all the best words

I hate travelogues, so I won’t bore you with the fact that I’m on a train from Manchester to London. Or with photos from idyllic english locations.


I have drunk tea with… an installation at the Eden Project

This next blog post was going to be an exploration of what we’re doing next year, but i realise that my last post could easily have given the impression that i had some great truth to unfold, and that this might now simply be a massive disappointment. Alas, we will live with that.

There have been a number of lines from conversations over the last few weeks that have been rolling around my head: Nadia Bolz Weber’s line, ‘the stranger will always make things messy’; Padraig O’Tuoma’s line [and i paraphrase and destroy it here], ‘be the miracle you do not yet believe in’… and a throwaway line from Alistair Duncan in Brighton: it was the same search for the more that led him into Christianity, which is what now leads him out…

I’ve probably already said that what i loved about the Garden wasn’t that it was trying to redefine or reconstruct christianity; that their search for the more doesn’t come from angst or despair or disillusionment with the church. I liked that because, truthfully, the church was bloody good to and for me for a very long time. And it still is. Its beliefs may no longer be where I am at, but it represents a search and a longing that I respect, remember and still resonate with. And while my search has taken a different turn, I couldn’t be here without having been there. I am still profoundly grateful for the transformation that I was offered through that story. It saved me, literally, even though it’s no longer me. [I know that sounds like I think I’m somewhere better; I don’t. I just can’t find a different way of saying it.]

Oddly, this helps me make sense of why I can write liturgy using words and imagery that are formed from a belief that’s no longer my own. After all, when it comes down to it, Christianity has all the best words. I don’t think it created them, though – it just appropriated them. I’m loathe to give them up. And while I use the same language to mean something different, perhaps that doesn’t matter [read: I need to let it not matter!]. Perhaps words, in themselves, whatever they mean, can be transformative. They’re kind of like a parable in that sense. They carry a transformative power in their saying that is much more than their meaning. [Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I love Sigur Ros. They didn’t have the words to make sense of stuff, so they made up their own language.]

So that’s been floating around my head as I’ve walked through Manchester over the last couple of days, thinking about next year’s trip… And the question that keeps coming to mind as I’m trying to work out how the trip will work is where are the places in the city [/the corner of the world i inhabit] where people can be human… and how can we manufacture them, if they aren’t there? I said in the previous post that the invitation to human-ness is at the heart of everything i do at the moment – and if I think about it, it was always the part of Christianity that I found most compelling and transformative. And what I’m really coming to love is that the longing and prayer for that is what I still hold in common with those who still hold the faith…

More to come, when I’ve worked it out.


You’ll never walk alone, the Fab Collective exhibition inside the St Luke’s bombed out church, Liverpool.


  1. ben

    This is great stuff Cheryl.

    I am wondering about this too, and have been thinking about it in terms of uni stuff and the World Parliament of Religions coming up in Melbourne.

    It seems like the invitation to full humanity can be found in the religious impluse (often with a bit of digging), but i wonder if thats because the people who experience the stuff you talk about have found a beginning there, and stayed connected to that world to continue to explore that dis/connection between them and the community, their past and their present etc.

    It reminds me of the shaman on the the edge of the village who is part of the tribe and not part of it, and hows its that sense of disconnect and simultaneous connection that gives her/him power.

    Thanks for being one of the people who reminds me “words, in themselves, whatever they mean, can be transformative” rather than the traps i often experience them as.

  2. Cheryl,

    After all your kind words I am sorry it has taken so long to comment. Its just been a very busy time though the last week spent in the south of france was a nice break! It was really inspiring for us at the garden to meet with you …. even if we got to do most of the talking! We also felt a strong connection and would be keen to develop that going forward. Mark and I had a real chuckle …… we always struggle to articulate the path we are trying to take … and basically just start mumbling … so it was good for us that it seemed to come across. …. hey maybe you could write our mission statement for us!!

    By way of response to the things you have been writing recently, would definitely build on what Ben commented, maybe to push it a bit further. For the shaman maybe there is a double dis/connection: to the community that they are a part of, but also to the natural world into which they travel but also apart from. I think there is a beginning and a connection that is worthy of exploration in both of the dis/connections. Am reading really interesting stuff from Heidegger at the moment about his notion of the ‘holy’. For him, the holy is not something that exists because of a god but it is that which is part of our experience of particular place or thing that makes the thought of ‘god’ possible. I am fascinated by the possibility of creating installations / places that reawaken the sense of that double dis/connection between the ‘holy’ and community….. and for me, the artist who does that most brilliantly at the moment is Gormley. You mentioned Another Place in Liverpool, for me it brings about a transformed awareness of particular place through the placing of the human body into it and then invites the community to become participants in it. Gormley has no time for a notion of God, the holy and probably not even for the idea of the spiritual but, for me at least, he is approaching the same place but with a new language … and not even a word-based language.

    Much more I could say … but if there is a 500 word rule on posts there must be a 100 word rule for comments and I must have badly blown that!

Comments are closed.