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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Windows on the world (92)

Birmingham, 2010

Emmylou Harris & Daniel Lanois - Every Grain of Sand.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Community Events for Seven Kings

These are some of the Community Events which are coming up shortly for Seven Kings:

  • Seven Kings Storytelling: A Redbridge Library Services event for World Book Day - Wednesday 3rd March, 2.00 - 2.30pm, St John's Seven Kings, St John's Road, Seven Kings IG2 7BB. Future storytelling sessions dates at St John's Seven Kings are: Wednesday 17th March (2.00pm); Friday 23rd April (11.30am); Wednesday 12th May (2.00pm); Friday 4th June (11.30am); Wednesday 23rd June (2.00pm); Friday 16th July (11.30am).
  • Community Audit of Aldborough Road South - A community walkabout to identify improvements to Aldborough Road South which will make it a safer, more attractive and enjoyable street where people want to walk. We will meet at 11.00am on Saturday 6th March at the junction of Cameron Road and Aldborough Road South. This walkabout has been organised by the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident's Association and the Living Streets 'Fitter for Walking' project (
  • Raising the Roof: A 20th Anniversary Concert by the Meljon Singers ( followed by a buffet supper. Saturday 20th March, 7.30pm, St John's Seven Kings. Tickets are £5.00 from the Church Office (Mon-Fri, 10.00am - 12 noon).
  • Palm Sunday procession - To celebrate Palm Sunday, the congregations of St John's Seven Kings and St Paul's Goodmayes will process with a donkey from St John's to St Paul's stopping in Westwood Recreation Ground to bless palm crosses and read the Gospel on Sunday 28th March. The service (which includes the procession) will begin at 10.00am at St John's Seven Kings.
  • St John's Book Group - The next meeting of the book group will be on Thursday 22nd April at 8pm in the Upper Room of St John's Seven Kings. The group will be talking about "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga which is a novel of the darker side of modern India told in the form of letters written to the Chinese premier. If you want to know anymore about the group please contact to Huw Jacob on


After The Fire - Der Kommissar.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Cross Purposes

The Cross Purposes exhibition at Mascalls Gallery in Kent and then in June at Ben Uri examines how and why artists of different religions, or of none, use the crucifixion as a central motif in modern and contemporary practice.

Only five miles away from Mascalls Gallery is one of the UK’s finest examples of religious art and a moving example of the crucifixion as a 'conduit' for a very personal tragedy. The church in Tudeley is renowned internationally as the only church to have all its windows decorated by Marc Chagall which fulfilled a long term ambition of the artist. The windows were commissioned by the family of Sarah d'Avigdor-Goldsmid as a commemoration of her tragic and untimely death. Chagall’s drawings for Tudeley Church are being seen for the first time in Britain at Mascalls Gallery courtesy of Centre Pompidou. Chagall’s previously unpublished and haunting ‘Apocalypse en Lilas, Capriccio’, will also be shown at both Mascalls and Ben Uri.

The 20th century has seen some of the most important and interesting depictions of the crucifixion interestingly in a time when the church’s influence waned measurably. One of the best known religious artists of our time was Graham Sutherland. Images from the concentration camps proved to be a catalyst for some of the most powerful depictions of the crucifixion. This exhibition shows a bloody and haggard Christ whose body bears witness to the “continuing beastliness and cruelty of mankind.”

The two world wars are represented in a number of works within the exhibition as artists look towards one of the few symbols that could contain the potency of their emotions. The 20 artists represented in the exhibition create narratives both of the artistic traditions of the time from Eric Gill to Maggie Hambling, Norman Adams and Tracey Emin and by doing so navigate a way through the major events of the century. The works show the crucifixion as both a symbol of shock and also as an object of contemplation: from the hollowed out scarecrow figure of Christ on the battlefield of Europe by Scottish artist R Hamilton Blyth to a rarely seen, life-size drawing of Duncan Grant’s crucifixion for Berwick Church in East Sussex.

The exhibition is curated by Nathaniel Hepburn. 5 March to 29 May 2010 at Mascalls Gallery, Maidstone Road, Paddock Wood, Kent. 15 June to 19 September at Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art. Other related exhibitions include: Easter Images: Maggi Hambling & Craigie Aitchison, 27 March - 6 April, The Kentish Barn, International Study Centre, Canterbury Cathedral; 1st April to 29th May, Norman Adams RA: Spirit in the Garden at Marle Place Gardens and Gallery; Susan Shaw - Dispersal, 5 March - 25 May, St Thomas a Becket, Capel, Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 6SX; Santiago Bell: Chilean woodcarver in exile, 5 March - 29 May, St Andrews Paddock Wood; From the Darkness ... light in contemporary art at St Peter's Church, Preston Park, Brighton, 1 May – 23 May.


Sam Phillips - Where the Colours Don't Go.

c4m webpage update (35)

The latest posts on the commission4mission webpage have photos of Rosalind Hore's painting The Baptism of Jesus at St Edmund's Tyseley where it will be installed later in the year and information about the icons recently installed at Chelmsford Cathedral the commissioning of which was discussed at the c4m Study Day held last November.


James MacMillan - Raising Sparks.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gants Hill Art Project (5)


Arvo Part - Magnificat.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Ain't gonna study war no more

On Sunday the youth group at St John's Seven Kings led an All-Age Service (which they had planned and prepared) on the theme of choices regarding war and peace. As part of the service a film was shown of an improvised play acted by our young people which led into discussion of how our faith could inform the choices which needed to be made in the play.

The service began with Shine Jesus Shine and the following prayer: Dear Lord, help us today to think about our choices. Help us to know what is the best way to think. Help us to know the wisdom that you have given us in order that we can do the right thing. Amen.

Scene 1 ‐ The President of Albina asks the Prime Minister of Batavia for aid because of a famine in his country. The Prime Minister refuses because the famine is also affecting his country and the food they have is needed to feed his people. The President pleads that people in his country are starving but the Prime Minister is unmoved.

Scene 2 ‐ The Albina army raids a Batavian food store killing the soldiers guarding the supplies and taking the supplies to Albina. A Batavian phones the Prime Minister to alert him to the raid.

We sang Beauty for Brokeness and then watched Scene 3 ‐ The Prime Minister consults with three officials. The first says, we must take attack Albina and avenge the deaths of our soldiers and the theft of our supplies. The second says, we must protect our people and supplies by sealing the border using our troops and ensure that it is never possible for Albina to steal from us again. The third says, we must send relief aid into Albina and work together with them to gain the aid we need from the international community so that both countries survive the famine.

Discussion: What are the pros and cons of the three choices and which one would you choose?

The first bible reading was Galatians 5:16‐26 and following this people were asked to write their individual confessions on pieces of paper using magic marker pens. These were then placed in bowls of water so that the ink in which the confession was written dissolved.

For intercessions we used the 'Swords into ploughshares' script from Multi‐Sensory Scripture before ending with a Gospel singalong of Down by the riverside and our second bible reading from Isaiah 2:2‐4.

Hilary Musker, our Deanery Youth Adviser, said that the service was very creative and a joy to be part of. A big thank you to our youth group and those groups and individuals who supported them.


Edwin Starr - War (What Is It Good For?).

Post-Christendom Church revised

Paul Trathen has used my 'Post-Christendom Church' post as the basis for his Annual Parochial Church Meeting address. To see how Paul has made use of the original post, click here.


Gordon Gano & The Ryans - Under the Sun.

Windows on the world (91)

Birmingham, 2010

Last week I spent some time in Birmingham and saw the exhibition
On the Movement of the Fried Egg and Other Astronomical Bodies by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva at the Ikon Gallery. The exhibition included a film, Astronomy Of The End Of The Boot, in which a man observes the sky through a hole in his shoe. This was a 'Windows on the world' style film exuding a playful inventiveness that makes us look again.

Peter Case - Every 24 Hours.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Life lived as gift

Forty years after the Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt they stood on the brink of the Promised Land ready to cross over the River Jordan and live in the land that God had promised to them.

They were a people who had no land of their own. Their ancestors were wandering Arameans who had no land and who took their families to live in Egypt. In Egypt they had no land because they were slaves. Rescued by God, they wandered in the wilderness without a home for forty years before coming to the Promised Land.

The Promised Land was a gift to them from God and because this land which became their home was not actually theirs but God’s, so they were to give back to God out of thankfulness for all that they had been given. Their life and the land – everything that they had and were – was a gift from God and to show this when the arrived in the Promised Land they were to place in a basket the first part of each crop that they harvested and to offer it to God at the place of worship.

In our culture we no longer think like this. In our culture we tend to think that the things we have are ours because we have earned them. We may have bought the freehold on our home with money that we have earned though our own work, time and talents. The salary that we earn is paid into our bank account to do with as we choose because we were the ones who worked to earn that money. We no longer think of land, home, money and possessions as gifted to us because we think of them as earned by us.

This means that we think we can live independently. Our way of life in a market economy is based on quid pro quo, always getting something in exchange for what we give. We are then free to purchase commodities with no strings attached making our market economy impersonal and leaving us thinking we can pursue personal gain in total disregard for the community as a whole.

At the time that the Israelites lived in the Promised Land because they worked the land for a living they knew that their life did not depend solely on their own efforts. It was not enough that they worked to sow their crops in order that those crops grew. They knew that the soil was needed to nurture their seeds, that rain was needed to water those seeds, that sunshine was needed for the growth of those seeds. They knew that their life, their survival was not simply down to them. Life itself was a gift. Today we are disconnected from the land and from the natural cycle of the seasons and it is much harder for us to acknowledge that life is a gift.

When life is viewed as gift, we can give to others without expecting anything in return and this has the opposite effect of establishing and strengthening the relationships between us, connecting us one to the other. This kind of living recognises the delicate balance of interdependence and responsibility. It means an awareness of how we, as individuals, fit into the life of the whole. Living in this way – as part of a gift economy – develops a sense of interdependence, engenders attitudes of compassion and generosity, forces us to reappraise the way in which we think about and measure value, and reminds us of the interconnection of our lives to other human lives, to non-human lives, and to the non-living world.

When Jesus was tempted he too was in the wilderness and the temptations with which he was confronted were the same temptations to which our culture succumbs. Jesus was tempted to provide for his own material needs by turning stones into bread; he was tempted to gain prestige and celebrity for himself by throwing himself from the highest point of the Temple and surviving; and he was tempted to gain all the power and wealth of the world for himself.

In other words, he was tempted to live independently of God and refuse to view life as being God’s gift to him. Jesus rejected these temptations and, like the people of Israel leaving the wilderness for the Promised Land, continued to thank God for the gift of life by living his life as a means of thanking God for all his gifts to us. He did this through humility, service and finally death, not by a devilish seeking after power and status.

David Runcorn says that “the life of God is non-possessive, non-competitive, humbly attentive to the interests of the other, united in love and vision.” To be God-like, he writes, “is not to be grasping” and so “Jesus pours himself out ‘precisely because’ he is God from God.” The Biblical word for this is kenosis, the self-emptying of God. But Runcorn goes on to point out that this self-emptying or kenosis characterises every member of the Trinity and argues that Jesus’ incarnation “offers us a mysterious and astonishing vision”:

“the Holy Trinity as a dancing community of divine poverty. Each eternally, joyfully, dispossessing themselves; emptying, pouring themselves out to the favour and glory of the other. Nothing claimed, demanded or grasped. They live and know each other in the simple ecstasy of giving.”

Today, we have the opportunity to do the same; to reject the temptation to think of all that we have as our own, to view our lives and all that we have as a gift from God, and to participate in the dance of the Holy Trinity. When we do that, we are acting as stewards because stewards have the job of looking after something that belongs to someone else. As Christians, we are stewards of all that God has given to us – our life, our talents, our time, our money, our possessions, our family, our community, and the world in which we live.

The people of Israel gave the first part of their harvest to God. Giving back to God was the first thing on their agenda, their first consideration. We should each give, the Apostle Paul says, as we have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.

As they came to the worship place the Israelites reminded themselves that it was God who had rescued them and God who had given them the land he had promised. We should also remember that God has rescued each of us from sin and gifted us with time, talents, treasure, people and the world in which we live. Let us, as a result, view life as a gift and give back to God generously and joyfully.


Marvin Gaye - God Is Love.

Beauty in the loss

I've been listening to Corinne Bailey Rae's 'The Sea' on repeat this week. Very different from her self-titled debut album because she has embraced the pain she has experienced in the intervening period and this, ultimately, has meant that 'The Sea' is a collection of songs about grief and hope, despair and inspiration, loss and love. These interview extracts come from her website:

"I wanted to be open," explains Corinne. "I'm really aware that I can't hide any of my feelings. With music I feel like it's the one time when I don't have to think and I don't have to contrive anything. So that's how this record turned out. It's not contrived. It's just open."

Jason Rae, a gifted saxophonist and Corinne Bailey Rae's husband, died in March 2008. 'I'd Do It All Again', a sweeping, defiant but woozy song - and the first single - is one of the many songs written before this.

"It's a love song, but a difficult love song - it's about when things are really difficult, to the point where they're actually hurting your pride. I wrote it after this big argument we had. And it just sorta came out of me as I was playing my guitar. It's really special to me because of how it came about. It didn't feel like it was a really conscious thing. It's just a demonstration of my commitment. Despite what happens - you might get trampled or destroyed by it - it's a love you can't stop. And," she adds, "I really like the way the song's come off. It all builds to one chorus. I love playing it for that reason," she smiles. "It's the one shot."

One of her favourite songs on the album is the jazz-flavoured lament 'I Would Like To Call It Beauty'. She loves playing it live, loves the almost telepathic interplay she and her drummer enjoy. "I guess that song is about my experiences of late. It's about grief and what it does and the things it makes you aware of."

The title comes from a late-night conversation she had with Jason's younger brother comparing their views of the world. Corinne was speaking about God and Jason's brother said he believed in a force that binds everything, holds everything. He said, "I would like to call it... beauty". She was flabbergasted. "What a thing to say! Really we were talking about the same thing..." So powerful was the sentiment that she took it for the song title, and duly credits her late husband's brother as its co-writer.

"I have experienced a lot of beauty in the loss," is her remarkable admission, "in the way that I've been able to survive. The way I feel like I'm being held - held up. I guess the song is about the amount of beauty that is in grief because of the way that people hold you up, and forces and nature, how they hold you up."

Overall 'The Sea' is, she reflects, in part about the uniting bonds of grief, stretching from her aunt to herself and to all those around her. "All the bonds deepened. And all the dross is washed away as well. Only the purest things survive. That's one really beautiful thing about it."

'The Sea' reminds me of the best of Marvin Gaye and stands comparison with other classic 'end of a relationship' albums including: Lou Reed's 'Berlin'; Bob Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks'; Marvin Gaye's 'Here My Dear'; Candi Staton's 'His Hands'; and Noah and the Whale's 'The First Days of Spring'.


Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea.

Windows on the world (90)

Southwark, 2010

Michael McDermott & Kate York - Hard To Break.

Farewell my friends

It was beautiful as long as it lasted, the journey of my life, I have no regrets whatsoever, save the pain I'll leave behind.

Those dear hearts who love and care, and the heavy with sleep ever moist eyes, the smile in spite of a lump in the throat and the strings pulling at the heart and soul,

The strong arms that held me up when my own strength let me down, each morsel that I was fed with was full of love.

At every turning of my life I came across good friends, friends who stood by me, even when the time raced me by.

Farewell, farewell my friends, I smile and bid you goodbye.

No, shed no tears, for I need them not, all I need is your smile, If you feel sad, do think of me, for that's what I'll like, when you live in the hearts of those you love, remember then...... you never die.

This poem by Gitanjali Ghei says that at every turn of our lives there have been good friends who stand by us, holding us up when our own strength lets us down. One of the greatest gifts that God can give us is to know good friends and this may be a key to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11. 28-30 and to the promise in Psalm 23 that God will go with us through the valley of the Shadow of Death.

How does God go with us through that valley and give us rest when we are heavy laden? Well, one of the ways in which he does is through other people; our friends, family and those that he brings specially into our lives at times of illness and loss such as doctors, nurses and chaplains. We are the hands and feet of God where we bring relief, support and encouragement to those who are in need. We can be the rod and staff that God uses to support others as they journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and we can be the means by which he gives rest to the heavy laden when we carry their burden for a time.

And God has shown us how this can be done by sending Jesus into the world to be our teacher and example. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me”, says Jesus. In other words, Jesus is saying, imitate me, follow in my footsteps, if you want to be my friends and become the hands and feet of God in the world today. What is that we are to imitate? Jesus says to us, “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command.”

The poem reminds us of the importance of friendship. The greatest gift that God can give is his friendship, shown to us as Jesus gave up his life for each one of us. We are to learn from him, to love as he loved us, to give our lives for our friends, to be the hands and feet of God for others, to provide rest by lifting burdens from the heavy laden and to be the rod and staff on which others can lean as they journey through the valley of the Shadow of Death.


Corinne Bailey Rae - I Would Like To Call It Beauty.

Monday, 15 February 2010

c4m webpage update (34)

Helen Gould, who has recently begun working for commission4mission is profiled in a recent post on the c4m webpage. Before beginning ordination training, Helen was Director of Creative Exchange, a charity which for ten years researched and advocated for the role of culture in development.

Also featured in recent posts are two installations, Chosen Stones and Agony of Hope, by Ally Clarke which could be recreated on request in churches and other spaces.


Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Gospel Reflection: Transfiguration & Epiphany

My latest Gospel Reflection for the Mission in London's Economy website can be found by clicking here.

This reflection is on the story of the Transfiguration and thinks on the nature of that event as an epiphany; in that moment the glory of the divine was revealed in the human and I suggest that this can also be our experience if we are able to look deeply into life.


Over The Rhine - Jesus In New Orleans.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Continuing, detailed & effective consultation

This is my letter, published this week, by the Ilford Recorder about Seven Kings library:

The return of a library to High Road is a cause for real celebration in Seven Kings. We hope that it will become a real focal point at the centre of community activities and a boost to the vibrancy of the High Road itself. Progress has been made because of effective consultation by the Council with the local community, supported and facilitated by local councillors, and we look for this to continue beyond this election year, both in relation to the library and for other much needed community facilities in Seven Kings. The return of a library to Seven Kings could either be the first act in an ongoing redevelopment of Seven Kings or a flash in the pan. Continuing detailed and effective consultation with the local community will be the key to ensuring that the former, rather than the latter, is what happens in the area.


Corinne Bailey Rae - I'd Do It All Again.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Windows on the world (89)

Bishopsgate, 2010
Chagall Guevara - Violent Blue.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A new library for Seven Kings

The Ilford Recorder reports that:

A new library will open in Seven Kings - it has been announced. Terms have been agreed to let 679 High Road, Seven Kings - the site of a former Pound Plus shop.

Residents have been campaigning for a new library since 1991 and the new site is expected to be used as a library for about five years - when it is expected a new leisure centre, including a library, will be built.

Ali Hai, a member of Take Action for Seven Kings, said on behalf of the library working group:

"This is a historic moment for the community in and surrounding Seven Kings."

"After a break of almost 20 years and following a very hard-fought community struggle, we are all delighted that we now once again have our much-needed library."

"We hope the future of this key community asset will never again be threatened and that it will constantly serve to improve the quality of life of today's generation and of those to come."

"We are grateful to the current Councillors from across the political spectrum and council officers, who have recognised our need, supported the plans for our library and have effectively consulted with our community over the last few months."

"There is still much to be done in Seven Kings and we hope the new library will be the much needed catalyst for change."

Redbridge Council said it has been working closely with residents to deliver library services and to set up the new location.

A spokesman said: "The process of selecting stock has been taking place over the last few months and is currently being stored at Central Library, Ilford."

"When the lease is completed it is expected that the building and fit out works will take 12 to 16 weeks to complete."


Steve Taylor - Since I Gave Up Hope.

The Chip Shop

The Henningham Family Press have created a new show called Chip Shop, featuring a fully functioning mobile screenprinting workshop. "Built from chip-board and replicating a full-size chippy, The Chip Shop is a fully functioning temporary screen printing workshop, serving up words printed on wooden board." All you need to do is to add your favourite word to their catch of the day menu!

A silkscreen print, on chipboard - yours for the price of a bag of chips! Is it really possible? Yes! The Chip Shop will be appearing at least 3 times in March as part of the London Word Festival:

February Festival - in the next couple of weeks they will also be out in public in the form of a stall at the following event: Finsbury Art Festival, Saturday February 27th, 11am - 4pm, St Luke’s Centre, 90 Central Street EC1V 8AJ. Tel: 020 7549 8181.

Their contribution to the Finsbury Art Festival Art Zone will be showing off the pamphlet stitch. For those who like reading as much as fiddling with bits of paper and string, they will be binding some of the contributions from their guest bloggers, David Barnes, Eddie Farrell and Julie Rafalski. Plus one of the stories by David Henningham from Erroneous Disposition of the People. All this and much more, absolutely free! It will be a very child-friendly, as well as adult-friendly event. A fine way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.


Writz - Luxury.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Steve Scott dialogues 3: Novelists


You mentioned Shusaku Endo in one of your emails, who I think of as one of the great twentieth century novelists. I've read 'Silence', 'Wonderful Fool', 'The Samurai', 'The Sea and Poison' and 'Scandal'. 'Wonderful Fool' is, I think, a better realisation of a Christ-like character than Dostoevsky achieved with 'The Idiot'.

I've now got 'Crying for a Vision' and read the chapter on Endo straightaway. I was fascinated to see that you were exploring there the synergy between Endo's characters and narratives and understandings of Christ within Asian culture, as I have also done something very similar using 'The Samurai' as a way of exploring how the understandings of the atonement need to be communicated differently within different cultures. This was a session that I delivered for a couple of years for ordinands at the North Thames Ministerial Training Course and which made links between Hasekura's conversion and the shame-based model of the atonement developed by C. Norman Kraus and summarised in 'Recovering the Scandal of the Cross' by Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker. I think that Endo's novels demonstrate clearly the absolute necessity of incarnating the Gospel in the culture in which it is being communicated and are probably the best demonstration of the need for inculturation of which I am aware.

I'm also interested in the Modern Catholic Novel generally, with Endo being a major exponent. I think it is fascinating to see the extent to which Catholicism has been a major theme and motivation of novelists throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. I've posted on Modern Catholic Novels at and What is it about Catholicism that has influenced and inspired so many novelists?

Mary Doria Russell's 'The Sparrow', which I mentioned in one of my last emails and have now read, sits firmly in this tradition with its theme of a crisis of conscience for its Jesuit central character albeit that it differs from most Modern Catholic novels in being set primarily on another planet. It's a well written story, once it gets going, with an engaging central character who is honest about the deficiencies and the inspirations of his faith. The split narrative works well before meshing at the conclusion to bring together the events of the central crisis and the response to it. This central crisis is genuinely shocking and its resolution is probably a little too easy and dealt with too briefly but the novel, as a whole, provides an engaging and challenging exploration of God's presence and guidance in human exploration and suffering.


Yes to Endo. I originally did that piece ('When worlds collide: The novels of Shusaku Endo', Radix Magazine) in 1985 after discovering his novels `by chance' in Cambridge 1983 (and this based on a throwaway one line reference in a Time Magazine article on Japanese contemporary culture). I then saw Endo lecture in Berkeley and met his novels translator while researching the article.

Re: Vision book - the `core' of the book was pub in 1991 (Stride, UK) while the stuff in `scratching the surface' is from all over i.e`To whom it may concern' was from late 90s, and casts some background light on the `Crossing the Boundaries' album.

And yes to Mennonite author C Norman Krause. Very much enjoyed his work beginning with `authentic community'. I've also read one novel by Muriel Spark that seemed to fit; 'The Comforters'.

I'm now intrigued by Nicolas Mosley, read snippets of an interview with him, and hope one day to read his novels. Especially as he namechecks Ford Maddox Ford who always struck me as `post modern' (before I quite knew what post-modern was) insofar as he wrote his way through a quartet of `war novels' in a sort of elliptical, fragmentary, bewildered `gentleman at the club wondering what is becoming of England' approach.

Joyce Cary's good, too; novels about Africa (and the `white man's burden'). Laurens Van Der Post also. Cary wrote a novel about an artist; `The Horse's Mouth'. Lawrence Durrell's `Alexandria Quartet'. For a while I was reading Malcolm Lowry's `Under The Volcano' once a year. An acquired taste (but addictive) is C P Snow's sequence of Cambridge and London novels.


As you can no doubt tell from the links I sent, if you've had a chance to check them out, I think Mosley is a major, although underrated, novelist. 'Hopeful Monsters' is his masterpiece. The later novels, although often not well reviewed, are among his most interesting work. 'Catastrophe Practice' is his manifesto mixing allusive statements with short stories. His autobiography 'Efforts at Truth' is a must read as it is the best explanation of the way he merges his philosophy and his writing style. It also covers his involvement with Fr. Raymond Raynes and his editing of a theological magazine (the name of which I can't remember but a number of articles from which ended up in 'Experience and Religion'). The website with most information on him seems to be:


The Beatles - Paperback Writer.

M. Ward's well formed conceits

I'm loving M. Ward currently. I had Post-War on repeat while driving to Hungerford last Thursday to meet some friends. He has a real knack for developing conceits which are humourous and serious simultaneously and which work both musically and lyrically. 'Magic Trick' is a brief blast of glam rock commemorating a person's ability to consistently leave relationships. 'Chinese Translation' uses one repeat of the verse and chorus to establish the cyclical nature of the story and then subverts this by extending outwards musically. 'Rollercoaster' coasts along subtly and simply but echoes the rise and fall of the car and relationship in its musical form. Good humoured lyrics and tunes with a core of seriousness was how I described Hold Time in an earlier post and those also hold true for Post-War.


She & Him (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward) - Magic Trick.

With Jesus asleep in the boat

With Jesus in the boat,
we can smile at the storm,
smile at the storm,
smile at the storm.
With Jesus in the boat,
we can smile at the storm
as we go sailing home.

Do you remember that old children’s chorus? It’s based on the idea that Jesus stills our storms enabling us to sail serenely through life until we weigh anchor in heaven. But to read Luke 8. 22-25 in that way you have to ignore everything else that happens in the story in order to focus only on Jesus’ stilling of the storm which the song then makes normative for our Christian lives.

In other words, it ignores Jesus sleeping through the storm, the disciples' panic in the storm, and Jesus’ rebuke of them for their lack of faith. It would be a very different song if it took on board the rest of the story, maybe something along these lines:

With Jesus asleep in the boat,
we can panic in the storm,
panic in the storm,
panic in the storm.
With Jesus asleep in the boat,
we can panic in the storm
as we go swiftly under.

We don’t like the idea that God might be sleeping on the job while we are going through crises, so we naturally concentrate on the moment when Jesus saves the day and make that part of the story the part that we teach and remember. But to be true to scripture, we can’t simply pick and choose the bits that we like and ignore the rest. Instead we need to deal with all that is involved in a story like this and, when we do, then a very different point emerges.

Why is Jesus asleep during the storm? Presumably, he is able to sleep because he trusts his disciples to get him safely to the other side of Lake Galilee, even in the midst of a storm. After all, many of them are fishermen, experienced sailors, while he is, as a carpenter, a landlubber. The disciples know boats and they know the lake, it makes sense that he would trust them to sail safely from one side of the lake to the other. He trusts them enough that he can catch up on some sleep while they get on with doing what they are actually very good at doing. The disciples have skills and knowledge of sailing and Jesus expects them to use these and trusts that they will use them well.

The problem comes, of course, when they don’t use their skills and knowledge well. The strength of the storm is such that they panic and don’t take actions (like taking down the sail, bailing out the water, and steering against the storm rather than with it) which would have enabled them to ride out the storm and get to the other side of the lake. They made the situation worse by panicking and it was their panic which could have got them killed.

This, I think, is why they are rebuked by Jesus for lack of faith. Essentially, he was saying, “If you had trusted in God to see you through the storm, you would have done the sensible things that would have enabled you to survive. But, because you didn’t trust in God to see you through, you panicked, didn’t take sensible actions, nearly got us all drowned, and needed me to intervene to save you.”

God does not, and cannot, simply intervene to save us from crises and storms. If he did, he would take away our free will and we would be automatons rather than humans. John Shepherd, Dean of Perth, writing in yesterday’s Times put it like this:

“Why doesn’t God miraculously intervene, and take things over? Dictate how everything should go, and what we do, and how we live our lives?

But then, of course, we would have a world of fixed laws. Our lives would be totally regulated and controlled. We couldn’t decide anything for ourselves. We would not be allowed any choices, or any freedom of action.

So our lives would become non-lives ...

Knowing everything will be all right because God will make it so is no longer to have life.”

But, if God isn’t there to save us in any and every circumstance, what is the value and point of faith? Again, John Shepherd is very helpful in a way that links up with what we are discovering about this story:

“We all need someone to believe in. And we all need someone who’ll believe in us. Think of the number of times we’ve told someone we have faith in them — that we know they can do it, that they’ll achieve their goal, pass that exam, get that job, survive that relationship, recover from that bereavement. We tell people we have faith in them all the time. “You can do it,” we say.

“I believe in you.”

And it happens to us as well. Think of the people who have told us they believe in us. They gave us confidence. They told us they had faith in us, and they believed we could do it.

We know how important faith is, because we’ve known what it’s like for people to have faith in us. And we all have this faith, consciously or unconsciously. We’ve all given it, and we’ve all received it. We know what it is and how it works. Having faith in others, and others having faith in us, isn’t a sign of weakness or mental deficiency. It’s reasonable and logical.”

What we find through this story is that God has faith in us. Jesus trusts himself to his disciples by sleeping while they sail and expects them to act responsibly during the storm in order to keep them all safe and to survive. What annoys him is when they don’t do this, when they don’t trust in the skills and knowledge with which God has gifted them. He wants them to see that the skills and knowledge with which God has gifted them are enough for them to come through the storms of life. He has faith in them but at this point they don’t have faith in all that God has given to them. Later, after the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Day of Pentecost, they do develop such faith and go on to do great things for God.

“This is faith,” John Shepherd writes, “trusting in God without specifying what will happen. God has let the darkness be, so we may have life. But as well, God has given us Jesus, so we may have faith that the darkness will not destroy us.” God will not, and cannot, continually intervene because then life would be fixed instead of being free. So we are not to depend on God to save every time we encounter difficulty but instead to trust that he is with us in the storms of life and that he has given us what we need to come through.


The Call - I Still Believe.

Premises for novels

I've recently finished reading Piers Paul Read's most recent novel, The Death of a Pope. It is a well written and interesting thriller without, I think, ranking among the best of Read's novels.

What I found most interesting is that it shares a central premise with Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, in that the threat is to cardinals in conclave, but reverses Brown's version of this premise, in that the threat comes from a liberal Catholic (in protest against the effect that the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on contraception is perceived to have on the spead of HIV/Aids in Africa) instead of coming from a conservative Catholic (in protest against the scientific search for the God particle through the Hadron Collider).

Read is a conservative Catholic and presumably wants to show that there are reasons why liberal Catholicism could contemplate terrorism as well as or more likely rather than conservative Catholicism. I'm a little unsure as to why one would want to enter into a kind of competition to show why your faith contains the potential for terrorism unless it is about exploring how fanaticism can develop from faith and acknowledging that all faith including our own holds the potential for such fanaticism.

Unfortunately, although their narratives retain the reader's interest, neither Read's or Brown's central characters convince as fully realised characters, reading more as cyphers for the premises which drive their narratives.

By contrast, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God deliver a central Catholic priest who is wonderfully himself despite the extremities of situation and suffering into which he is placed. These novels have their own premises. They are, for example, a brilliant demostration of the difficulties of communicating the Gospel in another culture and, as such, are on a par with Shusaku Endo's Silence and The Samurai. But these premises are not what drive the narrative instead they emerge from the story in a way that is consistent with the narrative rather than shaping it as seems to me to be the case in The Death of a Pope and Angels and Demons.


After the Fire - Dancing In The Shadows.

c4m webpage update (33)

Two new posts on the commission4mission webpage this week. The first has photos of the panels being erected for the tryptich that will be the centrepiece of Henry Shelton's Stations of the Crown of Thorns commission at St Paul's Goodmayes. The second is an update of member's activities and includes details of exhibitions involving Colin Burns and Sarah Ollerenshaw together information about my recent Church Times exhibition review and the use of my Stations of the Cross meditations for the second year running in the Northwood & Northwood Hills Art Stns.


The Technos - Foreign Land.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Steve Scott dialogues 2: Networking


I've very much enjoyed reading 'Crying for a Vision' and particularly liked the breadth of your frame of reference - essentially, what Rupert Loydell notes as you linking "a number of fields of inquiry that are usually perceived as unrelated." This, it seems to me, is linked to your interest in collage and I appreciated the way in which this interest was explored and expressed through the chapters describing your collaboration with Gaylen Stewart and ways of giving 'voice' to the multicultural reality of the 21st century church in the arts.

This is a real encouragement to me as it has also become foundational to my understanding of both the arts and the bible but without finding many others who share those connections and interests. The way I came to what I think of as a reconciliatory approach to art and faith was via 'The Waste Land', the work of David Jones and the paintings of Chagall (

My sense was that in each fragments of materials were being linked and combined in ways that made emotional and artistic (although not necessarily logical) wholes or harmonies but which also multiplied references and resonances between the fragments that were being reconciled. I was helped enormously in understanding the work of these artists in this way by the writings of Nicholas Mosley who, although not referring to Eliot, Jones or Chagall, was explicit about his attempts to write in an elusive and allusive style in order to make similar connections and who linked his attempts to do so to his understanding of Christianity (

This thinking about the arts was then combined (via my ministerial training) with exploration of post-modernism and reading of the likes of Walter Brueggemann, Gabriel Josipovici, Mark Oakley and Mike Riddell on the Bible to arrive at an understanding of the Bible as fragments collaged together into an endlessly resonating harmony. (See,,%20,%20,%20html,

Another area of interest was in your links with the likes of Nigel Goodwin, Andy Piercy, and Steve Fairnie. I hadn't realised the extent to which there had been links between these from a relatively young age which presumably supported the work that they went on to do as pioneers in the UK in expressing faith through the Arts. It wasn't until I did my ministerial training that I found a network of like-minded Christians with interests in the arts to which I could relate and it is interesting to get a glimpse of the fact that similar networks of support have been important for others too in support of their development. Rupert Loydell once included one of my poems in a Stride publication and critiqued an article that I wrote for 'Strait' on Ted Hughes but I didn't have sufficient confidence in myself or my work at that time to forge the kind of connections that you made. I now really value the networks that I do have and hope that commission4mission as it develops can provide that kind of incubation for new generations of artists.
Of deep roots and family trees ... Rupert Loydell is now senior lecturer in creative writing in the University of Falmouth. He connected with me in the late 1980s, as referred by Steve Turner. He is also related, I think, to Bev Sage, who at one point was Bev Fairnie. Bev I met in the late 60s/early 70s, she was part of a singing trio called Soul Truth (with Judy, who became Judy Piercey). We all met up in 1969ish at a Youth for Christ event in Torquay. Soul Truth, the Canon Harry Sutton (speaker) the young Nigel Goodwin (pre Arts Centre Group), Steve Fairnie, an undergraduate from Bristol (and Steve Rowsie), Andy Piercey who was to be part of Ishmael and Andy prior to After The Fire. Goodwin went on to begin the ACG in South Kensington attracting the likes of poet Stewart Henderson, poet/journalist Steve Turner, graphic designer/filmmaker Norman Stone (and so on, names too numerous to mention etc.). Fairnie did grad work at the Royal College of Art/married Bev.
All this is to say that networking, facilitation, encouragement and support to artists, thinkers, emerging etc. is very important and often times you don't see `fruit' outside of just the support-at-the-time, for years. But looking back over the years (decades!) there's all kinds of primary and secondary impact not just on the church but also on the culture at large. All this is to say that the gift of networking is an underrated charism.
It was a remarkably fruitful period from which I certainly benefitted. Reading 'Buzz' and then 'Strait' was what introduced me to the work of many of those that you mention. I read Steve Turner, Stewart Henderson and Rupert Loydell and had poetry and reviews published in 'Strait' while Stewart Henderson was its Editor. Rupert Loydell included one of my poems in a Stride compilation (although he wanted to excise the word 'God' from the poem) and he critiqued an article that I wrote for 'Strait' on Ted Hughes in which I concluded that elements of Hughes' writings were dangerous (which raised Rupert's hackles). I've been a ACG member for some years without ever having gotten deeply involved. I listened to ATF and The Technos and was at the Dominion for ATF's final gig. Their originality, it seems to me, was in writing contemporary worship songs using contemporary imagery (lazers, jet planes etc.), something that those, like Delerious?, who have followed in their wake have generally been unable to achieve (Delerious' imagery being drawn generally from the pool of scriptural imagery). All of this fed my imagination, kick started my fascination for the differing ways artists express their faith in and through their work, and demonstrated that it was possible to be Christian and creative.
Yep. And prior to `Buzz' was Vista. I recall Buzz as almost a broadsheet, or at least somewhat diminutive in its first issues. My only or main recall of Strait was when Garth Hewitt was in the loop. And there was an ACG magazine THE CUT that became or later resurfaced as ARTYFACT.
Speaking of the early 70s, I can recall the first issues of TIME OUT. I mention this because I linked on Facebook to a TIMEOUT HK edition interview with artist Makoto Fujimura who, if youre not thoroughly acquainted with him already, then i suggest becoming so.

Yes to ATF's use of contemporary imagery. Also to Fairnie and co's use of media. I also recall around thebeginning of the 2000s (2001 or 2) someone giving me a link to something called `smallfire' alt: worship in UK. It was from there I got into a brief Edialog with Jonny Baker.
Whilst an art student I went to the Cambridge Poetry Festival (73) and saw Ted Hughes reading live. Also Lee Harwood, Eric Mottram. John Ashbery from NY read terribly, but I later got into his stuff `on the page' Got to chat with Nathaniel Tarn who turned me on to a magazine called Alcheringa, a journal of Ethnopoetics co edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Goerge Quasha. Rothenberg is a poet and a justly famous anthologist of world ethnopoetry/poetics 'Technicians of the Sacred'. To my everlasting regret I did not buy the just published first edition of John Heath Stubbs `Artorius' even though he was there, reading and perhaps signing, although his vision was possibly shot by then. 'Artorius' (from what I've read of it) does Arthur/Britain a bit like David Jones and Wales (or pre Roman Britain).
Writz - Private Lives.

Realising potential: Candlemas

The film The Road stars Viggo Mortensen in an epic post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of a father and his young son as they journey across a barren America that was destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm. Reckoned to be a masterpiece, the film imagines a future in which people are pushed to the worst and the best that they are capable of and a future in which a father and his son are sustained by love.

It is a film in which an older person supports and encourages someone younger, as in the story of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, where Simeon and Anna recognised and encouraged the potential in the baby Jesus. For teenagers it can often be difficult to accept that older people have something positive to contribute to their lives. They are often at the stage in life where they are testing things out for themselves and wanting to blaze their own trail through life. But those around them who are older in their family or church and at school can all be a positive influence as they recognise and encourage what they may have to offer.

This was certainly the case for me, as I look back on my teenage years. Like the boy in the film I was inspired and encouraged by my Dad, who has remained a big influence on my life, but I was also encouraged in creative writing by a teacher at my school and brought back to faith by a youth leader at my youth club. So, be on the look out for adults who see your potential and encourage it, as Simeon and Anna did for the young Jesus.

Then, be aware that it may take time for that potential to be fully realised. Simeon and Anna recognised Jesus’ potential when he was only a baby and Mary, his mother, remembered the things they said and treasured them in her heart. But it was thirty years later that Jesus began the ministry which was to fulfil the potential they had seen in him. And for those first thirty years of his life, he lived a very ordinary life. Over those years, his parents might well have wondered when are the things that Simeon and Anna spoke about going to happen? When is the potential that they saw in Jesus going to be realised?

TV talent shows suggest that our hopes and dreams can be achieved overnight but life doesn’t always develop in the way that we expect and it is important not to get frustrated when our hopes and dreams may not be realised instantly. Many people need significant life experience before their potential can be fully realised and we therefore need to persevere in order to get to a place in our lives where that occurs. The time it took for Jesus' potential to be realised in the way predicted by Simeon and Anna can therefore be an encouragement to patience in our lives as we wait for our potential to come to fruition.


The Bluebells - Young At Heart.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Windows on the world (88)

Seven Kings, 2010


Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama - I Shall Not Walk Alone.