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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Nothing Is Set In Stone

Mira Calix’s Nothing Is Set In Stone is a musical sculpture made of gneiss stones. The monolithic installation will stand at Fairlop Waters, a nature reserve in the borough of Redbridge between June 21st and September 9th 2012. This interactive sculptural song invites the public to contemplate the modulations within nature and the ephemeral quality of music.

Nothing Is Set In Stone is part of Secrets Hidden London, inititated by the Mayor of London, it is a series of extraordinary site-specific collaborations taking place in a range of unusual locations across the capital in summer 2012, led by major artists and leading cultural organisations (for more information visit: http://www.molpresents.com/). Nothing Is Set In Stone is also part of the London 2012 Festival, a UK-wide festival from 21 June to 9 September featuring leading artists from around the world - for more information visit: http://festival.london2012.com/

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Athlete - Tourist.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tragedy and euchatastrophe

I was gripped by Antigone at the National Theatre tonight but that may have had more to do with the strength of Sophocles' play than the strengths of this particular production. King Creon and his advisers are depicted here more as managers and bureaucrats than as the military dictators that Sophocles would seem to have created. That may be a comment on the way in which military might is commonly exercised today, as the initial recreation of the US Government's viewing of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in the opening scene of this production would seem to imply. While that is theoretically a genuinely scary perception (Assad rather than Gadaffi, for example), here the look and feel of the office set and costumes meant that the petty bureaucratic tyrannies of a David Brent were also in view and may have underminded to some extent the forces Sophocles unleashes through the play.

I was left wondering from where those forces arose. On one level, Creon makes an ill-advised decision which he then feels obligated to enforce as to back down would undermine his authority which he assumes, as King, is and must be absolute. Sophocles would then seem to be critiquing absolutist approaches to power and advocating greater responsiveness from those with power to those who are governed. Yet the same stubborn insistence in following through an initial decision that is criticised in Creon also characterises Antigone's actions and these are presented, within this production at least, as fairly unambiguously heroic. The difference then would seem to be, in part, that one stubbornly follows the wrong course of action while the other stubbornly follows the right course of action. Yet that, by itself, is relatively banal.

The greater sense of tragedy comes partly from the sense that it is the combination of both the wrong and right stubbornnesses that create the inevitability of the tragedy and also the sense that this inevitability is either the judgement of the Gods on Creon, as prophesied by Creon, or an outworking of the curse on the family, the doom which befalls three generations across the Theban plays. This latter sense of Sophocles' tragic conception sits least easily with the contemporary managerial setting of this production and may well be what creates the greatest sense of disjunction between events and setting.

Before seeing this production, I had had a conversation in which a literature lecturer spoke of contrasting Greek tragedy with Biblical narratives. The latter, because they have 'happy' endings are seen as comedic narrative structures rather than as tragedies. This is despite in some cases using essentially the same plot elements. The contrast is instructive. The story of Daniel and the Lion's Den, for example, begins in essentially the same manner as Antigone in that a King enacts a law which is then deliberately broken leading the King to feel compelled to put to death the one who is the lawbreaker. In the biblical version of the story, however, God supernaturally saves the lawbreaker whereas, in Sophocles' version, the gods punish Creon through the deaths of all those he loves. Similarly, the biblical story of David and Bathsheba, in the confrontation between David and the prophet Nathan, parallels the confrontation between Creon and Tiresias in Antigone. The difference is that David repents of his wrong actions as a result of Nathan's intervention whereas Creon resists Tiresias until the point as which his attempt to redress the situation is too late. In the David and Bathsheba story, David does not escape the (still severe) consequences of his actions because of his repentance but does avoid the total meltdown that Creon experiences and which leaves him with nothing and as nothing. The biblical narratives consistently uncover hope in despair which is why they are, as J.R.R. Tolkien phrased it, eucatastrophes rather than tragedies.

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Sixteen HorsePower - I Seen What I Saw.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Windows on the world (198)


Stratford, 2012

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Sarah Masen - All Fall Down.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Pentecostal diversity

The Day of Pentecost is the turning point in the history of Christ’s Church. The believers have gone from gathering together in fear of the authorities to gathering together in readiness for the promised gift. They are waiting to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Jesus has spoken to them about the Kingdom of God and told them that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them they will be filled with power and will be witnesses to him in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. That prophecy and promise is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit enables the believers to God’s message to all.  
 
We often think that Jesus’ words, “you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” mean that they were to start with their own people and gradually move from there to the ends of earth. What we forget is that on the day of Pentecost there were Jews and Gentile converts living in Jerusalem who had come from every country in the world. The different countries or areas are listed for us in verses 9 – 11: Parthia, Media and Elam; Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia; Pontus and Asia; Phrygia and Pamphylia; Egypt and Libya; Rome, Crete and Arabia. Every country in the world was right there in Jerusalem.
There was a real diversity of nationalities present and of languages spoken in Jerusalem and the coming of the Holy Spirit enabled the believers in Jerusalem to engage with the diversity that they found in Jerusalem. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they all began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. As a result, although the believers were mainly Galileans and not known for being multi-lingual, each person there in Jerusalem heard God’s message in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit embraced the diversity of Jerusalem and gave the believers the tools they needed to communicate in and through that diversity.
But those diversities – of nationality and language – aren’t the only diversities mentioned in this passage. In explaining what God is doing at that time in Jerusalem, Peter speaks about a diversity of age and gender. Look at the passage that he quotes from the Book of Joel in verses 17-21 – there we find the Holy Spirit being poured out on everyone, young and old, men and women, so that all see visions, dream dreams and proclaim God’s message. God uses the diversity of age and gender among the believers in order to speak to the diversity of nations and languages in Jerusalem.
Now think about our situation here in Seven Kings and in London. Doesn’t it seem similar to the situation in Jerusalem? It certainly is if you think about the history of London. London has always been one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities. Throughout history, people have come from every continent and corner of the globe to live, to visit, and to mix. Today the city brings together more than 50 ethnic communities of 10,000 or more people. More than 70 different national cuisines are available and a staggering 300 different languages are spoken. That same diversity of ethnicities and language is also here in Seven Kings just as in London. The world is right here in Seven Kings and in London just as it was in Jerusalem.
Just as, at Pentecost, God poured out his Spirit on old and young, men and women, so we see a diversity to our congregation here at St John’s and also among the Churches of Redbridge. But that diversity is not given to us so that we can pat ourselves on the back and think how wonderful we are. It is given to us so that we can proclaim the message of God to people of every ethnicity, age, gender, disability, sexuality and religion. And we need the Holy Spirit’s power, gifts and enabling to make that happen.
We need to remember too that as the Early Church grew and as God’s message spread there were people who tried to restrict this wonderful new diversity. Even Peter, who led this move into diversity at Pentecost, on one occasion in Galatia tried to restrict the diversity of what God was doing and had to be rebuked by Paul. In the same way today, there are those both in the Church and in our society who want to place restrictions on this diversity.

In the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost God celebrates and engages with the diversity that we find in the world he has created. The Holy Spirit comes on all for all and we must not seek to restrict the Spirit’s coming but must enable all to hear God’s call on their lives and be filled by the Spirit just as occurred on that first Pentecost in Jerusalem when all the world’s diversity was gathered to see the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all and for all.

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Mark Heard - The Dry Bones Dance.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Theatre and Theology listing

Transpositions currently has a useful post listing organisations engaged in linking theatre and theology.

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Malcolm Guite - My Poetry Is Jamming Your Machine.

Sculptures: Brad Lucas











Brad Lucas' photogenic sculptures are at the Run with the Fire exhibition (Strand Gallery, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP) until 27th May (11.00am - 6.00pm, Sunday 11.00am - 2.00pm), as part of the Pentecost Festival.

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Julie Miller - River Where Mercy Flows.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Windows on the world (197)


Gants Hill, 2012

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Athlete - Flying Over Bus Stops.

Run with the Fire performances and art talks



We had a great launch night for the 'Run with the Fire' exhibition. It was a packed event with some memorable performances in the context of a stimulating and eclectic show. I read The Mark, a Mark of the Cross meditation and my Run with the Fire poem:

Stripped down - free of weights and encumbrance -
muscles taut and trained, eyes on the prize -
on track, no turning back - forgetting what is behind,
straining toward what is ahead, winged feet
bearing tongues of flame - inextinguishable flickers
of hope, the torch passed on through generations,
message of victory - peace, goodwill to all.

How lovely are the feet - run red-raw, blistered
and calloused, dust-encrusted yet lithe as leopards
and fleet as foxes - which pound the mountains,
hills, valleys and plains, echoing through history
from Marathon to London via Jerusalem.

It was great to read poetry to an audience which included Steve Turner, whose poetry and music journalism - including Up To Date and Hungry for Heaven among others - I've appreciated greatly over the years.  

The Launch Night provided the first opportunity to see the exhibition which includes ceramics, paintings and sculptures, together with a digital exhibition on Olympic/Pentecost themes. Performances by singer-songwriter and poet Malcolm Guite, artist-musician Colin Burns, musician-poet Steve Scott and performance poet Tamsin Kendrick added to the exploration of the exhibition's theme - running life's race with passion and spirit.

Tamsin Kendrick performed vibrant, earthy poems based on the parable of the Prodigal Son and Psalm 139, Steve Scott shared work in progress based on incidents from John's Gospel, Colin Burns played three pieces from his debut CD Emerald&Gold, while Malcolm Guite made a great job of linking themes from the artworks and other performances with poems from his sonnet sequence for the Church Year and from his CD Dancing through the fire.
I'll be giving a talk at the exhibition as part of a programme of art talks and painting demonstrations on Saturday 26th May:
  • Painting demonstration – Harvey Bradley, ongoing throughout the day. See Harvey work on a painting and discuss his approach with him.
  • The Spiritual Image in Modern Art - Mark Lewis, 11.30am. A broad overview of the spiritual impulse in the art forms of the modern world and their potential to turn our minds to higher things.
  • Run with the FireSteve Scott, 12.30pm. A talk about the ‘Run with the Fire’ project and DVD.
  • Stanley Spencer – A Visionary of our Time – Mark Lewis, 2.00pm. A talk which examines the life and work of one of Britain’s most renowned and eccentric 20th Century painters. The main themes include Spencer’s time as a war artist, and his extraordinary paintings which envision the Christian Gospels played out by the people in his beloved home town of Cookham.
  • Praying with our eyes openGlenn Lowcock, 3.00pm. A talk on using images as an aid to prayer.
  • Emotional Tourist – Steve Scott, 4.00pm. What I am learning about art, life, spirituality, Trinity, and relational aesthetics from my travels in Bali and elsewhere.
  • Christian influences on modern & contemporary art – Jonathan Evens, 5.00pm. A broad overview of modern and contemporary art and artists which engage with Christianity.

The Run with the Fire exhibition is at the Strand Gallery (32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP) and can be seen from 22nd - 27th May (11.00am - 6.00pm, Sunday 11.00am - 2.00pm), as part of the Pentecost Festival. The event listing for the exhibition and launch night can be found at: http://www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/ai1ec_event/run-with-the-fire-exhibition/?instance_id=873. Directions to the gallery are at: https://www.proudonline.co.uk/contact.aspx.

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Tamsin Kendrick - This City Needs A Hero.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Ascension meditation

Henry Shelton's Ascension watercolour and my Ascension meditation form the latest ArtWay meditation which can be viewed by clicking here.

This image and the accompanying words are extracted from Mark of the Cross, a book of 20 poetic meditations on Christ’s journey to the cross and reactions to his resurrection and ascension. The meditations are complemented by a set of semi-abstract watercolours of the Stations of the Cross and the Resurrection created by Henry Shelton. These meditations and images are available via twelve baskets as a pdf book (www.twelvebaskets.co.uk/view/178/store/pdf/mark-of-the-cross-pdf), a powerpoint presentation (www.twelvebaskets.co.uk/view/store/mark-of-the-cross-powerpoint) and as individual images.

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Delirious - Stronger.

Manifesto for release

When we have a General or Local Election I wonder whether you read the manifesto’s of the candidates that you are able to vote for. I guess that most of us don’t. Often they are quite wordy and many people don’t believe a word that is written in them.

The passage that Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth was his manifesto for his ministry and for the kingdom of God (Luke 4. 14 - 21). We would do well not to ignore this manifesto because what Jesus spoke about here he actually did in the course of his ministry. He did exactly what it says on the tin, as the advert goes.

Jesus’ manifesto is all about release. Release from poverty, imprisonment, blindness and oppression. What Jesus is proclaiming would have been recognised by his hearers as the announcement of the Year of Jubilee – “the time when the Lord shall come to save his people.”

In the Old Testament Law the year of Jubilee came every 50 years and in this year property reverted to its original owners, debts were remitted, and Hebrews who had been enslaved for debt were released. Jesus is proclaiming his coming and the coming of God’s kingdom as the time of Jubilee – a time of release for all people from those things that enslave us and trap us.

Each one of us is a slave to sin and blind to the truth about God because we have chosen to live selfish lives turning our backs on God and the way of life that he had created for human beings to live. In turning away from God’s ways we do not do away with gods altogether instead our desires run riot and we become slaves to them worshipping other gods; whether they come in the form of money, sex, celebrity or whatever.

Jesus comes to free us from all of these enslavements and to open our eyes to the way in which God created human beings to live; loving God with all our being and loving our neighbours as ourselves.

In order to understand what our release means we need to be people who know and understand the Bible. Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel shows us clearly that Jesus was immersed in the Hebrew scriptures and saw them as speaking about himself. When he was tempted by the Devil at the beginning of Chapter 4 he defends himself by quoting from the Bible. In that passage he is using the Bible to tell the Devil what he will not be like and here, in the synagogue, he uses the Bible to tell everyone what he will be like. We can do the same if we read and understand what God is saying to us in the Bible both about those things from which our lives need to be freed and those things to which we need to dedicate our lives, talents and time.     

The people who heard Jesus were, initially, impressed by what he said but as they realised that Jesus intended this Jubilee to be for all people they rejected him and tried to kill him. What will our response to Jesus’ manifesto be? Will it be the rejection that he experienced from the people of Nazareth? Will it be the apathy and disbelief that we accord to most political manifestos? Or will it be acceptance of the release from slavery to sin that Jesus offers to us?

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T. Bone Burnett - The Murder Weapon.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Taste of Religion at Pinsent Masons

What follows is the talk on Christianity that I gave today at the Taste of Religion event for Pinsent Masons which marked the launch of their multi-faith group. I was asked, in 5 - 10 minutes, to give a summary of the Christian faith and speak both about how Christianity influences Christians in the workplace and how Christianity fits within the workplace. The other speakers at this event organised by the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion included representatives of the Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh faiths.
I said: 
Christianity began, Christians believe, when God became a human being through the birth of Jesus Christ as a baby in Bethlehem. What Christians celebrate at Christmas is God becoming flesh and blood and moving into our neighbourhood.
What we call the Incarnation means that, in Jesus, God has become part of the ordinary, everyday business of human life.  Through Jesus’ life, including his work as a carpenter in Nazareth, God experiences, shares and understands human life from the inside. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God provides a way out from our being enmeshed in the selfishness and greed which characterises so much of human life and the societies we create.
As we enter into relationship with him, Christians believe that his Spirit begins to refashion us so that the loving, self-sacrificing characteristics of Jesus start to show up in our lives. As human beings we often continue to resist that change, so the evidence of it in our lives is always partial and this is why the confession of sins and the receiving of forgiveness is so central to Christian worship. Through our services we re-enact the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our services – particularly Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist of Lord’s Supper – are significant times and spaces in which this reshaping and re-orienting of our lives for service takes place.
All this means that everyday life, including work, has real significance for Christians as God has been revealed in everyday living and continues to be found there. Many strands of Christian spirituality foster the expectation that God will be encountered in and through daily life, including our working lives, and encourage prayer and reflection which is prompted by, responds to and meditates on daily tasks and experiences.
One of the things that many Christians in the workplace will wish to do is to pray. There is no required pattern of prayer within Christianity, so for many their praying will be private and personal but, for others, the provision of prayer or quiet rooms will be welcomed; while others will take the opportunity provided by such spaces to meet with other Christians in order to pray together. Workplaces benefit in many ways by accommodating the religious practices of people of faith and to have a group of Christians praying regularly for the company and its employees, whatever you think of prayer itself, sounds to me to be something to be encouraged.
We are currently in a time of significant change for the Christian church in the UK as secularism and the multi-faith composition of the UK gradually change the place that the Christian church has held in this country. A process of moving towards equality across the faiths is underway and, while a necessary and positive development, for the Christian church this involves letting go of the privileged place we have enjoyed within the UK for many years. For some Christians, this process of change is perceived as an attack on Christianity itself and this perception fuels some of the cases and issues which have arisen in recent years under the Religion & Belief regulations.
In many of these cases, more could have been done at an earlier stage to accommodate the specific request being made by the Christian member of staff, whether that was, for example, the wearing of a cross or the displaying of a palm cross in a company vehicle. The key response to any faith-related request by an employee is to fully explore the extent to which that request can be accommodated within your workplace. That involves taking on board the specific expression of faith being requested by that individual. It doesn’t really matter whether Christianity has a requirement that followers wear a cross or not – and, in practice, there are very few hard and fast requirements that hold true across all the Christian denominations – what matters is that your employee wishes to wear a cross and you, then, have to explore whether or not that can be accommodated or whether, for example, uniform or health & safety policies might impact on that request.

Overall, because some Christian festivals are officially sanctioned by governments as days when people are not required to work, Christians do not face the same issues as those of other faiths in negotiating time off work to celebrate their religious festivals. However, this has also changed to some extent in more recent years as a result of flexible working patterns and Sunday opening, meaning that, as with those of other faiths, employers should sympathetically consider holiday requests from Christian employees in order to celebrate festivals or attend ceremonies where it is reasonable and practical for the employee to be away from work, and they have sufficient holiday entitlement in hand.
Every year the media features stories of Christian festivals, often Christmas, being 'banned' or constrained in some fashion, and often on the basis that their celebration offends those of other faiths. This is simply not the case. The Christian Muslim Forum, for example, has tried to address by issuing a statement in 2006 which helpfully states:
“As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the recognition of Christian festivals. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. We believe that the only beneficiaries of a declining Christian presence in public life are those committed to a totally non-religious standpoint. We value the presence of clear institutional markers within society of the reality and mystery of God in public life, rather than its absence.”

So, please, do not be taken in by arguments that other faiths are offended by the celebration of Christian festivals or the display of Christian symbols, as that is simply not the case. 
Finally, because Christians are praying that the loving, self-sacrificing characteristics of Jesus are manifest in their lives, it is also likely that issues of corporate social responsibility, diversity and equality, ethics, relationality and values will be important issues for Christians in the workplace. Research has shown that people of faith often experience tensions between "the spiritual side of their values and their work" so the more scope there is within the organisation for discussion of its values and the way in which these impact on its business practices, the more likely it is that synergies can be found between the spiritual values of employees and the values of the organisation. Once again, research indicates that where such synergies can be found employees will be more motivated in their work and their personal investment in the organisation.

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Mumford and Sons - Sign No More.

Review in 'Art and Christianity'

The latest edition of Art & Christianity is out and includes the following:
  • Feature - Aaron Rosen re-visits an anti-Jewish masterpiece
  • Letter from Jonathan KeostlĂ©-Cate
  • Exhibition reviews - Neal Brown on Damien Hirst, Nicholas W S Cranfield on David LaChapelle, Stephen Laird on John Piper and the Church, Charles Pickstone on David Hockney
  • Book reviews - Gillian Darley on Pews, Benches and Chairs eds Trevor Cooper and Sarah Brown
  • Martin Eastwood on Lost in Wonder by Aidan Nichols OP, Jonathan Evens on Greg Tricker by Sister Wendy Beckett, Laura Moffatt on Divinity, Creativity, Complexity ed Michael Benedikt; Constructing the Ineffable ed Karla C Britton; Robert Maguire and Keith Murray by Gerard Adler
  • DVD review - John Cooke on Creative Spirit (Methodist Art Collection)
  • Commissioning - Sheona Beaumont on Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva and Michael Pinsky, Peter Doll on Norwich Cathedral Censing Angel
My review of The Christ Journey: Sister Wendy Beckett reflects on the Art of Greg Tricker highlights Tricker's creative processes before exploring issues of devotional reflection on artworks.

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The Innocence Mission - The Wonder Of Birds.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ascension torch relay

Every four years, numerous cities of the world bid to hold the Olympic Games. In their application to the Olympic Committee, the candidate cities must show, amongst other things, that they have the finances, the infrastructure and the right political and economic climate to sustain the games. 
As we have found out here in London, immense planning and organizing goes into hosting the Olympics. One of the immediate tasks that the successful city undertakes is setting up a committee to plan the games. For London 2012, that committee is called LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Among the functions of LOCOG was choosing individuals to carry the Olympic Torch.

Olympic torchbearers carry the torch from city to city, one handing it to the other almost like passing the baton in a relay race. The torch is used to light the Olympic Flame. Individuals chosen to carry the torch are people of accomplishment. They are individuals that the host country is proud to show off. Torchbearers are people that others would want to emulate, they are role models. It is a great honour to be chosen to carry the Olympic Torch.
On Saturday the Olympic torch sets out from Land's End en route to the Olympic Stadium. 8,000 people, aged 12 to 100, will carry it, with the relay visiting over 1,000 towns, cities and villages. Torchbearers will take in Stonehenge and the Giant's Causeway, and the flame will cross Loch Ness and climb Mount Snowden. The flame will be carried through Redbridge on Sunday 22 July.

Christians are also called to be torchbearers. A torchbearer is a person who leads or inspires. We are to carry the torch which, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is something that is lit for illumination. Jesus is the light of the world and we are to carry Him wherever we go. As His children, we are to shine so that those who do not know Him may come to know Him. The Bible says "The message that we have heard from his Son and announce is this: God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him" (1 John 1:5).
Just before his Ascension, Jesus met with the eleven disciples and said to them "Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people” (Mark 16: 15).This great commission was not only for the disciples but for all of us. It is for everyone who would confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We have a mandate to go and preach the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ in every nation of the world. We should be proud carriers of the torch and like Paul we should be quick to declare "I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God's power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles” (Romans 1:16). 

But this can only happen as we all play our own part in the Body of Christ. At the Ascension, Jesus is passing the torch to us and calling us to be torchbearers. So, it can only happen as we act as Jesus’ hands and feet, his eyes, ears and mouth, his body wherever we are. This is the challenge of the Ascension for us, but this challenge is combined with the promise that Jesus will send his Spirit to us to empower and equip us to be his people by doing what he would have done wherever we are. This is why he says to his disciples, “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1. 8). 

For this reason, the Ascension and Pentecost are intimately linked. The Ascension provides the challenge – “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples” (Matthew 28. 19) – and Pentecost provides the means - “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Like the Olympic torchbearers, we are called to pass the torch. It is incumbent upon us as Christians to pass the torch from generation to generation. It is the duty of parents, Christian teachers, pastors, missionaries and all who call themselves Christians to ensure that the torch is passed on. When we hear stories of how people came to know and serve the Lord, for many it was the godly influence of their parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors or friends that drew them to the Lord. "In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 16)

Just as the Olympic flame is lit and everyone can see it, so should it be with us. The Bible says, "You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5: 14). People ought to look at our life and desire what we have. Christians ought to set the pace for others to follow. May we all take up the torch and carry it proudly and faithfully. Amen.


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Vangelis - Chariots Of Fire.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

East London Textile Arts exhibition





Patchwork Lives is an exhibition of textile hangings created by residents of East London to celebrate the diversity of life in Newham during the Olympic Year. Sewn by women, men, and children of all levels of ability, they bring together people of different faith and cultural backgrounds to express themselves and raise money for creative projects abroad. The exhibition is in the Crypt Gallery at St Martin-in-the-Fields from Monday 14 – Sunday 20 May.

East London Textile Arts is an independent organisation working in East London. It was set up by local people of different faiths and ethnicities to make textiles that reflect the cultural diversity of the area. A small project reliant on its own fundraising, the group works in partnership with local community centres. There is also have an outreach program aimed at people who cannot access mainstream creative opportunities for reasons of health, family ties or economic constraints.

East London Textile Arts aims to work with people of all faiths and ethnicities, making community textiles to decorate local public buildings to the highest possible standards. It is a long term project, building creative skills in communities through long term developmental projects. Training is a key element of their work, which is done both within the projects and by sending volunteers and workers to relevant part-time college courses. As well as teaching crafts, fund-raising and community skills are recognized as vital areas of expertise needed to ensure the survival of creativity within East London communities.

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Tom Jones - Soul of a Man.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Vessel - space in which the spiritual interacts with art

There is a great example of practically exploring the relationship between art and spirituality on Tim Abbott's blog involving art students at Colchester Sixth Form College, the college chaplain, and Jevan Watkins Jones, one of the associate artists at Firstsite, a visual arts centre in Colchester seeking to make contemporary art relevant to all.

Initial meetings and workshops produced a theme, “Vessel”, signifying the space in which spirituality interacts with the artistic impulse. This then led on to an exhibition by the students held last week at the College. Tim writes that "This project has been a great example for us of how the work of chaplaincy in the college can integrate into other aspects of college life."

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Barclay James Harvest - Hymn.

Painting, poetry and presentations at 'Run with the Fire' exhibition


Next week I'll be exhibiting together with other commission4mission and invited artists showing in the Run with the Fire exhibition at the Strand Gallery (32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP) from 22nd - 27th May (11.00am - 6.00pm, Sunday 11.00am - 2.00pm), as part of the Pentecost Festival. I'll also be performing poetry at the Launch Night for the exhibition on Monday 21st May, 6.00 - 8.00pm as well as speaking on Christian influences on modern & contemporary art at 5.00pm on Saturday 26th May.

The Run with the Fire exhibition includes Ken James Ashby, Harvey Bradley, Colin Burns, Christopher ClackChristine Garwood, Jim Insole, Miriam Kendrick, Glenn Lowcock, Bradley Lucas, Henry Shelton, Sergiy Shkanov, Joy Rousell Stone, Esther Tidy, Mike Thomas, Rachel Watson and Peter Webb.
Original work by the above artists will complement the Run with the Fire digital exhibition (featuring the work of 25 international artists) to create a stimulating and exciting show with an eclectic mix of styles and media and exploring the broad theme of running life's race with passion and spirit.
Run with the Fire is an arts project for churches in the 2012 Olympics year organized by CANA, commission4mission and Veritasse based on the image of fire which links the Church’s Pentecost celebration with that of the Olympic runner. Run with the Fire aims to celebrate creativity, cultural exchange and hope for the future by providing a virtual exhibition of international artwork for use in Olympics-themed events organised by churches in 2012.
Run with the Fire provides a virtual exhibition of international artwork available on DVD, for display on large scale HD TV or monitor, or for projection using a digital projector. This digital exhibition can be presented as part of Olympics-themed events organised by churches in 2012 plus arts events or exhibitions organized by local churches. Copies of the Run with the Fire DVD can be purchased via http://www.veritasse.co.uk/cards-prints/most-popular/run-with-the-fire-dvd-pack/ or at the exhibition. A preview of the Run with the Fire digital exhibition can be seen at http://youtu.be/nFBGZDgFaw4, while for up-to-date news of the project see http://runwiththefire.blogspot.com/.
A Launch Night on Monday 21st May, 6.00 - 8.00pm, will provide the first opportunity to see the exhibition and will also include music and poetry exploring the exhibition theme. Those performing include singer-songwriter and poet Malcolm Guite, artist-musician Colin Burns, musician-poet Steve Scott and performance poet Tamsin Kendrick. Refreshments will be available. Cost - £2.00, pay on the door.

On Saturday 26th May there will be an additional programme of art talks and painting demonstrations:
  • Painting demonstration – Harvey Bradley, ongoing throughout the day. See Harvey work on a painting and discuss his approach with him.
  • The Spiritual Image in Modern Art - Mark Lewis, 11.30am. A broad overview of the spiritual impulse in the art forms of the modern world and their potential to turn our minds to higher things.
  • Run with the Fire – Steve Scott, 12.30pm. A talk about the ‘Run with the Fire’ project and DVD.
  • Stanley Spencer – A Visionary of our Time – Mark Lewis, 2.00pm. A talk which examines the life and work of one of Britain’s most renowned and eccentric 20th Century painters. The main themes include Spencer’s time as a war artist, and his extraordinary paintings which envision the Christian Gospels played out by the people in his beloved home town of Cookham.
  • Praying with our eyes open – Glenn Lowcock, 3.00pm. A talk on using images as an aid to prayer.
  • Emotional Tourist – Steve Scott, 4.00pm. What I am learning about art, life, spirituality, Trinity, and relational aesthetics from my travels in Bali and elsewhere.
  • Christian influences on modern & contemporary art – Jonathan Evens, 5.00pm. A broad overview of modern and contemporary art and artists which engage with Christianity.
The event listing for the exhibition and launch night can be found at: http://www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/ai1ec_event/run-with-the-fire-exhibition/?instance_id=873. Directions to the gallery are at: https://www.proudonline.co.uk/contact.aspx. The programme for art talks and demonstrations on Saturday 26th May is at: http://commissionformission.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/pentecost-festival-exhibition-saturday.html.
Hard copies of programmes for the Pentecost Festival can be ordered from: http://www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/contact/order-programmes/. The promo for the Festival can be viewed at: http://www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/promo/.

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Ty Tabor - Room For Me.

Windows on the world (196)


Ilford, 2012

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Lifehouse - Hanging By A Moment.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Exhibitions etc round-up












Repre art collective is a group of artists who have come together to exhibit, celebrate and promote contemporary representational art. They share a common vision to capture and depict reality and express it through diverse and eloquent forms of painting. This is their first collaborative exhibition together and the installation promises to be a vibrant display of contemporary portrait and landscape painting. The choice to hold their first exhibition together in St Martin-in-the-Fields and at the heart of the establishment in Trafalgar Square conveys their desire to raise the profile of contemporary figurative art and what it can truly articulate. Their debut exhibition, Repre 1, was held at The Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, WC2N 4JJ, from the 1st - 13th May 2012.

The modern Catholic church of Notre-Dame de France, heralded by an entrance flanked by two pillars decorated with biblical reliefs. Its unusual circular plan is derived from the Panorama, a rotunda 90ft in diameter originally built here and decorated with a scenic cylindrical painting by the Irish artist Robert Barker in 1796. The main point of interest, however, is the church's Chapelle du St-Sacrement, which contains a series of simple frescoes by Jean Cocteau from 1960 and a mosaic by Boris Anrep.

Hauser & Wirth are presenting Thomas Houseago’s ‘Large Owl (For B)’ as part of the gallery’s outdoor sculpture programme at Southwood Garden, St. James’s Church, London. This presentation acts as a preview to Houseago’s debut exhibition with the gallery, opening at Hauser & Wirth’s Savile Row space in September 2012. Rarely seen in the daylight, the owl has long been associated with the supernatural activities of the night and, for many cultures, is a symbol of mystery, wisdom and vigilance. Houseago’s ‘Large Owl (For B)’ will watch over the unique setting of Southwood Garden, a tranquil enclosure nestled in between London’s busiest streets, until mid-July.

John Bellany's paintings at Beaux Arts explode with emotion and imagination and are amongst the most confrontational, humanistic works produced in Britain in recent history. Immediately recognisable for its figurative content and stylistic coherence, his painting confronts in a wholly original manner themes such as love, addiction, passion, death and more recently, even serenity. Not surprising as Bellany has lived through numerous surgeries and near death experiences. This exhibition of oils, watercolours and drawings spans five decades of Bellany’s life. It demonstrates the innumerable ways in which his life’s work unveils insight and wisdom into the human condition.

Four the Love of Art is an exhibition featuring the diverse work of four internationally renowned artists; Carly Casey (Sydney), Anna Coroneo (New York), Natalie Tkachuk (London) and Kareena Zerefos (London). The artists have collaborated in creating this unique show, celebrating their individual and distinctive styles. Exhibited artworks range across a broad spectrum of media including: painting, drawing and photography.

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Ed Sheeran - Small Bump.

Floral stained glass


Kasey-Rae Passfield is currently studying photography at Norwich University College of the Arts. For her current project she has been looking at contemporary stained glass windows in order to create stained glass windows using flowers and repetition.

In her final image pressed flowers are collaged on paper to create the impression of stained glass windows. She has created a design with five lights using her black backing paper to give a sense of lead lines. The lights on both the left and right of her design balance each other by means of repeating images while the central light contains its own balanced design.

Passfield's windows depict a garden with dense foliage and the impression in the central light of sky and sun. This image works firstly as a decorative evocation of a well planted garden in full bloom but also, given the prominent use of stained glass within an ecclesiastical setting can also prompt thoughts of that most famous of gardens, the garden of Eden as mentioned in the book of Genesis. The role of human beings in Eden was to tend and care for this garden within which God himself walked. Here Passfield creates a well tended garden through which, as with stained glass itself, the light of the divine can be seen to shine.

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Gungor - You Are The Beauty. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Leaver's Assembly: Talk and Blessing

This is the talk and blessing that I gave today at the leaver's assembly for Year 11 at St Edward's Church of England School:
Proverbs 3:1-5: My child, don't forget what I teach you. Always remember what I tell you to do. My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life. Never let go of loyalty and faithfulness. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do this, both God and people will be pleased with you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.

John 14:12: I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do—yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father.

John 16:13-14: When, however, the Spirit comes, who reveals the truth about God, he will lead you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own authority, but he will speak of what he hears and will tell you of things to come. He will give me glory, because he will take what I say and tell it to you. 

Jesus said many amazing things that people still repeat regardless of whether they follow him or not. But the words we have just listened to must be among the most amazing because Jesus says that those who follow him will do greater things than him and will be led into all truth. When you think how amazing Jesus’ own actions were, it is hard to imagine how people like us could do greater things than that, and, when you think how profound his teaching was, how could we be led into deeper or greater truth than that?

But Jesus was articulating something that all good teachers think and feel; the sense that all the time he had spent with them and invested in them was not so they would be clones of him, simply repeating the things he did and said, but instead he had equipped, empowered and enabled his followers to follow him by using their own gifts and abilities and initiative which would inevitably mean that they would do and say different things from him but still with his Spirit and based on all they had learnt from him.

He was saying that each one of us is a unique combination of personality, abilities and potential and, therefore, each of us can make a unique mark on the world. His followers can do greater things than Jesus because they will do different things from him in his name and Spirit – things that only they can do for him because they are that unique package of personality, ability and potential.

That is also what your teachers here wish for you. That you will use what you have learnt here and the abilities you have developed here to make your own mark on the world and to continue learning, particularly about the meaning of life itself.

What that mark will be we can’t predict, although you hopefully have plans in place for the next stage in your learning, growth and development. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that making your mark on the world and doing great things means becoming famous or making pots of money. Many of the most significant things that people do in the course of their lives don’t make the headlines and don’t build our bank balances! For example, forming faithful, committed relationships is one of the most challenging but meaningful things we can do in life but that won’t feature in the press and media or usually impact on our bank balance. Many of you, later in life, are likely to become parents and will know the joys and struggles of supporting your own children in their development and growth. That is one of the most significant things we can do over the course of our lives; something that is both extraordinary and profoundly ordinary at one and the same time.

Leaving secondary education though is the point at which your choices and decisions about the future begin to come into play and begin to be followed through. Our prayer for you therefore is what Jesus prayed for his disciples that you will go on to do greater things than your teachers by making your unique mark on the world and that you will go ever deeper into truth by continuing learn throughout your life.

Let us pray for God’s blessing on your leaving, your doing, and your learning:

We thank you, Lord, for each one of these your people - for their unique combination of personality, abilities and potential, for all they have learnt while here and for all the friendships they have formed. We pray for your blessing on them as they leave this place and for you to be with them in revision, exams, results and future plans. We pray for your guidance as they seek to make their mark on the world by using all they have learnt here together with their unique combination of personality, abilities and potential. We pray that they might do great things, things that we cannot do and cannot yet predict. We pray for them the blessing of committed, sustained friendships and relationships and the blessing of ongoing, lifelong learning. Most of all we pray that the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will rest upon and remain with each one of you now and forever. Amen.  

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 The Bluebells with Bobby Valentino - Young At Heart

Many different voices

Sam Norton has written an excellent post on approaches to reading and understanding the Bible. His starting point is that:
"One of the most important things to understand about the Bible is that it is a library of Holy Scripture – that is, there are many different voices within the Bible (even within particular books of the Bible) – and this is of God. That is, it is in recognising both what different books have in common, and where they disagree, that an individual Christian is enabled to come to a mature understanding of the text."

He sets out why the Bible can't be assumed to have one single unequivocal thing to say about a topic and explains historically how the idea that it does appeared within Christianity. With astute illustrations of the issues he raises, this is an excellent post which lays the ground for some examination of particular  texts in future.

See here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for my take on this in a series of posts entitled Divine dialogues.

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Iona ~ Edge of the World.