Sean Stillman was able to host BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday morning celebration programme on 6 Sep 2020. It is available here on iPlayer for 30 days. It features contributions from Rick Elias, Rich Mullins, Jayne Stillman, Phil James and Sammy Horner as well as reflections from Sean.
Warmest greetings to all of you who take some interest in what is happening at Zac’s Place.
Here’s a brief update on our engagement with the local relief effort during the Covid-19 pandemic and an Easter reflection.
Liz brings us a monologue from the perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus, Jayne leads us in a prayer and Sammy & Kylie send a blessing from Wexford in Ireland. We hope you enjoy and are encouraged … ‘may the Saviour watch over you’.
Links referenced in this video also include:
Sammy & Kylie Horner https://sammyhorner.bandcamp.com/
Liz Hinds https://notanotherwannabewriter.blogspot.com/
Zac’s Place http://www.zacsplace.org
SCVS volunteering info: https://www.scvs.org.uk/coronavirus-vols
Like so many places, Zac’s Place has had to temporarily close its doors as the Covid-19 pandemic impacts our city. Sean Stillman explains what has been going on in recent weeks to see people supported in the city, especially those who rely on us and others like us, to get through each day. He goes on to explain how you can get involved in volunteering in Swansea during these days, and where you can get support. Sean also brings a refection from Mark’s Gospel and Singer Songwriter Phil James closes with a moving hymn, singing in both Welsh & English. The old red door may be temporarily closed, but the work still goes on. #SwanseaTogether
Zac’s Place is mission church and initiative of Exousia Trust, Registered Charity 1002581 http://www.zacsplace.org
Links referenced in this video also include:
Swansea Council LAC https://www.swansea.gov.uk/coronaviru…
SCVS volunteering info: https://www.scvs.org.uk/coronavirus-vols
Swansea Together – Tackling Coronavirus: https://www.facebook.com/SwanseaToget…
Phil James: http://www.phil-james-music.com/
Broadcast from home via telephone this time, rather than in the studio due to the Covid-19 emergency, here’s a slightly edited version of Sean’s transcript from 25.3.20 on Eleri Sion’s Show.
Everyone’s life and routines have been turned upside down in recent days and our house is no exception. There’s skateboards sitting idle. There’s a drum kit that won’t be going in and out for gigs. There’s a school prom that won’t be happening, but to my daughter’s relief, no exams to take either. Like many others in the same boat, my wife and one of our son’s work has dried up.
Many of us are worried at the moment – and that’s understandable. But, do you know what? … even in the early stages of this crisis, I’ve seen some signs of hope.
As you know, at Zac’s Place we do lot of work in Swansea with people who are vulnerable and often live on the streets. Last week I had a call from the NHS homeless outreach team, wanting to talk. I was desperate for advice to know what to do for the best in these days, but to my surprise, they wanted our help. Ahead of the game as always, they recognised the need to see every homeless or vulnerably housed person, not just quickly accommodated but also fed.
In a matter of days, volunteers have jumped to action alongside the council and welfare agencies. Already, this week in our area, around 160 vulnerable people have been safely fed each day from a community kitchen, with food delivered to their hostel or B&B. Of course, there’s huge challenges – how do you encourage people to isolate that don’t want to be? But we can try our best.
And there are surprises too. Some individuals who usually refuse support, are seeing the seriousness of what’s happening. They’re reaching out to take the help because they trust us, as we plead with them. And they in turn are reaching out to their mates and persuading them to take refuge.
And here’s the hope. In our communities, people are already working together to make sure others aren’t forgotten. And of course, it’s not just the homeless who are vulnerable. If we ourselves are not vulnerable, then within a very short distance from us, in our street someone will be.
As a Christian, I believe that none of us escapes God’s love. With his mates alongside, Christ reached out to those who would often have been ignored. And that’s how each of us can make a difference today. Who in our street, our community is in danger of being overlooked? Have a think – who are they?
None of us knows how long this pandemic will last.
But knowing you’re not forgotten, might be one of the most precious gifts, we can bring anyone in the coming days.
Sean Stillman. This a slightly edited version of the script from his ‘Wednesday Word’ for BBC Radio Wales, 25.3.20. (Weds Word producer Lisa Hawkins). The original is on BBC Sounds at approximately 1.47 in.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we shall be closed until it is safe for guests and volunteers to move around freely and without concern of the virus spreading.
Thank you so much for your support and understanding. In the meantime please do not leave donations outside the doors. See below how you can support our collective effort in the city.
The venue being closed does not mean we stop functioning as both a church community encouraging one another nor stop us serving the poor. In this time we have teamed up with multiple agencies and Swansea Council to see many vulnerable people supported. See below on how you can help or visit the Swansea Together Facebook Page
THIS EVENT IS NOW POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19 EMERGENCY MEASURES
WE WILL REARRANGED AN ALTERNATIVE DATE
Vesper Sky is a stunning and unique collection of songs and poems, written and performed by poet, broadcaster and songwriter Stewart Henderson, critically acclaimed Scottish singer songwriter Yvonne Lyon and storyteller and broadcaster Carol Henderson.
“… a unique collection of songs and poems … tellingly nuanced performances…” folkradio.co.uk
“Outstanding lyrical intelligence” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
“[Stewart] understands the packed power of words…” Gillian Reynolds, The Sunday Times
“Listening to Yvonne is a life-affirming experience” Iain Anderson, BBC Radio Scotland
Tickets available from Derricks Music, 221 Oxford Street, Swansea, SA1 3BQ and online via the link below. £10 (+£1 booking fee). £12 on the door. Doors open 7pm.
Read more about Stewart & Carol Henderson here: https://stewart-henderson.com/
Read more about Yvonne & David Lyon here: https://yvonnelyonmusic.com/
Every now and then as a church community, we write a communal Psalm. At our Tuesday night Tribal Gatherings we have just completed a series of bible studies around the theme of ‘Jesus, friend of the outcast & marginalised’. The following prayer laments, listens, seeks and reflects on the stories shared together and is the combined contribution of the diverse church community at Zac’s Place. Liz Hinds edited it to give it some structure, but the words are from everyone…. enjoy!
A song for the outcasts, the lost and the lonely
Walk with me, talk with me.
In my life I have experienced everything you feel.
I know what it’s like
To be judged and found unworthy.
To be insulted and reviled because we’re different.
To be looked down upon and rejected.
To be isolated and invisible.
Vulnerable and violated.
To be blamed and shamed.
A little, ugly, unloved, failure,
Abandoned and forgotten.
Humiliated and frightened.
Rejected and ignored.
Screw you society!
Who are you to judge?
Look first at yourself.
For you and me, we are all the same: one in Christ.
One day you will be the outcast, you will be hurt
Because hate leads to blindness.
Have you never made a mistake?
God is good; he listens.
(But he doesn’t answer, does he?)
If you haven’t walked a day in my flip flops
Don’t slander me.
I will not be talked about like some dirty renegade.
I will not believe your lies.
You have heard this before, I know, but believe you are loved.
You are of worth, special and accepted.
Don’t be afraid, you are not alone;
I see you; I am with you.
Don’t let your anger separate you from my love.
I have a plan for your life.
A plan without condemnation.
A plan to give you hope.
You are lost but you are found.
Come sit, eat with me.
I will walk in your flip flops.
Thank you for those who have given.
Thank you for those you have given.
Thank you for the shining light of hope in my darkness.
With you I am strong.
You are my safe place.
May 2019, Zac’s Place.
Sean writes …
Initiatives like Zac’s Place and the stuff that happens at places like it, doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes dedicated commitment from volunteers, staff & a broad support base. It also carries a vision and a passion that the world doesn’t have to stay the way it is, that there is another way to live, to love and to serve. This too doesn’t happen by accident. Somewhere along the way, a spark ignites a flame and fire burns bright.
Pivotal in the story of Zac’s Place is the fire that burns in the core of my soul, that was further fanned into flame by an Australian preacher 30 years ago, who became my friend a mentor. He pointed me to the words and teaching of Jesus that seemed too tough to follow – loving your enemies, forgiving aggressors, caring for and speaking up for the rights of the outcast and marginalised – the stuff of the Sermon on the Mount. It transformed my faith and the course of my life.
This week, John Smith died in the arms of his bride of 51 years, at the age of 77 — and in the spirit of John Wesley, the world had been his parish. Zac’s Place was part of that parish.
He may have had the ear of politicians, activists, global icons, narrowly escaped execution for human rights efforts, and addressed thousands of people in public gatherings, but he was also no more at home than at our soup kitchen when he was in Swansea, (& similar ventures around the world), listening to someone’s story.
He wasn’t perfect, he was wobbly at times, just like the rest of us all are. An ordinary bloke, but committed to the fire of faith in Christ that burned in his soul to his last breath. May we each be grateful for those who have gone before, inspired us and pointed us to a road that says, ‘things don’t have to stay as they are’.
The following article was John’s last published essay and is as poignant, insightful and as challenging as ever.
“For the church, as for cancer, the key question is not how fast you are growing but what you are growing.” Rev. Dr. K. John Smith.
From an original post written by Sean Stillman for the SPCK blog.
After having ridden, what is fast approaching, half a million miles by motorcycle, the road has become more than just a means of getting from one place to another as quickly as possible. The road has become both a friend and an enemy. It has provided the necessary space to think in isolation, uninterrupted by the demands of gadgets. It has created the lens through which to marvel at the natural world and also the challenge to battle against its elements. The heightened risks that come with riding a motorcycle are never far away though – there’s an edginess that keeps things real and keeps your focus sharp.
The road has also become a place of learning to welcome unexpected interruptions along the way. Moments that could so easily be missed, stories so easily untold if it is all about getting somewhere as quick as you can. Over the decades, I have learned to welcome the interruptions. Far from being inconveniences, they have become milestones of significant insight, often from the most surprising sources.
Sometimes I’ve literally been sat in the gutter sharing soup with a homeless friend, who pointed out something that everyone else was missing. On other occasions, it may be a chance conversation that uncovers a captivating story of marginalised indigenous people, being prepared to risk their lives to save their oppressors. It could be the easy to miss grave of a twelve-year-old girl, whose death brought peace to an entire nation of warrior tribes or, it could be the guy who grabbed the opportunity to tell his story of growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl, because he thought the world had forgotten him and his community.
So often the perfect journey, is thought to be the one without interruptions, wrong turns and side-tracks. As I reflect back over the years and miles, some of the most valuable experiences of my life have been exactly at these moments. Ambushed by disaster, frustrated by delays and disappointed in my own stupidity. Often my own broader journey has been far from perfect – yet somehow amid the chaos, the questions and the heartache, it has become a beautiful adventure.
We live in a climate when the perfect selfie is sought and with an obsession for filters to enhance the image, we strive for perfection. We are fearful of our own imperfections, blemishes, fractures and flaws amid the brokenness of our lives. There’s a tendency to fall apart when we realise we cannot place a sunny warm-up filter over every blemish, every stain, every missed opportunity or every mistake. I am reminded of U2’s lyric concerning grace making beauty out of ugly things and this concept has become a significant part of my own story. I have come to discover that moment of liberating surrender; letting go of putting on a perfect performance, and finding, and embracing beauty in broken places.
Next time someone asks, ‘How was your journey?’ – wouldn’t it be great to say, ‘You wouldn’t believe what happened on the way!’
Originally written for and published by SPCK here.