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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Angels for Peace

To celebrate the Finissage of Kim Poor’s exhibition ‘The Shadow of Angels’, we’re presenting a very special evening – ANGELS FOR PEACE – at St Stephen Walbrook with perfomances by the celebrated Aleppo-born concert pianist Riyad Nicolas and up and coming singer/songwriter Katya D’Janoeff. The Finissage will run from 6pm with music from 7.45pm.

One of the most exciting young artists to emerge from the Middle East. Riyad Nicolas was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1989. “Syria’s leading young pianist” (International Piano Magazine 2012) was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1989, and has already established himself as a leading figure of his generation on the international performing circuit. Among his recent achievements he lists First Prize at the Francaix International Piano Competition in Paris and his débuts at the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall and the Cadogan Hall in London and the Kennedy Centre in Washington.

‘Syria’s leading young pianist … A fine account of Debussy’s Images Book I … Jean Francaix work delivered with Gallic Charm, and some superb Messiaen.’
International Piano

Katya DJ is 22 year-old London based singer/songwriter. Influenced by artists such as Amy Winehouse and Beth Hart, her sound incorporates elements of jazz/ blues influenced pop and she has been described as “… the best new artist I’ve heard since Adele.”

She has performed at various venues around London including The Troubadour, Chelsea Arts Club, The Pheasantry and Ronnie Scott’s and also at Somerset Series at Somerset House and other festivals this summer. Katya graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with a BA in Music and has recently completed a Masters (MMus) in Popular Music Performance at BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) in conjunction with the University of West London.


Riyad Nicolas - Danse de laila.

The Shadow of Angels

In 2010, the Brazilian artist Kim Poor emerged from a period of creative hibernation as a result of reading The Glory of Angels by her friend and mentor, Edward Lucie-Smith.

Angels, such as her Watcher of the Skies, had featured in her work previously but the exquisite classical and contemporary illustrations of the power of angels in art found in The Glory of Angels catapulted Kim back to life again. She wrote that “these powerful bridges to the unknown have been present throughout mankind’s history to help us and guide us” while, in his book, Edward Lucie-Smith explored how angels guide us by protecting and warning us of danger, healing and comforting us, and urging us to follow God′s path.

It is, therefore, appropriate that Edward has curated Kim’s current exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook, the church where I am Priest-in-charge, as the exhibition entitled The Shadow of Angels focuses exclusively on Kim’s angel paintings.

Kim Poor’s art consistently plays with veils of light and colour to evoke mystical atmospheres. This is particularly so with her diaphanist paintings which use ground glass on steel that is fired countless times until the delicate layers of opaque and transparent glass achieve depth and colour. Salvador Dali thought that to look at these paintings was as if to 'look through coloured gauze', which inspired him to coin the term 'Diaphanism' for her style.

The veiled distortions of poetic dreamscapes that she creates are perfectly suited to the depiction of angels; creatures which may or may not be there, the subjects of belief rather than of sight. Among them we find The Angel of The Hour, where time is vanishing from the clock which the angel holds. Is this an indication that the angel wishes to draw us into the timelessness of eternity or is it an indication of the speed with which we feel our days go by? These ambiguous angels represent our need for reassurance, an illusion or reality in a very unstable world, a manifestation of life and death or the true bridge to the Divine. The Good Samaritan, however, shows us unambiguously that the face of compassion is angelic.

The range of different angels depicted – the Angel of the Stigmata, The Healer, The Messenger - explores the universality of angelic mythology; iconography which is a unifying force throughout time and a connection in all religions and cultures. At the same time, these are also very English angels, whimsical and magical, drawing on the Victorian influences in Kim’s work; the Pre-Raphaelites, Ruskin, Richard Dadd and Lewis Carroll.

While there is much in these paintings that seems to depict a beautiful otherness – one of flowing curves and circling flourishes – there is nevertheless also an engagement with the shattered, splintered experiences of tragedy. Rosa de Hiroshima is an image of resilience drawn from reflection on Vinicius de Moraespoem of the same name. Here the angel representing the Rose of Hiroshima stands with an indomitable spirit. Themes of healing and guidance abound implying a world in need of both, while Indomitable finds similar strength in adversity to that of Rosa de Hiroshima in an image of a horse’s head.

Tragedy is sensed again in the installation by Sacha Molyneux and Kim Poor which greets visitors at the entrance to this exhibition. Human misunderstandings and envy lead to the Flight of Cupid from Psyche causing her to wander the earth in search of her lost love. Ultimately, as Edward Lucie-Smith notes in The Glory of Angels, angels, and these images, challenge us with ‘a degree of perfection’ that our human nature, ‘chained to the material sphere, can never fully attain.’

The Shadow of Angels, St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN, until 29 October, weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm (Weds, 11.00am – 3.00pm). 

The exhibition has featured as a news item on Brazil’s Globo TV -

Edward Lucie-Smith's talk can be heard at


Katya DJ - Speak The Truth.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Start:Stop - A prayer for our busy working lives

Bible reading

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. [Psalm 23]


In reflecting on this Psalm I simply want to share with you two rewritings of the Psalm. The first, by Marcia K. Hornok,  is the antithesis of Psalm 23 outlining all the ways in which our working lives do not align with the Psalm. The second, which was composed by Toki Miyashina and broadcast by Rev. Eric Frost on 4th May 1965, which re-translates the Psalm as a prayer for our busy working lives. As we think about both, may we reflect on ways to draw on the wisdom of this Psalm in the midst of our busy working lives.

The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted.
It leads me to deep depression. It hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it done,
For my “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand performance from me,
beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines.
My in-box overflows.
Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.

Psalm 23 - Japanese version

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity;
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind,
And His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here.
His timelessness, His all importance, will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity
By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquillity.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours,
For I shall walk in the peace of my Lord, and dwell in His house for ever.


The Lord is our shepherd. We have all that we need. We pray for those who feel overwhelmed and alone in the darkness of depression, illness, loss or anxiety. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

He lets us rest in green meadows. We pray for refugees and asylum seekers who have given up everything, for survivors of natural disasters who have nothing left, and for all who are homeless. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

He leads us beside peaceful streams. We pray for people who have only dirty water to drink, and those for whom hunger is not a choice. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

He renews our strength. He guides us along right paths, bringing honour to his name. We pray for those whose faith is new or fragile, for those burdened by doubts. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Even when we walk through the darkest valley, we will not be afraid, for you are close beside us.
We pray for those who struggle with temptation or addiction, for those who feel invisible or
voiceless. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You prepare a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. We pray for Christians who live in countries where it is dangerous or illegal be a Christian. For those who face persecution, imprisonment, and death, as a direct consequence of their faith. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our cup overflows with blessings. We pray for people who have hurt us, for people we find it hard to forgive, for people we find it difficult to love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Surely, your goodness and unfailing love will pursue us all the days of our lives, and we will live in your house for ever. We pray that the time will not be far off when your Kingdom will come, and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of your glory. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Go now with your trust in the good shepherd, and let us love, not just in words, but in truth and action. Believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
And may God be at your side, even in valleys of death. May Christ Jesus be the cornerstone of your life. And may the Holy Spirit abide in you and tend you with love and mercy all the days of your life. Amen.



11:59 - To Thy Holy Name.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Ongoing gratitude

Here is the Thought for the Week that I prepared for Sunday 9 October at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

This year the Business Harvest Festival at St Stephen Walbrook follows the wonderful Harvest Service of which we were part at St Martin’s last Sunday. I’m therefore still in Harvest mode and reflecting on the opportunities for giving thanks which Harvest provides.

Gratitude, as our last Stewardship campaign reminded us, is something for which we need to pray. George Herbert wrote:

‘Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.’

While the idea of counting our blessing is a cliché, there is nevertheless a value to the exercise, as thankfulness and gratitude isn’t always our default position as we journey through life. This is despite the fact that there is often much for which we can be grateful when we do stop to reflect.

The Gospel reading used for Harvest at St Stephen Walbrook (John 6. 25 - 35) reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life. By being the one who meets our basic needs for love and acceptance, Jesus gives a reason for constant gratitude and thankfulness whatever our circumstances. In Jesus, God has given us a harvest of love which can be our ongoing experience.

Here at St Martin’s our Harvest Festival is now in the past but the gratitude and thankfulness that it engenders can continue to be a part of our ongoing experience.


Michael Kiwanuka - Father's Child.

Discover & explore - Treasure/Gold

Today the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields led our Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook on the theme of Treasure/Gold using the following: O radiant dawn - MacMillan; All I once held dear - Kendrick/Larson; Beati quorum via - Stanford; and Ubi caritas - Durufle.

The next Discover & explore service in the series is on Monday 24 October at 1.10pm. The theme will be Guidance and the service will be led by Revd Sally Muggeridge.

Here is the reflection that I shared today:

The love of money is the root of all evil. We have probably all heard that biblical assertion, although many think the statement is actually that money is the root of all evil. That isn't what is asserted in scripture, however, as a very important distinction is being made when it is said that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Money itself is neutral. It is a means of exchange that can be used for good or evil but which is not inherently evil in and of itself. One key element in the positive use of money is its circulation. It is designed to be exchanged and therefore it moves from one person to another, one account to another. This is one reason why the Bank of England has introduced plastic bank notes, because significant levels of exchange cause significant wear and tear for the notes that are being exchanged.

There is a blockage to this healthy exchange process when greed comes into play and particular people begin accumulating great wealth which is not being exchanged as freely or with as many people. This is one of the reasons why the love of money is the root of all evil, as it interrupts and blocks the healthy free flowing exchange which shares money with the many. Lewis Hyde suggests in his book entitled ‘The Gift’ that "we think of the gift as a constantly flowing river" and allow ourselves "to become a channel for its current." When we try to "dam the river", "thinking what counts is ownership and size," "one of two things will happen: either it will stagnate or it will fill the person up until he bursts."

The antidote to such greed and accumulation is the generosity on which we have focused with our readings in this service. Generosity, the giving away of money, gives additional impetus to the free flow of money and is usually focused on those most deeply in poverty or in need.

The City of London is a place where London’s spirit of enterprise is distilled to the maximum. It was in the City that many forms of charitable activity originated or evolved into business models for others to follow. Making money and giving money are both features of life in the City. What does the Bible say about the way we should use the money we make?

Instead of giving grudgingly, the Bible encourages generosity and cheerfulness in giving. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ Gratitude is the first fruit of humility and is a response to the forgiveness, freedom, healing and restoration which we find in God. We are precious to him, honoured and loved by him, so give out of thankfulness for this acceptance and love.

That is the prayer for our Stewardship campaign this year; that God will give us a grateful heart. Giving to our church is a tangible, faithful, and accountable way in which we demonstrate our gratitude to God. Of course our lives haven’t in every way turned out how we wanted them to; but God has given us life. Of course the church isn’t perfect; but God has given us Jesus, and forgiveness, and the life everlasting. Of course there are lots of other good causes; but giving to the church is about investing in forever, in striving to live now the companionship God has promised us always.

As a result, this autumn we are encouraging all those who come to St Stephen Walbrook to reflect on the various ways in which we can use their time, talents and treasure in God’s service. Each of us can give from our treasure in ways that benefit others and our Stewardship leaflet explains how to give regularly and consistently to St Stephen Walbrook, so I encourage you to reflect on whether you could give regularly out of gratitude and to help this church.

The Elizabethan poet George Herbert was aware of our natural tendency to think what God has given to us as being ours and to retain as much of it for ourselves as possible. His prayer, therefore, was that he might be given a grateful heart. One that rejoices in all that God has given, recognising it all as a gift, rather than something earnt, and, therefore, generous in the way it is used and given back to God. May our prayer be that of George Herbert:

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart …
Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.


George Herbert - Redemption.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The story of a journey from the centre to the edge

Donald Eadie spoke on film for Prophets & Seers: Calling from the Edge, the 2016 Disability Conference at St Martin-in-the-Fields, organised as a partnership between St Martin's and Inclusive Church.

In recent years Donald has lived with a serious spinal condition which forced him to retire early as Chair of the Birmingham District of the Methodist Church. He has often been in the firing line for advocating justice and respect between people of all faith, women and men, gay and straight people. He is a much consulted Methodist minister, retreat leader and author.

Donald said: 

'We bring our discovery of bread on the edge and wells of water under our feet, in desert and destitution as did both Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-7) and the slave girl Hagar before us. (Genesis 21: 8-20) Consecrated food from heaven is not confined to lie under white cloths in our Churches. We bring these gifts and many others, not as victims but as liberators.

I have come with a story of a journey, from the centre to the edge, of making connections between our experience of body and the body of Christ, and of receiving threatening gifts which could transform.'

He asked us: 'What does the journey toward transformation through vulnerability mean in your situation? What are your stories of frightening liberation?'


Julie Miller - Broken Things.

Reality reshaped by disability

Day two of Prophets & Seers, a weekend of events exploring disability and church at St Martin-in-the-Fields began with a Eucharist and healing service for St Luke’s Day reflecting on the themes of the weekend and using liturgy written by St Martin’s Disability Advisory Group and Healing Team. The service included the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, accompanied by prayers for healing for individuals, someone else or the wider world. A screening of the acclaimed documentary film Notes on Blindness also took place in St Martin’s Hall. The film is based on John Hull’s audio diaries, as he reflected on his journey into blindness. Joining us for the screening were the filmmakers and Marilyn Hull.

Here is my sermon from the St Luke's Day Eucharist:

Our symbol for this year's weekend of events exploring disability and church is that of ripples on a lake. This weekend we are celebrating five years of conferences on disability and church organised by St Martin's and Inclusive Church, whilst also celebrating the profound influence of the theologian John Hull, who spoke in past years at the conference, and who died last year. The image of ripples was chosen to represent the rippling out of influences from the conference, John Hull and our own Disability Advisory Group.

I want to use that same image in a different way this morning. In the novel ‘The Book of Questions’ by Edmond Jabès, a rabbi speaks of ripples on a lake as representing a face with marks, wrinkles or wounds which reflects the face of God. If we understand the image of ripples in that way then we can make a connection between the image and the story of Jacob, from today’s Old Testament reading (Genesis 32. 22 - 32). Jacob’s story is of a journey from a selfish and ambitious focus on himself to a place of valuing relationships and the founding of a nation, where the moment of transition involves a disabling experience after wrestling with God. He carried the marks of that experience with him as he limped into a period of his life that had significance for the many, rather than the few. His disability reflected the work of God in his life.

This morning I want to explore how our reality can be reshaped by disability by comparing and contrasting the story of Jacob with that of two writers who both wrestled with God in relation to their experience of disability. The first of these, Jack Clemo, was one of the most extraordinary poets of the twentieth century. Although not as widely recognised as he should be, the 100th anniversary of his birth, in the heart of Cornwall’s China Clay Country, has been rightly celebrated this year.

Jack became deaf at the age of nineteen and blind in his thirties. These experiences of disability which combined with his rural location and his strong Evangelical faith, which was at odds with an increasingly secularized Britain, all served to make him an isolated outsider calling out ‘from the margins.’ His is a poetry which has power as he finds words to articulate his condition and convictions in his experience of marginalisation.

He used the landscape of the clayworks where he lived for much of his life - a landscape that had been violently shaped by industrial working - as a metaphor for the invading Gospel of Christ. His focus was on ‘the innate sinful condition of ‘nature,’ sin having warped nature just as much as humankind, with only God’s intervention able to restore the intended state of grace. As a result, he ‘believed his own suffering’ (for that was how he viewed his disabilities) ‘was necessary, but only as evidence for the crucial purification of original sin.’ So he declared that suffering (meaning his experience of disability) ‘in itself had taught me nothing; it had merely created the conditions in which joy could teach me, and so it could never be the last word or even the vitalizing word in my Christian adventure.’

Jack believed that God would invade his isolation by giving him the threefold happiness of healing, marriage and success as an Evangelical poet. As a result, he made few attempts to live with his disabilities, refusing to learn braille for example, and wrote some poetry which seems critical of those who chose to live with the experience of disability rather than seeking cure through God's invasive power. He achieved a measure of success as a poet and also married in his 50’s, but, despite much prayer for healing over many years and many moments when he thought healing had come, never experienced the physical healing which he fervently sought. His biographer, Luke Thompson, writes that ‘However we interpret Jack’s beliefs about the role of God in his life, they seem wrong. Over and over again, his statements and expectations were disproved; the signs and patterns perceived were incorrect; God’s promises were broken. It would be possible to construct a picture of a divinity working through Jack’s life, but it would require a complete renegotiation of the terms.’ That is, in part, because Jack only valued his disabilities as an arena in which God could demonstrate his healing powers to an unbelieving world.

By contrast we can consider the experience of the John Hull who, in the early 1980s, after decades of steady deterioration, lost his sight. ‘To help him make sense of the ensuing upheaval in his life, he began to keep an audio diary. Across three years, he created a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness.’ ‘Based on these original recordings and his published diaries ‘Touching the Rock’, [the film] Notes on Blindness recreates his ‘journey through emotional turmoil and spiritual crisis to a renewed perception of the world and the discovery of ‘a world beyond sight’.’

In the book and film we travel with John Hull ‘farther and farther into the world … of blindness, until finally he comes to a point where he can no longer summon up memories of faces, of places, even memories of the light. This is the bend in the tunnel: beyond this is “deep blindness.” And yet at this … darkest … point, there comes a mysterious change—no longer an agonized sense of loss … but a new sense of life and creativity and identity. “One must recreate one’s life or be destroyed,” Hull writes, and it is precisely re-creation, the creation of an entirely new organization and identity, which [he] described ... At this point … [he] wonders if blindness is not “a dark, paradoxical gift” and an entry—unsought … but to be received—into a new and deep form of being.’ In reflecting on the nature of that gift, John said that, ‘After living with it and meditating on it for some time, I realized that blindness is not just a loss but it is one of the great human states which have characteristics of its own.’

My works,’ he wrote, ‘are … a yearning to overcome the abyss which divides blind people from sighted people. In seeking to overcome that abyss I've emphasized the uniqueness of the blind condition—blindness is a world. I've also sought to show that it's one of a number of human worlds. That sight is also a world. And that to gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people need each other’. As a result, before his untimely death last year, John called on disabled people to challenge the church with a distinct prophetic ministry based on their own lived experience.

Both Jack Clemo and John Hull wrestled with God as a result of their experiences of disability. Jack increasingly wrestled with the reality that he had not been healed. His struggle was with God’s failure to grant to him the supernatural transformation that he desired and this desire and struggle left him isolated and lacking in solidarity with other disabled people. Because he viewed his disabilities as an arena in which God would demonstrate his power to cure, he did not explore the dimensions of the worlds of blindness and deafness that he inhabited or their potential for relationship preferring to remain waiting independently for rescue from those worlds. As a result, he was personally dependent on those around him and his poetry became strident and simplistic when he reasserted his belief in a cure that he was not receiving.

John, by contrast, recognised that he had been given the gift of experiencing the world of blindness realising that it is a world to inhabit, not to seek to leave, and his wrestling with God was the wrestle to reshape his reality, to receive a new and right spirit to trust that in the midst of the world of blindness, truth will be experienced and shared. He realised that, as a result of his twin experiences, he was able to speak into the worlds of blind and sighted people and emphasise their need of one another.

How do these stories relate to Jacob’s experience of wrestling with God? Jacob divided his family on the basis of his own ambition buying his elder brother Esau’s birthright and tricking his dying Father into giving a blessing that also belonged by right to his brother. While primarily selfish in a way that was not the case for Jack Clemo, his independent isolation does have similarities with Jack’s isolation and independent vocation. Jacob then wanted to be reconciled to Esau but was worried that Esau’s reaction toward him would be aggressive, so he set up a series of gifts for Esau and spent an anxious night wrestling with God. His experience of wrestling with God was a liminal moment in his life, a rite of transition from an essentially self-centred individualistic existence to become forefather to a people who, like the sand on the seashore, could not be numbered. This change involved crossing a boundary (the river Yabbok), struggling (with God) and naming (as Jacob became known as the Patriarch to Israel, the people who struggle with God). He limped away from this experience but went with God’s blessing, so his experience of change and transition was both disabling and a blessing. His reality was reshaped, enabling him to receive the generous act of reconciliation which his brother afforded him the next day.

Like John Hull, Jacob found his disabling experience to be one through which he gained a greater understanding of himself, his role, his destiny, his people, his world and his God. The result, as for John, was renewed relationships. Unlike Jack, who thought cure would demonstrate God’s reality and who, therefore, separated himself from other disabled people, Jacob and John experienced disability as the threshold to re-creation, renewal and relationship. That is a deeper, fuller experience of healing and a greater demonstration of God’s reality and presence. To return to the image with which we began, the marks of their experiences reflected the face of God.

John Hull taught that blind people and sighted people, disabled people and non-disabled people need each other. That realisation begins as disabled people challenge the church with a distinct prophetic ministry based on their own lived experience. The Greek poet Tasos Leivaditis has described just such a moment of realisation and so I end with his prose-poem ‘The Blind Man and the Lamp’:

IT WAS NIGHT and I had made the greatest decision of
the century — I would save humanity — but how? — as
thousands of thoughts were tormenting me I heard footsteps,
opened the door and beheld the blind man from the opposite
room walking down the hallway and holding a lamp — he
was about to go down the stairs — ‘What is he doing with
the lamp?’, I asked myself and suddenly an idea flashed
through my mind — I found the answer — ‘My dear brother,’
I said to him, ‘God has sent you,’
and with zeal we both got down to work . . .’


Mahalia Jackson - There Is A Balm In Gilead.