The Peace Statue

A couple of days ago we held our annual Interfaith Service for the City. I wrote this for the MP of Hove – Peter Kyle, but sadly he was called away… so I read it. There was a quite a bit of laughter. Hope you like it…

Brighton and Hove’s Peace Statue

There were once two
Small neighbouring towns
That did not get on.

One was genteel, tidy, God-fearing
The other rude, brash and vulgar. 
Disagreement was common.

… And yet … the tale that follows 
Seems more comic-cuts than horror movie.

One sunny day in 1911
A wooden statue
Depicting ‘Peace’
Designed by Mr Newbury Trent
Was erected on the seaside borders
Of the bickering municipalities.

It was called ‘Peacemaker’
And it was named after old King Edward VII.

Some 30 feet tall – it was an angel
Holding an orb and an olive branch –
As you do… when peace comes to mind.
A year later a new home for nurses was opened
And on the same day
Newbury Trent’s bronze statue
Replaced the wooden one.

The location of this lovely figure
Was within the boundaries of Brighton
But its upkeep was Hove’s responsibility –
Another potential cause for disagreement.

On that day
In October 1912
One hundred and eleven years ago
The Duke of Norfolk
Unveiled the Peace Statue

In the build-up
To the great moment
Things went slightly upside down.

A horse bolted
Before the wobbly entourage
And its statue
Arrived at the chosen destination 

The civic band played up
But the result was gruesome and tuneless.

The entire glorious occasion
Was said to be a damp squib.

After the unveiling
Brighton’s mayor 
Made an irritable speech
Expressing the view that
Perhaps the Peace Statue
Might help Brighton and Hove
Learn to get on…
“Fat chance of that!”
Said Mrs Miggins in the front row.

For over 100 years the statue stood
Battered by wind and rain
Not to mention some ugly storms
But the Peace Statue knew peace
She was peace
Peace was her way
And having heard the words
Of the long-gone mayor
She fluttered her magnificent wings
And waved her arms
And made it happen.

Thus peace came to Hove and Brighton
And it is said that today
Even the Members of Parliament 
Talk to each other.

But best of all
Our beautiful statue
Reigns down peace on all of us 
Who look on her
And reminds us that for all its quirkiness
This is a unified, loving City of Peace.

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Prayers for Peace… In Silence

The two wars that are raging close to home – the Ukrainian War and the Israeli-Palestinian War have left many people bereft. Both conflicts are heartbreaking. Tonight I will pray for peace with my prayer group. I have been asked to read this prayer, but I am also aware that when we pray together in silence something powerful and mysterious occurs that appears to transcend time itself.

My last two prayers both explore peace and silence in different ways.

Peace Prayer: October 2023

The loving peace of silence speaks to us
it reminds us of the cacophony of war
the endless thunder of bombardment
then silence
two faces of humanity

In the theatre of war 
silence heralds the quiet
before the shrieking storm

In the theatre of war
silence offers respite
or maybe curtains

you and I
stand in another place
we stare into the landscape
the ugly drama is remembered
the horror of conflict is distant
yet close to our beating hearts

we pray in silence 
asking for the conflict to end

Let us pray
in peace for peace
let us pray for the conflict to end
let us pray for understanding
let us pray for compassion
let us pray for love

You can find my peace prayers and others on the website Prayers For Everyone

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Another War… And Sorrow

Having lived through a number of wars in my lifetime, I have come to realise that holding views on the rights and wrongs of any conflict is almost pointless, unless one is directly involved in the war itself. And yet I find it impossible not to hold views. I like to think I understand what is right and what is wrong, but so many others think the same way, and it doesn’t heal conflict. Today the war in Israel involves members of our community, in this City, who will hold opposing views. For this reason I am hoping that if we hold a vigil, it may be possible to have a silent vigil, so that we may all share prayers of peace… just peace. This prayer is simply a peace prayer, that may be read, and felt and expressed in silence.

Silent Peace Prayer

We ask for peace
In silence
Though our hearts may be full

We pray for understanding
Acceptance, forgiveness
So that the conflict may end

There will be a day
When the scars of the past
Fade and disappear

Time offers insight
Insight unlocks compassion
Knowing this
We contemplate
The perfection of peace
So that all lives
May exist and flourish
In harmony

We ask for peace
In silence
Giving thanks

And though we pray in silence
Let our prayers be heard
By the forces of love…
Love beyond understanding

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Prayer for the World

The attack on the environment continues. The attack is aggressively led in the UK by the Prime Minister. Why? To win votes and come to power… again. In a moment of despair, I have written another prayer of love… dedicated to our beautiful planet.

The world is my mother
And I honour her

The swirling seas
Tempestuous, terrifying
Deep and wave-form
Rippling, graceful, curving, 
Home for water creatures

On earth
Magnificent animals roam
A thousand shapes and forms
Stampeding, slithering
Scuttling and scampering
Across this place

Riding the air, flying life forms
Winding elegantly on the wind
Butterflies, birds and bees

The world is my mother
And I love her

But I am a clumsy traveller
On this sacred planet
Journeying with heavy heart

For wherever I turn
There is disrespect… 
Contempt for her oceans
Disregard for her earth
Her mountains, glaciers
The harmony and perfection
Of the air we breathe…

And so I ask 
That we pray for her
Before it is too late

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Prayer for a Change of Heart

Let’s pray for a change of heart
in the world of greedy businessmen…
Let’s wander through the 
select vestibules of scurrilous statesmen –
Meander around the mansions of petty politicians – 
Plead for change…
from the habitual users of deadly aircraft
to the tidal-wave-form-producers of plastic

May the greedy businessmen become volunteer carers
The scurrilous statesmen convert to honourable benefactors
The petty politicians learn to be compassionate
Whilst the deadly aircraft users take to rambling…
And as for the plastic manufacturers
Let’s pray that they devote their lives to organic farming

Let’s pray for a change of heart
across the world
So that we may celebrate a life of health
generosity, joy and love
For ourselves and our glorious planet

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Friendship Prayer

Some years back a good friend died and asked me to carry out her funeral. It was very much the service she wanted, and her presence was strongly felt. The music was pretty varied and included Carol King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. When it played the entire congregation broke into song. Everyone knew the words so well. It was a powerful moment. In this way my friend’s faith in friendship was celebrated by everyone in that space.

Friendship is mystical and beautiful. Here is a prayer celebrating friendship… 

Friendship Prayer

May we bask
In the radiant warmth
Of friendship

May we bounce
On lightweight laughter
And be enthralled
By unexpected stories 
Swirling, shared
And exchanged

Illuminate us 
With luminous loyalty
Judgement free
So we may never fail
And never fall

Make us playful 
Polite, generous
Happy, sad, sorrowful
Joyfully sharing
This life journey

Let us share the mystery
Of loving kindness
That lies at the heart
Of true friendship

You can find this and many other prayers on the website – Prayers for Everyone

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Metta Prayer

A Meditational Prayer of Loving Kindness

I pray for myself
I love myself
And in loving myself
I would wish no harm
To myself
Or others 
For this is a world
Where everything
Is connected
And so I start
By honouring myself
And giving myself 
Loving kindness
On this shared life journey 
Of love
With love

I pause…
And now… I turn my thoughts
Just as this world turns

I pray for one I love
One person I love
And in loving this soul 
I wish all things
That makes them happy
And feel well
But above all
I give them loving kindness
On this shared life journey 
Of love
With love

I pause…
And now… I turn my thoughts
Just as this world turns

I pray for one who I do not know well
An acquaintance…
Maybe a neighbour or a passer-by
I pray for this soul
And in praying 
I wish all things
That that this soul would like
And love in life
That could make them happy
But above all things
I give them loving kindness
On this shared life journey 
Of love
With love

I pause…
And now… I turn my thoughts
Just as this world turns

I pray for someone I find difficult 
Difficult to like at all
Some might say ‘an enemy’
I pray for this soul
And in praying 
I wish them well
And above all things
I give them loving kindness
On this shared life journey 
Of love
With love

I pause…
And now… I turn my thoughts
Just as this world turns

I pray for the world
For its people, its animals
Its birds and beasts
For its plants and flowers
Its trees, its grasses
Nature in all its stupendous glory
The blue sky
The deep oceans
I pray for this world
And in loving this world
I would wish no harm
To any living thing
Or any part of this world
For this is a world
Where everything
Is connected
And so I reach out
And give the world
Loving kindness
With all my heart
On this shared life journey 
Of love
With love

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Blessing for Mum

If you come to Google ‘Blessing’ or ‘Prayer for Mum’ you could get a bit frustrated. All the so called prayers for Mum open with words like “Dear Lord,” “Jesus,” “Lord Today I Pray” “Dearest Saint Joseph” – one even opens – “God of Heaven’s Armies”. Amazing!

I understand those people who need traditional words to praise their mother, but I also feel we do not always need blokes to help us pray for a Mum. A mother is sacred in her own right, and special to you and me, without guidance from others.

Here is a blessing for Mum, and a selection of pictures of my Sister, my Mum and my Grandma – just some of my family’s mums in life. The prayer comes from the new website – Prayers for Everyone.

A Blessing for Mum

Is there anything
Like a Mum?
No way

Is there anyone
We would rather bless
No way

My Mum… our Mum
Is the mostest
The crème de la crème
The dream de la dream

Feeding us –
Caring for us –
Laughing at us –
Yelling at us –
Supporting us –
Ultimate top-notch Mum
Mother superior
In every way

Which is why
We bless her and love her
And feel close to her
In a zillion ways

She made us
What we are 

Thank you, Mum

My Mum
My Grandma, photographed over 100 years ago, with the twins – Gertrude (my mum) and Alfred. Wow! Time flies when you are having fun!
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Lucky at Cards: Happy Ways to Learn Life Lessons

I play cards a lot. I’ve done it all my life. There is something very special about sitting down with friends and playing a game that challenges one a bit, but does not push one far enough to generate bad feelings. The games I play involve acceptance and generous congratulations for the winner or winners – whoever they may be. I only play games with good friends. In contrast, my mother had a real horror of card games that involved any kind of gambling. She came from an abjectly poor family with two brothers and many cousins and had experienced some horrible conflicts arising from bitterly competitive card games where money was involved.

The best card games feature a combination of skill and luck. I play two games on a fairly regular basis – an Italian form of Canasta, known as Samba (in this country) and also Poker. These two games are very different, but still take me to places that remind me of life skills and lessons that are difficult to learn. Samba, described as ‘Canasta on speed’ is a terrifying and addictive, and is played with a partner. As one rises above the first levels of play, one acquires handicaps that can bring down fast-speeding front-runners as quickly as one likes. There is no place for arrogance… at least not for too long. Italian Canasta also has a built-in tension factor, as the four players fight-tooth-and-nail to gain a pile of cards that will set them up with a higher score. Every now and again, as we sit around the card table, some anxious but jolly player will ask why we choose to create so much stress for ourselves… just for a card game!

An entirely different kettle of fish is poker – two kinds – Texas Hold’em, with two cards, plus the flop of five, or Omaha with four cards plus the flop. The game is usually adjusted to the number of players at the time. Money is also involved, albeit small sums. With poker there is skill in reading people, making sure that others don’t read you, but also in working out whether the cards have potential, or imagining what the others might have in their hands. The problem arises when one just does not have good cards, and there is little or no room for manoeuvre when this happens. Having bad cards is demoralising – like failing to get to a good drop shot (in tennis) – or being rejected by an official body when one thinks one has done something brilliant. Bad cards are like the bad turns in life that lead one questioning oneself and one’s skills, which is why one has to play cards with a touch of optimism, faith and enthusiasm… alternatively just keep to playing cards with friends, and keep the stakes to a minimum and stay happy.

Games… including card games teach one about life, but sadly the lessons are not always easily learned. If one is on a winning streak it is a great feeling, but countering that are so many emotions that can spoil things. Does one deserve to win? Is it unkind to others? Is this war or just a bloody silly game? If one is constantly winning is it because one is just utterly brilliant? Possibly yes; more probably no.

The one thing that pushes the sweetness and kindness out of the window is playing games with one’s three teenage nephews, and then one gets a real sense of the bitter struggle, the silliness and vicious punch-ups necessary for survival. Many years later I am glad to say that we are all alive to tell the tale, but I think I might leave out some kinds of board games. Monopoly and Hotel are far too scary for me.

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Tennis Prayer

With the certainty
of the sunrise
may the ball rise
above me
waiting to be placed

May the flight
of the sphere
with its cosmic grace
be a perfect trajectory
space and time

So, as I turn
agile and angled
I let fly

My heart sings
as the sphere soars
higher and higher
only to come down
to an invitation
to sweep wide
an earthly motion
controlled power
like a stone on water

May my racquet be my friend 
may the ball travel wherever I wish
may the net serve as a gentle reminder 
may I have confidence in myself
may I respect my opponent 

May this game bring joy
to me
to those I love
in this…
our interstellar world

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