Thursday, 31 January 2008
Girard describes this radical reversal in terms of God first taking the side of the victim and then, in Christ, becoming the victim:
“The desire that lives through imitation almost always leads to conflict, and this conflict frequently leads to violence. The Bible unveils this process of imitative desire leading to conflict, and its distinctive narratives reveal at the same time that God takes the part of victims. In the Gospels the process of unveiling or revelation is radicalized: God himself, the Word become flesh in Jesus, becomes the victim … The New Testament Gospels are the starting point for a new science or knowledge of humanity. This new knowledge begins with faith in Christ the innocent victim, and it becomes the leaven that will work itself out and expand to the point that the concern for victims becomes the absolute value in all societies molded or affected by the spread of Christianity.”
Gerd Theissen sets a similar understanding of Christ’s revelation in the language of science by writing of Jesus as an ‘evolution against evolution’:
“In an evolutionary perspective religion has often been simply one of the social mechanisms by which control, and hence the continued survival of the strong, is established; but in these two cases [the increasingly monotheistic faith of ancient Israel and in the life, teaching and death of Jesus of Nazareth] religion takes an unprecedented turn, and becomes instead an agency of healing for the wounded. In the religion of the prophets, and in the religious commitment for which Jesus lived and died, we see the distillation of faith in a God who is on the side of the downtrodden rather than their oppressors, and who seeks to bring a new, supernatural order of justice and peace out of the natural laws of selection and mutation which spell death for the weak and powerless.”
Rowan Williams completes this initial survey of the Christian life and scriptures as conversation by linking conversation with God to Girard and Theissen’s emphasis on God as victim so that entering into conversation with God means entering in to the counter-testimony:
“All human identity is constructed through conversations, in one way or another. The gospel adds the news that, in order to find the pivot of our identity as human beings, there is one inescapable encounter, one all-important conversation into which we must be drawn. This is not just the encounter with God, in a general sense, but the encounter with God made vulnerable, God confronting the systems and exclusions of the human world within that world – so that, among other things, we can connect the encounter with God to those human encounters where we are challenged to listen to the outsider and the victim”
 J. G. Williams, ‘Foreword’ in Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Gracewing, 2001, pp. x & xix.
 J. Barton, People of the Book? (London: SPCK, 1993), pp. 50 & 51 summarising G. Theissen, Biblical Faith: An Evolutionary Approach (London: SCM, 1984).
 R. Williams, Christ On Trial: How The Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement (London: Fount, 2000), p. 138.
Leonard Cohen - The Future.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
His website focuses on one painting, L'exhumation du Soldat Inconnu, a powerful work that conveys the tragedy of the First World War through a series of panels which articulate emotion by body shape and gesture. Fenwick intends that the work, which has been exhibited at St James Piccadilly, St Mary-le-Bow London and Australia House, should invoke contemplation of our contemporary situation; "as we get on with our day to day lives conflict appears to be a constant backdrop, once again we have a new war for a new Century."
Fenwick's abstract painting, which will feature as Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb, for Hertford stns has much in common in style, colour and composition with L'exhumation du Soldat Inconnu.
For more information on Hertford stns go to the website for Hertford & District Churches Together and click on 'Events'.
Here is my meditation for Station 8:
Station 8 - Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Do not weep for me.
I go to prepare a place
for you to wait
in my Father’s courts.
I go to reveal a temple
not made with human hands.
I go to return and bring
the Holy City
God’s home with
no death, no grief
or crying or pain,
tears wiped away,
the healing of the nations.
Do not weep for me
Pray for the kingdom come,
as it is in heaven
for I go to reveal the Temple
as it has always existed –
the creation and human story;
Weep only for yourselves.
For the foot of human pride
will soon descend
as the armies of the Empire of power
ring this city
to crush this Temple
How terrible for mothers
in the violence
of those days;
it would be better
for children not to be
than to suffer
in the killing fields.
Cry for yourselves
and for your children,
cry for the mountains
to fall and hide you,
for the terror
the Empires of power
will be great.
Zbigniew Preisner - Song for the Unification of Europe in finale to Trois Couleurs: Bleu.
Following his conversion to Christianity in 2000, he left both Spock's Beard and Transatlantic and has since produced a substantial and well-regarded body of solo work exploring different aspects of his faith. I saw him at the turn of last year at All Saints and it is great that he is returning again this year for a concert on Thursday 21st February at 8pm (no tickets required).
In the intervening time, he released his fourth solo prog rock album Sola Scriptura which, across four tracks and 76 minutes (this is prog rock we’re talking here!), tells the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation. Morse says, “The point of it is to point us … toward the light of God's truth which is laid out wonderfully before us in the scriptures. Of course, this is a lofty goal for a mere CD, but, with God anything is possible!”
Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura.
Seven Kings Station
Two new security officers are now in place every day at Seven Kings station from 2pm until 2am after a lot of chasing from TASK supporters who had pointed out a number of no-shows over a number of days. Our hope is that this service is now properly set up and will produce greater comfort for people travelling home after dark.
The Joker returns?
Two notices have recently appeared on the window of the Joker pub. One is an application for a liquor licence - until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights. The other is for planning permission to demolish the building and to construct a brand new building offering a range of different sized apartments and three ground level retail units. If you have a view on its future use, then make your comments direct to the Public Protection offices and/or Planning Departments respectively.
Swimming to nowhere
Last week's Ilford Recorder carried a worrying article on the probable closure of Ilford Pool by the end of the year. TASK are demanding specific assurances on guaranteed funding for a new pool and a clear timeline for its development, recognising that if Ilford Pool closes, we lose a key leisure service and the whole of the borough will be reliant on one pool at Fullwell Cross, with the potential for hideous overcrowding.
Car/lorry park site
We are now in touch with Swan Housing, the purchasers of the car/lorrypark site. We have explained our interest in securing an outstanding building and new community services as promised in the planning brief, and are assured that Swan genuinely want to involve local residents and traders in their planning. We will report back on what was discussed in future news letters.
Its now up and running! Thanks to Ali and his brother for getting us started. Click on www.task7.co.uk to find out more.
We are currently sourcing a date for our first open supporters meeting, and will be announcing it by the end of the week. We apologise for the delay and really look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.
Door to door leaflets
We are going live with door to door leafleting from Sunday February 10th. If you can help deliver for an hour or so, that would be muchappreciated. Meet outside 55 Cameron Road at 2pm. Please let us know ifyou can come by emailing Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can gauge how much ground we can cover and how many leaflets we need.
Downshall School campaign on road safety
Governors at Downshall School on Aldborough Road South are concerned about the safety of their pupils getting to, and coming home from,school and will be speaking in support of calming measures, maybe including a zebra crossing, at area committee 7 on Tuesday 29 Januaryand at area 5 committee on Monday 4 February. If you have kids at the school, or if you care about road safety in this busy location, please turn up and support them.
That's it, folks! We will be back with our third newsletter w/b 11 February, launching our Library petition and updating you on a threat to mature trees between Aldborough Road South and Durban Road . Keep letting us know what is happening where you are.
Al Green - How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
Monday, 28 January 2008
This initiative coincides with major research into childhood in Britain. At the seminar evening in April, Esther Hughes (Head of The Good Childhood Inquiry) will be in dialogue with CTC Fellow Edmund Newell. Canon Newell is Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. He also directs the St Paul’s Institute, which has been working with The Children’s Society on a season of events related to the inquiry. Both speakers will help local churches learn from this research and reflection.
“Our spring programme aims to identify issues on local congregations can work for change,” explained Centre Director the Reverend Angus Ritchie. “The Lent course is all about the importance of engaging with children, not just as tomorrow’s church, but today’s. They’re not simply future adults, but people whose experience now has something vital to teach us about the Kingdom of God. That’s why the course is all-age: it has to practice what it teaches. We want the learning to be of practical use, and so are planning our summer placement programme to help churches move from analysis to action.”
Sundays from 17 February: One Body, Many Ages Lent course at Bryrant Street Methodist Church, Stratford, London E15. Free — please book. ‘Bring & share’ lunch from 12.15; course begins at 1pm.
Thursday 24 April: Childhood and Formation: a 2020 vision with Esther Hughes and Canon Edmund Newell. In a series organised by the Royal Foundation of St Katharine. Supper at 6.30pm, cost £10. Booking required.
Full details online by clicking here.
Blessid Union of Souls - Standing At the Edge Of The Earth.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
“What has happened since the foundation of the world, that is, since the violent foundations of the first culture, is a series of murders like the Crucifixion. These are murders founded on violent contagion, and consequently they are murders occurring because of the collective error regarding the victim, a misunderstanding caused by violent contagion.”
Over time, Girard argues, this mimetic process is disciplined by ritual into sacrificial systems which repeat the founding murder.
In this scenario, after the Fall, God wishes to communicate his love his love to us, these same human beings intent on personal or group survival. As he has given us free will, he has to communicate in and through the social and cultural structures which we have now created (i.e. sacrificial systems) but, in order reveal his loving self, in a way that engages in an internal dialogue and critique of these same systems. Accordingly, he gives his chosen people, who have recent and personal experience of being scapegoats and victims, a founding story in which human sacrifice is emphatically rejected in favour of animal sacrifice (Genesis 22. 1-19).
At Mount Sinai the Israelites are then given the chance to become a nation of priests enjoying the kind of intimate, direct relationship with God that Moses has. God wants to draw them as a whole into an intimate relationship with him where they can debate, argue and influence God and where they are not simply obeying an external set of rules but have internalised God’s framework for life and live freely within it (Jeremiah 31: 33 & 34). God sets out for the people his vision of their relationship with him (Exodus 19: 6). They are all to be priests and, therefore, in time will be able to come directly into his presence.
He also provides the tools to make this happen (Exodus 20: 1–17). Limits are what parents set while they are teaching their children how to respond to the situations with which life will confront them. When they have learnt, they no longer need the external limits because they have internalised and can utilise these lessons. An analogy is that of a child learning to cross the road. Parents firstly lay down strict limits on what the child can and cannot do. Then the child is taught how to cross the road in safety. But when the child has learnt how to judge distance and speed then s/he is free to cross the road wherever s/he judges it is safe to do so and is no longer restricted to recognised crossing places.
This developmental process seems to be what God intended for the Law as can be seen in the way that both the writing prophets and Jesus use the Law. What they consistently do is to emphasise the core/the spirit/the fulfilment of the Law, not its external application (see, for example, Amos 5: 21 - 24 and Matthew 5: 17 - 48). Girard gives us a clear example of this occuring in writing about the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3 – 11):
“The Law of Moses provides for stoning in the case of well-defined offenses. Moreover, because the Law fears false denunciations, to make these more difficult it requires the informants, a minimum of two, to cast the first two stones themselves.
Jesus transcends the Law, but in the Law’s own sense and direction. He does this by appealing to the most humane aspect of the legal prescription, the aspect most foreign to the contagion of violence, which is the obligation of the two accusers to throw the first two stones. The law deprives the accusers of a mimetic model.
Once the first stones are thrown, all the community must join in the stoning. To maintain order in ancient societies, there was sometimes no other means than this mechanism of contagion and mimetic unanimity. The Law resorts to this without hesitation, but as prudently, as parsimoniously as possible. Jesus intends to go beyond the provisions for violence in the Law, being in agreement on this point with many fellow Jews of his time. However, he always acts in the direction and spirit of the biblical revelation and not against it”.
What we see here is a law that in its literal application is structure-legitimating being re-imagined in terms of an essence that embraces pain. This is, therefore, in Brueggemann’s terms, counter-testimony. The people of Israel, at Sinai, are offered the opportunity to live in the counter-testimony and in conversation with God to move beyond the literal and structure-legitimating application to the embrace of pain that is its essence and core. The people, however, refuse this deeper level of relationship with God whilst still promising to obey him (Exodus 20: 18 – 19). They ask that Moses enters into this intimate relationship with God on their behalf and report back.
Instead of the counter-testimony, they choose a structure-legitimating, contractual relationship saying to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20: 19). This then becomes the pattern for God’s relationship with the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament. The people relate to God legalistically and through individual mediators (whether prophets, judges or kings) within a relationship that is fundamentally one of gift/grace. This is the tension of the Old Testament. Not that, at base, the relationship between the people and God is not of grace but that the people refuse to follow through on the logic of this and enter into the intimate relationship with God where they can internalise and utilise his pattern for life as a whole people.
 See R. Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening (NY: Orbis Books, 2001).
 Ibid., pp. 85 & 86.
 For human beings to have this freedom requires an ‘epistemic distance’ from God which appears to have been achieved through biological evolution. See J. Hick, Evil and the God of Love, Fontana, 1968. Hick elaborates by saying that, “the reality and presence of God must not be borne in upon men in the coercive way in which their natural environment forces itself upon their attention. The world must be to man, to some extent at least, etsi deus non daretur, ‘as if there were no God’. God must be a hidden deity, veiled by his creation. He must be knowable, but only by a mode of knowledge that involves a free personal response on man’s part, this response consisting in an uncompelled interpretative activity whereby we experience the world as mediating divine presence.” (p. 317).
 R. Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening (NY: Orbis Books, 2001), pp. 58 & 59.
Johnny Cash - Hurt.
Friday, 25 January 2008
Their first National Conference, Money Well Spent, will be held on Tuesday 26th February at Central Hall Westminster. This is a fantastic opportunity to network with key people on a national level and raise you organisations own profile. You can book on-line through the website and save £5 on the ticket price.
Julie Miller - All My Tears.
"I have realised how much simpler it is to pray and keep united with God when I see him as the source and sum of everything I do. When I walk, I owe it to God that I still can. When I sleep, it is with His permission. My breathing, my happiness, even my being a woman - all are His gifts to me. So it is my prime intention that whenever I do these practical things, they will be contemplative acts of praise and thanksgiving repeated over and over again."
"As I began to meditate on the crucifixion and Christ's own trials in this world, I became rapt in thought and I found myself again before Jesus, who was suffering such terrible pain. He was horrible with blood and his breathing was hard and troubled, but his pain had less to do with that than with his human sense of failure, injustice and loneliness. An unquenchable desire to join him in his agonies took hold of me then ... and I beseeched Jesus to grant me that grace."
"When you go apart to be alone for prayer, put from your mind everything you have been doing or plan to do. Reject all thoughts, be they good or be they evil. Do not pray with words unless you are really drawn to this; or if you do pray with words, pay no attention to whether they are many or few. Do not weigh them or their meaning. Do not be concerned about what kind of prayers you use, for it is unimportant whether or not they are official liturgical prayers, psalms, hymns, or anthems; whether they are for particular or general intentions; or whether you formulate them interiorly, by thoughts, or express them aloud, in words. See that nothing remains in your conscious mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God."
King's X - It's Love.
Lent is only a couple of weeks away, and this year they're encouraging us to try something new - fasting carbon. Over the 40-day period they are giving 40 ways to cut carbon emissions - to reduce our impact on the poorest communities who are feeling the effects of climate change now. It's simple and it's a great way to get friends thinking about the issue. Order a free guide, sign up for emails and more by clicking here.
Athlete - Hurricane.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
The Alarm - A New South Wales.
The series, which follows several other major programmes exploring the Christian faith, as well as regular 'God slots' on television and radio comes as some Christians continue to complain that Christianity is being sidelined in mainstream programming, or preference is given to other religions.
A multi-denominational group convened by the Churches’ Media Council has also launched a website to provide resources and information about the series. The group is encouraging the Christian community to seize this “golden opportunity to contribute to a contemporary public discussion about Jesus.”
Larry Norman - The Outlaw.
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
I'm close to completing an initial draft of meditations which will accompany the artworks when they are displayed around Hertford during Holy Week. Here are two of the meditations as they currently stand:
Station 1 - Jesus is condemned (based on Christ before the Judge by Cecil Collins)
Jesus and Pilate
in a clash of cultures.
angular, aggressive, threatening
the oppressive, controlling
Empire of dominating power,
with its strength in numbers
which can crucify
curves and crosses,
love and sacrifice,
the kingdom of God;
a kingdom of love,
service and self-sacrifice
birthing men and women
into the freedom
to love one another.
The way of compassion
or the way of domination;
the way of self-sacrifice
or the way of self;
the way of powerlessness
or the way of power;
the way of serving
or the way of grasping;
the kingdom of God
or the empires of Man.
Station 10 - Jesus is stripped
Stripped of equality with God.
Stripped of glory.
Stripped of power.
Stripped of family.
Stripped of occupation.
Stripped of possessions.
Stripped of followers.
Stripped of respect.
Stripped of clothing.
Stripped to the bone.
The Call - Everywhere I Go.
The abstract art of Alfred Chircop featured in the collections of both the National Museum of Fine Arts and at the Wignacourt College Museum in Rabat. Chircop works with strong colours in movement across his canvasses. His abstract forms suggest the movement of spiritual forces; a sense reinforced by his Dominican schooling and the title he gave to the one painting he has titled; A Prayer. Also at the Wignacourt was Anton Agius’ wood carving of St Francis blessing the birds. The saint is tall and thin, hands and face raised in ecstasy. He emerges from the olive wood that Agius carves just as the birds that he blesses emerge from his body. He is integrated with nature and his head is crowned with leaves.
Significant changes have occurred in the Church’s approach toward contemporary art and nowhere is this clearer that at the Mdina Cathedral Museum. Here, under the direction of Monseigneur Professor Vincent Borg, this ecclesiastical museum has been developing a role not just in preserving Church cultural heritage but also as a “greenhouse of culture” enhancing and promoting Sacred Art.
The Museum has, for instance, a varied selection of works by Anton Agius which include a wonderful Redemption. Here Agius follows the grain of the wood upwards as a naked Eve stretches to touch the feet of the crucified Christ (the one who can embrace her as his unashamed Bride). Agius draws our eyes upwards to Christ his hands nailed above him with his pierced right hand releasing the dove of the Spirit. Amazingly, this work contains the sweep of salvation history within one flowing organic image.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Museum holds a Biennale exhibition of Contemporary Christian Art. The Biennale has led, in the words of Mgr. Borg, to a “new rapprochement” between the Church and artists and art-critics. It is instructive to compare the list of exhibitors in the Biennale catalogues with catalogues of exhibitions surveying contemporary art in Malta to see the amount of genuine overlap that exists.
This changed approach also shows itself in new Church commissions and I was able to see two examples in the Stations of the Cross at Mellieha Parish Church and Gozo Cathedral. At Mellieha, Marco Cremona has carved his Stations in clay. His Stations are characterised by the expressiveness of his carving, the clarity of his construction and his sense of context with his use of clay leading to a rugged construction that mirrors the Maltese landscape. In Gozo Cathedral, Austin Camilleri’s Stations make use of the fluid nature of paint working with drips of paint flowing down his canvas. These drips mirror the downward postures of Camilleri's characters in a series of Stations emphasising the apparent defeat of hope that is the disciples’ experience of the death of Christ on Good Friday.
Malta has a different story to tell with regards to Sacred Art from much of the rest of Europe. On these islands the issue has not been a lack of Church commissions for artists but the need to encourage those who commission to use the creativity of the best contemporary artists. That was the call of Père Regamy and Couturier in mid-twentieth century France and, through the influence of the Modern Art Circle, the writing of Serracino Inglott and others, and the leadership of Mgr Borg, it is a cry that in some small measure is being heard in Malta.
Maria Mckee - To The Open Spaces.
Monday, 21 January 2008
Given the tentative nature of the discussions at Saturday's There's something going on conference about the need for a central Social Responsibility post in the Diocese of Chelmsford, it seems as though the Diocese of Brentwood is light years ahead in terms of its approach to social responsibility. In the Diocese of Chelmsford we need to take the bull by the horns and put some resource into providing support for the excellent and varied social responsibility work that is happening in areas, deaneries and parishes.
The Staple Singers - When Will We Be Paid?
“… according to Ricouer, human being is possibility: “it does not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3: 2). Human existence is “forward-orientated,” constantly projecting itself in front of itself towards a possible way of being. Possibility is therefore intimately connected to the imagination which projects it, and to time, specifically the future. Human being, then, is not limited to the here and now, that is, to actuality … there is a “surplus of being” to human existence, and this surplus of being is nothing other than possibility. We are not as we shall be. Thanks to this surplus of being – possibility – humanity can hope.”
Possibilities are, Ricoeur argues, real, although unactualised and it is through imagination that actualisation occurs and with it self-understanding:
“The point of phenomenology is to describe the meaning of “lived experience” rather than its factuality. Husserl calls the meaning of a thing its “essence” (eidos). We come to know the essence of a thing by exploring its various possibilities. These possibilities are explored in the workshop of the imagination. Ricoeur notes of phenomenology that “its favourite technique is the method of imaginative variations. It is in varying the possible realizations of the same essential structure that the fundamental articulation can be made manifest.” Husserl’s example of the meaning or “essence” of a table is helpful. By “free imaginative variation” we can alter its form, its color, its material. By then looking to see what there is in common among the various examples, we can determine its essence. We can also imagine possible uses of a table: we can eat a meal on it; we can write letters or do a jigsaw puzzle on it; we can stand on it to fix the lightbulb etc. These variations are not present, but they are imagined as possible. Phenomenological description is thus closely related to fiction and the realm of as if. As far as phenomenology is concerned, we may define the meaning or “essence” of something as the imagined ensemble of its possibilities”.
God, as the source of all things, contains both actuality and possibility. In creation he actualised good, and evil remained only an unactualised possibility. God’s intention was to train humanity for our task of developing creation by assisting us to imagine possibilities as a means to the development of the creation and the self-understanding of humanity. This is what I noted in the story of Adam naming the living creatures and what Ricoeur speaks of free imaginative variation. In this way God was acting like a parent telling her child not to put his hand into a fire. The child imagines the pain of being on fire and learns the lesson. God in the creation stories wished to do the same. He wished to introduce human beings to the knowledge of good and evil by imagining, under his guidance, the possibility of evil, as a means of learning the dangers inherent in actualising evil. In this way, the story says, human beings could have developed into divinity by gradually developing in conversation with God the knowledge of good and evil and then, by eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, living forever.
This helps us to see then what is really being depicted in the story of the Fall, it is the rejection of conversation with God with all that that entails in terms of imaging possibility in harmony with the creation. As Josipovici says of the Fall:
“The temptation offered by the serpent is simple: eat and you will not need to talk to God any more, for you will be a God and know all. Instead of recognizing that we must go by way of dialogue, that we cannot ingest knowledge, Adam and Eve listen to the words of another and accept them, even when those words urge them to do something that will bring about the end of words.”
The link between these creation stories and the giving of the Law to the people of Israel is this idea of life lived outside of conversation with God. Outside of conversation with God we retain our ability to create through the imagination of possibility but use this ability for our own ends and not in harmony with creation. In evolutionary terminology, out of conversation with God we act in terms of the survival of the fittest.
 K. J. Vanhoozer, Biblical Narrative in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: A Study in Hermeneutics and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 7.
 Vanhoozer, pp. 20 - 21.
 G. Josipovici, The Book of God: A Response to the Bible (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1988), p. 176.
Martyn Joseph - How Did We End up Here?
Saturday, 19 January 2008
World Wide Message Tribe - The Real Thing.
At the heart of his presentation was a triangle of church, world and God's kingdom and the sociological (church and world), ecclesiological (church and God's kingdom) and theological (world and God's kingdom) gaps between them.
The strength of this model is that church, world and God's kingdom are all factors in a full understanding of mission and social engagement but that each is different from and an influence on the other. Addressing the gaps between each involves us in mission and social engagement that seeks to enable the church to be a community reflecting God's kingdom and recognise the work of God already going on within the world.
Using this model in discussion at the conference it was not difficult to quickly think of actions, initiatives and projects that seek to address each of the three gaps; an indication that the model has practical and not just theorectical implications.
Carleen Anderson - Leopards in the Temple.
One of the papers made available (from the Diocese's Inter-Faith Issues Group) described the inter faith work going on. The events of 9/11 and all that has followed from that have stimulated people from all faith communities to find ways of working together. As a result there are now well-established initiatives across the Diocese, many involving Diocesan clergy, for example: East London Three Faiths Forum; Mid Essex Inter Faith Forum; Colchester Informal Three Faith Friends; Redbridge Faith Forum; Barking and Dagenham Faith Forum; Waltham Forest Faith Forum; Southend Faiths' Forum; Faith Sector of the Newham Voluntary Sector Consortium; Faithful Friends (Newham); Newham Senior Faith Leaders Group; Coggeshall – Forest Gate Twinning.
Outside the direct area of inter faith work, but using faith as a vehicle, innovative work has been developed by Revd Steven Saxby in his former role as Deanery Development worker with faith communities in Waltham Forest. Projects have been developed with a positive impact on community cohesion e.g. Health Preachers, a scheme where Community Health Workers use faith as the vehicle for information about health.
Important work is going on in the field of education. The Contextual Theology Centre (CTC) has an ongoing programme enabling reflection on the role of faith in a pluralist society. A resource pack for congregations entitled Engaging with faith communities has been made available by CTC as a free download from its website and materials from the pack are shortly to be used in the Eastertide courses on Living with other faiths that feature in the Diocese's 2008 programme. CTC has also been commissioned co-ordinate the Presence & Engagement process throughout Greater London. The Diocese is a participant in the Greater London Presence & Engagement Network led by CTC based at St Katharine's Foundation at Limehouse, East London. This network is for all who train and equip Christians for ministry in multi Faith contexts. Its aim is to publicise existing work, and ensure new developments are both well-coordinated and responsive to actual need.
Moby - Hymn (This Is My Dream).
Each had had contact with Modern Art through studies in Europe but, while influenced by the great art movements of their day, their greatest achievement was to absorb these influences in order to develop their own individual and innovative styles. For many this involved radical decisions in their choice of materials; Emvin Cremona worked with broken glass pressed into impasto, Josef Kalleya incised flat reliefs of clay and fibre-glass, while Antoine Camilleri created paintings in clay. The persistence and creativity of such artists eventually paid dividends with belated recognition for their work and the opening up of greater opportunities for younger generations.
A family holiday provided me with the opportunity to see some of their work and assess the extent to which their legacy had opened up opportunities for others. One impact of the lack of early Church commissions for these artists is that the national collections of Modern Art feature religious themes to an extent that is unusual elsewhere in Europe. At the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta three pieces in particular stood out.
Willie Apap’s Benedizione sets the central figure of Christ in a column of God's light as he blesses the woman who kneels at his feet. Apap’s vertical streaks of light and shade create a sense of mystery immersing the supporting cast in the surrounding atmosphere and highlighting the central theme of holiness touching humanity. In his Agony in the Garden Frank Portelli divides the picture plane in two. In the right half, three disciples sleep in the white heat of a siesta sun while in the left, Christ prays reaching out and up towards the silver cup of suffering held by an angel behind him. Amidst a disturbance of reds and purples Portelli's green Christ, through acceptance of his purpose, is alive, awake and fertile in a dry and barren land. Antoine Camilleri, focused on the crucifixion itself in his construction, Xandru L-Imhabba (Preach Love), which uses a TV aerial for the cross from which a thin but vigorously arching Christ hangs. From the front Camilleri’s Christ hangs in pain from a particularly spiky cross but from a side view appears arched and flexed for a great resurrection leap back into life.
[i] J.P. Cassar ed., art in malta today, St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, 2000.
John Fahey - Lion.
Friday, 18 January 2008
At the Prayer Hearings, participants were asked to send in information about practices that they found helpful in prayer, so, following the Prayer Hearing at Newham's Council Chambers, I wrote the following description of prayer activities at St John's and of my own practice:
"At St John's we are getting involved in a number of prayer events over the next few weeks as we seek God's vision for the future here and experience a broader range of ways of praying. These include the Global Day of Prayer, prayer walks, 24hr prayer, a prayer corner, and a prayer ministry team but, given the consultative nature of last night's prayer hearing, it was good for us to begin this series of prayer activities with reflection on the nature of prayer.
I have come to experience prayer primarily as an unstructured, ongoing conversation with God about the things that I see, hear and experience in everyday life. I have found the writings of Stephen Verney helpful in seeing the extent to which Jesus was participating in an ongoing interchange of love within the Godhead (what Verney calls the "Dance of Love") with this mutual interchange including prayer as conversation with God (see Verney's interpretation of John 17, for example, in The Dance of Love or Water into Wine). Jonathan Sacks' writings on the great dialogues between God and Abraham and Moses and Jeremiah and Job and the way in which this dialogue continues within Judaism (particularly his lecture Judaism, Justice and Tragedy - Confronting the problem of evil) have helped me to understand the extent to which God wants to draw us into a real relationship where we are free to question, debate and argue with him.
Prayers that I have found to tap into this understanding of prayer as an ongoing, everyday conversation with God involving all our emotions include: the prayer-poems of George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Berryman; the prayers collected in the Carmina Gadelica; and the prayer-reflections of David Adam, Martin Wallace and others drawing on the heritage of Celtic Christianity. The Psalms are of course, as Ann Clarke noted last night, the great repository of prayers in which God's people pray from within this kind of relationship with God.
As part of encouraging prayer in and through the everyday I have been running at both St Margaret's and St John's a work-based email group which involves sending people in work a weekly email containing a brief work-based reflection and prayer combined with information on a resource for Christians in the workplace. We have a google group site for the group which can be found by clicking here. All the emails sent since the group began at St John's are stored there and anyone is welcome to join the group.
Carol Ball, Philip Ritchie, Paul Trathen and myself have also been involved in developing and trialling a resource pack for churches and workplaces on 'Christians in the Workplace'. This has now gone to print and will be launched shortly. The pack includes resources to help people think about the place of prayer, reflection and spirituality within the workplace and in their everyday lives together with practical prayer exercises to help people pray in the way I have outlined above. Philip Ritchie can provide details of how and when the resource pack will be available. I wonder whether the pilgrimage we are on with the prayer hearings could explore, make use of and publicise this pack.
Finally, I find the Arts helpful in prayer, both public and private. While at NTMTC, together with Tim Hull and Alan Stewart, I was involved in developing several multi-media services that combined paintings, readings, poems, prayers, creative activities and songs. I have continued to use this style of prayer and worship as I find it draws people into a rich experience of God's presence by engaging people at a range of different levels (involving our range of senses and touching our emotions, intellects and spirits). This is something that has been a major feature of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions within the Church and which can be re-discovered and re-imagined in the possibilities opened up by new media and alternative worship."
Iona - Here I Stand.
• that negotiators on both sides may be given the wisdom and strength to seek deals that will bring about trade justice
• that the negotiating process may be marked by respect for ACP countries' proposals and needs
• that the negotiations may address the ACP's development concerns rather than focusing only on market opening beneficial to the EU
• that traders in ACP countries may be given strength and wisdom to deal with the uncertainty they face
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. James 5:1-5
Apparently, there was once an occasion when these verses were read out in a rich church in the US without telling the congregation that they were from the Bible. Immediately, those listening responded antagonistically questioning who could write such a thing. They were shocked to discover it was the brother of our Lord. Yet, for all of us, if these verses don’t shock and shame us, then it can only be because we are refusing to listen to the Spirit of God. “The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.” How many of us
can claim that we do not stand guilty as charged. Whilst we rightly campaign for better trade justice, it must also begin at home, in how we spend the money the Lord has currently loaned to us. We may pay our tithe, and buy a few fairly traded products – but everything belongs to God, and it is to him that we will one day have to give an account.
Bruce Cockburn - Call It Democracy.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
This year the Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches will be holding three Lent courses on two different themes. All three Lent courses will be held on the following dates: 13/02, 20/02, 27/02, 05/03, and 11/03. The courses will end with a United Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches service at Seven Kings Methodist Church on Tuesday 18th March at 8.00pm.
Course details are as follows:
- Wednesday mornings at St John's Seven Kings, 10.45am - Theme: 'The Lord's Prayer' - this course reflects on the world's most famous prayer. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus gives us a pattern for living as his disciples and also raises vital questions for today's world.
- Wednesday evenings at St Peter's Aldborough Hatch, 8.00pm - Theme: 'The Lord's Prayer' - this course reflects on the world's most famous prayer. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus gives us a pattern for living as his disciples and also raises vital questions for today's world.
- Wednesday evenings at St John's Seven Kings, 8.00pm - Theme: 'Living with other faiths' - this course explores biblical principles for living with other faiths, develops understanding of the beliefs and practices of other faiths, and considers a range of ways of engaging with people of other faiths.
Deacon Blue - All Over The World.
For artists however there has been a catch, as Cutajar again outlines, “the large village churches were as yet carrying forward with incredible obstinacy the spirit of Baroque triumphalism thinly disguised in Neo-classic and romantic garbs.” As a result, the art-critic, philosopher and priest Peter Serracino Inglott has argued “that while the Church continued to be in Malta the major commissioner for art works, few of these have resulted in works of beauty throughout the last century.”[ii]
Maltese Churches are primarily baroque in style with grandiose interiors, gilded arcades and ceilings, ornate altars and canopies, and walls and vaults covered in paintings and frescoes. The Maltese have a preference for dramatic realism that derives from the stars of their art history; Caravaggio, Mattia Preti, and Guiseppe Cali. Before escaping a death sentence imposed by the Knights of St John, Caravaggio completed two paintings dealing in the drama of death; its light and darkness indicated by means of chiaroscuro. Preti transformed the stark interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral, where Caravaggio’s paintings hung, into a sumptuously decorated showpiece of Baroque art. In his large, dramatic altarpieces, produced for churches all over Malta, Preti combined Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro techniques with naturalism. Cali meanwhile painted over 600 works for the churches and palaces of Malta introducing Romanticism to the islands with his epic work, The Death of Dragut.
Whether deriving from the burden of art history or, as Serracino Inglott surmises from settings of liturgical and festive performance, the preference for dramatic realism in the garb of the baroque or romantic resulted in the works of the early Maltese pioneers of Modern Art failing to gain admission to Malta’s churches. This despite the fact that, as Serracino Inglott notes, “many of the most explorative of Maltese artists kept on producing works of art which undoubtedly were attempts at revealing the sense of the transcendent, often through explicitly religious themes, but most of these were not made for liturgical use or for insertion or performance in church precincts.”
[i] D. Cutajar ed., Malta: Six Modern Artists, Malta University Services, 1991.
[ii] P. Serracino Inglott, ‘What future for art in Malta in the new Millennium?’ in J.P. Cassar ed., art in malta today, St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, 2000.
Aretha Franklin - I Say A Little Prayer For You.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
The story of Adam naming the creatures (Genesis 2. 18–25) paints a picture of the way in which God intended our relationship with him to be. In this story both God and the creatures have a voice to which Adam must listen in order that he can understand the essence of each creature and create a name that reflects that essence. Yet it is the human being that is given the responsibility of naming the creatures and whose creativity is trusted by God, as the names stand. However, this exercise in identifying and naming the possibilities inherent in creation is also an exercise in developing greater self-awareness in Adam. As he listens to the voice of creation, identifying and naming possibilities, Adam is also thinking about his own need of a helper and identifying that none of these creatures meets his needs. Through this joint activity which God and Adam share together, they reach the conclusion that no suitable helper for Adam is to be found among the creatures. Then, because of Adam’s increased self-understanding, when the God creates woman from Adam’s rib, Adam is immediately able to recognise and name her as the helper for which they have been seeking.
The creation stories, as a whole, seem to depict a relational God creating a relational world with which he interacts. Within this, humanity is created in his relational image to develop the relational possibilities inherent within creation. The creation is seen as both actuality and possibility and humanity has the responsibility of actualising the possible. This understanding of the creation stories sees humanity as partners or collaborators with God in the development of creation.
Nicholas Mosley’s novel The Hesperides Tree is a fictional exploration of this possibility. His central character, while delving in a library, comes across the writings of the ninth-century monk John Scotus Eriugena who “said that it was in this life that one could if one chose have an experience of God; of God and humans going hand in hand, creating what happened hand in hand”. His understanding of Scotus is that:
“In this world God was dependent on humans for what He and they did, to them He had handed over freedom: He remained that by which their freedom could operate, so of course they were dependent on Him too. But what could be learned, practised, of freedom except through exposure, risk – through trying things out by casting oneself on the waters as it were and discovering what the outcome would be after many days. But John Scotus’s way of seeing things had for a thousand years been largely ignored, and freedom had been taken into custody by Church and State.”
The experience of creating hand in hand with God is one that has been particularly apparent to artists generally, not solely to novelists. The great architect Antoni Gaudí, for example, described the conversation between God, the creation and humanity in these terms:
“Creation works ceaselessly through man. But man does not create, he discovers. Those who seek out the laws of Nature as support for their new work collaborate with the Creator. Those who copy are not collaborators. For this reason originality consists in returning to the origin.”
Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh have suggested that this experience and work begins in listening:
“[I]n this covenantal worldview, all of creation is subjective, all of creation speaks. The task of human knowing, in all of its forms, is to translate that creational glossolalia into human terms … An epistomology intent on listening to our covenantal partners (God and the rest of creation) will decidely not silence the voice of the other … In response to the gift of creation, we are called as stewards to a knowing that opens up the creation in all of its integrity and enhances its disclosure. Rather than engaging the real world as masters, we are invited to be image-bearing rulers. Our knowing does not create or integrate reality. Rather we respond to a created and integrated reality in a way that either honors and promotes that integration or dishonors it. We are called to reciprocate the Creator’s love in our epistomological stewardship of this gift. Wright describes such an epistomology of love beautifully when he says, “The lover affirms the reality and the otherness of the beloved. Love does not seek to collapse the beloved in terms of itself.” In a relational and stewardly epistemology, “ ‘love’ will mean ‘attention’: the readiness to let the other be the other, the willingness to grow and change in relation to the other.””
 This suggestion links back to my original suggestion in this series, that we are invited by God to participate in the conversation or communion within the Godhead. I suggest that this could involve developing the practical implications of relationality, perichoresis and substantiality through sociality and creativity.
Colin Gunton uses his theology of creation to identify three concepts that he calls (drawing on Samuel Taylor Coleridge) ‘open transcendentals’. That is, “possibilities for thought which are universal in scope yet open in their application” (C. E. Gunton, The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p.223). Gunton’s three open transcendentals are: relationality (“[a]ll things are what they are by being particulars constituted by many and various forms of relation”, p. 229); perichoresis (“all things are what they are in relations of mutual constitutiveness with all other things”, p. 178); and substantiality (all things are “substantial beings, having their own distinct and particular existence, by virtue of and not in the face of their relationality to the other”, p. 194). Sociality is a description of the social relation of personal beings, “their free relation-in-otherness” (Gunton, p. 229.). Gunton notes that, outside of God and humanity, “the rest of the creation … does not have the marks of love and freedom which are among the marks of the personal” and so cannot be said to be characterised by sociality. Within the creation stories, sociality is seen in the joint working in which God and Adam shared to find a helper for Adam (Genesis 2: 15 - 25) and the conversation between God, Adam and Eve in Genesis 3: 8 - 19. Dorothy Sayers remarked on the fact that the one thing we know for sure about God at the point that he makes humanity in his own image is that he is creative [D. L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1941)]. She argues that it is therefore logical to suppose that creativity is a significant aspect of humanity’s being made in the image of God. Within the creation stories human creativity is seen in: God’s blessing of humanity which included the tasks of increasing in number, filling and subduing the earth and, ruling over living creatures (Genesis 1: 28); Adam’s working and taking care of the garden (Genesis 2: 15); and, Adam’s naming of the living creatures (Genesis 2: 20). Albert Wolters brings both sociality and creativity together when he comments that: “Adam and Eve, as the first married couple, represent the beginnings of societal life; their task of tending the garden, the primary task of agriculture, represents the beginnings of cultural life" [A. M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1996), p. 37].
Among those who have developed practical proposals for the implementation of relationality, perichoresis and substantiality through sociality and creativity are:
· Christian Schumacher with his system of work structuring outlined in God in Work: Discovering the divine pattern for work in the new millennium (Oxford, Lion Publishing plc, 1998);
· David Lee and Michael Schluter with the dimensions of relational proximity which they outline in The R Factor (Hodder & Stoughton, 1993).
Schumacher draws on Sayers and Distributionism to create a Trinitarian model while Lee and Schluter draw on the work of Christopher Wright who argues that the Israelite society of the Old Testament provides a paradigm for contemporary Christian lifestyle.
 N. Mosley, The Hesperides Tree (London: Vintage, 2002), pp. 118 & 119.
 Antoni Gaudí cited in G. van Hensbergen, Gaudí, London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002, p. 138.
 J. R. Middleton and B. J. Walsh, truth is stranger than it used to be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age, London: SPCK, 1997, pp. 168 & 169, citing N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, London: SPCK, 1997, p. 64.
Victoria Williams - Century Plant and Crazy Mary.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
- The Big Picture 2 - How can Christians respond to controversial art: protest or engagement? How have Christian artists expressed their faith through popular culture? How has Christianity influenced popular culture? How does popular culture portray or critique Christianity? These are some of the questions the course will explore using multi media resources with plenty of opportunity for discussion and practical response. Tutors: Revds Philip Ritchie, Jonathan Evens & Paul Trathen. Tuesday Evenings 7.30-9.30pm at St Lawrence, Ninefields, Waltham Abbey. April 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13.
- Living with Other Faiths - This course helps people explore why we should engage with other faith communities and how we can go about doing so. The course objectives are to identify biblical principles for engaging with other faith communities; to develop an understanding of the beliefs and sensitivity to the practises of other faiths and to consider a range of ways of engaging with other faith communities and to identify particular approaches appropriate to your situation. Tutors: Revd Jonathan Evens & Canon David Driscoll. Friday Mornings 10am-12pm, Cathedral Learning Centre, Chelmsford, April 25 May 2, 9, 16, 23.
Among the other courses available will be Let Us Be Human to be led by Revds. Paul Trathen and Sam Norton on Wednesday mornings from 10am-12pm at Diocesan Office, Chelmsford - February 20, 27, March 5, 19. We are all increasingly aware of the debates which have now gained huge momentum around questions of climate change, our ecosystems, and related matters. Some of these debates are about where the evidence points towards human activities contributing to a rapid degradation of the earth’s capacity to sustain life. Other parts of the debate are now starting to address questions about how we might live differently in the light of these realizations, and in mitigation of disaster. The Christian faith has plenty to say about living sustainably and faithfully within God’s created order. How might we put our theology, our big global questions, and our own choices of lifestyle into a constructive dialogue? This short discussion and workshop course will help us in this daunting task.
MiLE exists to draw together the expertise of a wide variety of people working in London to advise on ways and means of the church fulfilling a ministry towards the industrial, commercial and urban community and to stimulate public opinion on relations between the Christian faith and industrial, commercial and economic life. FRF is a Muslim-led multi-faith agency committed to working towards increasing social harmony in our society, through multi-faith action, by empowering and regenerating individuals and communities through the development of increased capacity, economic independence and a stronger voice.
MiLE and FRF are interested in working together with other faith-based business organisation to explore interest in ways of creating co-ordinated faith community responses to the issues facing London's economy. The round table discussion on 24th January is intended as an opportunity to explore the scope that might exist for such joint working.
Initial thoughts on possible responses include:
- publicity for faith-based business organisations/resources;
- conferences/seminars on faith-based approaches to business;
- information leaflets/booklets on faith-related issues in business;
- faith-based responses to consultations on London’s economy.
For more information contact: Revd. Jonathan Evens, Chair of MiLE’s Practitioner Group 6 and FRF consultantC/o Mission in London's Economy, The Royal Foundation of St Katherine, 2 Butcher Row, London E14 8DSor Tel: 020 8599 2170 / Email: email@example.com .
Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running.
Andi Thomas - Rejuvenate Coordinator
Below is a brief update on some of the work Salem is doing.
Salem's work in helping orphaned and vulnerable children in need continues to be heavily oversubscribed in relation to the resources available.
Rejuvenate Worldwide is solely run by volunteers and we rely on the generosity of people like you to keep the charity running. You can support the charity as an individual or a group by praying or giving financially, getting involved in our events our organising one yourself. We would also love to come and share with you about our work by giving a presentation. For 2008 we are looking for people to get involved in:
- Asics British London’s 10k run - Sunday 6th July 2008 (London)
- BUPA Great North - Sunday 5th October 2008 (Newcastle)
- BUPA Great South Run - Sunday 26th October 2008 (Portsmouth)
- Great Midlands Fun Run - Sunday 1st June 2008 (Birmingham)
- Golf Tournament - Date to be announced!
- London to Paris Cycle - Date to be announced!
- International Pudding evening and fundraiser - Date to be announced!
For a detailed fundraising information pack contact us!
Monday, 14 January 2008
So is God a West Ham supporter? Elwin seems to be sure that he is. 'Well, God cares about people, and football clubs are full of people, so I guess the answer must be 'yes'! Having said that, I have to accept that God cares about people whether they're Hammers fans, Spurs fans or even Man Utd fans.'
'I grew up in the East End in the 60s, in the era of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, so I could hardly help donning the claret-and-blue. Like many supporters, I started going to games in my teens, standing on the old North Bank, before I graduated to a Season Ticket. Of course, I had to give that up before I went off to theological college'.
It was while at college that Elwin met Andrew Wingfield-Digby, from Christians in Sport, who was acting as chaplain to the England cricket team at the time. It was through his encouragement that Elwin committed himself to praying for West Ham Utd and for the club's staff, players and fans. Three years later, he found himself appointed as the club's first chaplain.
So what does a chaplain do? "On one level, I do all the things that people associate with vicars. I've been privileged to take the funerals of a number of former players, like Alan Sealey and John Dick, and to be part of some important private moments within the 'West Ham family'. I've also shared in a lot of lighter moments, and enjoyed watching a fair bit of football along the way.
In the end, my role is to be a friend of the club, so I make sure that I get my face seen around the offices and training ground during the week, and not just on the big match days. It's surprising what topics of conversation come up. I never know what's coming, so I always pray that God will guide me whenever I go to Upton Park or the training ground."
New Order - World In Motion.