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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Artlyst interview: Mark Dean projects ...

My latest article for Artlyst is an interview with Mark Dean, whose Stations of the Cross we recently hosted at St Stephen Walbrook as an all-night Vigil on Easter Eve.

In the interview Mark speaks about the elements of his work which often come together in quite surprising ways. He says:

"It does sometimes feel like it’s not just up to me – that there is an underlying relationship that I am drawing out, or noticing. And so the collaborative basis of this project feels like an extension of that process. And this is confirmed by the fact that all three of us (and of course the churches we are partnering with) have a common relation in our Christian faith, despite our quite different approaches. So without making grand claims, I would say it is the Holy Spirit that binds it all together. Actually, this goes back to the previous question about the sense of the sacred in art. The late critic Stuart Morgan once said to me that the problem with the Modernist engagement with spirituality wasn’t that it wasn’t real, but that it was somehow exclusive – as though only artists were privy to the spirituality that generated creativity. Understanding the working of the Holy Spirit throughout the world helps us to avoid that kind of elitism, which can be understood as a form of Gnosticism."

This aspect of his work is further explored by Lucy Newman Cleeve in her essay for the Stations2017 catalogue and in an interview that she gave to Elephant Magazine about the project. Stations2017 has been reviewed by Art & Christianity Journal, while the videos shown can be viewed on Mark Dean's website.


Neil Young - Cowgirl In The Sand   

Saturday, 27 May 2017

HeartEdge: Catalysing Kingdom Communities

Sam Wells spoke to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on 'Catalysing Kingdom Communities', the strapline of HeartEdge. HeartEdge is a growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields. It helps churches deepen and integrate their cultural, commercial and community reach while building association and learning with those on the edge

Click here to hear Sam explore what it means to be faith communities that welcome and include in today’s world? The Moderator of the General Assembly chairs a special session which also includes the current Scots Makar, Jackie Kay. Also listen to Sam's talk at the launch of HeartEdge by clicking here.

HeartEdge is organising useful workshops and events across the UK tailored to your priorities. The next events are:

Start:Stop seminar

Wednesday 31 May, 1 – 4pm, St Stephen Walbrook. Learn about the genesis of Start:Stop (10-minute work-based reflections for people on their way to work) together with Revd Jonathan Evens, Associate Vicar Partnership, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Priest-in-charge, St Stephen Walbrook.

An opportunity to discuss:
  • growing a new congregation;
  • engaging with working people;
  • ministering in the workplace;
  • communicating with busy people.

Great Sacred Music seminar 

Thursday 8 June, 12.50 – 4pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Learn about the genesis of Great Sacred Music (a 35-minute lunchtime sequence of words and music speaking to heart, head and soul) together with Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Andrew Earis, Director of Music, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

An opportunity to discuss:
  • growing a new congregation; 
  • engaging with music lovers; 
  • using music in mission; 
  • sharing faith insights with secular audiences.
Both seminars are free to HeartEdge members, £10 for others. Register with Revd Jonathan Evens at or 020 7766 1127.

At the Heart – On the Edge will explore mission by doing theology, sharing ideas, uncovering solutions and finding support. Hosted by Rev Dr Sam Wells, we'll focus is on:
  • Congregation –Liturgy, worship and day-to-day communal life – gathered and local
  • Commerce – Start and sustain enterprise to generate finance for your church
  • Compassion – Grow participation and volunteering to address social need locally
  • Culture – Use art, music and ideas to reimagine the Christian narrative in your context
Interested? Register for this launch event and what will be an inspiring, practical first conference.

HeartEdge | Building Kingdom Communities
  • A network of churches and organisations initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields
  • For those working at the heart of commerce, culture and community
  • With those at the margins and on the edge
  • Building association, learning, development and resource
Taking place at St Michael’s Centre, 5 minutes walk from Bristol Parkway Station in the village of Stoke Gifford. Regular train services run to and from London, Cardiff, Birmingham and beyond. The site is less than 3 miles from the M4, the M5 and the M32 motorways. St Michael’s is 6 miles north of Bristol city centre, and well connected by bus, with cycle routes and by road.

Register for free to attend on the day - click on the green register

Learn more about HeartEdge here.


Delirious? - Now Is The Time.

Thy Kingdom Come: 'Transformation' Prayers

On Thursday afternoon at St Stephen Walbrook we used the works of art in Terry Ffyffe's 'Transformation' exhibition for a guided 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer event.

Terry says: “Art should inspire the viewer, ideally raise the consciousness and elevate the mind to think of higher things like the beauty and mystery of the natural world, to contemplate the deep questions as to purpose and meaning, like ‘What is the origin of this life? What is Reality? Questions that have no easy answer but require a personal journey of developing awareness.”

His exhibition coincides with the Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the ‘Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles’, an event that transformed them from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming the “Good News”. Terry, formerly a figurative painter in the classic tradition had a “transformation” experience himself and is now firmly established in his new direction of depicting the beauty of the hidden world of nature and the inner world of the mind”. The exhibition brings together the last works that he was working on before this profound change. He says, ”The early paintings are about the Historical Jesus and the New Paintings are about the Holy Spirit”.

Based on my reflections about the incarnate and Cosmic Christ from the exhibition's Private View, we bookended this time of prayer with prayers from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

Since … I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world …

My paten and my chalice are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to the new day.

One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life. One by one also I number all those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. And again one by one — more vaguely it is true, yet all-inclusively — I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come, and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.

This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond. All the things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those too that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms, so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice; the only material you desire.

Once upon a time men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvests, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day. Amen.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.


Morten Lauridsen - O Magnum Mysterium.

Windows on the world (346)

Stratford, 2016


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Windows on the world (345)

Stratford, 2016


Echo & the Bunnymen - Bring On The Dancing Horses.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

'Jamaican Spiritual' exhibition

St Stephen Walbrook will host a prestigious exhibition of Jamaican painting and sculpture from 3 July until 14 July 2017, weekdays only 10.00am - 4.00pm (Wednesdays, 11.00am - 3.00pm).

The exhibition has been organised and curated by Jamaican Art Collector and Promoter Theresa Roberts.
In keeping with the setting all the work will revolve around spiritual themes drawn from the variety of world religions which exist on Jamaica itself
There are works by old Jamaican masters but the majority of pieces are new and created specifically for the show by young Jamaican artists. Mediums represented include painting,sculpture and photography.
The show represents the vibrancy and cultural diversity of Jamaica in a uniquely spiritual way.


Bob Marley - Redemption Song.

Faithful improvisation in a five act play

Here is my sermon from today's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook:

Mike Leigh is the well-known director of films such Secrets and Lies, Mr Turner, Topsy Turvey and Life Is Sweet. Improvisation is a significant part of his directorial methods. He begins a film with an initiating idea, which conjures up a number of possible actors he can cast. Since he doesn’t work with formal scripts, the auditions take the form of an exercise where the actor delivers a caricature of a person they know. Once the cast is established, a list of potential characters is devised, out of which a base character who lies at the core of the drama is established. After this, the actor researches the character and does solo improvisations with the director. This process of solo improvisation and research goes on for weeks and even months before the actor is introduced to another actor who has been cast, and they begin duo impros. Leigh shoots two thirds of his film without revealing the ending. Then the crew pauses for a week or so while he does improvs of the final scenes. After that, the end scenes are shot.

Improvisation is also what Jesus is talking about in this farewell discourse to his disciples (John 14 - 16, today's Gospel - John 16. 5 - 15). He is going to leave them (as happened at the Ascension) and then he will send the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, the comforter and advocate, to them (as happened on the Day of Pentecost). The Spirit will speak to the disciples whatever he hears from Jesus; both the many things he wanted to say to them but which they could not bear at that time and also the things that are to come. Earlier in his discourse, he also said that the Spirit will teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them. The result will be that they will do greater things than him.

Jesus said many amazing things that people still repeat regardless of whether they follow him or not. But his farewell discourse to his disciples must be among the most amazing because in it Jesus says that those who follow him will do greater things than him and will be led into all truth. When you think how amazing Jesus’ own actions were, it is hard to imagine how people like us could do greater things than that, and, when you think how profound his teaching was, how could we be led into deeper or greater truth than that?

But Jesus was articulating something that all good teachers think and feel; the sense that all the time he had spent with them and invested in them was not so they would be clones of him, simply repeating the things he did and said, but instead that he had equipped, empowered and enabled his followers to follow him by using their own gifts and abilities and initiative which would inevitably mean that they would do and say different things from him but still with his Spirit and based on all they had learnt from him. He was saying that each one of us is a unique combination of personality, abilities and potential and, therefore, each of us can make a unique mark on the world. His followers can do greater things than Jesus because they will do different things from him in his name and Spirit – things that only they can do for him because they are that unique package of personality, ability and potential.

Sam Wells, the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields has described this in terms of improvisation. He says that we constantly “face new circumstances in each generation that the Bible doesn’t give us a script for.” Instead, the Christian story is like “a five-act play -- creation, Israel, Jesus, church and eschaton. We find ourselves in Act 4, and the most important events have already happened. Our role is to be faithful in Act 4, because God will do the rest in Act 5.” “The most dynamic gift to the church is the Holy Spirit working amongst people who learn to trust one another and see the abundant things that God can do with limited materials. That’s analogous to what happens in theatrical improvisation.”

“Improvisation isn’t about being original, clever, witty or spontaneous. Improvisation is about allowing yourself to be obvious.” People who train in improvisation train in a tradition. The Spirit comes to remind Christians of the Christian tradition by reminding us of all that Jesus did and said, so we embody it in our lives. Faithful improvisation in the present time requires patient and careful puzzling over what has gone before. It’s about being so soaked in a tradition that you learn to take the right things for granted or, as Jesus put it, the Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus said so that we intuitively do those things on an improvisational basis. In this way we can do greater things than Jesus because we will do different things from him, but in his name and Spirit.


Will Todd - I Sing Because.