury and impotence at the widespread use of torture that has, more than anything, fired me to write this book. (Good Friday People) On the one hand, we read the endless obscene descriptions of cruelty that emerge from countries where torture is practised, facts that no one, myself included, wants to know about. ‘Humankind,’ as Eliot reminds us, ‘cannot bear too much reality.’ On the other hand, we dwell upon the passion story, dramatising it in art and music, weeping over the ‘Sacred Head ill used by reed and bramble scarred’. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’, the singer croons and the music makes my heart burst. No, I want to scream, no, I wasn’t there — but I was there in Chile, when they tortured some poor man in the next room, and I heard his screams with my own ears. I was there too when the guard threw his blood—stained shirt at us to wash and I have sat hour after hour at a Finnish Tribunal listening to the revolting

evidence of humankind’s inhumanity.

What should we do about torture, I ask myself, and I don’t know the answer. I just know we need to take the tears we shed for Jesus and use them to wash the blood stained faces of the Good Friday people of our won day.”

There is a danger that as we view today’s torturous plight of the Ukrainian people that we will become blind to the reality of such horror and we will reach a state of compassion fatigue. Perhaps we should pray with the psalmist on behalf of the Ukrainian people 

“ Vindicate me, O God, and champion my cause against an ungodly nation. From a deceitful and unjust man, deliver me! For You are my God, my stronghold.

Why have You spurned me? Why do I go about gloomy because of the oppression of the enemy? Send forth Your light and Your truth— let them guide me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain and to Your dwelling places. 

Then I will come to the altar of God, to the God of my exceeding joy, and praise You upon the harp —O God, my God. 

Why are You downcast, O my soul? Why are you murmuring within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance.” Psalm 42:1-5

Today my verse considers Christ’s torture before the crucifixion.

In royal robes and crown of thrones 

stands prince of peace to face the scorn.

He takes such punishment such shame

As flaying whip cuts deep his frame.

The judgement made, the sentence passed 

As from the hall, through crowds amassed

March Pilate’s men,  imperial guard

And lead Christ on with body scared.

Each whip on flesh, each hurtful smite

Each callous curse, each whealing bite

Upon his  battered sacred form

He bears through grace, its hurt transforms.

Transforms into a love outpoured;

A living peace midst earth’s discord,

As onto hill he walks forlorn

Intent just there our lives atone.

O Saviour Christ, O Master friend

Help me to walk ‘tward cruel end,

And take my cross, and follow you

The life, the way, the lasting truth.

© 2022 Paul Collings

Shiela Cassidy ends her chapter of Torture with this prayer.

Lord, we sit . 

in sackcloth and ashes.

We are a poor people,

weak and wounded, 

soiled and guilty.

We know we are trapped

in the sin of our world,

by torture and rape, 

hunger and child abuse.

Lord, we cry out,

from the depths of our path.‘

Bend the heavens

and come down,

pull us out of the mire,

for we are going under.


Tuesday 29 March 2022

Good Friday People - The Way of Dispossession

Shield Cassidy, imprisoned herself and subject to horrific treatment writes, “In the traditional Stations of the Cross we have the scene where Jesus is stripped of his garments prior to being scourged. We see him depicted in pious art, a sad, pale figure clad modestly in loincloth or towel, standing humbly before his captors, not unlike the demonstration photographs of patients in medical textbooks, stripped to display the signs of their disease.

But the stripping that happens as an aid to interrogation is not quite like that. There is no loincloth to protect the modesty but a violent insistence on total nakedness so that vulnerability is maximised. Those who work with victims of torture speak of the deliberate perversion of the relationship of intimacy. It is no accident that people are stripped naked, that they are genitally abused, humiliated and raped, for this constitutes the greatest humiliation that one human being can inflict upon another.

And yet, it is possible, after a while to transcend the shame of vulnerability, to regain an equilibrium and inner certainty that one’s personhood and dignity lie beyond mere externals and are therefore unassailable.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11

On corner there of every street

Sits humankind’s poor, deplete 

Bereft of place, of hope, of life

Where hour by hour grinds on their strife.

Stripped of place, of dignity, aim

Their tortured lives our endless shame.

Yet there midst gutters murky mess

I faintly see your there to bless.

It is with shame that I would walk

Across the road, dare not to talk

Or reach my hand e’en gently touch

And hear again love’s, “for of such”.

By hurtful bruise you bore our shame;

Love’s holy purpose, sacred aim.

Yet I am weak to follow on

And to your gracious side be drawn.

Lord, in my weakness come forgive

Enable me your life to live.

Dirty my hands that reach that feel

Others needs, as there  I kneel.

© 2022 Paul Collings

Lord, we are afraid, —

' we are afraid of you,

of what you may ask.

We yearn for your coming,

for your love, for your passion,

but we are afraid.

We cling to the familiar,

to people and things,

terrified of trading

the security of the known,

for a future beyond imagining.

Give us your courage

to say ‘Yes’.


Monday 28 March 2022

Good Friday People - Dark Night

Following the Shiela Cassidy’s chapter on the last supper, she now guides we the readers towards the Dark Night on the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane.  Of this she focuses on the words of Jesus, “My Soul id sorrowful to the point of death” and how he continues by telling the disciples to stay were they are and keep awake as he moved away from them and threw himself on the ground to pray.

On reading this my mind went the over 100,000 people spending so many dark nights where even sleep evades them. This terrible night is perhaps one of the most precious accounts we have of Jesus for it reveals Jim to us in all his humanity. She continues, Good Friday people are no strangers to fear. They learn to live with it, to thumb their noses at it and also confront it face to face in the dark nourish of the night when they are alone

Through darkened night I glimpse, I peer

As down the road I tread with fear.

Yet there I see him onward  walk

Midst rumour’s, hate and shameful talk. 

His life into their hands he’ll place

And onto judgement’s hall to face 

A trumped up charge, A pointless trial

Where witness false, the truth defiles.

On, on ‘long pathway t’wards the cross, 

He kneels and prays, no thought the cost

Of anguished mind, of heart’s deep pain

As body soul, each  sinew  strains.

Lord, as I view that darkened night

Help me to see once more your light.

Shine through the gloom of my dark soul

And through it’s rays, your grace behold.

Renew my will, strengthen my mind,

Transform my thoughts by your design.

That when I face my dark-night’s road

With you can, face gloom’s frightful load.


Lord of Creation 

moulder of our fragile clay,

Shape us in your image.

Spin us round, if you must 

until we’re dizzy;

Hollow us out, if you must, 

until we are empty 

of all that is false and useless.

Fill us daily with living water 

that we may carry your 

life to a world dying of thirst.


help us watch 

with our Ukrainian Sisters and Brother’s 

in the dark night of their souls and pray, 

Father not my will but yours be done. Amen

Saturday 26 March 2022

Good Friday People - Last Suppers

Shiela Cassidy contemplates many of the last suppers of Salvadorian People who under the regime of oppressive governments would soon face incarceration, torture and even death. She writes These last suppers are important not just because they reassure us, unnervingly, of the humanity of those who died but because they were occasions on which important things were said.

She writes:

It is interesting to note the sequence of events at the Last Supper, “Then Judas, who would betray Him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said it yourself.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, saying “take and eat, this is My body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.…This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Here in these verses below I find myself sat as if hearing Christ’s words for the first time.

The table spread with bread and wine

As friend with friend together dine.

Is more than just some earthly sign.

For there you stoop with grace divine

And take bowl, and towel sublime  

You wash each foot of follower-friend

As with no word to comprehend

The beauty of love’s cleansing grace

Within that upper room they trace

The gentle touch of your embrace

A final meal with broken bread

Of wine outpoured, betrayal dread!

What now the thoughts within each head.

As sacramental food they’re fed

How comes such love to stand instead?

His body broken; his blood shed!

As on to Calvary’s hill he’ll tread.

And though I fear what lies ahead

May I too sit at table spread

And see now bowed his sacred head

Lord Jesus Christ, life giving bread

You weep and cry as on you tread

To city streets with palms outspread

As there for me as prophet said

With arms outstretched dies in my stress.

© 2022 Paul Collings


Comforter of widows,

Washer of feet,

show us how to care for each other

Teach us to love as you did: 

Unconditionally, unilaterally, .

without fear or favour,

pride, or prejudice.

Give us open hearts ,

and wise minds

and hands that are worthy

to serve in your name. Amen

Friday 25 March 2022

A Party at Bethany

Midst all the tension of Jesus onward move towards Jerusalem, we have an image of what Sheila Cassidy calls “A Party at Bethany”

She writes. “Jesus knew he was going to die and yet he smiled and joined in the conversation because that’s what polite people do. But Mary knew something that the others didn’t know or wouldn’t face and she did the only thing she could think of which was to make a massive public declaration of love by pouring a box of expensive embalming ointment over his feet and wiping it off with her hair. I love to imagine the scene, an commotion it must have caused and the pungent smell of the aromatic oils as it spread through the house.

And why did she do it? The commentaries talk about her doing it for Jesus’ burial, but I can’t say that makes a lot of sense to me. I think Mary wanted to say ‘I love you’. I care that you are lonely and afraid. I wish I could stop it happening but  know it’s got to be. So here is a SIGN, a sign that I know how you feel, that you are precious to me. My wasting this stuff on you is the only way I know how to make up to you for what you’re going through now.”

She then goes onto to speak of how her work within the hospice movement correlates with Mary’s actions. She continues, “The Bethany story is especially important to many of us who work in the hospice movement for we too pour the precious ointment of our time, our skill and our love over those who are dying and who, therefore, in human terms are of no further economic worth.“

We can similarly compare the plight of the Ukrainian Refugees and those sheltering in basements whose lives are seen as worthless by the invading oppressors. And so she prays, 

Lord of the Universe, Master of all, 

look in love upon your people.

Pour the healing oil of your compassion 

on a world wounded and dying.

Send us out in search of the lost, 

to comfort the afflicted, 

to bind up the broken, 

and to free those trapped 

under the rubble of their fallen dreams. Amen

A party Lord, how can this be

Within this life’s uncertainty?  

How can you settle in this way

With friends upon this doubt-filled day?

For there you gather, rest and pray

In spite of glooms own darkening way.

Where comes this inner sacred power;

Of peace beyond time’s troubled hour?

The resurrection life you claimed

With truth so earnest, unashamed.

As Lazarus lay in stone cold tomb

Your word called forth beyond death’s doom.

At Beth’ny too I halt a while

To sit and capture love’s dear smile

To hear the calm of gentle voice

And in my heart sing and rejoice.

For here through joyous friendship, care

Your loving kindness, you would share

Beyond the travail soon to rule

With vicious, callous, torture, cruel.

Lord, I would sit at your blest feet

And there behold the mercy seat;

Safe in your presence, there by grace

To gaze upon your lovely face.

© 2022 Paul Collings

Thursday 24 March 2022

We without a future

Sheila Cassidy continues her journey with those she calls “Good Friday People” by considering those without a future. In the light of the Ukraine Crisis, the plight of those fleeing or under such  barbaric oppression brings such seeming uselessness into focus. She writes, “Perhaps that is the essence of this desert experience, the deep gut level understanding that we have here no abiding city, that we are sojourners in a land we did not make. The dying are like refugees, like any homeless people, rootless and insecure, vulnerable and afraid.

Jesus saw this insecurity as a condition for discipleship, for he told a man who wanted to follow him, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

What did he mean here, I wonder, for earlier on he invited a prospective disciple to come home with him and see where he lived. Perhaps he was now at a much more dangerous and itinerant stage of his mission, moving quickly along the road and sleeping in a different bed each night lest the Pharisees lay hands on him.”

Later in this portion of her book, Sheila Cassidy quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs people who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to resist in all times of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we rely on ourselves and not on him alone.”

The leper and the outcast stood

No future, place or livelihood 

Decried by most, by others shunned, 

Whilst by the crowd in silence stunned.

No hope, no aim within their power 

Just darkened clouds their final hour

And in the travail of their souls

No future daylight they behold.

Yet light into their darkness cameo

Through touch and call of their own name.

For where no future could be see

Now brightness shines by your decree.

Lord of the past, of yesteryear, 

Of present moment with its fears

Speak hope, speak joy, your healing power 

Transform my darkness hour by hour.

© 2022 Paul Collings

Prayer by Shiela Cassidy

Lord of our troubled world:

We prayer for all who suffer, 

for refugees and orphans, 

for families disrupted by war.

We pray for church workers and ministers 

for all who work for the afflicted, 

especially your people in Ukraine.

Help us to work for justice, 

without which we have no right to peace. Amen

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Towards Jerusalem

In Good Friday People, Shiela Cassidy traces the plight of the Salvadorian People and aligns their situation with that of Jesus as he looked towards Jerusalem. Quoting one of the radical priests of the 1970’s she writes, “ It is dangerous to be a Christian in our world, where the preaching of the gospel is subversive and were priests are exiled for preaching it!

It is hard for us to walk in the footsteps of such followers of Christ, or walk with Jesus his road. Luke 9:51 tells us, “Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up into heaven, he resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.”

In the following verses I have tried to place my self on that road and face Jerusalem and Christ’s inevitable passion.

The road of tears, The path of fear,

Where love unquestioning appears. 

The way of grace, There truth to face,

Where pain envelops life’s last trace.

You face that city’s holy place

Where judgement seat you will embrace.

And at the cost of coins defrayal, 

A kiss of friend and there betrayal.

The road of tears, the path of fear,

Where waiting crowds prepare to jeer.

The way of grace, there truth to place

As death’s abandonment you face.

Through tear-filled eyes, love’s sorrow weeps

And peers dark waters briny deeps

Of humankind’s impoverished soul,

Where outstretched arms desires them whole.

Yet on tear’s road, my fear, my load

I see your footprints there foretold

The way of grace, your truth to trace

In rainbow arms of love’s embrace.

© 2022 Paul Collings

This is a prayer from the Chairs of the London District of the Methodist Church.

We pray for the people of the Ukraine and the people of Russia, for their countries and their leaders.
We pray for all those who are afraid; that your everlasting arms hold them in this time of great fear.
We pray for all those who have the power over life and death; that they will choose for all people life, and life in all its fullness.
We pray for those who choose war; that they will remember that you direct  your people to turn swords into ploughshares, and to seek peace.
We pray for leaders on the world stage; that they are inspired by the wisdom and courage of Christ.
Above all, Lord, we today pray for peace in Ukraine.
And we ask this in the name of your blessed Son.
Lord have mercy.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Called to Powerlessness

Luke 9:23 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Shiela Cassidy speaks of the Call to Powerlessness; she says  - “Of all the uncomfortable, upsetting gospel texts, this must surely be amongst the most unnerving. What on earth, I wonder, did the disciples make of it, coming as it did immediately after the first time that Jesus broke it to them that his‘ ministry would inevitably end in his death? And when, I wonder, did it first dawn on Jesus that he was running head long into trouble?”

“There is something Very dramatic and puff? about  the missionary call but I am quite clear that it is not only the missionaries who are called to powerlessness. There’s a very real sense in which we are all, sooner or later, required to let go of the strings with which we manipulate our lives and be led, as Jesus put it, ‘where we would rather not go’. For some, however, this call to let go comes much earlier than they expect and is therefore especially bitter.”

This humble thing, humility,

This depth of life’s fragility,

Has in it’s span a strength so rare,

Beyond the image of self-care.

It plumbs the depth of others needs

To rise above the powerful’s greed,

And there it’s voice, though small, does call 

To meet in meekness - all in all.

You left your heavenly kingly realm

To walk beside those overwhelmed.

To desolation, even death

And on cruel cross to gasp last breath.

You stooped on bended knee to cleanse

Disciples feet as servant-friend,

And taught the pow’r of selflessness;

The glory of unfailing grace.

Such powerlessness is still the task

Where faith’s outworking is unmasked

To find in human sacred form

A depth of love each heart to warm.

O Lord, your selfless gift I claim

And in such weakness find love’s aim.

May I in humble depths now find

Your glorious power redefined.

© 2022 Paul Collings

God of all time,
God of this time,
these times are difficult, and we bring them to you.
There have been other times like this when countries have invaded others.
You show us countries seized a village or settlement at a time and countries facing full invasion.
You reveal, when we dare to look, how national boundaries have changed like waves on the sand.
We feel so powerless; it all is so human and so tragic.
We bring it all to you in our confusion and worry.
Remind us, as ever, that worry is not what we must carry.
Remind us that worry makes us smaller, makes our powerlessness real.
Fill the place that worry has taken in our hearts and replace it with hope.
Give us courage to read the news as we can, to listen, to watch, to understand.
As we face the reality of these times, we pray for your hope to carry and fill us.
Let hope be the insight which we gift to each other.
Fill us with your knowledge that hope is as real an act as giving our money and our welcome.
You will bring peace, as ever you do.
Give us courage to gift your hope to that process.

In the name of your incarnated Christ and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit,

By the Revd Elizabeth Gray King, pastor in the URC North Western Synod

Monday 21 March 2022

Good Friday People

Today we start a  poetic journey inspired by Shiela Cassidy’s Book - Good Friday People

“His state was divine, 

yet he did not cling 

to his equality with God, 

but emptied himself 

to assume the condition of a slave, 

and became as we are.” 

 Philippians 2:6

In her book Good Friday people  Author: Sheila Cassidy looks at the vulnerability of those she had met and through the book she introduces us to her Good Friday people.  She also challenges us to walk with them as far as you dare. She says “ sharing their pain, humiliation and despair you will be sharing perhaps more deeply than ever before in the Jesus story.“

“More than anything I have learned that we are all frail people, vulnerable and wounded; it is just that some of us are more clever at concealing it than others! And of course the great joke is that it is O.K. to be frail and wounded because that is the way the almighty transcendent God made people…. and what about Jesus, God made man, Emmanuel, God-with- us. What was he like? We are told again and again that he was a man like us in all things but sin, so perhaps the crucial thing in understanding what he was like ….  Was he always sweet-tempered? It seems no. for he vented a good deal of holy anger on the unfortunate merchants in the temple.” Sheila Cassidy - Good Friday People

A Man like us, in mortal frame,

How could this be, what is God’s aim

That he should walk our cobbled streets

And touch our live’s with his heartbeat?

O Christ who touches this my soul

When even into depths I go,

Raise up me now, that I might see

Your beauty come alive in me.

What kind of sacred power is this

That bows so low the earth to kiss,

Whose wounded hands stretch out to reach

To rescue, save; through love you teach

The sacred truth, the promised word;

Incarnate, lived, your way now heard,

That lowly hearts your grace might know

As latent seed within to grow. 

What kind of man you ask is this?

What foolish notion, what the gist

That purposed, in the mind of God

To stoop so low, to tread earth’s sod?

Yet cautiously,  how can I claim

The peace of Christ’s own sacred name

That wills my sight, that feeds my soul

And by his death renews, make whole.

O Christ of every human road,

O burden bearer on each load,

In truth my heart burns on the way

Though dimmed my sight by doubts betrayed.  

And as you walk beside me now,

O Man of sorrows come allow

My heart to lift from its deep place

And see the beauty of your face.

(c) 2022 Paul Collings

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,

show us your face.

We long to know you, in spirit and in truth,

for you are the Way to freedom.

Teach us to love your  people,

as you and the Father love them,

to be slow to anger and rich in mercy

Help us to understand ourselves,

to cherish your life within us

that we may become as you were,

a place of refuge for the lonely, the wounded and the

sinner. Amen