church

A Musical Experience

If you're a person who sings, and sings seriously - I'm thinking about choirs and the like, including in church - you MAY know the piece of music I'm talking about today.

It's not easy to sing - I know, because I've tried it once or twice and it was beyond me.

But it's a glorious piece, actually more of an experience I would say, rather than just a 'sing'

And it was on this day - April 13th - in 1742 that Handel's 'Messiah' was first performed in Dublin!

George Frideric Handel was a German born composer who had trained and worked in Germany and Italy before moving to England in 1712. His reputation was built on compositions of Italian opera but as public tastes began to change, he adapted. In 1727 Handel became a naturalised British subject and by the 1730s he began producing English oratorios.

Hallelujah chorus sheet musicResearch tells me that Messiah was actually Handel's sixth oratorio in English and although it apparently had a rather low key debut, it was immediately popular. About a year after the Irish first night, Messiah was premiered in London, a gala performance attended by royalty. And apparently King George was so moved by the rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” that he rose from his seat. The audience also took to their feet and for the past 270-plus years, audiences have continued to do the same. Over the centuries it has become one of the best known, most popular and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

But what I didn't realise until I started researching was that it was written at a time when Handel's health and reputation was failing. He was an opera man and that genre had begun to become less popular. He felt his work had become rather jaded and he was struggling, but he was a deeply religious man and he turned to the Bible for inspiration. And that's when he was re-energised and he started to produce some amazing works!

Messiah is all about life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - the 'Messiah' being the saviour of humankind who is first mentioned in ancient Jewish scripture. Christians believe Jesus is the 'Messiah'.

Handel was so inspired that he apparently finished Part I of the piece (the birth of the Messiah and the Old Testament prophecies) in only six days. He composed Part II (the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus) in nine days. Part III ( which charts the promise of redemption, the day of judgement and the resurrection which ends with the final victory over death for all those who believe) was completed in just six days. The orchestration took Handel only a few days more which means that in total, the whole composition took less than 25 days. Astonishing!

Handel's music is set to words compiled by Charles Jennens who drew from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.  The 'libretto' is apparently not designed to dramatise the life and teachings of Jesus, but to acclaim the "Mystery of Godliness", and anyone who has sung or heard Messiah will be aware not just of the wonderful music but also of the spiritual impact it can have on a soul!

Handel continued to write religious music and to perform until, at the age of  74, he collapsed while conducting a performance of Messiah. At that time, as he was laid in bed he allegedly said  “I should like to die on Good Friday.” 

That wasn't to be, although he did die on a Holy Saturday -  April 14th, 1759. That anniversary is tomorrow! Handel’s grave is in Westminster Abbey in London and it's marked by a statue of him with a score of Messiah opened on the table. The page that is visible is, “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” 

But today I'm going to share perhaps the most familiar piece of music from Messiah and it's the piece that brought a king to his feet. And it's still attracting crowds ... as this 'flash mob' by the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus in the USA proves.

I love this and as I watch it I wonder if all those singing are actually members of the Chorus, or whether because the piece is so well known some people just started singing along?

I think Handel would have loved it.

Enjoy!

 




I'll Fight

I've done quite a few jobs down the years. Worked in newspapers, radio, television, PR and communications, training. I'm also an author.

My first book was about the founders of The Salvation Army, the global church and charity organisation, William and Catherine Booth.

William and catherine book coverWeirdly it was called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' (Monarch/Lion Hudson 2013) ... and yes it was based on the letters the couple wrote to each other from the time they met and throughout their engagement and long marriage.

The letters are full of their love and family life, but also show how that love, and a love for and faith in God, led to the creation of The Salvation Army, from very humble beginnings in the East End of Victorian London to a 'movement' which today can be found in more than 130 countries. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, it's because today - April 10th - is William Booth's birthday! Born this day in 1829 in Nottingham in England, he was a man on a mission. Having become a Christian when he was what we today would call a 'teenager', he was determined to spend his life in God's service.

He yearned to be an evangelist and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He tried hard to fit into the Methodist Church, but he was such an individualist that, ultimately, that just didn't work. Finally, after years of struggle and ministry, he and Catherine found themselves in London where William began to really see the plight of the poor and to be challenged into a response. He and Catherine had realised their 'calling' in life was to champion the hoards of people excluded from church and society, marginalised, ignored, undervalued and even abused.

In 1865 the Booths created the East London Christian Mission, among other things to preach to, feed and support the poor. In 1878 it was renamed and became 'The Salvation Army' and from that moment it really took off, with its quasi military structure and distinctive character. Uniforms and brass bands were among the features which captured the public imagination and attracted not just people from the poverty stricken part of the population but also those from the higher echelons of society who felt that 'church' should be more than just ritual and Sunday attendance at services.  Christian faith in this context was to be shared, and to make a difference in the world. In modern parlance, Christian faith is '24/7' and is to influence what you get up to and how you interact with the world.

The Booths and their followers (known as 'Salvationists') faced much opposition, from society and even the church. Among other things, The Salvation Army asked, and still asks, it's members to give up the booze and that didn't go down well with publicans! Salvation Army members were imprisoned for their faith, and attacked by those who opposed them, including groups calling themselves 'The Skeleton Army'.

But by the time William was an old man he was revered. He and Catherine (she had died in 1890) and their children and followers had developed not just what was effectively a church with many hundreds of 'corps' across the globe, but a mission which helped to pick people up from poverty and equip them for a future where they could look after themselves and their families. Not just a 'hand out' in charity, but a 'hand up'. 

WIlliam's last speech = albert hall ihq imageAnd even as an old man, William Booth never lost the spirit to fight for the marginalised, people who no one else would champion.

On May 9th 1912, just a few months before he died, William ... the 'General' of The Salvation Army ... appeared before a huge crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He had just completed a tour of Europe and it's reckoned around 7,000 Salvationists packed into the venue to hear what would be their leader's final address. 

It was here he was reported to have said something which would sum up his 60-year Christian ministry, and the mission of The Salvation Army.

And it still inspires today 

While women weep,
as they do now, I’ll fight.

While little children go hungry,
as they do now, I’ll fight.
While men go to prison, in and
out, in and out, as they do now,
I’ll fight.
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl
upon the streets,
While there remains one dark
soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!

Quite a few years ago, I was employed as the Head of Media for The Salvation Army in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and we produced a video for a big event (a 'congress') which brought together Salvation Army members and friends from across the UK and the British Isles. 

It was called the 'I'll Fight' Congress and it's theme was that great speech made by General William Booth at the start of the 1900s.

But, big question  - is the sentiment of the speech still relevant for the 21st century?

Well of course there are still 'poor lost girls' ... in fact today The Salvation Army is at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, the modern slave trade, across the world. People still go hungry, still go to prison and end up isolated. Drugs, alcohol abuse, homelessness, unemployment ... these are unfortunately still issues which The Salvation Army helps to address day on day. 

And for that 'congress' we re-worked the original Booth speech to suit the times. It was some years ago, so apologies to the children who kindly helped me on this project. They are now grown adults. 

But it still works ... and it still challenges ... 

 

*image above and film embedded in the video copyright The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre


Thine be the Glory!

Happy Easter!

What a fantastic day today is!

If you're a Christian, like me, it's the Best Day of the Year. 

Why?

It's because today we celebrate something AMAZING!

Easter he is risenSomething supernatural and surreal, astonishing and astounding  ... as Christians we believe that today Jesus, who was killed two thousands years ago in Jerusalem, came back from the dead. He was 'resurrected'.

If you've been reading my blog these past few days, or if you're into theology, you'll know that this is central to the Christian faith. That we believe in a God who is alive. Jesus proved his divinity by living as a man, dying and then ... well being raised from the dead! Defying death!

And all this to give us all hope that if we believe in him, we may also live eternally, eventually, when we're done living life on earth!

Today we celebrate the life of Jesus and his resurrection - and what better way than to share a great hymn?

It is actually my favourite Easter hymn. Years ago I featured on the TV religious programme BBC Songs of Praise  (recorded in Jersey) and THIS was the song I chose.

It tells the story of Easter so well and it's so optimistic, so positive. It always fills me with joy! 

I hope it does the same for you today!

Happy Easter!

 

 


The Best is Yet to Come!

This day is a strange day.

Between the despair of Good Friday and the exhilaration of Easter Sunday - between the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - comes 'Holy' Saturday.

It's a day when the original disciples of Jesus, his friends and followers, will have been in despair. Their friend was dead. He had died in the most horrific way and although a couple of them were with him, most had deserted him and even denied knowing him! How awful they must have felt! They would have been ashamed, gutted and afraid.

But after experiencing the Worst Day of their lives, little did they know that on the horizon was the Best Day ever!

It's something I'm sure we can all sympathise with. Many of us will have been through hardships and trials and had days when it feels like the end of the world, or at least our world as we know it.

But today ... let's be encouraged ... whatever is happening in our lives ...

The Best is Yet to Come!

 

Remember this


Written in Red

On Good Friday, as Christians we are remembering how Jesus Christ was crucified on a hill outside of the city of Jerusalem.

It's perhaps the holiest day of the year for Christians, and some people might think that it's strange to call a solemn holy day that commemorates a death a 'good day'.

JOhn 3 16Lots of deep theological and historical and cultural reasons for that, but for me the 'good' is there because actually it comes a few days before the main revelation of Christianity. Which is  ... that Jesus didn't stay dead!

Yes he died, but then he pushed through death, proving that it didn't have to be the end of existence.

By coming back to life he 'conquered' death which means that if we believe in Jesus we also ultimately can push back death. Dying doesn't have to be the end of it all for us. We can be God's person here on earth,  but we may also live eternally in the spirit world after we have shrugged off this mortal coil

It's an astonishing thing! Difficult to comprehend, supernatural, but when embraced, an outrageous concept of optimism and hope.

Christians believe that although Jesus lived as a man for about 33 years, including 30 as a member of a family, a working man, followed by three years as an itinerant preacher, teacher and miracle worker and healer in the place we now know as The Holy Land (modern day Israel) ... he actually was more than a man. He was the Son of God, or God himself in human form.

We Christians do believe that Jesus was the best example of a human being that ever existed and we are encouraged to emulate his compassion, love and life of service. We also believe that his death (and ultimate resurrection on the day we call 'Easter Sunday') not only shows his divinity, but also paves the way for us to embrace eternal life ... if we would only believe in Jesus and follow him.

If you've been reading my blog a bit this week you might have picked up that by the time he reached Jerusalem in the final days of his life - the time we call 'Holy Week' in the church - the religious leaders of the day were determined to get rid of Jesus.

There were rumours that people believed that Jesus - the poor itinerant preacher - was actually the Messiah. This was the person that ancient scripture said would be sent by God to save the people of Israel. Not to mention those claims that Jesus could actually be God in human form, or the Son of God. For the Jewish religious leaders this was blasphemy and Jesus' popularity threatened their control over the population.

Ultimately they wanted rid of him. And by the day we call 'Good Friday' they had had him tried before the local and the Roman authorities and he found himself being beaten, a crown of thorns rammed onto his head (an ironic reference to the fact that some saw him as a 'King') and he had to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem, through the crowds, being mocked and taunted and laughed at!

The story of Jesus' final hours and his death on that cross at a place called Calvary outside the Jerusalem city walls is documented in the New Testament of the Bible, including in the book of Matthew and Chapters 26 and 27 ,  if you have time to do so, please do read that account today.

It was a horrible death, bloody and brutal, designed not just to punish the person being nailed to a cross of wood and left to hang until they died, but also to warn those watching that THIS is what was in store for them if they, too, dared to defy authority.

There are many songs associated with this day, some very traditional. But this one and this particular version by the Gaither Vocal Band, always stirs my heart as on Good Friday I once again think about what Jesus did two thousand years ago, and what he's still doing for me today.

No pictures on this video. Maybe just close your eyes and listen to the words.

And be blessed!

*this song now on my You Tube channel 


Holy Week

So yesterday was Palm Sunday ... the start of what in the church we call 'Holy Week'!

As I said yesterday, when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, there were many in the crowd who welcomed him and who truly believed in him.

His followers, his 'disciples', had spent three years with him. They knew him well. They had heard him preaching and teaching, performing miracles. They were among those who had come to understand that Jesus was more than a man. They would have been among those who were coming to believe, or hope, that he was the 'Messiah', the Chosen One promised by God down many millennia, who would come to save the People of Israel.

There were those, too, who had been healed by Jesus, those who had seen those miracles, had heard him preach and had hung on his every word. They believed he was special. A 'Master', a 'Rabbi', a man who they could follow, with his message of peace and love and fairness.

And there were those who, perhaps, saw him a leader who would stand up to the Roman authorities who ruled the people with an iron fist, and who would also defy the religious leaders who also wanted to ensure a compliant population. As Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, this group might have wondered why he was riding on a donkey and not a white charger like a hero should. But they may well have thought that this event heralded historic revelation and revolution. This group didn't really know much about the person who was Jesus, even if momentarily they wanted to believe in him. 

However, within a few days, a confusing, an astonishing few days, those crowds who cheered him on the road to Jerusalem would be screaming for Jesus' death. His friends and disciples would desert him, he would be mocked and tried and killed by those who feared his influence and the claims that he might be the Messiah, and the rumours that people thought he might be a king, or the Son of God.From Triumph to what some thought was Disaster, writer Cathy Le Feuvre thinks about the events of Holy Week !

And all in the space of a week.

Now, I'm no theologian. People much cleverer than I will, I'm sure, be able to explain the significance of Holy Week over the next few days.

But I wanted to start the week trying to give you an inkling of this important final week in the (earthly) life of Jesus because it appears that each moment ... from the day he took that donkey ride through the Jerusalem city gates to the moment he perished, nailed to a cross like a common criminal ... each day was full of significance.

And I found this brilliant photo ... this 'Holy Week Treasure Map' outlining the events of these days. It sort of tells the tale...

But if you fancy reading more about it - there's a brilliant book called the Bible .. the New Testament has the story!

HolyWeekTreasureMap-HQ

 

 


Palm Sunday

Today is 'Palm Sunday', and if you're not familiar with the Christian faith and the church calendar, this fact may not have registered with you.

Palm crossBut it's an important day in the Christian calendar, because it marks the start of what we call 'Holy Week',  the few days running up to Good Friday and Easter ... next weekend.

Over the past five weeks or so Christians have been preparing for this holy season during 'Lent' - it's a time of reflection, prayer, fasting and contemplation ahead of the commemoration of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, at Easter.

Today is the final Sunday in the Lenten period, but why 'Palm' Sunday?

It's all about the last few days of the life of Jesus Christ. For three years Jesus had been travelling around the area which we now call 'The Holy Land' in the modern day country of Israel. As he went along Jesus preached a message of love and reconciliation, performing miracles by healing sick people, but also challenging the religious leaders of the day for their hypocrisy and distorting of the truths of the Jewish faith and the interpretation of ancient scripture to ensure their own power, status and even finances.

He gathered friends and followers around him and for a population oppressed under Roman rule, Jesus - a simple carpenter from the village of Nazareth - was being seen as a hope.

Some zealous nationalist Jews hoped he might lead a rebellion against the military rulers who controlled them, and the Jewish religious leaders who seemed to be in league with them. Others who had followed Jesus closely understood that his was not a message to arouse conflict, but one of love and peace. Jesus preached 'love your neighbour' and urged people to turn back to God. Many of his followers increasingly believed him to be more than a man but the Son of God. Some believed he was the 'Messiah', the Promised One who ancient scriptures predicted would come to free the People of Israel, to save them.

Whichever opinion people held, it meant that as Jesus went around the region he had become more and more popular. Wherever he went crowds would gather. People would hang on his every word. I like to think that Jesus had the sort of charisma that meant that when he was in the room, it was hard to look elsewhere or think of anyone else.

The New Testament of the Bible (in all of the four 'gospels' ... Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tells us that people gathered in huge numbers to greet him. The crowds got bigger and bigger as he approached the city limits and entered through the gates, riding on a borrowed donkey, or small colt.

People went mad. They placed their cloaks on the ground as he rode down the street. Some think this indicates that he was being welcomed like a king  -  it was a sign of respect and honour as well as a greeting. Some reports say they stripped fronds from palm trees lining the route and waved them, cheering and shouting stuff like  ... 

Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!
Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven!

The word 'Hosanna' is an interesting one. By shouting that word the crowds were not just saying 'welcome' but they were praising Jesus as they might God. It was about showing their happiness and joy but it was more than a word, it was an emotion, an expression of adoration.

And as the religious leaders - including the men who were part of a group known as the Pharisees - heard and saw the hero's welcome that Jesus was receiving, they must have been struck with fear. Maybe they saw their control over the people, which they maintained through the strict religious and cultural rules of the day, slipping away. Perhaps they were jealous. They were certainly angry.

Jesus was already on their radar, and they were suspicious of his popularity and worried about the reputation he had as a healer. They'd been watching him for some time. The idea that he was increasingly being seen by his followers as the 'Messiah' was worrying because it threatened their tricky relationship with the Roman authorities, which was mutually beneficial to all those in power on both sides.

And the claim that Jesus was the Son of God ... well that amounted to blasphemy. Hearing the cheers and the shouts of 'Hosanna' must have been another sign that the Pharisees were losing control.

They became convinced and determined to deal with Jesus, to put an end to his ministry, his popularity, his influence over ordinary people who he encouraged to have a 'one to one' relationship with God. The priests maintained their control over the lives and faith of the general population partly by being the 'conduit' between God and mankind. A people talking directly to God might not be so manageable.

Whether at this stage the religious leaders were plotting to have Jesus killed is another matter - but just days after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem that's what would happen, on the day we now call 'Good Friday'.

But I'm getting of myself. That's all to come.

Today, on Palm Sunday, Christians celebrate. We honour Jesus who we believe IS the Son of God and the Messiah who comes to save everyone, not just the Jews of his own time. 

Today small Palm Crosses are handed out and many Christians hang on to them all year, to remind us of Jesus' victory over death on Easter day. 

There I go ... jumping ahead in the story again. 

Back to the palm crosses. 

They are not just a reminder of this day, they are also a symbol of peace, and of triumph over adversity.

And as we mark 'Palm Sunday' we too may shout, if only quietly and in our hearts, 'Hosanna'... Blessed is He who comes in God’s name!

 

 


An Irish Blessing for St Patrick's Day

Today - March 17th - is St Patrick's Day.

It's the day that Ireland and Irish people or those of Irish descent across the world celebrate - well, BEING Irish - and one of their most important patron saints. In 'normal times' much partying is done , much Guinness is drunk and shamrocks are worn, but importantly it's a day when many people go to church to remember St Patrick and give thanks for him, because it is, first and foremost, a spiritual/holy day.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start a whole essay about St Patrick. That would take far too long because it's a very complicated story, with many twists and turns, legends and stories of miracles.

Just some highlights.

Patrick wasn't Irish but was born in Roman Britain. When he was about 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to the island of Ireland, where he mostly looked after animals for about six years. It's while he was looking after those sheep that it's believed he 'found God'. He escaped and managed to get home to his family where he studied Christianity and eventually became a priest. Later he returned to the place where he had been imprisoned to spread the Christian message to the Irish, who mostly practised a form of paganism ... the ancient Celtic religion.

And if you're wondering why the shamrock, or the three leaf clover, is a symbol of Ireland on this day in particular, it's because Patrick is said to have used the little plant with the three leaves to explain the Christian Holy Trinity - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - to those he was hoping to convert.

Patrick didn't have it easy. Standing up to the local warlords, often apparently getting beaten up, sometimes being imprisoned and threatened with execution. But he continued his mission and although there is evidence of a Christian presence in Ireland before Patrick, he is generally considered as the founder of the faith there. He became a bishop and is known as the 'Apostle of Ireland',  and his feast day is marked on March 17th, the day it's thought he died.

But we can't be exactly sure. There's lots of mystery surrounding Patrick, even question marks over when he lived. It's generally believed that he was a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century, and by the seventh century, he had become revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

So today, to mark the day and to celebrate the man who was St Patrick and the legacy of faith he brought to Ireland, I leave you with one of my favourite Irish Blessings.

 

Irish blessing road
*Oh and if you're wondering, the 'road' in this picture is La Grande Route de St Ouen in Jersey.

 


Mothering Sunday

New Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (2)So today in the UK, the British Isles and many other English speaking nations is 'Mothering Sunday'.

Otherwise known as 'Mother's Day'.

If you go to any card shop you may be hard pushed to find a 'Mothering Sunday' card ... but sometimes they are there, if you are eagle eyed. I know because every year I rummage endlessly through the card racks to find one.

My Mum loves a Mothering Sunday card.

So given that not many people call it that, you might be wondering about the title of this blog and the picture.

Well, it's because the day was called 'Mothering Sunday' LONG before people started calling it 'Mother's Day'.

The history goes back to the Medieval times in Britain, to the Middle Ages. 

The fourth Sunday in Lent, 21 days before Easter Day, was also known as Laetare Sunday, or 'Mid-Lent Sunday' and it was a day when Christians could have a break from the fasting which was required during the Lenten season, the preparation for the holy festival of Easter. So it was a bit of a celebration day. The faithful were encouraged to make it even more special by attending services at their 'mother church', the place of worship where they were baptised. That might have involved travelling home for the day. 

In the Middle Ages, the Mass or church service on that fourth Sunday in Lent included several references to mothers, and so the day became one also to celebrate not just the 'mother church' but mothers in particular.

The tradition of coming 'home' to church on this day lasted for centuries. By the mid 17th century this annual journey had become known as 'mothering'. And traditions developed down the years. Mothering Sunday became a day when servants, especially those working in domestic service in big houses, were given this day off to go home to see their mothers and family members ... and attend church, of course.

From 1908 in the USA a 'Mother's Day' was introduced as a way of honouring motherhood, although this was being celebrated on the second Sunday in May. And in the UK, perhaps not coincidentally, something called the Mothering Sunday Movement was created in the UK in the early years of the 20th century, to try to revive the importance of the day.  

By the 1950s Mothering Sunday was being celebrated across the British Isles and the Commonwealth, still on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and that's where it remains to this day.

But increasingly, the day has lost it's spiritual context and the American influence means it's now almost exclusively called 'Mother's Day' ... hence my annual rummage in card shops.

And like in the USA, the day has become more and more commercialised. Cards, flowers, chocolates and other treats are bought in vast quantities. Lovely, but expensive.

Nowadays, including in the church, the day has also become a time not just to celebrate people who are actually  'mothers' but those who are mother figures and it's sometimes also a general celebration of women and their achievements.

While Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day is a lovely day, it can be hard for some people. Those who yearn to be a parent, to give birth to their own children but have been unable to do so can find the annual celebration of 'mummies' really difficult. For those who have lost babies, even many years ago, this can be a very sad day. It can be a very poignant and painful day for people who've lost their mothers, and those who didn't have a strong and loving mother figure in their lives.

It's a complex day and I try never to forget that.

But today, if you'll let me I will just take a moment to thank my own Mum ... the best mother in the world.

On this Mothering Sunday I thank God for her. I thank her for all her love and for the many sacrifices she made for me and my brothers, and for just being an inspiration to me.  And I just want to say ... 

I love you Mum!


A Wave of Prayer

Happy Friday everyone!

Did you know ... today is the World Day of Prayer?

Now, if you're a female of the species you may be aware of this day ... previously it was known as the 'Women's World Day of Prayer' where millions and millions and millions of woman across the globe prayed on a specific theme, for 24 hours. I've been part of this day for a very long time, including attending special church services and gatherings. The best thing about this day is that it's all people, from so many different churches and traditions, coming together in one purpose.

People in more than 170 countries celebrate The Day of Prayer. It all begins in Samoa in the central South Pacific Ocean, and it moves eastwards, with prayers and services held in native languages throughout Australasia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas before finishing in American Samoa (on the other side of the International Date Line from Samoa) 39 hours later.

It's a day-long Wave of Prayer across the world!

That's very special. Knowing that you are praying with others, on the same theme, is really powerful.

Although it was and is still mostly women who mark the day, men and boys were never excluded. And just a few years ago the name was changed, with the word 'Women's' taken off the start of the title to represent the inclusivity of the day for Christians internationally.

So what happens today?

Well, every year follows a theme, and a group of Christian women from somewhere in the world is selected to write resources  with prayers, songs, readings and stories on the chosen theme. It's always a culturally exciting time as people, for instance, in the UK will experience what has been prepared for them by fellow Christians maybe across the other side of the world.

Last year, for example, we all enjoyed a service prepared for us by people in Zimbabwe in Africa. Each nation brings its own culture to it's contribution, sharing their own stories and experiences, so this is not just about prayer and faith but it's also a bit of an education about other cultures.

Which brings me to this year - 2021.

Where is VanuatuBy the time this daily blog is published at 0800 GMT (London time) women will have been praying already for many hours on the theme of 'Build on a Strong Foundation', prepared for us by the Christian women of the island of Vanuatu in the south Pacific Ocean.

Of course this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the prayer resources which the Vanuatu faithful have prepared will not be used in many church buildings, but there will be thousands upon thousands of online services and 'gatherings'. Here in Jersey, the World Day of Prayer service is at 1.30pm lunchtime and it will be hosted online by St Paul's Church in St Helier. 

However, it's not all doom and gloom because in addition to resources produced for today, you can also enjoy a fabulous mix of music, readings, prayers and stories online from Vanuatu and other people across the world.

And it's all on Youtube ...

Today people around the world will be thinking about how to 'Build on a Strong Foundation' and in the press release from the UK WDP (World Day of Prayer) Committee, the thinking behind the day was explained...

Women of the Republic of Vanuatu (located in the South Pacific Ocean) have prepared this year’s service. The black and white sandy beaches, coral reefs with coloured fishes, lovely birds, fruits and nuts in the forest, all make the islands a pristine environment but they are vulnerable to frequent tropical storms, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and active volcanoes. Women, men and children of all ages are called to ‘Build on a strong foundation’ and live in unity, love and peace in the context of ethnic and cultural diversity like Vanuatu and so many other places around the world.

On this World Day of Prayer there will be opportunities to learn about the island nation of Vanuatu, and all the prayers will focus on creation and construction and the importance of building something solid, not just physically but also spiritually. 'Structures' that can stand against the trials and storms of life. And once again we will be encouraged to think about how we, as humanity, can learn to live together despite our many differences and circumstances.

But then, we'll be encouraged to continue praying, because although today is special, prayer is something we may do every day. And the learning can continue too because now you've heard about it,  you might want to check out the World Day of Prayer (UK) website, where among other things there are some great activities for children (and all of us) including making sand paintings, and cooking up a batch of coconut cake.

So I'm just off to the kitchen. I fancy a bit of that.

Have a happy, and prayerful day!