Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Did Darwin Kill God?

Good to see the BBC providing, in Did Darwin Kill God?, a well-made and well-presented balance to earlier programmes in the Darwin season which argued that evolution equates to atheism.

Executive Producer Jean Claude Bragard describes presenter Conor Cunningham's argument as being:

"that we have been witnessing an unnecessary cultural war between religion and evolution that is damaging to both religion and science. Cunningham reveals that since the early days, mainstream Christianity’s view of God and Creation has not been literal. The idea of reading the Book of Genesis literally is essentially a 20th century American phenomenon that had very little to do with science and religion and a great deal to do with the morality and politics of the time."

The programme specifically came from the realisation that, while Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' has fuelled a widespread perception that the theory of evolution makes belief in God redundant, it remans clear that many Christians have easily been able to reconcile their belief in God with the theory of evolution. So how is this possible?

This is the question that the programme explores and its answers are partly theological (the Church Fathers did not understand Genesis literally), partly historical (Creationism is a recent aberration primarily of Bible-belt Christianity) and partly critique of Ultra Darwinianism (the application of Darwin's theory beyond the domain of science to all aspects of life undermines the cogency of evolution as a science).

It is interesting to read some of the advance comments on the programme from atheists purporting to second guess and dismiss Cunningham's likely arguments. These reveal the extent to which prejudice, faith and lack of rigour characterise the arguments of some who hold atheistic beluefs, just as the same can be said of some holding Christian beliefs.

Having watched Did Darwin kill God? I don't think that the same can be said of Cunningham whose arguments add to the critiques of the New Atheists already raised by the likes of Flew, McGrath and Ward, among others.


King's X - We Were Born To Be Loved.

Between the anthemic & atmospheric

U2 are at their most evocative and effective when creating music in the tension between the anthemic and the atmospheric and lyrics in the tension between affirmations and asymmetries. This is the ground that they occupy with No Line On The Horizon and, as a result, the album is a return to form after the lacklustre How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and one which stands alongside their best work.

No Line On The Horizon has the rhythms and feel of Pop but with melodies that put that rather underappreciated record well and truly in the shade. Bono has commented that with this album the band got polyrhythmic, electronic sounds "without losing the thing that a band can do when it is playing live" and that that was what they didn't manage to do on Pop.

Daniel Lanois has said that Bono began work on the album talking of writing future hymns. This intent is most clearly apparent on 'Magnificent' which draws on the Magnificat in creating a worship song which could be sung in church and is guaranteed to become a standard feature of future U2charists.

'Magnificent', though, is only the most overt example of the themes of "surrender and devotion" which run throughout the album. The centrepiece for these themes is 'Moment of Surrender', a beautifully evocative meditation on the way in which the most profound experiences are all embracing for the participant and invisible to those outside of the moment:

"At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me."

This all gives the impression of the 'earnest' U2 of their more declamatory albums but that would be to mislead. When creating in the tensions noted above Bono's aphoristic lyrics are often pertinent, self-mocking and witty:

"Stand up to rock stars, Napoleon is in high heels
Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas."

Occasionally, though, the quality control monitor is switched off and the "mole living in a hole" moment on this album duly arrives with the faux IT-speak of 'Unknown Caller'. As a result, No Line On The Horizon does not quite sustain the consistency of The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby but manages to come pretty damn close.

The band that sung "Is love like a tightrope" on Boy are still standing up for love by walking the wire "stretched in between our two towers ... in this dizzy world." I, for one, hope they don't come down any time soon.


U2 - Moment of Surrender.

Spiritual centres as community hubs

Last week the Government and the Church of England published guidelines to help all religious groups overcome the “squeamishness” they can encounter from funding providers. Churches and Faith Buildings: Realising the Potential identifies funding and support for faith groups that will enable them to adapt their buildings for community use and build on their capacity to engage at local and regional level.

In his Foreword to the guidance, the Bishop of London writes:

"There are about 16,000 parish churches in England which constitute a countrywide network which endures in the inner city and rural areas where places of public assembly and service are in short and often diminishing supply. There are now more parish churches than post offices and indeed there are already some 12 post offices which operate from church buildings. This is an example of a growing trend to return church buildings to their original function as places of worship and also places of assembly and celebration for the whole of the local community. This ancient tradition has in more recent times been overlaid by a distaste for mixing the sacred and secular but this dichotomy is increasingly being challenged. Encouragement from Government and from Regional Authorities would be a powerful incentive for the individual Parochial Church Councils responsible for parish churches to enhance their usefulness as community hubs with appropriate modern facilities such as kitchens and lavatories.

At a time of financial stringency when the green agenda is growing in significance it obviously makes sense to maintain and develop such a significant national asset. It would cost billions to replicate the country wide social infrastructure which already exists in the network of buildings the Church of England manages on behalf of the whole community. Any assistance would of course depend on a proven determination to equip the churches for wider community access but a relatively modest investment could yield large dividends."

FaithAction in their latest newsletter have commented on the guidance saying that they have seen some good examples of this approach and in some cases this may be a great strategy to pursue. However they suggest that Faith-Based Organisations:

"genuinely wanting to serve the wider community may want to consider whether attaching their community project directly to a faith building going would be a hindrance to prospective beneficiaries. Some of the most successful members of FaithAction have chosen to break out of these traditional premises in favour of offices and high street premises.

FaithAction have really seen the benefits of FBOs working in their wider local communities. City Gateway was named by a member of their local police force as the most effective crime prevention partner in their borough. Muhskil Aasaan, who we have come into contact with have changed the image and practice of health and social care within the local Asian communities for the better.

Many mentoring and social care groups that are part of FaithAction have had referrals from local borough services because they are meeting needs that secular government services simply can’t, because of their homogenous nature and detachment from communities. Instead of new solutions costing millions of taxpayer’s money, why not invest in smaller grassroots organisations for a fraction of this cost?"


The Alarm - Unsafe Building.

Hope not hate

The following is the latest message from the Hope not Hate campaign:

"The BNP are preparing a high profile billboard campaign claiming that Jesus Christ would support their policies of racism and hate were He on earth today.

Statements like these - designed to cause offence and whip up tension between faiths - show the reality behind the BNP's politics of fear.

But we believe in something better - in hope, not hate. And to show this, we've launched a campaign to bring 10,000 people, of all faiths and none, to unite in condemnation of the BNP's paper thin attempts to divide us.

Please join us in telling the BNP that we're united by hope:

I've been campaigning against the BNP for nineteen years now. But it's at moments like this that you realise nothing is beyond the pale for them. That they respect nothing and no-one. They will cynically use words of peace, love and justice as camouflage for their bigotry. And if this is how they campaign, just imagine how they'd act as our representatives in the European Parliament.

The BNP billboard asks a simple question - What would Jesus do? Whether you're religious or not - when the choice is between a belief in hope, justice and love or division, suppression and fear, the answer is pretty clear.

Please help us unite 10,000 people against the BNP's outrageous and offensive campaign. To reach this goal, and to send the clearest message possible, I need your help - we need our supporters to go out and organise - to get their friends and family to stand with you in your defiance of the BNP.

So please sign the petition and then invite your friends to join us by forwarding this email or using the invite tool after you sign the petition. I need you to take action - and ownership - of this campaign. It's the only way we'll meet this goal."

The following comes from Ekklesia:

"Three British Churches have reminded people of the 'true Christian message of love' for all people following the inclusion of Jesus in a BNP election campaign.

Their statement comes after the Church of England declined to comment on the posters which feature a bible verse quoting Jesus' words about persecution, in the run up to the European Elections in June.

The adverts contain a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross and quotes a part of a verse from John's Gospel (John 15:20) in which Jesus says: "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you". The verse comes in the context of Jesus' teaching about love.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relations for The Methodist Church, said: “When Jesus was asked about what was the most important rule of life he said: 'Love God with all of your being and love your neighbour as yourself.'

“It’s ironic that the BNP is using the world’s most famous Jew to promote its racist message.

“Our traditions have a history of promoting racial justice and inclusion and rejecting messages of hate and fear.

“It is always important that people go out and vote, especially in these extremely difficult economic times. Sadly, in the past, economic problems have been exploited by extremists as opportunities to scapegoat minorities.”

The three churches will be launching an election pack at the end of April, which will call on local church leaders to engage positively with politicians and reject racist political activity."


Tracy Chapman - Across The Lines.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Scripture: a meganarrative?

Last year, when Philip Ritchie and I were debating the extent to which there is a metanarrative in the Bible, I wrote a post saying it may be that a new descriptor is needed for the kind of narrative we find in scripture.

I was hesitant about calling the narrative of scripture a meta-narrative because it is threaded through the fragments which form the whole canon of scripture rather than over-arching them. At the same time it is clearly not a micro-narrative because its full telling is not contained by any one of the books forming the whole canon of scripture.

A recent post by Peter Rollins seems to give me the phrase I was searching for. A meganarrative, he suggests, being that term which refers to the story that one lives while a metanarrative refers to the story that intellectually justifies and makes sense of our existence.


Tom Waits - Down in the Hole.

A crisis of faith & life (3)

It is here that the theologians of the exile can help us in hearing and responding to the call of God:
  • First, because they have been there before us - they were the divorcees of God – we can understand from them something of why we feel as we do.
  • Second, because their pattern of reflection and re-interpretation based on the tradition gives a biblical means of reviving our roots and re-claiming our disputed lineage. We need to dream up what Church is and can be for future generations all over again. As a start, we could re-examine our biblical and church heritage by retelling the stories to ourselves and to others. This is where developments in narrative theology and storytelling may be of some use to us in finding a way forward. Graham Cray has argued that we are a ‘hinge generation’ making the transition between a Church that was addressing modernity and one that will in future address post-modernity and beyond. Therefore, we should not expect to have all the answers to hand but instead should engage in a re-examination of our roots in order to imagine our future on a scale that is at least equal to that of the theologians of the exile.
  • Third, our interim strategy should involve the threefold approach of assimilation, voicing hurt and articulating hope:

    · Assimilation: as we operate within a culture which is at best ambiguous towards Christianity, the Church needs to develop the Joseph’s, Daniel’s, Nehemiah’s and Esther’s for our generation. These will be people able to be hidden advocates for our faith and able too from within to show up the inadequacies of the dominant culture and point that culture towards Christ. The examples of The Relationship Foundation and Work Structuring Ltd give us two models from the worlds of public policy and work that provide hints about the way to go;

    · Voicing hurt: following Jesus – who has removed all the barriers to intimacy - we should expect to move corporately into the intimate relationship with God that these theologians experienced individually, thinking and acting as God does. Our experience as the body of Christ should be that we think with the mind of Christ. Jesus’ thought and action was modelled on the suffering servant and our aim should be to live as Jesus’ body in and through that same model.

    · Articulating hope: we need to protest the present because it hurts and is less desirable and faithful than what is promised in the theological tradition. Hope springs from hurt and therefore the future will only be re-imagined if we do not feel satisfied with the present. We need to make common cause with those most hurt by the dominant culture because God hears and wants to respond to their cries through us. They are also in the places where the inadequacies of the dominant culture are most apparent. Common cause can also be made with those identifying judgement on the dominant culture. Judgement on consumer capitalism is most likely to come through the changes that it has and is making to the eco-system. We need to further develop our theology of green issues speaking and acting publicly and symbolically in this arena.

In the West we exist within a time of crisis. We are the generation for whom the city has fallen - the ‘hinge generation’ existing between paradigms. Our experience may be of exile, loss, and bereavement, the ending of our known world. This experience can be a means of identification with Jesus in suffering, a means of entering in to the paradigm of the suffering servant – a paradigm that is more authentically Christian than that of the dominant culture – and a means of entering into a mature, intimate relationship with our God. Our God is a God of new beginnings, of fresh starts. He is the resurrection God and, therefore, the one who gives hope that we can rise from the ruins:

“There ain’t nobody asks to be born There ain’t nobody wishes to die Everybody whiles away the interim time Sworn to rise from the ruins by and by

The engines are droning with progress The pistons are pounding out time And it’s you and me caught in this juggernaut jaunt Left to rise from the ruins down the line

We will roll like an old Chevrolet The road to ruin is something to see Hang on to the wheel For the highway to hell needs chauffeurs For the powers that be

Go and tell all your friends and relations Go and say what ain’t easy to say Go and give them some hope That we might rock this boat And rise from the ruins one day

Ever try to carry water in a basket Ever try to carry fire in your hand Ever try to take on the weight of the everyday freight Til’ you find that you’re too weak to stand

Why so pale and wan, fond lover Why so downcast and desperately sad We can walk, we can talk We ain’t yet pillars of salt We will rise from the ruins while we can."

(Mark Heard - Rise from the Ruins)


The Mark Heard Tribute Project - We Know Too Much.

Windows on the world (47)

Westminster, 2008

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The first patron saint of emergence Christianity

This week our Lent Course at St John's Seven Kings mentioned Mother Teresa's sense that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."

In more than 40 communications, published (many for the first time) in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God.

In our Lent Course, this is used to suggest that we should not rely on feelings or experiences in our following of God but Peter Rollins makes a different use of it in a recent post highlighting the difference between metanarratives and meganarratives:

"For Mother Theresa, the traditional metanarrative of Christianity was deeply questioned and often found wanting. Yet it did not stop her from living her faith in an uncompromising manner. Indeed it was her doubt at the level of metanarrative that made her faith even more awe-inspiring. For this faith was so much a part of her flesh and blood that her Garden of Gethsemene experience did not rock her Christ-like devotion to those around her. It was obvious that she lived this way not because she beleived that she would be rewarded, or because it was what her beliefs demanded, but rather because she loved with a supernatural devotion that asked nothing in return.

She could embrace doubt and unknowing while expressing an unwavering commitment to the life of faith as expressed in caring for the oppressed and unwanted. There where many times when she was a theoretical unbeliever, but through it all she was a practical believer to the very end."

This position, he argues, "may well bring us close to understanding how a healthy and dynamic Christianity will be expressed in the 21st century" and, as a result, "Mother Theresa may well be on the short list for being the first patron saint of emergence Christianity."


Duke Special - Freewheel.

Buried seed to broken bread

Researchers at the University of Warwick have devised a novel way to recycle discarded mobile telephones - bury them and watch them transform into the flower of your choice.

They have designed a mobile phone case made of biodegradable polymer which breaks down on the compost heap into a pile of soil nutrients. And then, because the engineers have included a tiny transparent window in the case in which they embed a seed, the final touch is that the case flowers.

The seed lies dormant in its plastic window until the phone cover gets dug into the ground. The phone cover then breaks down allowing the seed to germinate and, as the flower grows‚ to get additional nutrients from the biodegrading phone cover.

This story reminded me of Jesus’ words from today's Gospel reading: “a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.”

Just like the mobile phone case which is hard but biodegradable and which contains a seed, “a grain of wheat has a hard, glossy husk within which its life is contained. But if it falls into the ground, then its husk softens and rots and breaks open, and from inside the seed the power of its life begins to push outwards, and the pattern of its life begins to unfold. Roots go down into the soil, and a shoot comes up into the light where it grows stronger and taller and produces an ear of corn.”

Jesus equates that picture of the hard outer husk which has to rot to release the life inside to our choice in life to be either people who love our own lives or people who hate, lose or give away our lives. Those of us who love our own lives reinforce our hard, outer husk. We put up barriers between ourselves and others in order to protect and enjoy what we have for ourselves.

Jesus says that when we live life selfishly, protecting ourselves and what we have, then we have actually lost the essence of life itself. We are dead to the world, its peoples and its wonders because we engage with what is other not for its own sake but only for our sake. When we cannot appreciate other people and God’s creation except in terms of what we can get for ourselves then we are dead to the world and all that is in it. Not only are we dead to the world and all that is in it but we are sterile as well. If we live just for ourselves; if we give nothing away to others but keep all for ourselves; then everything we have dies with us and what we have had is lost forever.

But says Jesus, if we are like the grain of wheat that dies, then we will know what it is like to really come alive and really live. If we allow our protective shell to rot and be removed; if we are focused not on ourselves but on others; if we disregard our own life in this world and follow Jesus in serving others; then we gain, then we come alive, then we see a single grain of wheat multiply and produce many grains.

Stephen Verney points out that when a single grain of wheat produces an ear of corn “there are forty seeds where before there was only one. Next year if those forty seeds are all planted in good soil they will produce sixteen hundred seeds – in the third year sixty-four thousand – in the fourth year over two and a half million – and in the fifth year over a hundred million.” “Gradually out of one little seed,” he says, “there appears a harvest, which men and women reap and grind into flour and bake into bread. So it is that one seed has within it the capacity to feed a multitude of people – if it only first falls into the ground and dies.”

“And so it is,” Verney continues, “that Jesus offers bread to the whole world … He offers himself, his life, to come alive in hundreds and then in thousands and then in millions of others. But first he must die, and if his followers are going to pass on the life then they too will have to learn the pattern of life through death.”

If we are to be Jesus’ followers then we must follow him in the way of life through death which is the way of letting go and receiving back. Then we will share Jesus’ work and he will come alive in us as the seed comes alive in next year’s harvest and we will “be reaped, and ground into flour and baked in the oven, and become the bread which is broken for the world.”

Seeds are a good symbol of the way in which the good news of Jesus is shared. Our words and actions can be seeds in the lives of people who have yet to come to know Jesus for themselves as we share something of ourselves and our faith with them. In our Lent course at St John's Seven Kings this week we read this:

“our calling is to live and share the gospel of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ. We have good news for a hurting world – words of comfort; words of life. To help someone else experience the love of God is indeed an act of loving service, in a world where many people ‘live lives of quiet desperation’.”

Through our words and actions we can be like seeds in the lives of those in our family, our community, our networks and our work. To be a seed we have to become open and give that thing that is of most value in our lives to others; the life of Christ. Whether it is by practical actions or by giving a reason for the faith we have in us; we become seeds when we share the love of Christ where we are.

So, what seeds will we plant in the life of others during this coming week? What seeds can we plant in the lives of family, friends, neighbours, colleagues? Will we, in fact, live our lives as seeds giving ourselves and the love of Christ away to others each day of every week and thereby seeing the grain of wheat become an ear of corn and the corn become the bread broken for the life of the world.


Michael W. Smith & The African Children's Choir - Seed To Sow.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Prayer Vigil & Palm Sunday Procession

There are two events being planned for next weekend by folk at St John's Seven Kings which may be of interest.

The first is a Prayer Vigil for Sri Lanka which will be held at 7.30pm on Saturday 4th April. This Vigil is being organised at the request of our Tamil members and together with one of the Pastors from the Tamil Church in East London.

At least 300,000 Tamils are currently displaced in a tiny jungle area in the north of Sri Lanka, which is continuously being bombed and shelled by the Sri Lankan army and air force. More than 2,000 Tamils have been killed since the beginning of January, many of them children. During the Vigil we plan to provide information about the situation faced by civilians in the LTTE-controlled areas in the Wanni and to pray for a ceasefire and the unrestricted flow of food, medicine and international aid agencies into the conflict zone.

By organising this Prayer Vigil we wish to stand alongside our Tamil members and friends in their distress at what is occurring in their mother country. We cannot stand idly by while displaced people face death through conflict and lack of relief. Therefore, this Vigil is both to pray for and raise awareness of the urgent need for a ceasefire and for aid to be allowed into the region.

The second event is a shared Palm Sunday Service and Procession with St Paul's Goodmayes. The shared service will begin (9.45am for a 10.00am start) at St Paul’s with the opening section of our Palm Sunday liturgy. We will then process from St Paul’s to St John’s via Atholl Road, Woodward Recreation Ground and Meads Lane singing hymns as we go. We will stop in Woodward Recreation Ground to read the Gospel and bless palm crosses before completing the procession to St John’s where we will receive communion together.

We will be accompanied on the procession by a real donkey and are inviting children to dress up as disciples to accompany the donkey on the procession. We are also asking adults to bring greenery from their gardens to wave as we process. The original Palm Sunday featured a joyful procession as Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt and the people praised God and spread cloaks and palms on the ground. Our hope is that the service and procession will be a joyful celebration for us and a visible act of witness to our community.


Swarnalatha - Neeye Nirantharam.

Shared Faiths Response to the Credit Crunch (3)

Faiths in London’s Economy (FiLE) has facilitated a process for preparing a shared faiths response to the credit crunch which calls for: non-interest bearing transactions; mutual societies; business accountability to a wider range of stakeholders than shareholders alone; transparent and ethical business practices; and recognition of the role that artists and communities play in generating real wealth.

FiLE's 'Shared Faiths response to the Credit Crunch' can be read by clicking here.

The overall process that has produced this shared faiths response is one that has included people from the Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain and Jewish traditions in addition to representatives of faith-based and inter-faith organisations.

We hope that our modest efforts will be a small part of a much wider process of reflection and restructuring needed to genuinely respond to the issues raised by the credit crunch.

People of faith form a huge constituency, can motivate people to action and are also part of rooted communities which in some instances are beginning to plan for greater economic resilience.

As such, FiLE believes that people of faith should make their contribution to the current search for means of ameliorating the financial and environmental misery experienced around the world, in part because of the effects of the credit crunch.

Our wider hope is that London will lead in adaptations and changes to a restructuring of the global economy that will in future become focussed on a broader understanding of wealth than monetary gain and economic growth alone and do so in a way that maintains and develops it’s social, ethnic and faith diversity.

The 'Shared Faiths response to the Credit Crunch' originated in the ‘Ethics in a global economy’ seminar held at St Ethelberga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace and organised by FiLE in October 2008. A call for a shared faiths perspective on the credit crunch to be developed emerged clearly from the seminar and FiLE undertook to try to facilitate that process.

Two meetings to discuss a shared faiths response were held and two draft documents circulated to a group of interested people for comment. The overall process has included people from the Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain and Jewish traditions in addition to representatives of faith-based and inter-faith organisations. One organisation making specific contributions to the document was Green Equity.

FiLE aims to work with the range of faith communities across London in order to create coordinated faith-community responses to the issues facing London's economy.

As a new network, our first initiative has been to begin to map faith-based business organisations across London and to share the information we have found with others through listing faith-based business organisations and resources on our webpage at As this listing grows, it will offer employers and employees a one-stop shop for faith-based business organisations and resources available in London.

Secondly, as part of raising awareness and removing misconceptions about faith-based business initiatives, we have begun a seminar series on faith and workplace issues. This series began by considering ‘Ethics in a global economy’ in a seminar held at the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace on 29th October 2008.


Stacie Orrico - (There's Gotta Be) More To Life.

Friday, 27 March 2009

This week at the C4M webpage

This week on the commission4mission webpage we have featured the following stories:


The Innocence Mission - O Lord Of Light.

A Disappearance (4)


We see three of Danny's mates from the first scene in the pub walking towards his home.

FIRST MATE: I ain't seen 'im for two weeks now, like. Night 'e tried to get off wiv that bit of stuff wiv the orange 'air an' the ring in 'er nose. Remember 'er?

SECOND MATE: Too right! She looked down 'er nose at 'im an' told 'im to go fuck himself. Right shirty cow she was!

THIRD MATE: I told you then 'e was losing it. Turning all strange 'e was, like e'd lost it.

SECOND MATE: What you on about, you wanker.

THIRD MATE: I'm tellin' you, he'd lost it. You know, walk the walk, talk the talk.

SECOND MATE: You're off your 'ead, you are? I don't know what the fuck you're on about!

They reach the house, turn a key in the lock and continue their conversation as they climb the stairs.

FIRST MATE: I know what you mean, like. You fink about it, it was only a couple of days later that 'e lost 'is job. 'e'd been actin' strange for weeks an' then 'e gets 'isself sacked. I mean what was going on - 'e was the business in that job. There's no way 'e should ever 'ave lost it.

They reach Danny's flat and begin to look around. The flat is exactly as we saw it after the attempted rape. The bed is dishevelled, the crate on the floor surrounded by empty bottles.

They look into the living room, kitchen and bathroom. Danny is not there.

First mate returns to the bedroom and notices something by the bed. He bends down and picks up a postcard of a ravishing garden. He flips it over. On the reverse is written 'I have gone to prepare a place for you'. He flips it over his shoulder onto the floor where it lands reverse side up.

FIRST MATE: Well, 'e ain't 'ere. Don't reckon 'e can 'ave been for a week or so either. Let's go.

He bends down for a bottle from the crate, cracks it open and takes a swig. He exits swinging the door to behind him.

We see the credits begin to come up and hear 'Larry Norman's 97th Nightmare'

We hear the sound of their feet clattering downstairs at a gallop, the front door opening and closing, their chatter and shouts fading as they move off down the street, as we focus on the postcard lying ignored and misunderstood on the floor.


Larry Norman - Nightmare #97.

A crisis of life & faith (2)

As Western Christians have entered the twenty-first century we have faced a crisis of exilic proportions. Brueggemann argues that we are facing the end of our known world. His post-modernistic contention is that the Enlightenment resulted in a monopolistic concentration of power in a white, Western, male world and in dominating models of economic, political and technological control. Consumer capitalism is the result. This power and these controls are now being judged and transformed by the rise of Third World nations, the emergence of Islam and a variety of liberation movements. We are witnessing the end of modernity and scientific positivism and with it “the end of Enlightenment modes of certitude and certain patterns of political domination”.

Lesslie Newbigin has argued that post-Enlightenment thought made a distinction between the public world of certifiable facts and the private world of personal values where pluralism reigns and people are free to follow their preferences. Religion, including Christianity, has been consigned to the private world of values and has not been granted a public hearing, as it is not objectively verifiable. Newbigin argues that “Christianity in its Protestant form has largely accepted relegation to the private sector” in order that it can believe and do what it chooses (and within this sphere can experience growth) but that, by doing so, it has surrendered the crucial field, the claim that Jesus Christ is Lord of the whole world.

As a result, an increasing process of secularization has occurred within the West with Christianity being dethroned from the dominant position that it held at the end of the Medieval period. In Christendom, the Church was the Empire. Church and State were fundamentally merged. From Constantine to the end of the Medieval period, Christendom was the paradigm in which the Church operated. From the Reformation through the Enlightenment to Modernism, Christendom came under increasing threat. It has been gradually dismantled both by movements within the Church (precipitated by the Reformation and the beginning of churches within the Church) and those outside (such as the split between public and private worlds noted by Newbigin). Enlightenment thinking questioned the historical validity of central Christian doctrines, developed alternative ‘scientifically verifiable’ means of explaining the origins of species, positioned Government as the central means of meeting social/welfare needs, and created a consumer culture of aspiration and progress. The result is that for many in the West “God is dead”, “Man has come of age” and Christianity is dead in the water.

Despite this, Brueggemann believes that the Church has bought heavily into Enlightenment thinking. He argues that, “Rational theological method has led to a tight system of certitude that purports to be absolute” and that “Historical criticism has sought validation in facticity behind the text”. Perhaps in these ways the Church has been fighting for the public platform, that Newbigin believes it has abdicated, but fighting on the terms of the dominant culture. Brueggemann sees the Church as emmeshed in this dominant culture and as fatigued and close to despair.

In terms of how the Church feels, these views may not be so dissimilar and there are similarities in that each are concerned with monopolies of power. From each perspective, the world the Church confronts internally and externally is one of pluralism and post modernism and, essentially, we don’t know how to react. We are at a point where “What had once been clear simply was not clear any more”. John Drane has commented on the Church of England, “It’s almost as if we know that we can’t bring Christendom back, but we can’t think of any other model on which we can be Christian – so better to pretend that we’re not really too Christian anyway”. As Church, we face the joint ending of two major systems of thought and power within Western culture. Mark Heard, in describing our predicament, claims that if God is generally believed to be dead then we are, and behave as, the orphans of God:

“Like bees in a bottle we are flying at fate,
beating our wings against the walls of this place.
Unaware that the struggle is the blood of the proof,
in choosing to believe the unbelievable truth.
They have captured our siblings and rendered them mute.
They’ve disputed our lineage and poisoned our roots.
We have bought from the brokers who have broken their oaths,
and we’re out in the streets with a lump in our throats.

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod.
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God.”


Mark Heard - Treasure Of The Broken Land.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Disappearance (3)


We see from above, Danny asleep in a tangle of sheets and blankets. His alarm clock sounds and he reaches out, turns it off and continues to sleep.

Time passes. He wakes bleary eyed and looks at the time.


He leaps out of bed, into his clothes and is out the door running. We see a bus by the stop and a queue getting on. As Danny gets close the bus moves away. He redoubles his efforts and jumps onto the tailboard clutching the pole to steady himself.

The bus moves on but quickly joins a queue. We see Danny continuously glancing out of the side and central windows. We can see now that there are road works and filter lights. Finally, the bus is through and we see that we have returned to the area of the first scene.

The bus, in the middle lane of traffic, stops at traffic lights. Danny is up and off the back. He dodges cars and reaches the pavement running. As he runs he glances at his watch.

DANNY: Forty minutes late. Pressman will have my guts for garters!

As he turns into the factory gates his legs disappear from under him and he sprawls onto paving slabs. As he looks up from the pavement he sees his Supervisor get up from his position at the office window and run to bolt the main doors on him like a leper. He hears his dismissal shouted at him through the letterbox.

SUPERVISOR: Sparkes, you're sacked.

An envelope is pushed through the main letterbox and falls to the ground.

SUPERVISOR: That's what you're owned, now get out of here and don't come back!

Danny fumes in his helpless condition - he beats at the ground in rage - and his frustration and anger keep him in full view of the prying eyes at the factory windows. It takes a full hour for him to regain his composure - we flit from shot to shot of his lying in humiliation and the eyes at the factory windows that stare with aweful fascination then gradually drift or are ordered away.
Danny feels as though the whole world, perhaps through some satellite transmission, has just witnessed his humiliation. The general desire of just about everyone who lived around here, in him had become a fervent wish, "We gotta get outta this place".

Eventually, he becomes sufficiently calm that he can use his relaxation technique and recover his legs. He picks himself up and dusts himself down, retrieves the money and leaves.

We follow him into an Off Licence. He counts out the money and leaves with a crate of booze. He hails a taxi which deposits him at his flat. The crate is carried to his bedroom. He collapses onto the bed and begins to methodically down bottle after bottle.

Brian Kennedy's 'He talks like Traffic' plays as we quickly cut from shot to shot of Danny's mammoth drinking session - we see him pacing the floor, laid out on the bed, staring out of the window, striking his fists and leaning against the wall - all the time murmuring to himself. He is well advanced when the door bell rings. The ringing takes time to register but whoever it is persists.

DANNY: Sod off, sod off, sod off.

He reels to the window, opens it and leans out rather far. He looks down but cannot see who is in the doorwell.

DANNY: Fuck off, can't you. Go a fuckin' way. I'm not well, not in. Don't want you round. Away, away and go.

The ringing continues. He reels to the door ready to give whoever a piece of his mind. It is the brown eyed woman.

WOMAN: I've been trying to find out if you were alright. I didn't know where you lived. The hospital wouldn't give me an address or tell me anything. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.

Danny's blurred thoughts turn to human contact and the release of his frustrations.

DANNY: There ... is something, yes. Something that will help. I need help, yes. Need help now. You see, not well, not well.

WOMAN: Then I'll come in?

DANNY: Yes. Come in? Yes. You are most welcome. Most welcome indeed.

The woman walks past Danny and up the narrow staircase to his upstairs flat. He follows behind, his eyes focusing on her rear as she ascends ahead of him.

Almost before they are in his room and the door closes behind him he is ripping at her clothes, tearing at her knickers, scoring her pale bum with his fingernails. For a moment she breaks free from his grasp but there is nowhere to run and he forces her body onto the bed pushing her down with his bulk. One hand chokes her screams and the other fumbles with his zip, tugs at his pants and discovers that where there should have been a penis erect for action there is no penis at all.

Danny flips. He goes into overdrive and begins to run around the room like a decapitated chicken. He makes about four circuits before his legs vanish too. He lies where he falls and sobs into the floorboards.

As she hears Danny's despair the woman stops her own tears. She possesses a quality of compassion that disciplines her natural fear and hatred of the attempted act. It was this same depth of character had drawn her to him in the street when no one else would offer help. It now helps her up from the bed where she had been so rudely placed and sends her across the floor to gather Danny in her arms as a mother would a child and to mingle her tears with his grief. When their sorrow is exhausted they sleep.

With the first fading of the day's light the woman wakes gently and quietly makes Danny comfortable putting a pillow under his head and spreading a blanket over his body. She dresses herself quickly and before leaving scribbles a note on a postcard which she leaves on the floor by the still sleeping man.


The Animals - We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place.

A crisis of life & faith (1)

The twenty-first century and the Exile are separate horizons. However the goal of biblical hermeneutics is to bridge the gulf between such horizons. To do this it is necessary to understand both horizons in their own right before seeking to apply lessons learned in one to the other. Walter Brueggemann is one Biblical scholar providing avenues into understanding the Exile horizon that also have resonances for this century.

The Exile had several phases. In 721 BC the Assyrians conquered the Northern Israelite kingdom. Assyrian policy was to stamp out national identities by mixing up populations. Therefore the 10 tribes of that Kingdom disappeared. The Southern kingdom, Judah, was not conquered until 597. By this time the dominant power was Babylon, whose policy was deportation. First, in 597 when Jerusalem was captured, the leading citizens were taken to Babylon. Then, in 587 when, following an abortive revolt, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, all but the poorest were taken. These exiles were allowed to retain their national identity and live together in community.

Brueggemann views 587 as a pivotal date. The crisis of life occurred when public life in Judah came to an end but this was not the heart of the matter. Instead, 587 is a “way of speaking about the end of any known world” for the Israelites. This is the crisis of faith, not simply defeat in war and separation from homeland but the loss of every reference point that explained who they were as a people and the failure of their God to protect them.

The Israelite normative testimony was that they were a people chosen out of all the nations - chosen indeed before they were a nation - to be in a special relationship with the one true God who created, sustained and controlled the cosmos. This testimony developed as God made covenants about their land, city, and kings. Each were lost as a result of the Exile and, therefore, this normative testimony was fundamentally threatened.

The Exile was a crisis but was it one in which Israel let go of the old world of King and temple? The fact of exile seemed to force them in this direction. Both their Kings, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, were imprisoned in Babylon while in Judah, Jerusalem and their temple had been destroyed. Very little of their old world was left to them. They reacted, or were asked by God to react, in a variety of ways:

i. Reflection: David Sceats has argued that “all the evidence points to the fact that the Old Testament came into existence in substantially its present form in and immediately after this period of defeat, exile and religious disintegration”. The purpose of both collating and organising older material and writing new material, was reflection. Those who put together the Old Testament in this way were reflecting on Israel’s past to “remind the nation of its identity, to help it understand its place in God’s purposes, and its responsibility as the covenant people, and, above all, to remember the universal claims of Yahweh, and his authority over all nations, including Babylon”. Reflection is a theme that permeates the Bible as a whole. God condemns the Israelites pre-exile precisely because they do not reflect on the life that they lead. The book of Isaiah begins with the statement that his people do not consider. Likewise, the Deuteronomists recognized this as a characteristic of Israel throughout their history. In compiling the Old Testament, the theologians of the exile engaged in an act of reflection and remembering that had fundamental consequences for Israel.

ii. Re-interpretation: Sceats argues that this act of reflection was not simply about remembering but also about reinterpretation. God was, through the exile, revealing himself in a new way and therefore, in organising the religious literature of Israel, it was also necessary to reinterpret that literature “in such a way as make religious sense of the crisis of faith it had gone through”. Three key features of their re-interpretation were:
  • Assimilation: Jeremiah wrote to the first wave of exiles encouraging them to settle in Babylon. This was a clear call to leave the old world behind. Jeremiah is clear in his letter, however, that assimilation is merely a temporary necessity not a long-term career plan. After 70 years God will bring the people back from captivity. It is also clear from the story of Daniel that assimilation did not mean assimilation to the religion of Babylon. This would have been to repeat another of the key failures that had resulted in exile, as those reflecting on the lessons of exile were discovering. Instead, as with the story of Joseph, assimilation meant being in the world of the Exile but not of it. It meant serving Babylon loyally but not compromising their relationship with God and using whatever position they gained to also serve their people and God’s purposes. In this way, though they were leaving the world of the kings, of Jerusalem and of the temple, they were not leaving the fundamental relationship between God and his people out of which the newer world of King, city and temple had grown. In the stories of Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah we have examples of Israelites who lived out this balance.
  • Voicing hurt: Pain was a fundamental experience of exile and one that was felt individually and corporately. Jeremiah is an example of an individual experiencing both the pain of the community in exile and the pain of God at the unfaithfulness of the community. In the process Jeremiah voices complaints about his personal situation direct to God in a way that draws on other examples from earlier in the Old Testament – including Abraham, Jacob and Moses – who argue or wrestle or debate with God. Brueggemann identifies this strand within the Old Testament as counter-testimony to the normative testimony of Israel and puts forward the argument that the defining characteristic of the Old Testament is a dialectic between hurt and hope. God responds to voiced hurt and wants to draw Israel into an intimate relationship with him in which the counter-testimony becomes normative. In which Israel debates, argues and complains with him out of faith and commitment, as did Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Jeremiah. In which Israel understands God’s heart - his responsiveness to the hurt of human beings and his grief over rebellion – and acts as God’s hands and feet within the world. It is this intimate relationship that Israel continually rejects throughout her history wanting to encounter God through intermediaries - leaders, kings, rituals, even the normative testimony - anything (including syncretism) other than the direct encounter which would compel them to become a nation of Jeremiahs. It is this understanding of God and God’s people that leads to the servant songs in the book of Isaiah. Songs which characterize the normative life of the servant as suffering in order that others can be saved.
  • Articulating hope: Brueggemann’s thesis is that hope derives from hurt because God hears and responds to the people’s cries of pain. He argues that “both complaint about hurt and promise of hope are acts of rigorous criticism of every present”. The present is protested because it generates hurt and it is less desirable and faithful than what is promised in the theological tradition. This gap between the promise and the present identified because of hurt enables imaginative projections about the future on the basis of the tradition. The result is that God’s new acts for the future are understood in terms of his acts in the past. The new world is envisioned in terms of the old - exodus, covenant, land, King and city - but the theologian’s fresh experience of suffering has re-awakened an understanding of Israel as a community whose life is a sign of the love that the universal God has for both the nations and each suffering individual.


M. Ward - Requiem.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Windows on the world (46)

Worth, 2008

Buddy & Julie Miller - Gasoline & Matches.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Windows on the world - Bletchley Park


Edward Elgar - Enigma Variations.

A Disappearance (2)


We see the moving belt of a production line, from above, and the hands of the packers stretching in and out rhythmically to grasp the completed product. A white jacketed Supervisor moves down the line peering into boxes, counting products and checking times on a watch. We see him arrive by Danny.

Danny is a blur of activity. His concentration is total.

SUPERVISOR: Time is boxes, boxes is money and money is wages. Keep at it Danny, my boy, an' your bonus is assured.

The Supervisor moves on and Danny continues his smooth, practised actions. We focus on his arms and hands as they stretch and snatch. Suddenly, his hands disappear. Danny stops and glances quickly around him. No one has noticed. He crosses his arms on his chest as though hugging himself and sidles quietly backwards away from the line. Keeping his arms as hidden as he can manage he moves to and through a door labelled 'Tea Room'.

Behind him we see the Supervisor look up, note his absence and then follow to the Tea Room door. Together with the Supervisor we look surreptitiously through the small window in the door.

Danny sits with a straight back, both feet on the ground and his eyes closed. His arms lie loosely in his lap but there is an absence where his hands should be. He is breathing deeply, slowly and rhythmically - in, out, in, out, in, out. As he, over time, relaxes we see the faint outline of his hands return and gradually clarify.

When his hands have fully returned he takes a notebook and pen from his pocket.

DANNY: Four minutes, twenty seconds. I'm improving. That's one minute, six seconds better than last time.

We see over his shoulder. There are five entries in the notebook.

DANNY: Right, better make it look as though I've had a break.

He gets up and crosses to the sink. Takes a mug from the cupboard over the sink, rinses it and leaves it to dry on the draining board. He walks out of the door.


Charlie Chaplin - Modern Times.

Friday, 20 March 2009

A Disappearance (1)

“Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.”
(John Donne, ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’)


A busy, noisy East End pub full of lunchtime sights and sounds -jukebox vibrating with Morrissey's 'Spring Heeled Jim', the clink of shot pool balls, numbered meals being called and the clamour of countless shouted conversations.

We focus on Danny seated in the round with his mates downing his pint. We hear the noise of their conversation and laughter without being able to identify any specifics.

Danny is a full head of steam, flash of greased lightening, hit the ground running kind of guy. He is fast, fleet, fly, up to speed. In his work, as a packer, he prides himself on earning the highest bonuses. In any relationship he makes the running. A hustler who forces the pace he has to be given his head. He rides a Harley, not as a purist, but simply to get a ton up. He is one of thousands, puffed up and preening in their macho struttings, little red roosters all.

We see Danny miming to the Morrissey vocal while his mates mime the speaking parts. In the style of a pop video we cut quickly to a series of scenes of the group at the pub at different times of day - arriving on their bikes, girlfriends riding behind - at the pool table - playing darts - dancing on a disco night - ogling a stripper. In each scene Danny is central and miming to the song.

As the song ends we return to the group in the pub, in the round, at lunchtime. We follow Danny's gaze as he scans his mates. He leans back on his chair - hands behind his head, perfectly content - and as he does so he glimpses the clock above the bar.

DANNY: Shit! I'm gonna be late again.

He graps his jacket, vaults across the lap of one of his mates, stops and reaches back to drain the dregs of his pint and vanishes out the pub door. We see him running down the street at high speed before turning a corner.

We catch up with him and view him from the side, his full profile framed, as he weaves in and out of the crowd. His face is flushed. He is clearly running at full pelt.

Suddenly, as he runs his feet disappear from under him. His momentum, for a second, carries him further forward before he falls. We see him sprawl, landing on one knee and flipping onto his back.

Through his eyes we see him grasp his knee with his hands and pull it towards his chest. We can see clearly that there is no foot at the end of his leg. A disbelieving, pained cry escapes from his lips. He pulls himself into a foetal position on his side but with legs extended so that he can see what appears to be his legs petering into nothing. His body jerks in an involuntary grimace as he attempts to physically remove himself from the horror. His legs drag after him and he finds himself unable to stand. He violently turns himself onto his front and is promptly sick. Not caring, he buries his head in his arms and lies prone, his vomit on his arms and in his hair. His mind fills with the picture of the void that had been his feet. He lies numb, his eyes closed shutting out all sight of the incomprehensible reality.

We hear the sounds of a crowd gathering - running footsteps, gasps, "over 'ere, look over 'ere", "don't believe it!", "'e 'ad a fit or what?". Danny glances up, sees a ring of various feet and legs and buries his head back in his arms. He begins to cry.

The sound of his tears is joined by the sobs of another. Someone has come from the crowd and joined him on the pavement. We see long auburn hair covering his face. A woman is bending over him, her dark hair shadowing the pale oval of his face. She has her hand under his arm, embracing him - her face against his - and weeping with him.

We begin to hear an ambulance siren sound in the distance. The sound grows in volume as we watch the woman cradle Danny's face. We hear the ambulance come to a rapid halt and the paramedics leap into action. The crowds part and a gleaming steel stretcher is wheeled alongside Danny.

Danny feels his nostrils twitch as they are teased by strands of hair. He opens his eyes and looks directly into the dark depths of her mahogany eyes wet with compassionate tears. It is a moment sensual with the naturalness of naked concern and restores hope to him.

Two paramedics tread on their poignancy. They hastily check him over for other injuries, lift him onto the stretcher and bundle him into an ambulance that seems to be pulling away even as they slide him in. The siren whirrs like the sound of a helicopter starting up.

Once inside the paramedics cannot not bear to watch a sight that confounds and confuses their knowledge of injury and they quickly cover his legs with a blanket and mutter platitudes to him. Arriving at the hospital they hurriedly wheel him down corridors, clearing patients and visitors out of the way before he is brought through into a private room.

A semi-circle of doctors lean menacingly forward to examine the areas of loss and stark-stare astonished before hurriedly anaesthetizing him. His vision blurs and fades.

He wakes in panic, thrashing his body about on the bed, hands covering his face.

DANNY: Gone, gone. My feet. Vanished. Where? Gone.

A nurse enters his private room, leans backwards out the doorway and calls for the doctor. The doctor arrives rapidly and comes in speaking efficient calmness.

DOCTOR: Now, Mr Sparkes, I'm glad to see you've come round. I can see you're disturbed but let's try to calm down, shall we? Let's try to talk things through rationally, shall we?

When Danny continues thrashing, moaning and begins to open his mouth to protest the sheets are dramatically thrown back and there are his feet, laughing at him as he moves them to and fro to try them out. On his face we see panic turn to amazement. They are undoubtably his feet. He examines them - there is the mole on the side of his right foot. That certainly belongs to him. He smells them - they even smell like his feet.

DANNY: What have you done? Have you sewn them back on?

He looks again - there are no stitch marks that he can see. Suddenly, relief and delight flood his face. He leaps off the bed and begins to dance. As his feet hit the floor and hold his body firm we distinctly here sighs of relief slip from the lips of doctor and nurse. Danny dances over to his shoes and while hopping slips them on. Then he skedaddles from the room. We see him from behind as he runs down the corridor. Before he reaches the end and turns the corner he leaps and punches the air.


Morrissey - Spring Heeled Jim.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

commission4mission members & news

Peter Shorer
Harvey Bradley

Rosalind Hore

Joy Rousell Stone

Michael Creasey
commission4mission is growing following our launch at the beginning of March. Our artist members who are available for commissions are as follows:
  • Harvey Bradley: My creative work includes: Stoneware and Porcelain pottery (domestic with ecclesiastical commissions); Oil Paintings (reflective, figurative subjects that are open to prayerful interpretation); and Designs for banners (carried out by Emmanuel banner group).
  • Alexander Chaplin has been appointed Music Director of East London Chorus from April 2009. Educated as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, he held the organ scholarships at Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Music, before studying conducting and organ at the Royal College of Music under Neil Thomson, Edwin Roxburgh and Nicholas Danby; he participated in masterclasses with George Hurst, Paul Goodwin and Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies. He graduated from the RCM with distinction and as a major prize-winner. In February 2008 Alexander was invited to participate in a competitive masterclass in St Petersburg with Alexander Polishchuk, from which he emerged as one of the prizewinning conductors.
  • Anne Creasey: Textile artist and embroider working in a variety of styles from traditional to abstract and experimental. Also very interested in helping people discover their spirituality through the creative process.
  • Michael Creasey: A serious amateur painter who has sold a good amount of work over the years, including a number of commissions. I am not especially a religious painter, as I mainly paint portraits and figure studies, but I do also paint abstract works which tap into emotional and spiritual aspects of my life and reflect my Christianity.
  • Jonathan Evens paints in a symbolic expressionist style and has facilitated the involvement of churches in a range of public art projects. His arts journalism has featured in publications including 'Art & Christianity' and 'The Church Times'. He is also a creative writer (meditations, poetry, short stories, and a blog) and is the Vicar of St John the Evangelist Seven Kings. Jonathan is the Secretary for commission4mission.
  • David Hawkins: The Bishop of Barking is the Patron of commission4mission and a practising artist in his own right. Predominantly a landscape painter, he has also participated in a collaborative art project with Pippa Hale and Stuart Tarbuck for Situation Leeds. Mene Mene located 13 New Testament texts around Leeds city centre in a variety of formats from high profile banners and adverts on bus shelters, to more intimate plaques on benches and handwritten signs. Some were affirming and instructive, whilst others were more predictive and challenging.
  • Rosalind Hore: I am a sculptor and painter of Christian subject – Christ figures, nativity sets, Ecce Homo, Stations of the Cross etc. I work in clay, plaster, concrete (figures can also be bronze cast at the foundry). My paintings are mostly in acrylic of the events in the life of Christ. Rosalind’s Pieta is currently on display at St Laurence’s Upminster.
  • Mark Lewis: Mark is an artist, silversmith, Arts Lecturer at London Metropolitan University and Chair of Faith & Image. He has undertaken drawing and painting in a Christian context and has designed and made Church plate.
  • Henry Shelton is a noted painter of religious art in a contemporary style. He trained as an apprentice draughtsman in a London studio developing his drawing skills in lettering and fine art. After 15 years he set up his own studio receiving many commissions to design for such clients as the Science Museum, Borough Councils, private and corporate bodies. In recent years he has worked designing in studios across the world, including Hong Kong and the USA. Throughout this time he has painted Christian art and his commissions include an Ascension installed as an Altar piece in the Church of the Saviour, Chell Heath; the Millennium clock tower in Goodmayes and, most recently, the memorial etched glass windows in All Saints Church, Goodmayes, depicting events in the life of Jesus. Henry is the Chair of commission4mission.
  • Peter Shorer: Museum trained Conservator and Archeologist commissioned to mould original antiquities for reproduction in bronze, gold, silver and pewter.
  • Joy Rousell Stone: Studied under John Nash, Edward Bawden, Stanley Spencer, Edward Ardizzone at Royal College of Art. Many one man shows. Favourite subject matters: The Holy Land, Egypt, Greece, Italy (especially Assisi) and USA. All media. Retired Head of Art & Design at The Plume School, Maldon, Essex.
  • Martin Webster: I am interested in promoting Christian Art as a form of engaging with the gospel. I paint (oils and acrylics) particularly 'sacred spaces' usually forest/landscape views.

We are currently planning towards the following events:

  • Four commission4mission members will exhibit in the Pentecost Festival Art Exhibition (30th May at Central Hall Westminster).
  • An art workshop for the 'Fun in the Park' event being organised by Holy Trinity Barkingside on Saturday 13th June 2009. Workshop participants will be asked to create an artwork that says something about themselves. These will be hung on a large wooden cross which will be displayed at Holy Trinity Barkingside after the event.
  • An invitation to exhibit at All Saints West Ham for the West Ham Festival from 20th - 27th June 2009.
  • A concert given by the East London Chorus conducted by Alexander Chaplin at All Saints' Goodmayes on 17th October 2009. Artworks by commission4mission members will also be on display.
  • exhibition (2nd - 7th November) and Study Day (7th November) featuring the Bishop of Barking, Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral, DAC Chair and commission4mission artists at Chelmsford Cathedral.
We have recently been awarded a grant by the London Over The Border Council to produce a catalogue of commission4mission artists and activities to encourage Churches to commission contemporary Christian Art.
We have also been contacted by Wallspace, a gallery based in All Hallows on the Wall, as part of promoting networks and partnerships exploring the relationship between contemporary art and spirituality.
We have recently set up a website for commission4mission which can be viewed by clicking here.
Maurice Durufle - Requiem, Op. 9, Agnus Dei.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Temples of the Holy Spirit

In John 2. 13-22 Jesus cleanses the Temple but then says that the new Temple is his body which is shortly to die and be raised to life again after three days.

The physical Temple was destroyed in AD70 by the Romans, as Jesus had prophesied, and this left Jews and Christians with a dilemma; where to worship now the focus of worship had been removed. Jews solved this problem by making synagogues the heart of Judaism while Christians understood that, as the church is the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in us, as in Jesus’ physical body, and so we too are temples of the Holy Spirit.

We see this teaching worked out and applied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. 13b – 20 where he ends by saying: “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.”

If we are now God’s temple because he lives in us by his Holy Spirit, then says Paul, there is another cleansing that needs to go on. Our bodies, our lives need to be made into a fit dwelling place for the Spirit of God. Our lives need to become houses of prayer not a den of thieves and that means that they need to be cleansed of all that is wrong, sinful or unholy and used for the glory of God.

Lent is an opportunity for us to reflect both on the wonderful privilege of being a body, a life, a person where God lives by his Spirit and a time for reflecting on the tremendous responsibility of being a temple of the Holy Spirit.

In what ways do our lives need cleansing? Do our lives resemble a ‘market place’ or a ‘house of prayer’? Can we use Lent as a time to give our temple of God’s Spirit a full and proper spring clean driving out by prayer and fasting all that is sinful in our lives and committing ourselves to hallowing our lives through prayer and sacrifice as we follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.”


Michelle Shocked - Quality of Mercy.

TASK Newsletter No. 14

Welcome to our latest TASK e-newsletter as the sun shines and we move towards spring. As ever, there is a huge amount going on so please read this as a thank you to all our volunteers, and as a set of summary headlines.

Seven Kings Library

This was undoubtedly our big campaign of 2008, and efforts continue to develop permanent library provision in the area, as demanded by residents from all parts of the community. Meanwhile, though, we are generating valuable additional outreach services for local people, to include a 'beefed up' mobile service and regular family reading events at St. John's Church.

A regular programme of children's Storytelling sessions is now happening at St John's Seven Kings on a monthly basis. Future dates include Friday 13th March; Wednesday 1st April; Friday 24th April; Wednesday 13th May; Friday 5th June; Wednesday 24th June; Friday 17th July; Wednesday 5th August; Friday 28th August; Wednesday 16th September; Friday 9th October; Wednesday 28th October; Friday 20th November; and Wednesday 9th December. The times of these Storytelling sessions will be: Fridays - 11.30am to 12pm; and Wednesdays - 2.00-2.30pm.

A book group is also being started. Intended as quite a casual set up, without set questions or structured feedback and just an open ended discussion about how each person responded to the book. It will meet about four times a year and the first book to be discussed will be Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet. The group will meet to discuss this book on Thursday 23rd April at 8pm. The venue is to be confirmed but will probably be at St John's. The group is open to anyone who wants to come along and for more details, contact Huw Jacob on:

The next Library Services Coffee morning at St John's is being planned for 11.00am on Wednesday 8th April and will feature a talk on gardening by Nick Dobson. Finally, for the moment, an Evening of Poetry featuring Tim Cunningham and Naomi Foyle will be happening on Monday 27th April at 7.00pm at St John's as part of the Redbridge Book and Media Festival. Tickets are just £2.

Money for Westwood Recreation Ground

Good news- funding has been secured by the Council to allow for an upgrade to play facilities at Westwood Recreation Ground, on Meads Lane. The sum, thought to be around £60 000, will allow for an upgrade to the old school style play equipment, and officers are consulting with the community on how it might best be spent.

TASK have offered some opening thoughts on the desirability of imaginative free style play kit, maybe using the same kind of interesting and stylish designs now being installed at Valentines Park, and suggested leisure staff talk first to the young audience - and their families - who we hope will make good use of it.

The hope is that consultation can happen fast over the spring, allowing action in time for this summer's peak use season. If you have any thoughts on this development, do please address them direct to Leisure Officer, Edward Smith, at, or by phone to 020 8 708 3745, mentioning you are responding to a call for input from TASK.

As we go to press, we have also just heard that there will be a public consultation meeting on Thursday March 26th, starting at 7pm at Farnham Green School. All local residents are welcome so do please let your family, friends and neighbours - and their kids - know so the borough can benefit from the widest possible pool of ideas.

(Yet) more consultation on the Roman Road

It seems like public authorities love to consult more and more often, and having made some input in January to a group looking at the design of urban high streets on behalf of London Mayor, Boris Johnson, we are now giving feedback on a much more specific project aimed at regenerating the Roman Road- basically the road out of Ilford to Romford, covering the entirety of run down Seven Kings High Road. The local press have made much of this new action plan, and we are hopeful too that with political will and funding support, real advances can be made.

Our initial points are summarised below:
  • although we are committed to consultation and action for change, the creation of Action Plans that don't result in action does over time lead to the building up of cynicism amongst local people;
  • local people strongly associate with the High Road but think it has been run down over generations;
  • currently it has a limited and inadequate shopping base dominated by too many takeaways;
  • a mixed economy is needed along the High Road; we need a greater variety of retail outlets and community facilities/organisations with a new local library as the major priority;
  • introducing this mixed economy may involve changing usage in some instances to enable community services to be delivered from what are currently retail outlets and/or using existing community building (such as schools and faith community buildings) for the delivery of local community services;
  • new developments should be high quality which includes environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing;
  • equivalent parking to that which is currently available should be delivered in new developments in order to sustain business levels for local traders;
  • encouraging walking and use of bikes will be best achieved by locating community facilities locally. When libraries and post offices are more than one mile away most people will use cars to get to them; locate these and other community facilities locally and many more people will walk/cycle;
  • attention should be paid to enhancing local heritage, where it exists, and enhancing awareness of that heritage. Public art could play a part in doing so;
  • the area looks generally run down and needs: better street cleaning; trees/flower displays; enhancing of shop frontages; aesthetic new developments; and public art;
  • the area in front of Seven Kings station is dangerous because it is used as a cut through; pedestriansing the area would be an option;
  • although the railway is a major barrier, there would be little benefit to building more pedestrian crossings over the railway. Attention should be paid to traffic congestion caused by limited road crossings over the railway.
Special thanks are due to Jonathan Evens for setting things up and taking a bold lead on this project.

Blood and guts on Cambridge Road

Residents on Cambridge Road have been having a tough time recently, with a spate of violent incidents, racist taunting and anti-social behaviour coming from tenants of two rented houses on the street. Despairing residents contacted local councillors and TASK, who, after hours of feverish email exchanges with cabinet member Cllr Vanessa Cole, council staff and the local safer neighbourhoods police team managed to get the tenants moved on. Overall, it was a good team effort that worked on this occasion, but not before time, and with some evident service lapses we need to learn from. The real worry is that these tenants will simply be shuffled to a new location, possibly even locally, where they will reproduce the violence and mayhem once again. This cannot happen and TASK hope that we can all learn lessons, and develop practical strategies and actions, that allow other residents in other streets to benefit from much more rapid responses to displace this kind of offensive behaviour.

It is an issue that is bound to come up at our next Area 5 meeting at 7.15pm on Monday 23 March, at Barley Lane School, which majors on crime and policing. All major players will be there and it really has never been more important to come along.

Next walkabout date

The next community walkabout is scheduled to happen on Friday April 24 starting at 0900 from outside Goodmayes station heading towards Seven Kings station. It is designed to get local residents to join council officers, the police and councillors to pick up on, and immediately address, irksome streetscape issues like dumping, graffiti, public drinking, vandalism, highways, planning and licensing breaches. This time round rail operator national express will also be taking part, and can update us on what is happening at and around our station, the subject of radical and much needed upgrade throughout 2008.

Area 5 festival

Plans continue to develop a small community event at Barley Lane Recreation Ground this summer ahead of a much bigger festival idea for 2010 and a dedicated working group now meets regularly on this to work up a programme and schedule. Already confirmed are martial arts displays, dancing, community group stalls and sale of allotment products. With scope for lots more to happen.The hope is that this will run on Sunday September 20 from noon until 5pm The next working group meeting is on Wednesday April 1 at 7pm. The venue is Barley Lane Primary School.

Redbridge Green Fair is on Sunday 24 May

The biannual Redbridge green fair has now been running for the best part of 20 years and comes around again over the late May Bank Holiday weekend when Melbourne Fields - at Valentines Park - is appropriated for one day only as a giant community and environmental festival space. Its always an inspirational event, with live music, a solar powered cinema, brilliant food outlets and lots of community information and stalls. TASK are hoping to be one of the exhibitors and need volunteers to run our stall across the day. Please contact Chris at chrisconnelley@ntlworld to find out more and/or offer time.

That is it for now. Expect more soon. And do please share your news and stories with us at or


Over the Rhine - The World Can Wait.