How Was Your Journey

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

Book Release

We are pleased to announce that Sean Stillman’s book ‘God’s Biker: Motorcycles and Misfits’ is being published by SPCK and due for release on 20 Sep, 2018. It is now available for pre-order in local bookshops or via all the usual online book stores internationally.

Now available for pre-order

 

‘Sean has shown me constantly what lies at the heart of the Christian community.’ 

– Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Foreword.

 

For more information please go HERE.

Beatitudes Exhibition Now Open

We are so pleased to be able to write with news that our wonderful Beatitudes exhibition opened at Swansea Grand Theatre on 21 November 2016 and will remain on view until 4 Feb 2017.

These eight pieces of work from seven different artists cover a wide variety of art mediums and pack a real punch as each artist poured their heart and soul into their work, drawing on Jesus’ words know as ‘The Beatitudes’ in Matthew’s Gospel chapter five.

For the last ten years this work has been based at Zac’s Place and now is available to a wider audience. You can view that work for free on Level two of the exhibition area of the theatre whenever the threat is open, which is usually daily from 9.30am and until the end of the evening performances in the main house or the depot theatre.

Please find below a few pictures from our opening night – hopefully they’ll serve as enough of a taster to get you along! It was great to have a couple of the artists there too!

And here’s how they got there! 
These cases now mean that the exhibition is available to travel to other venues.

The Beatitudes at The Grand

We are delighted to announce that our in house art commission inspired by The Beatitudes of Jesus, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, will be exhibited on Level 2 at Swansea Grand Theatre from 21 Nov 2016 until 4 Feb 2017.
 
 Feel free to get the word out and encourage conversation around these stunning pieces of work.
 

Poppies In The Wasteland


Like a poppy growing in the middle of some waste ground, I love to find signs of life in unexpected places. The Joshua tree in the desert or the tender care of one vulnerable person towards another.

I’m writing these words whilst in Ukraine, a place I have visited on many occasions. I always go with the intentions of giving and serving, but always return feeling like I am the one who has been enriched by the community I have gone to serve.
Something happens when we deliberately choose to live on the margins, when life among the marginalised becomes the norm rather than the exception or the token gesture.

On one of my first visits to Ukraine many years ago, I sat with a fellow biker. His face was deeply scarred with a skin condition that was afflicted on him by the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster. We rode to the ruins of what once his orphanage home and he told me his story. All I did was listen, for maybe two hours. At the end of our time together he embraced me and thanked me for listening. This was the first time he had told his story to a foreigner. As far as he was concerned, he and his story, the plight of his community had been completely forgotten by his own government and the rest of the world.

To feel forgotten, to be left bereft of any sense that your voice is heard or even matters if it is heard, is a desperately lonely place to be.
Over the years, I have found great inspiration from the on the road stories of Jesus of Nazareth.

On one such occasion, he and his mates travelled across a lake to a graveyard, adjacent to a pig farm, that probably supplied the Roman garrison its food. The purpose of their journey was to meet a man that was caught in a trap of bizarre behaviour that manifested itself in many ways including self-harm, living naked among the graves and displays of almost supernatural strength that rendered him so unpredictable the community tried to chain him up.

As Jesus was a Jew, this man presented every reason under the sun why he shouldn’t be on Jesus’ radar for a conversation. An encounter with a naked, madman, living among the dead, next to a pig farm, would have ruffled more than a few feathers in the temple courtyard and effectively rendered Jesus untouchable.
There are many levels to this story found in the Gospels, but the thought I want to leave for reflection is this.

At the end of the encounter, the man was clothed and in his right mind. At the beginning of the encounter, we find Jesus, deliberately choosing to go out of his way, break some cultural taboos, put himself in a vulnerable position to demonstrate to this guy, he and his suffering was not forgotten.

If our concern for those who are marginalised, for whatever reason, moves us to act, let us be prepared to cross borders, be vulnerable ourselves and be surprised at the poppies we find growing in the wastelands.

Cheers and God bless.
Sean Stillman

A Lament From Zac’s Place

On Tuesday evenings as a ‘church for ragamuffins’ community we gather together to study, discuss and grapple with the Bible. They’re often very frank and refreshingly honest times of faith and struggle. Quite often we methodically work through a book of the bible. When Sean suggested we looked at the book of Lamentations there were a few raised eyebrows!

However at the end of the series, which demonstrated a language for pain and suffering and finding God in it, each was invited to contribute to writing our own Lament. Liz patiently and skilfully compiled everyone’s contributions into what you read below. Enjoy.


Zac’s Lament

God, I feel worn out, frustrated.
I am too busy being busy to notice what people need yet I judge them because I feel I am the one who has to do all the work.
I am a let-down, embarrassed at the state I sometimes find myself in and crushed when those close to me see me like that.
My heart is heavy because my words have caused hurt to others;
I have brought disharmony to my family.
My parents have seen their hopes fade and they – and I – have seen the effects of addiction on those we love.
I see those who suffer from illness and those who mourn with grief so deep at the loss of their parents.
And with eyes that can no longer cry I give the word for my beautiful dog to be put to sleep.
My stupidity, naivety, fear and anxiety get in the way
and stop me helping others.
I’ve been taking God for granted,
missing out on the freshness of his love.
I wish time could be reversed; what if I had done things differently?

The city has a heavy spirit of despair, where is hope?
It has never recovered from past hurts;
many great shops have closed down
and money has been wasted on foolish projects.
Greed and materialism have taken up residence.
We’ve given up on our dreams and our passions.
Nobody cares about our environment or government,
because we believe we are powerless to change anything.
We experience a lack of community, concern and love
where the homeless are treated like nobodies,
people are rejected instead of embraced
and a huge amount of food is wasted.
An offer of friendship is seen as weakness
and there is no appreciation for those who help others.
Only the gossips, who find pleasure in reminding us of our past failings, thrive.

The world is round like the lives people lead, always coming back to the same conclusion:
where is hope?
We have the society we deserve, a throwaway society where racism, violence and rubbish abound, where it’s every man for himself. Self, self, self.
Governments everywhere act out of selfish interests
instead of for the common good.
Migrants, child soldiers, Syria, cruelty to animals, torture, rape, degradation of women, Palestine, injustice, fear, refugees, hatred, sorrow.
We have lost our passion for justice; we have lost respect for all living creatures.
Where is hope?

All who hope make hope.
Hope is finding a purpose, putting an idea in place when there is nothing left to salvage – and believing that it will come to pass.
Hope is in places like Zac’s where people talk to each other and treat each other with respect.
Hope is in drug agencies and churches beginning to work together for people instead of preaching at them.
Hope is seen in surprising places, in street children who should have none.
Hope is in people who care, people like us, people who will work 100% for God.
I believe God has a wider plan,
one that will use people’s gifts to help put things right,
one that through prayer, community and action will produce fruit.
When we love each other, when we allow ourselves to be the wild sacred beings God created,
we are powerful beyond measure.
With God’s help
we can be the change we want to see in the world.
God’s love and grace are overwhelming,
his forgiveness never-ending.

Music Stories and Generosity

Last Saturday’s gig at Zac’s Place with Martyn Joseph and Bob Harris proved to be a magical night of stories, songs and generosity.
 


Serving as the conclusion of six months of highlighting our cause at his concerts around the world, Martyn was able to present us with a cheque for £16,000 from his Let Yourself Trust. This money had been raised by donations from his fans and supporters on both sides of the Atlantic. We are the third project the Trust has supported and we cannot express in a few words what this kind of gift to a small operation like ours means.
 


The concert itself was a whole lot more than a cheque presentation though. Martyn’s exquisite performing skills and punchy lyrical journeys alongside Bob’s anecdotes from a life time of broadcasting and friendship with so many of the most significant music makers of the last 50 years – Springsteen, Lennon, Bolan, Plant to name just a few, made it a night to remember.
 


The packed house of 120 music lovers did not miss the significant threads of common ground as Bob has championed the cause of lesser known musos giving them radio play, Martyn often choosing to highlight matters of injustice that miss the headlines and our efforts to support those who slip through the nets of mainstream support.
 
 It was great to see the natural interaction between Martyn and Bob, clear evidence of a very deep mutual respect and warmth for each other and no surprise that Bob should choose to be patron of LYT.
 


It was a mammoth effort to clear the decks and transform our space back into a performance venue, but as always Zac’s volunteers are the best & everything came together.
 


Our deepest thanks to Martyn, Bob and the supporters of Let Yourself Trust for their support and standing with us. This gift enables us to have confidence and financial security to move forward with new ideas that will support our community better.
 
 Enjoy these photos!
 
 Picture Credits – Alastair Gray, (above)
 Others – Bob Harris, Sean Stillman, Justine Ferland