Israel and Palestine today are lands of contrasts, where past and present are juxtaposed in contrasts which are sometimes incongruous and sometimes profound. This lithograph shows a view of Jerusalem from approximately 1890 and shows the essentially rural nature of the area surrounding the Old City at that time.
Nazareth is now a large city, where once, at the time of Christ, it was an obscure village. The Basilica of the Annunciation is a modern Roman Catholic church built on the foundations of an earlier Crusader church. The church has been built over the excavated remains of buildings from the settlement of Jesus’ day and incorporates into this modern building the ancient Grotto of the Annunciation.
At Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity stands alongside a busy central square. Bethlehem is a town relient on tourism, where its holy sites are alongside the food outlets, accommodation and souvenir shops which tourists require and which support the local economy.
The Basilica of the Annunciation straddles and shields remains from ancient Nazareth. At the centre of this modern church are remains of earlier churches and the ancient Grotto of the Annunciation which is thought to be the location where the Annunciation occurred. At the heart, therefore, of the tourist trails and visits there is worship, piety and devotion.
The same mix is found in Bethlehem, where tourists and pilgrims can queue for two hours or more to see or to kiss the site that is traditionally thought to be the location of Christ’s birth and the site of the manger. Among the busyness of this crowded space people kneel in devotion to worship Christ.
The humble events of Jesus’ conception and birth have proved inspirational, spreading around the world, bringing millions to the holy sites and leading to the creation of great art and architecture. The Basilica of the Annunciation is a stunning example of modernist architecture which is sensitive to the site and which enhances worship. Artworks in mosaic, stained glass and stone have been collected there from around the world to tell the story of the Annunciation in a truly global fashion.
The poet, Malcolm Guite, says of Mary: ‘Mary has been given many titles down the ages and some Christians have disagreed with one another bitterly about her. But equally, in every age and every church she has been, for many Christians, a sign of hope and an inspiration. Her earliest ‘title’, agreed throughout the church in the first centuries of our faith, before the divisions of East and West, Catholic and Protestant, was Theotokos, which means God-Bearer. she is the prime God-Bearer, bearing for us in time the One who was begotten in eternity, and every Christian after her seeks to become in some small way a God-bearer, one whose ‘yes’ to God means that Christ is made alive and fruitful in the world through our flesh and our daily lives, is born and given to another.’
You bore for me the One who came to bless
And bear for all and make the broken whole.
You heard His call and in your open ‘yes’
You spoke aloud for every living soul.
Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,
Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,
Call me again, for I am lost, and wild
Waves surround me now. On this dark sea
Shine as a star and call me to the shore.
Open the door that all my sins would close
And hold me in your garden. Let me share
The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.
Enfold me too in Love’s last mystery
And bring me to the One you bore for me.
Lila: '“A question is more spacious than a statement,” she once wrote, “far better suited to expressing wonder.” Her questioning books express wonder: they are enlightening, in the best sense, passionately contesting our facile, recycled understanding of ourselves and of our world. The one thing Robinson can be counted on to resist is received wisdom. At the end of an essay called “Psalm Eight”, she wrote that we all “exist in relation to experience, if we attend to it and if its plainness does not disguise it from us, as if we were visited by revelation”.' Sarah Churchwell on Marilynne Robinson.
Stations of the Cross: 'The inexpressibly painful story of Maria (Lea van Acken) is structured in an ingenious parallel with the stations of the cross (that is, the traditional scenes associated with Christ carrying his cross to the crucifixion) and filmed in mostly static tableaux, beginning with a confirmation class whose composition recalls depictions of the last supper.' Review by Peter Bradshaw.
The Documentary: Sister Aimee: 'McPherson founded her own church in 1923, which was “built more like a theatre with an orchestra pit at the front,” according to biographer Matthew Sutton. She would take to the stage and enact Bible stories which had the production values of a Broadway musical.' Review by Priya Elan.
P. D. James: 'Her books always contained at least one religious character, a sign of her devotion to Anglicanism. This gave way to much discussion in her stories about the nature of good and evil, with Dalgliesh, the son of a vicar, often leading the way.' Obituary.
Gist Is: 'Harry was raised a Christian, and came out aged 19. Friends and family were supportive; reaction from the broader church community was mixed. “I was leading a youth group, and I was asked not to carry on there.” He laughs, hollowly. “Still got my back up about it.” Attempting to clear the air, he and Tim met with group leaders, assuming responsible adults could be reasoned with. “But they were really horrible. You found some people held on to scripture so tightly, because that was what they built everything on. But then there were others, just as devout, who were almost excited by vagueness. They weren’t tied to the letters, the lines, but the sentiment. Their support was invaluable to me.”' Interview with Adult Jazz.
William Blake: '... I discovered what I believed in. My mind and my body reacted to certain lines from the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, from “Auguries of Innocence”, from Europe, from America with the joyful immediacy of a flame leaping to meet a gas jet. What these things meant I didn’t quite know then, and I’m not sure I fully know now. There was no sober period of reflection, consideration, comparison, analysis: I didn’t have to work anything out. I knew they were true in the way I knew that I was alive. I had stumbled into a country in which I was not a stranger, whose language I spoke by instinct, whose habits and customs fitted me like my own skin.' Philip Pullman on the poetry of Blake.
Excellent day at the Christmas Bazaar for St John's Seven Kings. Much hard work in the planning and on the day resulted in a well attended, hugely enjoyable event which raised significant funds for St John's.
'A great speaker lined up for Tuesday lunch time enterprise club on 2nd December- Rishi of Kukus Nest restaurant/venue in Goodmayes. And we are hoping to find interesting ways to use his space when it is empty. More info here
Guest blog by Stephanie Mugo on our Timebank visit to Barkingside 21 coffee morning. Click here.
And not forgetting the Great Community Skills Swap on Friday 5th December in the Flirt cafe in Ley Street, Ilford. In addition to the activities on this flyer, we have recruited Yvonne Tomlinson to run a craft session to make a Christmas wreath from pom poms. Please just come for cup of tea and see whats happening but even better book in for one of the offers, or think of something you can do and let us know. Let's get the Timebank working and have fun!
We are recruiting for more volunteers - if you are interested in what we do and have spare time, please do get in touch.'
'Because in a secular age, transcendence is transgression. To write songs that yearn for something more – not in a vague, pie-in-the-sky way, but in a sacramental, earthy, no-ideas-but-in-things way – is to transgress the spirit of the times which demands there is no such thing as spirit.'
Joel Heng Hartse is writing in Christ and Pop Culture about Luxury, a band with three members - Lee Bozeman, and his guitarist and brother James Bozeman, and the band’s bassist, Chris Foley - who are all Orthodox priests. Luxury are '(a) a sincere, wounded rock band who sing about sex, death, and decadence, and also (b) a group of mostly bearded men who largely spend their time performing liturgies, administering sacraments, and providing pastoral care.'
Limmud Conference is one part of a huge, world-wide community dedicated to Jewish learning in the broadest sense, a community with traditions and values, unique ways of doing things and a real existence outside its formal events. There are sessions to delight and engage, whether you want to study Torah, meet writers, argue with politicians or stay up into the small hours in the company of some of the best performers in the Jewish world.
Maciej Hoffman was born in Wroclaw, Poland. In his third year at the Theological Academy in Wroclaw, his craving for Philosophy was no longer as powerful as the vocation to become an artist. In 1988, Hoffman enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, having graduated with a dual diploma in sculpture and painting. After finishing his studies under the guidance of prestigious artists, Hoffman went on to pursue a career in advertising and marketing. In 2003, he began exploring web art and became passionate for it. Today, Hoffman has returned to exhibiting his artwork.
On Sunday I was able to announce that, subject to DBS clearance, I will be moving on from St John’s in the New Year to become Priest for Partnership Development Development at two churches in London. I will be Priest-in-Charge at St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London and also an Associate Minister at St Martin-in-the-Fields. This is a new role which involves forming partnerships between the two churches as well as with businesses in the City of London and cultural organisations around Trafalgar Square.
It is always difficult to know when to move on from your current ministry but the fact that this is a unique opportunity which involves all of my key interests in ministry and is a role which won’t be advertised in this way again has made up my mind that this is the time for me to move on. It will be a wrench to leave all our friends at St John’s, in Seven Kings, Newbury Park and the Redbridge Deanery but I hope and pray that all we have done together over the past eight years will stand St John's in good stead for this new phase of its mission and ministry in the interregnum and beyond. My last Sunday at St John's will be 18th January.
In the meantime, there is much going on and the attached files have posters for some of what is coming up. We have our Christmas Bazaar at St John's this coming Saturday (29th November) from 10.30am to 3.00pm. I will be sharing some reflections and photographs from the recent East London Three Faiths Forum Tour of the Holy Land in services at St John's on 30th November and 7th December. I will also be sharing some meditative materials from my sabbatical in the Listening to God session at St Laurence's Barkingside on Sunday 7th December at 6.30pm.
Look out for the feature article I have written based on my sabbatical art pilgrimage which is in tomorrow's Church Times. In it I highlight ‘hidden gems’ of the sacred art revival in the twentieth century; churches which do not have iconic profiles
and therefore demonstrate that the engagement of artists with churches in that period meant
more than simply prestige and profile. The cover image comes from one of the churches I feature in the article, Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil at Lourtier.
The word that has been on everyone's lips has been 'memorable' and that was certainly how it felt for me. The mix of sites from our scriptures and subsequent histories combined with the experience of the current political and cultural situation was fascinating and opened up many new perspectives for future reflection. To have these experiences with a group of people committed to their beliefs but seeking to understand and appreciate that of others was often deeply moving. For me it reinforced a sense that God is often to be found less in the basic tenets of our faiths and more in the stories we tell from our scriptures and the ensuing discussion and debate as we seek to ascertain what those stories might be saying to us, for us and in us.
Our Tour ended at Yad Vashem where among the various quotations and installations was an excerpt from the book The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart. As a result of this visit I wrote the following poem which I present in a similar collaged style to the excerpt from The Last of the Just:
Clouds mass. And praised. Over Yad Vashem. Be. Last stop. The Lord. Of Tour. And praised. End of. Be. Dry season. The Lord. Rain falls. And praised. Lightning flashes. Be. God cries. The Lord. Real tears. Amen.