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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Bob Holman & Phil Evens: Affluence and position as inconsistent with Christian faith

In 1970 my father, Phil Evens, entered social-work education by becoming a lecturer in applied social studies at Oxford University. There, he discovered that he did not fit into the exclusive network of “North Oxbridge Society”, and so he moved nearer to his ideological home and working-class identity by setting up an Applied Action Research Community Work Project in 1973. It was called the Barton Project, after the council estate on which it was based.

His experiences and other contributions to the development of community work were published in Community Work: Theory and practice (1974) and The Barton Project (1976). Both books applied his Christian faith to his work, and called for the active involvement of Christians in community work and other public services.

Similarly in 1976, Bob Holman 'resigned his professorship in social administration at Bath University to become a community worker on the city’s deprived Southdown estate. He saw his affluence and position as inconsistent with his Christian faith. He and his wife, Annette, and their two children, Ruth and David, moved from a comfortable middle-class area in the city to a home next to the estate and he started the project where he then worked.'

In 1976, the Barton Project project lost funding, and my father's job was restructured away. He returned, somewhat disillusioned, to his roots in Somerset, where he became self-employed as a landscape gardener. During this mid-life crisis, he and his family began worshipping for the first time in the C of E, and he continued, as he had done for many years, to set up and run Christian youth clubs. Involvement in wider aspects of Anglican ministry led to his call to train for ordination.

At Trinity College, Bristol, he set up the Voice of the People Trust, to sponsor Christian ministry in urban priority areas through community-work projects linked to parishes. Work on the trust was carried out in conjunction with his ministry, first, as a curate at Aston Parish Church, and then as Vicar of St Edmund’s, Tyesley.

'After a decade in Bath, in 1987 [Bob Holman] went to live and work on the vast and deprived Easterhouse estate in Glasgow. He always wanted to show what could be done to motivate and involve people and bring communities together. Bob spurned any distinction between himself and other residents, calling himself a “resourceful friend”. His daily work involved filling in social security forms, accompany young people to court or helping a neighbour to raise a loan for a new cooker.'

Holman, who died on 15 June, became a regular contributor to the Guardian which published some extracts from his writing following his death:

'I will not lose my Christianity. It came before my socialism. The example and values of Jesus Christ led me to seek a societal implementation through politics. The writings of Richard Tawney and the practices of Keir Hardie and George Lansbury led me into the Labour party. But Christianity is more than politics. It will be with me to the end.'


Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - All That Has Grown.

Winifred Knights, David Jones & Malvina Cheek

The Guardian profiles the current retrospective of work by Winifred Knights, one of the most original, pioneering British artists of the first half of the 20th century:

'This summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery is mounting a retrospective of her work, the first ever. On display are all her significant pieces, including The Marriage at Cana (1923), shipped from New Zealand, and Scenes from the Life of St Martin of Tours (1928‑33), a stunning triptych that will be unhooked from the wall of Canterbury Cathedral and trundled up the A2 to south London. Most thrilling of all, The Santissima Trinita (1924-30), generally considered Knights’ masterpiece, has been lent by its private owners. These works appear alongside The Deluge, together with scores of preparatory sketches.'

Also profiled is In Parenthesis by David Jones:

'Part-biography, part-fiction, the book is a lyrical epic that traces, via an alter-ego called John Ball, the contours of Jones’s own wartime journey, from his embarkation for France in 1915 to the Somme in 1916 ...

The Somme did ... mark a transition, for Jones, from what he describes in the preface to In Parenthesis as “the period of the individual rifle-man, of the ‘old sweat’ of the Boer campaign”, to a “relentless, mechanised affair” of “wholesale slaughter”, that destroyed any ancient sense of continuity in the “domestic life of small contingents of men”.

It is this break, this “change in the character of our lives in the infantry” as the war shifted from the personal and the human to the impersonal and the mechanised, with which In Parenthesis is often concerned. The central opposition throughout the book is not British versus German, but rather mechanical versus natural; the “unmaking” modern science of shell and machine gun versus the “making” communities of artisan infantrymen, desperately trying to maintain the form of their collapsing worlds with nothing more than their hands and tools.'

The obituary of Malvina Cheek notes that:

'In her later career, a series of large canvases, painted with a rich autumnal palette, reflected her interest in spirituality, in particular Freud and Jung. While she was growing up, her father had not encouraged a religious leaning in his household and she may have found an equally cool reception from her husband, an atheist, but the work displays an unmistakable passion.'


Bloc Party - Only He Can Hear Me.

Discover & explore: St Peter

This Monday's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook, beginning 1.10pm, is the last in the current series. I will be reflecting on the life and thought of St Peter using a poem by Malcolm Guite and a meditation by Alan Stewart. The service will feature the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing:
  • Introit - Duruflé, Tu es Petrus
  • Anthem - Britten, A Hymn of St Peter
  • Anthem - Bairstow, The King of Love my Shepherd is
  • Closing - Palestrina, Agnus Dei (I & II) from Missa ‘Tu es Petrus’
Discover & explore services explore their themes through a thoughtful mix of music, prayers, readings and reflections:
  • “A perfect service of peace in our busy lives.”
  • “Spiritual food in the middle of the day.”
  • “Beautifully and intelligently done.”
The next series of Discover & explore services will explore themes of stewardship & finance:
  • Monday 3rd October: Time 
  • Monday 10th October: Talents 
  • Monday 17th October: Treasure/Gold 
  • Monday 24th October: Guidance 
  • Monday 31st October: Promises (All Souls Day) 
  • Monday 7th November: Safety 
  • Monday 14th November: Money 
  • Monday 21st November: Security 


Benjamin Britten - Hymn To St Peter.

Windows on the world (398)

Pleshey, 2016


Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Shine.

Sally Muggeridge - Priesting

Sally Muggeridge, curate at St Stephen Walbrook who was profiled in Thursday's Financial Times, was priested at St James's Sussex Gardens this afternoon along with five other of her priestly colleagues. The Service was splendid with excellent music and was led by The Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth.

The FT profile noted: "Throughout her career, Revd Muggeridge has been a vocal advocate of increasing the role of women in business and the church. At Pearson, she was head of diversity and in 2010 became the first woman to be appointed to the board of Total, the French energy group."

Accordingly, as part of her ministry at St Stephen Walbrook, Sally is currently organising our 'Women in the City of London - More than just a place of work' event on Tuesday 12th July from 6.30pm. This is an evening which will highlight the civic, cultural, charitable and social opportunities in the City of London, including networks as a route to fuller participation. We also look forward to welcoming WATCH (London) to St Stephen Walbrook for their At Home this Wednesday.  


Joseph Haydn - Missa Sancti Nicolai.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ministry to City folk: examples and encouragement

Sally Muggeridge, curate at St Stephen Walbrook, has been profiled in today's Financial Times:

'Her current workplace is the church of St Stephen Walbrook, in the heart of the City. Given its location, few of its congregation are local residents. Instead, its most frequent visitors are workers from nearby offices, and Revd Muggeridge believes her understanding of the pressures of life in the City helps her provide the support they need.

“My role is now one of pastoral care of stressed City workers,” she says. “So many seek chats, prayers, a quick discussion [about] a worry about family life and work. A prayer needed, a smile, a service — I can help with examples and encouragement.”'

As part of her ministry in the City, Sally is currently organising our 'Women in the City of London - More than just a place of work' event on Tuesday 12th July from 6.30pm. This is an evening which will highlight the civic, cultural, charitable and social opportunities in the City of London, including networks as a route to fuller participation.


Bloc Party - Virtue.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Start:Stop - Shut the door!

Bible reading

“… whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6. 5 & 6)


Last week the Church remembered Evelyn Underhill who, from the mid-1920s onwards, became highly-regarded as a retreat conductor and an influential spiritual director.

In her book on The Fruits of The Spirit, she wrote about this passage in relation to retreats:

“Christ, who so seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction of that … recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God.

"When you pray, go into a room by yourself - and shut the door." I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words, and those three words define what we have to try to do. Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it - but that is not … the shutting of the door …

Shut the door. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Nearly everyone pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that a whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life.

But Christ said shut and He meant shut. A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side. The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete. It is no use at all to enter that room, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, the reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence. All these must be left outside.

The object … is not intercession or self-exploration, but such communion with Him as shall afterwards make you more powerful in intercession; such self loss in Him as shall heal your wounds by new contact with His life and love.”

Jesus’ words were addressed to ordinary people going about their everyday lives, so his call to shut the door when praying was for each time we pray. Seeking the opportunity of being alone with God and attending to God in order that we may do His will better in our everyday lives was intended by Jesus as a regular experience. The distractions Evelyn Underhill notes are with us each time we pray. We need to face them each time we pray. Jesus said, ‘whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Our reward will be, as Evelyn Underhill wrote, ‘real communion with God.’


Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires know, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.

O God, be present with us always, dwell within our hearts. With thy light and thy Spirit guide our souls, our thoughts, and all our actions, that we may teach thy Word, that thy healing power may be in us and in thy church universal.

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.

Almighty God, who has given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto You and does promise that when two or three are gathered together in Your name You will grant their requests; fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Your servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of Your truth, and in the world to come life everlasting.

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.


May the Father from whom every family in earth and heaven receives its name strengthen you with his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, and that, knowing his love, broad and long, deep and high beyond our knowledge, you may be filled with all the fullness of God; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Aretha Franklin - Are You Sure.