JOY // Guest post from Ben Hollebon



This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from a friend of mine – Ben Hollebon.



I love making films. It’s one of those things I just enjoy in every part of the process. Capturing that clip that you know is going to solidify your story when it comes to the edit is so satisfying.

I love God. Spending time with Him gives me peace. I can’t describe in words the reassurance His everlasting faithfulness brings to my life.

I ask God for stuff in prayers. I know it’s a bit cheeky and they’re not always things that I necessarily need, but I ask anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it works that you ask God for something in a quick prayer, He snaps His fingers and suddenly there’s a fanfare outside as the National Lottery pitch up at your front door with a nice big cheque for a few million. I think God is cleverer than that. He is interested in our hearts desires and giving us gifts; but these gifts are not meant to be held tightly and relished by ourselves alone. Instead, they’re meant to be used to glorify His name, His grace, His mercy and His love.

God gave me a gift last year. It was pretty amazing and I can tell you now – it made me rather joyful. He gave me the gift of a brand new job; one that I didn’t know existed, one that I wasn’t looking for, and in fact one that wasn’t even advertised. My wife saw a job advertised on Twitter (she’s never on Twitter and what are the chances she was on just as this was tweeted?). I went for the interview and didn’t get the job; but they told me there was another job, that wasn’t being advertised yet that they thought I’d be perfect for. So I came back a month later and interviewed successfully for it.

What do I do now? I make films for The Church of England. I work up in Westminster and get to communicate stories of the God I love through the medium that I love. God wants us to be fulfilled through His provision.

This Remembrance video, used in many churches and across Social Media is one of those Ben made.
Pretty cool right? God knows my hearts desires and wants me to be fulfilled in life; but He also challenges me to use the good things He provides to make a difference in this world. This isn’t just a “nice gig” nor is it God giving me a break and moving on. I feel called to work here and with that comes the responsibility that what I am doing is for God’s Kingdom. 

My joy this Christmas is knowing that I have a God who not just knows my every need, but finds ways to meet those needs in ways I could never have imagined. My God can literally find the perfect job for me, where I can use the skills He has blessed me with to communicate His Gospel each and every day.

And my God is your God; is our God; is THE God who loves us all immeasurably more than we could ever imagine.

I wonder what gift He has waiting for you to unwrap…




Ben Hollebon works for The Church of England Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. He makes films and loves all things digital. He even got shortlisted at the Jerusalem Awards this year. He is married to Pollyanna and together, they have a cat called Herbie.



So this weekend as I sat at home with a horrible cold, coupled with the joy of celebrating my son’s 13th birthday I was also watching the tweets roll in from #PremDAC16 and was absolutely to delighted to see that I was chosen as Runner Up for ‘Most Inspiring Leadership Blog’, woop! (I was also shortlisted for ‘Blogger of the year’ and as with last year when I was runner up in that category I am just so chuffed and surprised!).

You can see all the winners listed in the Premier Digital website here, and huge congrats to all the winners, it was an amazing line up, I feel honoured just to be among them. Especially check out Youth Work Hacks who won this category – a really brilliant blog and resource and not just for those doing Youth work I would say.


Thank to Bex Lewis for this pic, shamelessly stolen from her Twitter feed :)

So, I also want to say a huge thank you to anyone who nominated me and to all of you who read this blog. Over the last 7 years or so it has changed, grown, had various guest posters, looked at different themes, had many a rant, and also a lot of love. But more than that, it has been an outlet for me to work out what is going in in my head, and to my surprise I have found that has often been helpful to others doing the same. It’s quite humbling when someone sends you a message or an email saying how they have found something you have written, really helpful or encouraging or inspiring. And, so, basically I want to say, ‘right backatcha!’ I love writing but it makes is so much more enjoyable and special when I know it reaches other people and touches them. So thank you all :)

2015-11-14 21.58.58

Last year at the awards dinner above! This year, in PJs and socks at home ;)

Pre-ordination blur and making a stole

So in just a few days time I will be ordained deacon at Chichester Cathedral. It’s fair to say the last few weeks have been pretty manic with moving house and leaving my job etc, so that I am absolutely delighted to be going off to the oasis that is the pre-ordination retreat on Wednesday. So by the time this posts, I will be on it, madly praying my way through panic, feeling overwhelmed and yet also pathetically grateful to an awesome God who I still just don’t understand (will I ever?!)

I start work the day after my ordination and I think I might be a wee bit busy for a few weeks and whilst I know there will be much to reflect on I’m not sure how much time I will have to write about it, so I’m hoping to schedule a few posts here ahead of time and will come back to fill in the blanks later. If you want to keep up with me day to day, try Twitter @redjules or Facebook.

In the meantime, here’s something about my ordination stole…

So, a stole is a sort of scarf worn round the neck and there are various different liturgical colours for different times of the year. The origins of the stole seem sketchy but one thought, which I rather like, is that it was a representation of the cloth Jesus used when he washed the disciples feet, so it is a symbol of service. In our diocese you don’t have to wear one for ordination if it isn’t your tradition. It isn’t mine but I still really liked the idea of wearing something special and so I decided if I was going to wear one then I wanted to make my own, then it would also be something to keep for the future and treasure. With this in mind I decided to use my wedding dress which has been in the wardrobe for the last 15 years, in fact it hasn’t even been dry cleaned since the wedding! Apart from the obvious fact that it is a special garment, I loved the idea of using the symbolism of the wedding, at my ordination. In Revelation 19 we see the wedding feast of the lamb, symbolically referring to Christ’s bride as the church. At the second coming, Christ will return for his bride, to take her home. I love this picture, especially for us working in the church, that we really do have a responsibility to prepare the church for Jesus. Do we want a bride looking shabby and in tatters on her wedding day? or do we (as most of us would) want her looking beautiful, radiant and in her best outfit? 

So in using my wedding dress to make this, it reminds me of this passage, of the responsibility I shall bear, the beauty of what God is calling me in to, and the joining with both Christ and his church in a new way.

I designed a pattern that makes it more personal, so there are some key themes: Foundation: Love; Belief: Trinity; Encounter: Holy Spirit.


Foundation – if you read this blog or have heard me preach you’ll know my main theme at the moment is love, it is such a fundamental foundation and I hope it will underpin all that I do in ordained ministry. So I’ve embroidered hearts on to the stole.  This is the root of all.

Belief – I believe in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I wanted to reference this as a core belief (and funnily enough I am going to be at a church called ‘Trinity’). The three pearls put together in clusters represent the Trinity. This is what I believe.

Encounter – I long for more of the Holy Spirit – it is through the Holy Spirit that we encounter God for ourselves, and more and more I realise that people need an encounter rather than a history lesson. So the lines weaving up represent the Holy Spirit fire of Pentecost. This is my desire to see again.



I also love that in making this I used things from my heritage: in this pic are my Mum’s dress making scissors and my Nan’s old pins. Plus some of the beads belonged to my Nan, my Mum and my oldest daughter.

It has been totally crazy trying to finish this in the last few days before going on retreat but I reckon it’s worth it!


Ember Cards


If I had £1 for every time someone asked me what an ’ember card’ is in recent weeks, I’d be able to pay for all my clerical wear with the proceeds. And I’ve got to admit, it slightly amuses me that me, a definitely ‘improper Anglican’ to coin a term from a Twitter friend, is doing something quite traditional. So here’s a bit of an explanation…

Firstly, let me admit I only heard about ember cards because fellow ordinands have talked about them, but the short explanation is what it says on the card below, that traditionally those approaching ordination send them out to ask for prayer for them and their parish.  As you know I don’t really do traditional, but I do do prayer and I do love cards and design and nice things like that :) That said, usually they are pretty boring and dull and so I wanted to do something a bit different (no surprise there then) and asked my fab friend Mark at Sublime to design something for me and I love it! Not boring, not traditional, but still what it needs to be.

So ember cards, what? why? who? well it’s interesting that when I decided to get some done I wanted to do a bit of research and find out what they are all about and there seems to be very little info out there, but here’s some basic bits if you want to know…

Ember cards are sent out as part of Ember seasons or weeks, or even days. Ember Days are days set aside by the church for prayer and fasting and have been since the 4th Century AD in ancient Rome. As seasons of prayer and fasting it was considered a good time for ordination of clergy and like many things the Anglican church inherited the idea from Rome.

This Ember Season is between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, i.e: this week. Although the focus on times of prayer for ordination has become more of a focus now, rather than just being seasons of prayer. The CofE says this:

Ember Days should be kept, under the bishop’s directions, in the week before an ordination as days of prayer for those to be made deacon or priest. Ember Days may also be kept even when there is no ordination in the diocese as more general days of prayer for those who serve the Church in its various ministries, both ordained and lay, and for vocations. Traditionally they have been observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays within the weeks before the Third Sunday of Advent, the Second Sunday of Lent and the Sundays nearest to 29 June and 29 September.

(My ordination will be 25th June).

So, at these times of year those being ordained send out cards asking for prayer. I can’t find any information on how the sending of cards started (so if anyone knows more I’d love to know!), but perhaps it was a way of letting people know you were being ordained, at a time when communication was harder and took longer than it does today. Many people went away to train for ministry (many still do) and so would have left behind their original or sending church, friends and often family, so it would have been a nice connection to send back information on the ordination itself and asking for prayer from those who had nurtured them in their faith before training.

Whilst I am naturally a pioneer, looking to do things differently or improve things, I am still part of the Church of England and I embrace that. So in sending the card I feel part of the wider church, whilst also making it a bit different. I chose to put an explanation on the card as most people I send it to won’t have a clue why I’m sending it. Plus traditionally you ask for prayer for the parish you are going to, but I wanted to include the one I am coming from that has seen me through training, nurtured me and loved me in it all. Usually people include a prayer and again, many people I send this to won’t be regular pray-ers, but I wanted to find a way to reach them and I thought the most familiar prayer is The Lord’s Prayer so there is a chance people will have heard of it or may have even prayed it at school. And as I say on the card, it does express so much of what we need daily: to be provided for, to be kept safe from evil and to experience God’s kingdom on earth.

For me also, the realisation of what I am stepping into becomes ever more real each day and I recognise the need for prayer more than ever. This is only something I can with God leading me, so please do pray for me as I approach ordination, and of course beyond…



Thy Kingdom Come

This week the Church of England has been focussing on ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ which is (in my opinion) a rather fantastic initiative set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, with the aim to mobilise the church to pray for the nation.

Around here I have been staggered by how many churches have engaged with this and not just Anglican ones either, it really does feel like an exciting time for the church (and the nation).

So, I’ve been praying and thinking on this line from the Lord’s Prayer this week and so here’s a little video of my prayer doodle on those words…

I sometimes take part in a Twitter initiative called ‘Colour Collective’ which encourages artists and illustrators to create a piece each week, on a different colour and then we all post at the same time on Friday evening. So this week’s colour is ‘light yellow glaze’, so I used lots of yellow in this – though it might not be quite light enough it’s the best I could come up with, not really a yellow fan to be honest but I do like the balance of colours in this!


My Armour

So I made this a few weeks ago. I had a rough few weeks dealing with the reality of leaving our church as I think I’d been keeping a lid on it for a while and then it just got me when I was least expecting it. I finished in my job this week so seems like an appropriate time to publish it as I continue to deal with the emotions whilst planning the move on to new pastures…




So. I just got a tattoo. I was going to keep it to myself and just let people see it as and when but I feel compelled to write about it. And the reason? Well before getting it done I did a bit of research via the power of google for Christian designs. I found some great things, but I also found a whole load of judgemental claptrap from people claiming to be the authority on Christian sin as to why you are pretty much going to hell if you get one.

Ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight. If you google ‘what does the bible say about tattoos?’ you get a load of posts taking one Old Testament scripture and using it to justify the view that it is wrong. Note, Old Testament, not new. Pre-new covenant, pre-Jesus – the fulfilment of the law. Hysterically I love how one bloke noted in his diatribe on the sin of tattooing, piercing and numerous other things, that ‘When I was a young Christian, I had numerous sins that I had to deal with. Two of them were smoking and criticising others…’ Clearly God hasn’t dealt with the criticising others bit yet then…

So if you are a Christian considering getting a tattoo, here’s two things people will undoubtedly say to you and some responses. And if you have the time read this post which is the best I’ve read, along with a load of comments which are also worth reading

1. The Bible says tattoos are wrong.

Yes, it does, in one verse in Leviticus 19:28

Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

Two responses here. Firstly, this is under the Levitical law. Jesus came to fulfill the law which is why as Christians we don’t adhere to these laws anymore. The law was about the people having a relationship with God, all of the laws were about keeping people holy and pure, free of sin so they could have a relationship with God. However now, we have Jesus to facilitate our relationship with the Father. It is through him and because of what he did on the cross that we get to call God our Father.


Jesus, on the wall in the tattoo shop. He’s even doing a blessing, what more can I say?

Anyone suggesting that a Levitical law is valid today is living under the old covenant, ie: forgetting about what Jesus did for us. In fact this is so fundamental I honestly don’t know why people keep bringing up OT scriptures for specific things today and saying we need to adhere to them. My OT biblical studies tutor once said that everything in the OT points to Jesus. So we have to view it through that lens, you cannot read the OT without him in mind.


However, if you must do that, then I fully expect you to follow all the commands in Numbers and all the Levitical laws not just picking those that suit you.

For example, your son has fallen over and gashed his knee and you clean up the cut – you must sacrifice a lamb or goat to make up for your sin of uncleanliness (Leviticus 5). Or, have you ever worn a Polycotton shirt? Wool blend jumper? (Leviticus 19:19) then you are sinning against the Lord. Enjoy a nice rare steak? (Lev 19:26) Yup that too. Cut your hair, shaved (Lev 19:27), said something bad about your parents (Lev 20:9) and frankly what teenager hasn’t? – bad news for you, you get the death penalty… and on the list goes. In actual fact there isn’t a specified punishment for getting a tattoo according to the OT anyway.

Now, look I’d be lying if I said I had never taken a scripture out of context to make a point, we all do it to some extent, but seriously, do your homework people! Whether it’s on this issue or any other, you need to know what the bible actually says and why.


2. Your body is a temple.

Hurrah a New Testament scripture! (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Well yes this is true, however I would point out that this is another scripture taken out of context as it’s actually referring to sexual immorality, and as one of Paul’s letters is addressing something of relevance specifically to the church at Corinth.

However, yes this is a good principle to live by, if Jesus lives within us, then we should treat our bodies well, we should recognise that we are holy too. But some of the most famous and holy temples or churches are decorated with stunning and beautiful artwork and adornment and it’s all for the glory of God. I mean going back to the OT, just look at some of the descriptions of how God wanted the temple to be. In Exodus 25 we read how the tabernacle was to be made and in 2 Chronicles 3 on the building of the temple. Beautiful descriptions of detail, precious stones, carvings, details, all for the glory of God…

So if it’s ok for God…

And in addition, how do we take this anyway? Do we never drink caffeine or alcohol? do we refuse to wear make up? Do we only ever eat super healthy food that cannot possibly harm us?


So there you go, two points on why I think tattoos are ok.

But adding to that, here’s why I had mine done. I have been thinking about getting one for a long time, like years, I’ve prayed about it, had different ideas, drawn things out. I really wanted something Godly, something biblical and I wanted a mark that said I am his. But I also wanted something personal to me.

In the end I went with the word Selah, which I have written about several times. Selah is important to me as it’s a reminder to take time to rest and to seek God, to reflect on Him. I wanted something where I could see it as a daily reminder to me to do just that. not that I need reminding to seek God but I do reminding to seek rest and rest in him. So I had that put on my wrist in a place where I will see it every day and be reminded.

It’s not that big or amazingly creative but I didn’t need it to be, I just wanted something simple as I said, to remind me.


The Well of The North Wind by Kenneth Steven // Book Review

well-of-the-north-wind-FCI’m a visual type so when I read a book I love to be able to imagine the scenes, the dialogue and the people, in my mind. Kenneth Stevens book ‘The Well of the North Wind’, sent to me to review by the lovely people at SPCK, is perfect for that! As well as novels Kenneth writes poetry and this book is almost a mixture of the two, with beautiful lyrical lines that just let your imagination run wild. Like this:

‘He walked slowly over the mossy grass and the bed of a small stream, up over the rise of a last hill and down onto a beach. A rubble of boulders first, then round stones as big as a fist, before smaller pebbles once more. The wind full in his face and the sea coming in like great white dogs, leaping and playing and breaking…’

I love his style, I can imagine myself there on that beach, smelling the salty air and feeling the spray. It’s the kind of book you can sink into and just drift away into another world.

So what’s the story all about? Well set in the 6th Century, in the last days of Saint Columba, it follows the life of Fian, a young boy who is adopted by Monks on the West Coast of Ireland, after he is seen drawing in the sand on the beach. He is trained by the soft and Fatherly Monk, Innis, to draw in the style and language of the Book of Kells. (The book of Kells is a 6th Century manuscript, thought to be one of the finest of it’s style featuring beautiful hand drawn illustrations and calligraphy) such as this:kells

From there Fian is taken to the island of Iona to work on the book itself under the careful eye of Colum (Columba). This is the moment he sees the book for the first time.

‘ They climbed the stone steps and he heard the wind raging at the tower. It seemed to shake as they went higher, as they curled the spiral towards a top they never seemed to reach. They said nothing; his mouth was filled with questions but always they fell to dust…

They stood over him, watching not the page but rather him. It was beautiful. What more could be said or thought? It was all he had dreamed of seeing, since the days his hand learned to draw in the sand of home, since first he heard tell of books like this.’

We follow Fian’s journey with the book, but also spiritually as he explores who God is in his own life. Whilst living with the monks he is immersed in their culture he never quite becomes one of them. We see him grow up, become captivated by a local girl and the story develops as his life continues a mixture of spirituality, creativity and love.

This is a beautiful and captivating story set amidst holiness and wonder, moss and heather. If you are a bit of a romantic, into spirituality, are a creative sort, or just fancy something a bit different, then this book is for you!

Photo from my friend Tina Dray

Photo from my friend Tina Dray


Perfect Love

So I wrote yesterday about the low level anxiety I am feeling approaching a time of change.

This morning I spent some time with a lovely and wise friend of mine who reminded me that I am in a season where I am focussing on God’s love and bringing that message to my church, she also reminded me that fear (the root of anxiety) does not go with love. I know it’s obvious but sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.

So today, I am focussing on the love because God’s word tells us that love drives out fear, fear cannot remain in the presence of God…