Advent Excitement

December is a month that is packed with excitement and expectation. This year the build up to Christmas has felt more desired and needed than other years. I unpacked decorations early, starting planning Christmas meals in October and began listening to Christmas carols in early September. I seemed to be trying to bring the excitement and sense of expectation that I associate with December and Advent earlier into the year to mask or perhaps help me temporarily forget that the world feels so different to previous years. I wonder if anyone else has done anything similar?

Luckily, a lot of The Family Project’s plans and projects enabled me to engage in the Advent excitement and expectation too. On Sunday 29th November at 2pm we will have our Messy Gingerbread Nativity baking session and story. This can be found on the Kirkby Lonsdale Messy Facebook Page. The opportunity to gather together, bake and hear a retelling of the Nativity story is for me a perfect start to Advent. The fact that we have partnered with the Zero Pantry to purchase local plastic free ingredients for our baking session is a welcome bonus to our baking activity too. We can engage in a Christmas spirit filling activity without having environmental anxiety regarding the amount of plastic these activities often involve.

Heather Sattin and I have enjoyed organising The Kirkby Lonsdale Living Advent Calendar these last few months. We are thankful that so many people were keen to take part in this adventure. We do hope people will be able to spend time during Advent, going around Kirkby Lonsdale and seeing all the different carols portrayed in the window displays. Please pick up a map showing which windows are taking part from The Tourist Information Centre or St. Mary’s Porch. Alternatively, print off a map and see pictures of the windows on our Facebook Group which is called Kirkby Lonsdale Living Advent Calendar 2020. A new window is being unveiled each night at 6pm and the maps will show which windows will be unveiled and when. If you do go along to an unveiling, please ensure you stay 2m apart. All windows that are already unveiled will be ready for viewing from dusk until 9pm every night during December. Enjoy and feel free to share images of these windows with those you love and care for during this Christmas period. We hope they will bring joy to many people.

One of the things I love doing during December is putting up my Christmas Tree. If you are like me, a lot of different decorations hold specific treasured memories of perhaps a person or a place. This year, Pauline, Annie and I have created Jesse Tree decorations that you can print off and use to make your own Jesse Tree filled with decorations and scrolls. What is a Jesse Tree? A Jesse Tree is a tree that uses decorations and stories ( we have popped these into scrolls for you) that help you prepare for the coming of Jesus on Christmas day. Each decoration and story helps us remember a different member of Jesus’ family. In total we have created 16 stories to accompany 16 decorations. You could print them off all at once to pop them onto your own Jesse Tree or perhaps make decorating your Jesse tree a bit like a countdown to Christmas by printing 4 stories and the matching 4 decorations each week. To find these decorations and stories please join the Facebook group Jesse Tree. If you are not on Facebook please email me and I will send you them to you:

I wonder what new traditions we will all start this year after living during such strange times? I wonder what new discoveries about ourselves and what we value at Christmas will we find? However this Christmas is for you, I hope you can find some element of peace and hope in the Nativity story;a story which can seem so familiar yet if we look at it closely nearly always surprises us with a new thought or reflection. Have fun reflecting and have a Merry Christmas.

Join us on 29th November at 2pm for the Gingerbread Nativity on Kirkby Lonsdale Messy Church Facebook Page.

Listening and learning from the young.

The change from Summer- Autumn seems to have been more noticeable to me this year. I am not sure if this is because the changes have happened more sharply or simply because I have spent more time noticing this year. Either way, I have enjoyed being aware of the seasonal changes and have begun to get excited about the festivities of Christmas too. As some of you may have seen, Heather from See & Know and I are organising Kirkby Lonsdale Living Advent Calendar. People sign up to create a window display based around a Carol of their choice. During December, every evening a window display will be unveiled at 6pm somewhere around Kirkby Lonsdale.  We are producing a map detailing all the windows that are taking part in this calendar so that people can go and see them. Thanks to all those who are already taking part. If you would like to participate too do email me on

St. Patrick’s Youth Group have enjoyed various activities on zoom including baking bread, making oat-based cookies, tie-dying t shirts and lots of games. The young people have impressed me with their dedication to this group, appearing eagerly on zoom to join in with the latest activity. Their positivity and energy are infectious, blowing away any feelings of zoom fatigue some of the leaders may have as soon as the sessions begin.

Increasingly these and other young people’s prayers have been filled with concern for the sick or for the world and the climate crisis we are facing. Their prioritization of what they deem matters is good to listen to as an adult. Many young people cannot understand why more is not being done to prevent the climate emergency or to help those who are so sick. Their lack of need or desire to know the financial side of these issues could be seen as naïve. However, I wonder if this may give them a clearer insight into what our priorities should be.  Often our view is clouded when we realise life is more complicated because everything has to be financed. Yet, I have been reflecting that their prayers and eagerness for change to happen, for us all to do our bit, whether that be preventing the spread of Covid or campaigning for the climate crisis to be taken seriously, shows wisdom not naivety. Their generation, Generation Z, seems to be a generation that cares for the community and the world first and foremost. That is what matters to them. The means to do that financially will be something I believe they will work out because their depth of care is such a core part of this generation. It has brought me a lot of hope during these odd times to realise our future cannot be as bleak with these young people in it. 

Some of the biscuits St. Patrick’s Youth Group have baked.

Muddy Church. Come and relax outdoors!

During this strange time of ever-changing government regulations, we would still like to invite you to join us in trying out Muddy Church. Muddy Church is for anybody with a love of nature or someone who simply enjoys being outside. Our aim is to spend time exploring the Glebe field together, looking at what is living and growing there and considering how God is part of what we see. There will be a time where we make or do something, a pause moment for a story followed by time by a firepit, eating and reflecting together. It is for families, single people, people who are retired, couples, people who know a lot about the environment or gardening and those who know nothing. All are welcome to come and explore together.

Our first Muddy Church will be on Saturday 24th October at 2pm. We will meet in Kirkby Lonsdale at the Glebe Field (next to Ruskin’s view). Please let me know if you would like to come or simply want to know more information by emailing me, Lol Wood, at We hope to see you! We advise you wear wellies and be prepared to get Muddy! We will inform anyone, via email, if this event must be postponed due to Covid-19.

Like many of you, the Family Project is getting to know and working with all the new rules and regulations. Any event we are running has been risked assessed and will be compliant with the current government regulations at the time of the event.  

Wellies are recommended!

Looking tentatively ahead…

I have found these last few months have left me changing the way I plan my social life. Before Covid-19 I was someone who had weekends booked in advance for months on end. Now I tend to look a couple of weeks ahead at a time. Some of this is because I have slowed down as life has, in some ways, got more complicated and in other ways become simpler. I also do not miss the life I had where my weekends were completely booked up with me travelling large distances to see friends and family. I am enjoying quieter and more locally based weekends. It has given me a new appreciation of the place I live and the people I live near too. I wonder if you also have felt the same?

Planning for events with the Family Project has also been tricky because I am aware that others are feeling like I am; that they do not want to or can’t plan too far in advance. That is why the event we are offering this September is one which we hope you can come to easily. It is local and has the aim of being relaxing, simple and hopefully energy giving. It is for everyone; although this event is under the Family Project banner, it is for single folk, families, retired people, tired folk, energetic people, those feeling lost and those who are feeling more centred. All are welcome. Telling us a few days before, via email, is fine. We recognise that planning in advance may be difficult for some. Letting us know you are coming is merely so we can communicate to you if an event is cancelled due to poor weather, Covid regulation changes or if the spaces are already filled for the event.

This September we hope to offer the local community in and around Kirkby Lonsdale a Messy Church Picnic . It will take place on the Glebe Field, which is near Ruskin’s view.

Messy Church will be held at 4pm on Sunday 20th September. Please bring your own seating, food and drink. This will be an opportunity to gather as a Messy Family once more. We shall have socially distanced spaces pre-arranged so on arrival we will direct you to a space to set up! There will also be a QR code scanning trail to follow so you may wish to download a QR code app before you come. If you would like to book a place at this event email me at All are welcome.

Looking further ahead, you may remember in my last article I mentioned Muddy Church! We have now moved this to October so please keep an eye open next month for more information.

I hope to see some of you at the picnic. If I don’t, I hope you are well and doing whatever helps you feel joy, love and connected to yourself, humanity and maybe even God.

From Messy to Muddy

As I write it is the week before Messy Church in July. This week is filled with preparing, editing and compiling all the Messy Videos. Huge thanks to everyone who sent in videos for Messy Church. It feels much more like a gathering of friends or community when there is more than one person appearing on our screens during Messy Time. As I edit it, it feels likes interacting briefly with friends, something that is bringing me joy.  I hope it makes Messy Church easier to engage with online for those who will come to Messy Church this Sunday.

I know many of us are experiencing online fatigue. Lockdown has meant we have become more reliant on the internet than ever. As a result, there seems to be an increase in outdoor activities now the government has relaxed the rules slightly. As a wild swimmer I have returned to old haunts to find new folk trying outdoor swimming for the first time. This is great to see! We are lucky to live in such a beautiful place where finding spots to swim in clean water or walk amongst greenery is not hard to do.

The desire to be outside more has meant the Family Project has been considering offering a gathering outdoors in the future. Hopefully, in September we will be able to offer you the opportunity to gather for a short walk, time to be/play and eat food together all outside. We will call this event Muddy Church. Muddy Church has no real aim or purpose other than to allow people to explore, play and be in Creation and in turn maybe wonder about the Creator. It is for those who don’t ‘do’ Church. It is for the 70 year old gardener as much as the 2 year old mud maker. If this is something you would be interested in coming along to or if you fancy being part of the Muddy Team , to help set up the area we will use, then drop me an email on    Keep an eye out for more information over the next few months.

Come and explore the world with us at Muddy Church.

Stormy Times

As I write it is mid-June and the Family Project has started preparing for the Messy Church in July. With our Messy Family we are exploring the story of Jesus calming the storm. This seemed rather apt as we are still in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic. The Government has indicated restrictions will begin to ease further soon, but for many of us it has felt, at times, as though we are in a never-ending, unmanageable storm.

As a child I always found the concept of Jesus managing to sleep through this storm fascinating. I would often watch the sky change from my bedroom window, or downstairs with my parents and simply wonder at the loudness of it all. You can see why the idea of Jesus sleeping through a storm still seems somewhat impossible to me. I suspect though Jesus slept because he was simply exhausted. Many of us may be able to relate to that bone-tired feeling. When I speak to friends now, particularly those with children, they speak of a deep tiredness that is not their norm. At the start of the story, we hear that Jesus was leaving a crowd behind when he boarded the boat. He had been spending time teaching them but also being with them, listening to them, perhaps soaking in the emotions of many different people. It makes sense why he was so tired and why he asked the disciples to accompany him on the boat, away from the crowd, to the other side of the water. The human need to escape and rest were present in Jesus.

Yet I still struggle to understand how he slept so soundly. His sleep was deep enough that the disciples had to wake him during the storm. Filled with fear they said ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’. These disciples were fishermen and used to storms. They may even have seen one was brewing. Yet this storm made them so scared they were fearful for their life. Jesus’ response at this point is bemusing. He does not immediately address the disciples. Instead he turns to the winds and the waves; the nature that has brought so much fear and says ‘Quiet! Be still!’. The winds and waves calm down immediately. The fact Jesus has authority over nature must have been incredible to witness. I find it compelling that he turns first to the centre of the storm and communicates with it directly. Something about that statement gives me hope. Even if Jesus does not calm our current storms, the knowledge that he can communicate with and be present with us through a storm is important for me. I also find it moving to ponder how Jesus asked the disciples to go to the other side of the lake. He chose to enter a storm.

Next he turns to the disciples and says: ‘“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”’. I always wish I could determine the tone of these questions. Were they said in despair or with a caring tone? We will never know. It may well have been a mixture of the two. At first these questions seem harsh. The disciples had been deeply unsettled by the storm; their fear is a human response. Yet, Jesus’ questions seem to have been rhetorical. He wanted to make them pause and think. Jesus recognised storms can be terrifying but they can also change us and shape us in new ways. Storms can give us different perspectives. Storms can lead us to faith. I wonder if during the time of lockdown you found yourself changing. How do you think differently than before? What is newly important to you? I hope most of all you feel that Jesus, or at least the sense of peace he caused to the wind and waves, is with you in whatever storm you are entering, enduring or exiting.

The Consequences of Failing to Stop

As I type a team of volunteers and I are working to try and create a Messy Church online. Messy Church, for those who have not heard of it, is a place where people of all ages gather to explore and learn through interaction, storytelling and various activities about the Christian faith. It is family friendly and centres around the idea that Church is fun and is for everyone! I have been part of helping to shape Messy Church in Kirkby Lonsdale since December 2019. It is still a new venture but the people who have attended seemed to have enjoyed themselves and the wonderful food. It felt important, during this time of unrest, to try and create Messy Church online, albeit without the yummy food.

Online we are exploring the story of the Good Samaritan. A story that will be familiar to many, but I think is very relevant for today. It always struck me with horror as a child, that someone could walk past someone injured and not think to help. In fact, not one but two people did, one of whom was a Priest. As an adult I have begun to understand that fear plays a part for some who passed by. That fear may well have been one of losing their reputation or they may have worried that in some way touching the Samaritan may have made them unclean. The latter concept may seem odd at first, but I wonder if it is something we understand more in this time of lockdown. A time where the thought of accidentally brushing against someone not in our household may cause tension or anxiety to increase. It may well cause fear.

I have come to see this story as one that shows a message of what the extremes of fear can do to us. It can bring out parts of ourselves we would rather ignore or forget. The Samaritan who does stop to help the injured man looked beyond cultural differences and fears of being contaminated in any way. Instead he focused on the innate human and God led reaction to see another being in pain and want to help.

In the book of Romans in the Bible, Paul talks of the idea that everyone has an innate sense of right from wrong, something that he describes as God’s written law in your heart. This informs our own consciences with thoughts that tell us deep down right from wrong. I love this idea and I think it links to the idiom of a ‘prick of conscience’ where one feels guilty or perhaps shame for something they have thought, said, done or not done. All of us have experienced this prick of conscience, this feeling of knowing there is or was a better way. I wonder how the Priest and the other traveller felt in the days after their journey. Did they think of what they did or did not do? Did they wonder about the man they left lying hurt in the road? Did they feel that prick of conscience?

Often, we focus on the Samaritan in the story whom we can see did the right thing. He helped someone else without thinking of himself. I hope in this time of Covid-19 we can all learn to do this no matter how strong our fear is. It is tricky and tough, and I for one have fallen into the place of fear at times; I have been the other less helpful travellers on that road. Yet, as I think about those that passed by in this story I wonder if the weight of not stopping and not listening to an inner sense of right and wrong, written in their hearts, was greater still than conquering their fear and stopping to help. The traveller who stopped became the loving presence of God in that moment; caring, welcoming and supportive of the other, the broken, the ignored, the different traveller. It is something I know I will continue to strive to be in this topsy turvy world.

Being in the moment

It feels an odd time to be writing about the Family Project. I am, like many, working from home during this strange time called lockdown. It means that my job has altered. No longer do I spend my time popping in and out of schools, nurseries, toddlers, clubs, prayer meetings, churches or youth groups. Instead some of these meetings have moved online whilst others have merely been paused for a moment.

It is a strange thing to go from having so much regular contact with people, to potentially not seeing friends, colleagues or young people you work with for months. It is an adjustment that I am still trying to adapt to. However, in some ways I feel more connected to certain people than before. I am producing family activity packs to go on various community groups every other day. I am also chatting with people across these groups using the Easter Conversation Calendar my friend produced. Plus, I am creating a weekly video for toddlers, as a mini attempt to offer a story for the See & Know families, since we are unable to read and interact in person.

I find the interaction that has happened because of the various posts I have been doing on different platforms have felt deeply important. Conversations have sprung up that would not have happened if my job had been as it was a month ago. Things have been lost by the change to my work, but new opportunities have emerged that feel like a blessing.  Unexpected conversations have led to unexpected discussions, sometimes a moment of connection in an otherwise disconnecting day. A feeling of connection with people I know and people I don’t. The online conversations have also taught me a new way of listening. It involves pausing a lot more to try and work out what to type; how to respond well in that moment. As I type I am aware this might be the first interaction for someone that day. It might be mine too. The words we use on the internet are important. We are taught to be careful of the words we say but I think now, more than ever, we need to think more about the words we type.  Embracing the pause but also sensing when saying nothing might be the best answer or comment too. 

A highlight of my work has been St. Patrick’s Youth Groups Games night on Zoom. It was great to hear how everyone was and do something as regular as playing some of the games we normally play at youth group. I think that has been the key thing to hold onto during this odd season, the moments of normality and how life giving those moments are. I suspect after this has all gone, we will embrace and cherish normality much more than we did previously.

Can you find faith outdoors?

Green Warriors at St. Patrick’s School in Endmoor  has been running for two years. Currently five keen members aged 8-11 attend Green Warriors weekly to chat about God, learn about the environment and do some gardening. They arrive full of pent up energy, after working hard in school. Some find school tough, others enjoy it, but all are united in loving the outdoors.

We begin with listening to one another as they bring in their take home challenges. This is a piece designed for them to continue experiencing some of the Green Warrior club at home. It involves an environmental challenge or something to help them connect with nature. The last two weeks, for example, have been to do an outdoor scavenger hunt and bring in their pieces, the following week was to create a piece of artwork out of bits of the land. This practice is called Land Art. You can google  beautiful examples of this! Both challenges were connected to the Bible passages for those weeks. Reading the Bible has taught me that God cares deeply about the environment.

After the Take Home Challenge, we read through today’s Bible passage and have a short discussion. Next we move outdoors ready to begin gardening. This is often met with great joy as the young people don their wellies and begin to run outdoors. They often head straight to the other end of the big wide-open space. Their happiness is infectious.

As we gather tools and discuss what next  to do in the garden, talk often turns to other matters. We discuss everything and anything. Topics have included the death of a pet, camping holidays, love lost, the latest toy, worries about school, questions about God and the Big Bang, caterpillars and various insects. It feels like a community, a church even. We don’t preach, we merely wonder together and listen to one another. As we chat, we dig, removing weeds, planting seeds and spotting insects. Wonder is a large part of Green Warriors from wondering at the creatures we find in the earth to how God created a complicated plant. Sometimes a rhythm of digging is found so for a few precious minutes a sense of calm and peace descends. It feels calm, spiritual even.

After gardening we return for biscuits and a time where we say thank you prayers. Again these vary immensely but importantly reflect good happenings since we last met. It is a mindful practice and one to encourage in these young people. Finally, the next Take Home Challenge is given out and off they whizz ,still full of energy, onto the next thing.

Many reading this may struggle to see the moments of spirituality or faith in these encounters. I would label Green Warriors as a fresh expression of Church. We consider the Bible, we discuss, we share food and we pray together. Yet, it is the act of connecting with the outdoors that I believe causes faith questions to appear for these young people. There is so much about our world that we know yet so much more that we don’t fully understand. Being outdoors can and does bring those questions to the forefront for these young people. Often as leaders we lack the answer too so we have learnt to sit with the uncomfortable feeling of not fully understanding but wondering together.

I firmly believe spirituality and faith can be found or enhanced by connecting in and with the outdoors. I invite you to step outside this Spring and take a moment to wonder.

Green Warriors made butterfly feeding stations one week.

The gift of individuality

St. Patrick’s Youth Group adult leaders have been encouraging the young people who attend to have a go at leading different parts of the Youth Group. The Youth Group, which meets at Endmoor Village Hall every Tuesday during term-time, has five sections to it. We begin with a welcome, followed by games, a workshop of some kind, followed by reflection time and finally food together. The young people who attend are between Year 5 and Year 8 (9-13 years old). Currently, we have a core group of 7 young people at Youth Group, who attend five different schools. All of them are true individuals, bringing different gifts and qualities to the group. Despite their differences they are joined in their desire to encourage and support one another. I learn a lot from watching the dynamics between this diverse group of young people.

I enjoy popping in every month, to see the changes that have happened, as the group becomes tighter and friendships are cemented. On my visit in February I could see a change in confidence in everybody, as the leaders had encouraged ownership of different sections of the Youth Group. One young person ably led our welcome and encouraged their peers to honestly say how their week had been. The openness of the sharing was quite a thing to see. Some brought worries or concerns that they aired amongst the group. It clearly felt like a safe space for them. They were listened to and when appropriate advice was offered by fellow peers and the leaders,time was given to this act of listening and sharing. It felt essential, some might call sacred.

The night I joined them, I had arrived ready to lead a game but instead paused and asked if anyone else would like to lead this now well-known activity. An individual who is normally more hesitant offered. I asked if they wanted me to play the game too or help in leading. It was with pride I heard the response: ‘You play, I can lead it…’ They were confident and clear with their instructions. The young people were eager to help when their friend perhaps altered something, either playing along or gently reminding them of the next bit of the game.

I think all of us can learn from a group like this. Everyone can be themselves. Individuality is totally encouraged but respect for everyone is required. Patience has grown in this group as they have learnt the importance of listening to each other and truly hearing what each member is trying to say. Too often in the world we have become keener to correct or rebut, rather than listen to try and hear what a person means. It means wires can be crossed easily if we focus too much on how something is said rather than on the meaning. This group of young people, with their different backgrounds, is used to having to listen closely to one another. They are keen to give each other time and are at ease with one another to ask questions either to clarify a point or gently question a thought or perspective. I hope all of us can adopt this more gentle and easy forgiving tone when listening to each other.

Green Heart made by one of St. Patrick’s Youth Group. They suggested that during February you wear a Green Heart on your sleeve, to show your love for the environment.
We love this idea. This individual has a heart to care for birds.