Pause/Move on.

Breathe in.

Breathe Out.

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

Richard Rohr

Embracing the Unexpected…

St Peter’s House has always been a place of The Unexpected.

Unexpected people, unexpected questions, unexpected conversations, unexpected experiences, unexpected news. Some good, some bad. Some sad, some joyful, some challenging. I think it’s part and parcel of who and where we are.

As a first-year student, wandering around the Fresher’s Fair on my own, I had no expectations when I picked up a leaflet from the university chaplaincy, offering a free drink in their café. Feeling lonely and overwhelmed, I didn’t expect anything other than a cup of tea when I walked into Milk & Honey for the first time. Instead I found a sense of something different. Sitting at the window, doing my reading for my seminars and looking out across the hustle and bustle of Oxford Road and this new city – like so many others, I found a place of calm and comfort. It was unexpected.

And now having worked here for two years, I recently found that very leaflet in the process of packing up to move house. I never expected that it would plant that seed, but some seeds take a while to grow.

Our plants have always received a lot of love from our café community. From behind the counter, we often noticed customers taking tiny cuttings of the vines that hang all around. You might know, but this is called propagating. And so when we announced the closure of Milk & Honey, we had lots of enquiries about the future of our leafy green friends – where are they going? Who’s looking after them? Lots of people wanted to take a piece of Milk & Honey away with them.

Myself included, and over these past few weeks, I’ve been doing some propagation of my own – taking tiny cuttings of spider plants and different pothos, leaving them in jars of water on the office windowsill and letting them grow their tiny roots so that eventually, I can re-plant my own piece of Milk & Honey elsewhere.

But Milk & Honey was always more than simply a sum of its parts. More than the plants, the building, the lattes…it was as much a vision of what the world could be as it was a café. A place of peace, community, welcome and inclusion for all.

And so that’s my hope. That those of us that found a place of welcome here, however briefly or however long ago, can propagate even a small piece of that vision somewhere new. That by nurturing new roots and shoots with love and care and compassion, new life might bloom somewhere unexpected. For those seasoned propagators amongst us, you’ll know how much life one plant can create, and how one tiny cutting can bring life to windows, offices, homes, and gardens alike.

And if you ever planted an apple seed as a child, you’ll know that this takes time. It takes patience and faith. It takes believing that there is goodness at the heart of humanity even when it’s out of sight, planted more deeply than all that is wrong, moving and murmuring beneath our feet[1]. It takes a steadfast hope that this goodness is waiting to sprout new shoots and unfurl new leaves somewhere different, somewhere we never expected.

In lots of faith traditions, so often where you find The Unexpected, there too you find the Divine. In sacred surprising spaces like the arms of a young, unmarried girl from Nazareth sheltering in a stable, or a burning bush, or in community with those so often excluded and othered.  

As I write this sat at my desk in a quiet building, reflecting on all this place has been for so many people, I’m trusting that we will find ways to embrace the unknown whilst still carrying this vision with us, nurturing it as we would our tiny plants, allowing them in time to grow into new and authentic sacred and surprising spaces, somewhere different.

Somewhere unexpected.

[1] Words taken from Iona Abbey Worship Book, by The Iona Community

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