Kiln Firing

At Pentecost, the disciples were no more than lumps of clay, waiting for the Holy Spirit to breathe life into them. We hear how this Holy Spirit appeared among them. It must have been a frightening, powerful and mystifying experience.

My interest in ceramics and the evolution of a lump of clay to an object of desire has not receded. There are so many processes and levels that can make or break (forgive the pun) a beautiful pot. Throwing a pot is only the start. The next stage is to turn it after it gets leather hard. There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip here! After the bisque firing comes the glaze – this is the silicon finish which gives the pot that lustre and interest. The final firing can now take place.

For any potter, the anticipation before the kiln is opened is unquestionably intense. “Will the kiln gods be kind to me today?” As the door swings open and the heat from the kiln hits you in the face, it might be possible to momentarily see the product of all your hard work. 

The drama of the kiln is that it is impossible to know where the flames have spread and how they have reacted with the pots. Some wonderful happy accidents can occur as the flame has danced around an object, brought out its colour and texture and made it come alive. 

At Pentecost, the disciples were no more than lumps of clay, waiting for the Holy Spirit to breathe life into them. We hear how this Holy Spirit appeared among them. It must have been a frightening, powerful and mystifying experience. They attempted to make known this event by describing the Holy Spirit in graphic terms, like tongues of fire. 

We understand through the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospels and Paul’s Letters that this firing, this holy blaze, had created something beautiful, never experienced before. The believers had changed in that furnace, the Holy Spirit had danced around them and purified them. Their appearance and demeanour was such that others were attracted to them like objects of desire. Whatever they had, others wanted. 

This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is somehow easier to close the door on the kiln and think that this sort of chemistry and alchemy would not work on us today.  It was just a once in a lifetime firing! This would sadly be to undermine God’s power to create beauty in his world. It would also negate our belief that ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’ The living, resurrected and anticipated Lord Jesus is present in the world – shaping the clay, turning it around, adorning it with colour and texture and vitality. This is the breath of Christ’s loving which fires the clay and which we celebrate at Pentecost.  

…And here’s some that I fired earlier!

We welcome one of our churchwardens, Irim, who will be preaching on the subject of Pentecost this Sunday at 8am and 10am. The lectern is not a place for the privileged few to speak from. It belongs to the many as we enjoy hearing different voices and share their experiences and kiln-crafted passions.  

And very much associated with this….


Fire transforms the ordinary clay into objects of beauty inside the kiln

Gavin Knight

At this time of Pentecost, we are all hoping to re-start our lives after the Covid pandemic. StM&AA’s is reflecting on this experience of deep suffering but also looking forward. How can this parish church emerge out of the lockdown with something beautiful to share? Kiln Firing is an opportunity to talk, listen and pray about how we can become a healthier, more attractive church and re-engage with the wider community and with each other.

The potter’s kiln takes time to produce enough heat to take effect. We will begin the firing by asking two simple questions which require imaginative yet workable responses, just like clay! What should be lost to the kiln? What would we like to take out and share? I have offered my thoughts to help fire your thoughts:

1.     What should be lost to the kiln? What is cracked and broken and what needs to change?

Give honest examples discerning the things that are damaged or need binning or re-working.  (Gavin’s thoughts: Re-consider our diet of worship; analyse our attitude towards all age fellowship; introduce the  ‘Living in Love and Faith’ agenda).

2.     What are the ‘beautiful objects’ which you passionately hope come out of the kiln? 

Give practical examples where the fire of the church can make a difference to human need and the world. (Gavin’s thoughts: A carbon neutral church which facilitates gatherings and eco policy and action in the community; accessible and inspiring inter-generational worship;  focus on art, music and gardening as therapy; the re-ignition of our healing ministry).

I will present an A5 piece of paper to those in the congregation this Sunday. We will pray about the process of re-emerging out of lockdown and ask that we may be given the discernment that we need to share our thoughts in this exercise – the first of many ways in the discernment process. I hope to receive your responses (either hard copy – or by email for those who cannot attend) which I will analyse and bring to the PCC for further consideration. We are also planning social gatherings (when we are allowed) and fun activities in an effort to enable our fellowship with each other and the parish.


The appointment of a new incumbent at St Peter’s, Wolvercote and All Saints’, Wytham
The Revd Kate Tuckett is the new vicar, currently serving in North Harrow in the London diocese. Her curacy was in south London, after working for several years in church communications at Christian Aid and The Children’s Society, and prior to that as a book editor. Kate is married to Russell (who works in Abingdon), and they have a daughter Madeleine who was born in August. The hope is that Kate will be licensed in September. Please continue to pray for the people of Wolvercote and Wytham and for Kate and her family as they prepare for the move.

The CATechesis Group

We are asking the question: ‘Is evangelism a dirty word?’ This question arises as we think about how we re-emerge and engage with our community after lockdown (see above). Clare will lead these sessions unpicking some of the theology behind the meaning of evangelism. We hope that some of our discussion on this subject may well lead to a greater ownership of discipleship (not just by the clergy), that we may all bear witness to our faith with confidence; that we may be more reassured about the church’s presence in the community.
Do come along, we meet on Zoom from 7.30pm – 9pm. We begin with a short bible reading and exploration before we focus on the main theme. You do not have to be a cat owner to come (!) or a theologian. This group is for all people who are inquisitive about the Christian faith. Here it is – simply press the underlined blue link and join us for chat, laughter, thought and prayer. 

StM&AA’s Summertown is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Topic: CATechesis Group Time: May 25, 2021 07:30 PM LondonJoin Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 993 3098 3259 Passcode: 139348

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.