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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tattooing God on makeshift lives

'I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives.
My Keystone Cops of disciples, always,
Running absurdly away, or lying ineptly,
Cutting off ears and falling into the water,
These Sancho Panzas must tread my Quixote life,
Dying ridiculous and undignified,
Flayed and stoned and crucified upside down.
They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom
My message is. That might, had I not touched them,
Have died decent respectable upright deaths in bed.'

I've just come across U. A. Fanthorpe's brilliant poem entitled 'Getting it across'. Rachel Mann makes good use of the poem in discussing the Green Report.

I have a meditation which tiptoes on similar ground to that of Fanthorpe's poem:


least among the clans of Judea.
Home town,
a place from which no good was known to come.
In appearance,
without beauty or majesty, undesired.
In life,
despised and rejected, unrecognised and unesteemed.
In death,
made nothing.
His followers,
not wise, not influential, not noble – fools!

The light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the bodies and form of human beings.
Light shining
through the gaps and cracks of clay pots.
Light shining
in the unexpected places, despised faces, hidden spaces.
Light shining
in the poor, the mourners, the meek, the hungry.
Light shining
in the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers.
Light shining
in the persecuted, the insulted, the falsely accused.
Light shining
in the lowly, the despised, the nonentities.
Light shining
in weakness and fear and trembling.
Light shining in the foolish followers of the King of Fools.


Delirious? - King Of Fools.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

'Joseph Pearce, who himself has written articles and chapters on the political significance of Tolkien’s work, testified in his book Literary Giants, Literary Catholics, “If much has been written on the religious significance of The Lord of the Rings, less has been written on its political significance—and the little that has been written is often erroneous in its conclusions and ignorant of Tolkien’s intentions…. Much more work is needed in this area, not least because Tolkien stated, implicitly at least, that the political significance of the work was second only to the religious in its importance.”

Several books ably explore how Tolkien’s Catholic faith informed his fiction. None until now have centered on how his passion for liberty and limited government also shaped his work, or how this passion grew directly from his theological vision of man and creation.'

The Hobbit Party, by Jonathan Witt and Jay Wesley Richards, fills this void by examining Tolkien’s exploration of totalitarian power and rings of power.

Witt and Wesley Richards write, in a post at The Imaginative Conservative, that:

'Tolkien’s ring is also used to sound a warning against any grand political plan that depends on unchecked power to get things done. The novel is about many other things, of course, but it is no overstatement to say the temptation posed by the ring conveys the novel’s central political theme—that, as Lord Acton put it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So dangerous do the wise leaders among the free peoples of Middle-Earth consider this ring of power that they determine to risk everything in a desperate gambit to destroy the ring rather than using it against their enemy, the evil Sauron ... Tolkien, through faith in the transcendent God, understood the source of true sublimity. He also understood the source of the thirst for power for power’s sake: the desire to make of oneself a god in the place of God.'


Howard Shore - Minas Morgul.

I find men and women struggling to answer the deepest questions we can ask freeing

'I find men and women struggling to answer the deepest questions we can ask freeing.' So said Bruce Springsteen when interviewed about his tastes in literature. I found this interview via 'The Imaginative Conservative'.

Springsteen spoke about the way that Flannery O’Connor, James M. Cain, John Cheever, Sherwood Anderson and Jim Thompson contributed greatly to the turn his music took around 1978-82:

'They brought out a sense of geography and the dark strain in my writing, broadened my horizons about what might be accomplished with a pop song and are still the cornerstone literally for what I try to accomplish today ... the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me. You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day. They contained the dark Gothicness of my childhood and yet made me feel fortunate to sit at the center of this swirling black puzzle, stars reeling overhead, the earth barely beneath us.'


Bruce Springsteen - Reason To Believe.

Christ overlooked at Christmas

This was the homily that I gave at the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight which we held at St John's Seven Kings last Sunday evening:

It may sound an odd thing to say at a service attended by a large number of people, but Jesus has always been overlooked at Christmas. Think about the Christmas story for a moment; Jesus spent his first night sleeping in an animal’s feeding trough because there was no room for him in the guest room of the home in Bethlehem where his family were staying, the Shepherds needed a fanfare of angels before they knew of his birth, while the Wise Men looked for him in a palace when he was actually to be found in an ordinary home. So it is no surprise that today many people still overlook the person at the heart of Christmas in the busyness of life and Christmas preparations and others overlook him by creating supposedly PC festivals like Winterval.

Jesus has always been overlooked at Christmas but one of the reasons for that is that he came to be one of us, God with us, which is what the name Emmanuel means. Born in an obscure village, working in a carpenter’s shop, never writing a book, never holding an office, never having a family or owning a house, never going to college, never travelling two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things we usually associate with greatness. He is God become an ordinary person just like us. And therefore he is easy to overlook.

But just as the Shepherds and Wise Men did seek him out and find him, those who genuinely look for Jesus this Christmas will find him. And if you are prepared to seek him out, you will find that Jesus is the greatest gift that any of us can receive, both at Christmas and any other time in our lives.

As you listen to the story of Jesus’ birth tonight, the story will have meaning as you take it to heart. The 17th century German mystic, Angelus Silesius, warns us:

Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born
If he’s not born in thee,
Thou art still forlorn.

If Christ is not born in you as you listen and sing, this time together will be pleasant but not life changing. But if Christ is born in you then the whole story will be transformed. It will become your story. You will be able to say:

Christ born in a stable
is born in me.
Christ accepted by shepherds
accepts me.
Christ receiving the wise men
receives me.
Christ revealed to the nations
be revealed in me.
Christ dwelling in Nazareth
You dwell in me.


Steve Bell - Magnificat.

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: ArtServe article

The latest article based on my sabbatical art pilgrimage can be found in the Winter edition of ArtServe's magazine. The article, which is entitled 'A Tale of Two Churches', uses the story of commissions at Notre-Dame des Alpes in Le Fayet and Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce on the Plateau d'Assy to explore issues raised by the twentieth century revival in sacred art. Both churches are in the French Alps, they had the same architect, are built in a similar style and are only kilometres apart yet they represent different stages of the twentieth century’s revival of sacred art.

ArtServe promotes and supports the use of creative arts in Christian worship, including music, dance and drama, visual arts, and creative writing. ArtServe magazine is published three times a year. The latest edition also features:

Martin Smith - Emmanuel.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Enterprise Exchange data

The Seven Kings Sophia Hub played a key role in supporting the delivery of the Enterprise Exchange project recently delivered by London Borough of Redbridge and Vision. We promoted the project widely and offered more intensive support to residents who were at the earliest stages of looking to start a business or social enterprise. Our team were always hugely enthusiastic and passionate about the work they did which fostered a really interesting and dynamic environment for delivering our Enterprise Club in the Enterprise Exchange Hub. Wherever necessary they would always refer residents on to additional support if required but had good working knowledge of what is already available and being offered within the borough.

Through analysing their data, Work Redbridge and Vision found that the majority of Enterprise Exchange members were female and most were aged between 25 and 50. This shows how many people are interested in taking control of their careers at this point of their life. Also, a significant number of members - 41% - were currently trading and 62% come from Redbridge therefore showing that the pop-up hub has been of use to the area as well.

They also asked what type of support people would like to receive from Enterprise Exchange and their data shows that 74% of members would like to receive more networking opportunities. This was closely followed by providing more resources on business support, as well as 1-1 advice.

As a result they plan to hold networking events at Redbridge Central Library - the first date for your diary is Thursday 29th January 2015 at 6pm. This will provide an opportunity to find out more about resources available both at the library and online.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for future events, please email them at and don't forget to also follow them on Twitter @redbridgehub.

On the last day of the pop-up business hub, East London Radio prepared a small segment on Enterprise Exchange in their ‘All In My Business’ radio show. Please take a listen to what the public thought of Enterprise Exchange and you may also notice that some of the members also feature in the show!


Delirious? - Find Me In The River.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sophia Hub update

Ros Southern writes:

Our speaker at the enterprise club tomorrow (Tuesday 16th December) at 12.45 is the inspiring entrepreneur Nicky Das of Sathguru Plumbing supplies, just a few paces from St Johns. See what she is going to be talking about and how it will help your start-up business. The shop has been running for 4 years and has a community heart.

Our speaker last week was Rakesh Rootsman Rak. See the 3 big challenges he set start-ups for a sustainable and future-proofed business.

Good news about an expanding green enterprise - Recycles Ilford now added paint to bikes and more expansions being discussed. Read about it here.

Just finished our last 2014 Sophia ACE course (Active Citizens and Entrepreneurs) and its getting better and better. Read about it here. More courses will take place in 2015.

We are proud to have had such a great range of volunteer business speakers in 2014. See the list and their contact details. Thank you all so much.

Don't forget there is a market in Ilford Town Centre on 23rd December. Info here.

Just to let you know there will not be an enterprise club on 23rd but there will be one on 30th. Aidan Ward (Sophia Hubs director) will be presenting a business model that we will be encouraging start-ups to use in 2015 - the business canvas model.

Finally, please pass on the word for Rashida (due to change in business direction) that vastly reduced massage chairs are on offer.

Oh, and if you want some delicious. home made chutneys and Caribbean sauces for Christmas pressies, Lynette will have supplies at the enterprise club tomorrow. :-)


The Jam - In The City.