Monday, 27 June 2011


For our midsummer celebration this year, we met down on the sand on Brighton beach last Sunday evening. Not only was the tide out, but the sun was too - a rare and momentous occasion as far as Beyond events are concerned!

On arrival, each person received a nice glossy picture of what Heaven is supposedly going to look like. According to Google, and of course many common opinions today, there will be rainbows and waterfalls, bunny rabbits and golden sunshine. There are some great examples here, for those of you worried that Heaven might not be the multi-coloured, cloud-hopping paradise you always dreamed of. Continuing our theme and discussions of Heaven and Hell from our recent FIRE event, people were then encouraged to bury their glossy image within a giant sand castle that we grouped together to build. Although our intended sand cathedral did resemble something more of a grave, the idea that we were creating an icon of God's dwelling was the important bit. Burying these well know pictures of Heaven then,we were not so much burying the past as we were burying the 'future'. The castle in all its glory, along with these presuppositions, was then left to the tide to be taken away and swallowed by the ocean.

With the new, fresh sand as a clean slate to be built upon, we turned our attention to practical tasks that we can actively get involved with if we are going to try to invite Heaven to Earth today. We have talked about it all too often as an idea or a notion, but to actually fulfill our role as stewards of this Earth requires choices, repeatedly.

Together we discussed how we already see Heaven on Earth, along with ways in which our decisions affect other people and the environment. Everyone was given a terracotta flower pot and was asked to write on it what stood out to them most during their discussion. Each pot then went round everyone else, so that every word was written on every pot. People wrote commitments such as mindful shopping, recycling, random acts of kindness, being patient, listening...and so on. We then all filled our own pot with earth and planted seeds to grow and remind us of these intentions.

It was a beautiful sunset as we sat around the brazier talking about how we can join with God and take responsibility for this planet that we call home. It won't be an easy task, in fact it will often contradict our human instincts entirely and it definitely won't lead to a grand utopia, but we can make little differences here and now that point to what is already good and beautiful.

Our final event in this summer series is on July 31st at Hove Park's Fingermaze, but before that we shall have a short and sweet gathering at this weekend's Paddle Round The Pier festival, meeting at 10am on Sunday morning (3rd July) at the festival's main gates.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


The first event in our Elements series this summer was FIRE, which took place on 22nd May down on the seafront near Hove Lagoon. Billed as the relighting of Hove's beacon for the first time since 1988, alternative plans unfortunately had to be made due to the strong winds. Setting fire to the beacon proved near impossible, so red and orange ribbons were attached instead, making for a striking scene as the vibrant colours were blown vigorously and noisily above our heads. They remain in place even now, and look impressive from the roadside.

Holy Space was marked out below the beacon with white tape, an area where visitors were invited to enter without their shoes. A burning bush had been created at the centre, ablaze with red and yellow cellophane. Visitors could contribute to this installation with more leaves/flames, having written on them one thing from the past they'd wish to set fire to, along with one thing they would like to be on fire for.

There are multiple Biblical examples with references to God and Fire, so various quotes were handed out along with pictures to aid contemplation. There are numerous preconceptions that we tend to hold on to regarding Heaven and Hell, so this was a wonderful opportunity in a unique setting to really grapple with these ideas and why we may/may not believe such things. In one
sense, we wanted to set fire to our beliefs as we discussed these things, to be more open to God in the here and now, as He seeks to bring Heaven to Earth.

Yet more fire surrounded the event as we enjoyed a barbecue along with a special performance
from Brighton based Pyro-performers, Circus Seen. Visitors were dazzled with some of the dangerous moves of these fire dancers, while the flames did well to hold their own against the windy conditions. Everyone was given a lighter as they left, to remind them perhaps of what they'd decided to set fire to, what they hoped to be more on fire for, or simply just as a reminder of some of the challenging conversation that took place. It was helpful to be in a relaxed environment, enjoying food and performance, whilst wrestling with some of our ideas of Heaven and Hell, where these ideas came from, and the notion that maybe, just maybe, those ideas aren't necessarily true.
What it does encourage
us to do, is to seek God now, rather than perhaps holding
on to ideas or places that somehow seem rather distant. These conversations will follow on nicely with our next event, EARTH, on June 19th. Come prepared to discuss just how we can be involved in bringing Heaven to Earth right where we are.