Gillian Lever

Sew Far Sew Good’  Workshops at Greenbelt Festival (26 – 29 August 2022)

For a number of years ‘Sew Far Sew Good’ have offered art workshops at Greenbelt Festival, an arts, faith and justice festival with a long and rich history. ‘Sew Far Sew Good’  is a family art collective involving Jake and myself, my sister Susie Hopkins (a primary school teacher) and her husband Phill Hopkins, who is an artist. We all have a special interest in imaginatively nurturing young people’s spiritual lives and we were joined, this year,  by two lively new team members Sarah and Chris Thorpe.

The world is more divided and polarised now even than when the pandemic began. This Summer’s Greenbelt aimed, in the words of Creative Director, Paul Northup, to make a space ‘to look each other in the eye and have those difficult conversations with respect and love, listening to one another’s perspectives.’  When we offer ‘Sew Far Sew Good’ workshops our hope is to create a safe and welcoming space where people can enjoy immersing themselves in creative activities whilst striking up and developing life-giving relationships with other Festival goers.

This year’s beautiful ‘Wake Up’ theme invited everyone present to reflect on what it means to wake up to the present, the here-and-now, to the needs of our world and its people. A great conversation starter.

Again, in the words of Paul Northup, ‘It’s time to wake up to our lives, to our world, to the work that there is for us to do, to the party waiting for us.’

Unfortunately, a positive Covid test meant that I couldn’t be physically present at the Greenbelt ‘party’ this year but I loved working on the preparations and seeing all the happy faces in the photos. There will be more partying ahead!

Jake Lever

Befriending our vulnerability 

During the early stages of the pandemic I needed soil, mud and earth. Somehow the turmoil of life - losses, cancellations, illnesses, disruptions and changes - led me outdoors to re-orientate myself, to seek solid ground when things seemed to be falling apart and collapsing. My daily walks took me past a Southern Magnolia tree in Highbury Park, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Here I found hundreds of skeletal leaves on the ground, all in a state of slow decomposition, returning to the soil.

Picking up the leaves I realised that I was interrupting this journey towards dust and decomposition, but they spoke to me powerfully of my own frailty and mortality, as well as the fragility and beauty of living things. Covid highlighted human breath and breathlessness and the delicate veins in the leaves reminded me of the bronchial tree inside of us all…and our interconnectedness with  all living things. I wanted to sit with this decay and be fully present to my own vulnerability, to let go of the mask of strength, control and certainty.

As part of a recent All Saints, Kings Heath ‘Iona Service’ I offered a simple meditation on this theme inviting those of us gathered to reflect prayerfully upon  our own vulnerability and mortality and to think about those who we love and those we have lost.

I incorporated this ‘Stations of the Cross’ prayer by Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama;

God of the ground,

Whose body was - like ours - from dust,

and who fell - like we fall - to the ground,

May we find you on the ground when we fall.

Oh, our falling fallen brother, may we find you,

so that we may inhabit

our stories,



I closed the reflection, after a time of silent meditation, with the words of Mirabai Starr who, in the introduction to her book on the mystic Julian of Norwich writes;

”Each trial, every loss, is an opportunity for you to meet suffering with love and to make it an offering, a prayer. The minute you lift your pain like a candle the darkness vanishes and mercy comes rushing in to heal you.”

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