Enterprise club this week has Muhammad Nasir helping you create your marketing plan. He is now known to many of you and he has been offering informal mentoring for quite a few weeks now. More info click here.
The next fab skills swap is on Thursday 7-9.30pm in the start-up Polish cafe, Flirt, in Ley Street. Please see here for what's on offer. Come along, join the Timebank, spend an hour of your time and experience some wonderful community spirit! And start-ups - get out there, offer your service, build your customer base! Info here.
The Sophia course is starting this week on Thursday afternoons. Two places still available. Info click here.
The Bishop of London spoke about "a transforming vision of a wider us." Giving a sneak preview of the sermon to be preached by the Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martins, on Sunday, he said that we have a message of "faith in the face of fear, hope in the face of death, and love in the face of suffering." Sam says that through partnership development "we want to find abundance in scarcity, we want to expand our programmes and deepen our common life so we too can be a blessing to communities beyond ourselves."
In my sermon at the midweek Eucharist I quoted George Monbiot, who wrote in a recent article, that individuation – the focus on the meeting of our individual needs - ‘is exploitable’ and therefore social hierarchies have been ‘built around positional goods and conspicuous consumption.’ As a result, ‘we are lost in the 21st century, living in a state of social disaggregation that hardly anyone desired but which is an emergent property of a world reliant on rising consumption to avert economic collapse, saturated with advertising and framed by market fundamentalism.’
In this messy world our partnership development will seek to "enrich common life and culture, alleviate and in time eradicate poverty and injustice, and promote love, joy and peace."
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who is best known for creating a hierarchy of needs. ‘This is a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.’ At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic needs of human beings; needs for food, water, sleep and sex. Maslow’s model works as a hierarchy because a pressing need must be mostly satisfied before someone will give their attention to the next highest need. The other levels of his hierarchy include: safety; belonging; esteem; exploration; harmony; and self-actualization.
The temptations which Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4. 1 - 11) can be mapped onto Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The first temptation is about his basic need for food – ‘command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ Jesus responds by, in effect, saying that his basic needs have already been met. As a result, the final two temptations come higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, being to do with the need for esteem.
The temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the temple is about the temptation of celebrity; in this case, gaining esteem by undertaking a sensational act. The final temptation is about the gaining of esteem through the exercise of power and wealth – the kingdoms of the world and all they offer in terms of wealth, power and worship are offered with the only price paid being the worship of someone other than God.
Jesus essentially responds to each temptation by saying that God is all he needs. Whatever our human needs may be – basic, safety, belonging, esteem, exploration, harmony or self-actualization - Jesus is clear that God meets and fulfils every need as we make him central to our lives.
Maslow observed normal human behaviour and used his observations to create his hierarchy of needs. The temptation to put the focus on ourselves and our needs as we go through life is strong in each one of us. Maslow sees that and designs his theory accordingly.
George Monbiot, in a recent article, says that we have built our society on our need to have our individual needs met. He writes that individuation – the focus on the meeting of our individual needs - ‘is exploitable’ and therefore social hierarchies have been ‘built around positional goods and conspicuous consumption.’ As a result, ‘we are lost in the 21st century, living in a state of social disaggregation that hardly anyone desired but which is an emergent property of a world reliant on rising consumption to avert economic collapse, saturated with advertising and framed by market fundamentalism.’
Jesus turns this on its head by putting the focus on God. Maslow says that what matters is that our needs are met; making us the central players in our own drama. Jesus says that God has to be central. It is when we put him first that everything else falls into place and we have the sense that all our needs are met in him.
In the wilderness, Jesus was hungry, was living in obscurity and was both poor and lacking in influence. Although his basic needs and his need for esteem were not met in human terms, nevertheless, because God was central to his life and being, he was fulfilled despite his evident lack of food and esteem.
In his second letter to the Church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1. 3 - 11, 4. 8 - 9), St Paul writes of being so utterly, unbearably crushed that he and his colleagues despaired of life itself, but were consoled in their affliction by God. As a result of this consolation, though afflicted in every way, they were not crushed; though perplexed, they did not despair; though persecuted, they were not forsaken; though struck down, they were not destroyed. In the same way as we have seen with Jesus and his temptations, the testimony of Paul is that despite their needs not being met humanly, the centrality of God to their lives meant that they were fulfilled nevertheless.
So where is our focus in our lives? Do we do what Maslow observed was common to human beings and focus on the meeting of our needs - putting ourselves and our needs first - or are we turning Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on its head and making God central to our lives, our thinking and our actions? Our choice will determine whether we, as consumers, continually chase fulfilment throughout our lives never fully finding what it is we seek or alternatively, as Christians, come to know fulfilment even when the needs which Maslow noted are not met as he envisaged.
Lesley Sutton is an artist, curator and community arts worker who aims to encourage creativity within the local community by sharing her love of all things beautiful and creative.
During Lent 2014 she curated a visual arts trail (PassionArt) across the city of Manchester using both sacred and secular spaces. Each art work was accompanied by a meditation encouraging spaces for reflection within a busy city. The booklet that accompanied the trail can be read by clicking here - PassionArt_WEB.pdf.
Ana Maria Pacheco is a painter, sculptor and printmaker who was born in Brazil in 1943 and has lived in England since 1973. Her work exhibits a compelling yet disturbing merging of Brazilian folklore, classical myth, mystical Catholicism and political satire. "Mythical and religious themes, usually given a dark edge, figure in much of her
work" and she "deals with issues of control and the exercise of power, drawing upon the tensions between the old world of Europe and the new world of her Brazilian birth."
"The variety of Pacheco’s sculptural work is remarkable and with its tough humanist core, her project
constantly provokes us to seriously question the true extent of our own humanity, and of our uses
and abuses of power. Ana has said that her 'art shows how vulnerable we are'. Large and enduring
themes; violence, journeys, death, love, transformation and metamorphosis reflect her high
seriousness, but at the same time her work is neither pompous nor devoid of humour. With a cast of
characters that are betrayed, tortured, ecstatic, seductive, grotesque, bestial or divine, her work can
arouse extreme emotions, a process that some concluded art no longer has the power to elicit."
Four separate but simultaneous exhibitions, in four different Norwich locations, will bring major
sculptural work from Pacheco to Norwich for the first time.
Event at Norwich Castle Friday 27 March | 5.30 – 7.30pm Norfolk Contemporary Art Society and Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery present Ana Maria Pacheco and Colin Wiggins in conversation 5.30 – 6.15pm – exhibition viewing 6.15 – 7.15pm – conversation in the Town Close Auditorium Seating is limited so pre-booking is essential To reserve tickets please email email@example.com NCAS members | £5.00 – Non-members | £7.00 (payment at door)
The "tender, intimate and emotional paintings" of Evelyn Williams "are concerned with the subtleties and complexities of relationships and the human predicament." Her work explored human relationships by establishing formal rhythmic relationship between figures and by charging them with intense emotion. "Her very personal paintings followed her progress through life as child, lover, mother and grandmother."
From tomorrow the Martin Tinney Gallery has an exhibition of approximately 25 works which features the last paintings she worked on. "These are powerful, haunting paintings which, fully aware that her health was declining rapidly, show the artist facing her own mortality with her customary directness and tenderness."
Fay Weldon has said: “Evelyn Williams’ work is imbued by an unmistakable mixture of grace and greatness. It is 'awesome' - if we can get back to the true sense of the word. It fills you with awe. In its restraint, its gravity, the sense it imparts of female endurance, female beauty, the power and seriousness of love between woman and child, woman and woman, man and woman, her sheer courage in taking on board the nature of the universe in its most unsmiling mode, it achieves greatness, and will outlast all of us”
Sister Wendy Beckett says: “All Evelyn’s work has a deep contemplative stillness within it. The dignity of her figures – women above all – is a consequence of their listening hearts. Looking at Evelyn’s paintings I think of Keats “Unheard Melodies” … love is her theme”
The annual Limborough Lecture is a part of the Company Year for the Worshipful Company of Weavers, the oldest recorded Livery Company, and stems from a legacy provided by James Limborough, a prosperous member of the Court of Assistants in the eighteenth century, to fund a series of lectures "to promote useful religious knowledge and real wholeness of heart and life".
This year's lecture was given by The Ven. Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne, and was entitled 'Making a family out of strangers'. This title is the strapline for St Michael's Camden Town, a church which has been brought back from the brink of closure through its open door policy. Archdeacon Paul began by telling the story of St Michael's revival before using it as a paradigm for the openness to the other - those who are different from ourselves - which he argued is desperately needed locally, nationally and globally today.
In doing so, he also referred those present to the recent pastoral letter from the Bishops of the Church of England which is entitled 'Who is my neighbour?' There the Bishops state that the starting point for the Church of England’s engagement with society, the nation and the world is that: "Followers of Jesus Christ believe that every human being is created
in the image of God. But we are not made in isolation. We belong
together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply
used and consumed." The hope of the Bishops is, "that
others, who may not profess church
allegiance, will nevertheless join in
the conversation and engage with
the ideas" shared in this letter.
St Michael's Camden Town is also the location for a colossal art installation entitled HS by Maciej Urbanek, measuring over 60 square metres and covering the entire west wall of the huge Victorian Church, which could be one of the world’s largest photographic works. This installation, which covers badly damaged plasterwork in a church still in need of a great deal of restoration, appears to the viewer to be a vast explosion of fabulous silvery light. However it is made from the most humble of materials – dustbin bags which the artist has arranged, lit and photographed such that a mundane material is transformed into a grand, majestic artwork. While not referred to in the lecture, this artwork relates to Archdeacon Paul's theme because, as Fr. Philip North, then Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras and now Bishop of Burnley, has explained: "For us as Christians, the fact that ordinary dustbin bags have been used to create something so overwhelmingly beautiful is a metaphor for God’s work in taking ordinary human lives and making them extraordinary."
As a result, 'Europeans should recognise, when we rightly defend the right to offend, that for inheritors of the sensational tradition of Christian art, it is actually quite easy to say that artists have the right to do what they want to religion. Even the church agrees on that, as it always has.'
While this is a valid and important corrective, Jones will also be well aware of the propensity within certain streams of Christianity to protest against the right to offend. In his article he mentions Andre Serrano'sPiss Christ, a cibachrome print of a crucifix submerged in urine, which 'became a hate object for cultural and religious conservatives in 1980s America.'
Yet, as he rightly suggests, Christians are as 'likely to embrace the outrageous image as they would a lamb strayed from the flock. 'Jesus,' he quips, 'how can you offend these people?' In his excellent talk on faith and contemporary art entitled 'Icons or Eyesores?' Alan Stewart does precisely that in relation to Serrano's Piss Christ:
'For me the real power of the piece is that it encapsulates a Christ who comes into the filth and refuse of the world, who himself is rejected, expelled like a body fluid. God in the refuse of life; dignifying it; sitting with us in solidarity. Allowing himself to become contaminated with the fall-out of life.'
Some years ago Philip Ritchie, Paul Trathen and myself led several courses entitled The Big Picture exploring faith and popular culture. In one session we considered the pros and cons of Christian protest or engagement in relation to controversial portrayals of Christ. In the 1970’s and 80’s films like Monty Python’sLife of Brian and Martin Scorcese’sThe Last Temptation of Christ resulted in thousands of Christians demonstrating outside cinema’s while Christian organisation’s like the National Viewer’s and Listener’s Association headed by Mary Whitehouse lobbied for these films to be banned. However, the release of The Da Vinci Code in 2006, although it dealt with similarly controversial material for Christians, did not result in mass protests. Instead, through seeker events, bible studies, websites and booklets Churches encouraged discussion of the issues raised by the film while clearly contesting the claims made about Christ and the Church.
We noted that the protests often did not tally with the content of the films and displayed a lack of understanding of the films, their stories and meaning. As Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, has said 'those who called for the satire to be banned after its release in 1979 were “embarrassingly” ill-informed and missed a major opportunity to promote the Christian message.' Life of Brian portrayed the followers of religions as unthinking and gullible and the response of Christians to that film reinforced this stereotype. The Church had to relearn that the way to counter criticism is not to try to ban or censor it but to engage with it, understand it and accurately counter it. The Da Vinci Code events, bible studies, websites etc. that the Church used to counter the claims made in The Da Vinci Code featured reasoned arguments based on a real understanding of the issues raised which made use of genuine historical findings and opinion to counter those claims.
This brings us back to Jones' comments that, following the Iconoclastic controversy, 'When it comes to portraying God and Jesus, there never were many restrictions in Europe ... Artists were not only permitted but encouraged by the Church to depict Jesus in the most shocking ways they could.' This approach has helped to develop 'Europe’s modern openness about religious images' but has grown naturally out of the Christian emphasis on 'the humanity and suffering of a god brought down to Earth' or, as Stewart puts it: 'a Christ who comes into the filth and refuse of the world, who himself is rejected, expelled like a body fluid. God in the refuse of life; dignifying it; sitting with us in solidarity. Allowing himself to become contaminated with the fall-out of life.'
Yesh has come to the city to complete his mission of the last three years. But the authorities have him in their sights and one of his friends has different plans for him. There's just time for a last takeaway curry before Yesh must face what he has come to do.
First Light is a new Passion Play by Hertford playwright Kate Miller, a fresh re-imagining of the events of Easter from a modern perspective. Directed by National Theatre actor Trevor Michael Georges, it brings together a 2000-year-old story with the dreams, fears and struggles of 21st-Century Britain.
With a cast of professional actors and Hertford people, and featuring original music created by Hertford musicians, First Light offers an engaging, and at times surprising, look at the last days of Jesus' life.
First Light will be performed at St Andrew's Church during Holy Week. Performances will be on: Good Friday (3 April) 7.30pm and Holy Saturday (4 April) 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Tickets on sale soon.
'First Light': A Passion Play for Hertford by Kate Miller. Directed by Trevor Michael Georges. Music by Harold Chaplin, Katie Seaton and Maria Henriksson-Bell. Suitable for people of all faiths or none. Age 8+.
'The trouble ... is that leaders of the corporate sector, particularly those providing “financial services” (services to whom?), are doing so well out of short-termist capitalism that they resist even modest attempts to ameliorate its negative long-term effects and portray such policies as “anti-business” ...
Increasingly, however, it is capitalism that needs structural reform, particularly in persuading private companies that, if they accept the state’s legal protection – in the form of limited liability, for example – they must accept reciprocal obligations to the wider community, not least the obligation to pay tax in full and on time. But reasonable as this sounds, the rich elite – who, as Hutton says, now regard avoiding taxes as a duty and evading them as morally understandable – will resist every inch of the way. Why wouldn’t they? They are sitting comfortably and will not risk their good fortune. Short-termist capitalism breeds short-term thinkers and they flourish in politics, industry and finance at the commanding heights of our society.'
Hutton himself makes a similar point in commenting with real understanding of and appreciation for the letter, Who is my neighbour?, from the Church of England’s bishops which was directed to the people and parishes of the Church of England:
'The bishops are a last redoubt of moral authority that insists on the primacy of a public realm that serves the common good – for all the pushback from Tory MPs and ministers mocking their emptying churches, accusing them of being left sympathisers or reminding them, as the prime minister did, that growth is bringing the jobs and job security they crave. None of these responses spoke the language of common good, or even accepted it as a premise for political action. We live in a world where the utterances of a Stuart Rose, former-chair of Marks and Spencers, or even private-equity magnate and tax exile Stefano Pessina, about what is good for business – good for mammon – have become the new moral authority.'
Hutton notes that the 'Church of England is one of the last few institutions in touch, through its parishes, with the entire country' and that what has moved 'Anglican leaders to write is the distressing condition of so many of the people that the church encounters in its daily ministry – living, increasingly, in a society of strangers, as the leaders would say, often lonely, uncertain about the prospects of a career or to what extent the social bargain will help them out.'
'Mammon now rules, declares Marquand. But he thinks that the rediscovery of a richer discourse of the common good will necessarily be drawn from religious traditions, even writing as he does as an unbeliever. The bishops have not let him down. They cite Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians as an inspiration that should bind believers and non-believers. “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” They long, they say, for a more humane society that reflects Saint Paul’s injunction – a better politics for a better nation. Amen, you might say, to that.'
The manifesto for the renaissance in modern sacred art was written in stone, glass and paint at Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal in the upmarket municipality of Cologny with its stunning views of Geneva. The town is well known for its having been visited by Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, John Polidori and other friends in the summer of 1816. During this trip the basis of the classic tales of Frankenstein and The Vampyre were written.
Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal deserves to have similar renown. The obituary to its architect, Alphonse Guyonnet, published in the Bulletin technique de la Suisse romande, notes that through its beauty, this church caused a sensation in Geneva, French-speaking Switzerland and abroad, as its design and creation made clear the religious possibilities of modern art and its compatibility, both denied previously, with the demands of tradition, liturgy and doctrine.
Located at the southern end of Cologny and to be found at the dead end of the Avenue St. Paul, the church has to be deliberately sought out in order to appreciate its significance and beauty. Its creation began in 1911 when, as a result of growth in the Roman Catholic population, the Catholic Church authorities in Geneva appointed Father Francis Jacquet to create and organize a parish in Grange-Canal.
Fr. Jacquet was a young priest who was both an able artist and theologian. He determined from the outset that his new church would be a place of artistic beauty. He began by appointing the young Guyonnet as architect. Over the course of his significant career Guyonnet built and restored churches in Corsier, Carouge and Tavannes, working with artists from the Society of St Luke and St Maurice which he joined in 1926 but with whom he first worked here at Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal.
The church is Romanesque in design with Guyonnet having been inspired by the simplicity and authenticity of the early church. Therefore he created a building with great simplicity of lines and volumes in which he sought to create unity and harmony by linking internal and external designs and by creating decoration in the same spirit as the design. In doing so, he was following and implementing the vision of Fr. Jacquet.
Jacquet gathered around him a group of young artists from the region (including Georges de Traz, Marcel Poncet and Alexandre Cingria) who, under the direction of Guyonnet and the internationally known French artist Maurice Denis, decorated the church based on the iconographic programme devised by Fr. Jacquet. The decorative work was completed in 1926, seven years after the death of Jacquet in January 1919, and was carried out using a wide range of different techniques. Fr. Jacquet’s brother Anthony took on the management of the work following his death but the significance of the renewal of sacred art which Fr. Jacquet initiated at Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal is demonstrated by the fact that in 1919 both Denis and Cingria set up groups which went on to produce significant work for many churches in subsequent years. With Georges Desvallières, Denis founded the Ateliers d’Art Sacré in Paris while François Baud, Cingria, Marcel Feuillat, Poncet and de Traz established the Group of St Luke and St Maurice in Switzerland.
The church, design and iconography are all dominated by a huge canvas depicting the life and deeds of Saint Paul, the church's patron, which fills the apse and was painted by Denis in 1916. This painting is in the ‘muted palette of pastel blues, pinks, grays and mauves’ which he favoured following a visit to Rome in 1898. This visit stirred his interest in classicism, and ‘initiated a shift away from the more spectacular, subjective Symbolism of Gauguin and Van Gogh towards what he saw as the reassertion of the classical values of Paul Cézanne.’ In subsequent articles Denis ‘disseminated the view that classicism was the essence of the French cultural tradition’ (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/maurice-denis-le-reveil-dulysse-5734397-details.aspx). Denis also prepared cartoons for stained glass windows at the top of the nave which are dedicated to saints of the region, as well as stained glass windows in the aisles made in memory of Fr. Jacquet. Denis also prepared the cartoon for the baptistry mosaic of Christ’s baptism which was executed by Charles Wasem. This mosaic brings together Christ’s baptism with New Testament scenes of baptism, plus prefigurations of baptism from the Old Testament.
The remaining windows at Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal were designed by Charles Brunner, Alexandre Cingria and Marcel Poncet. Cingria’s window in the lower left side of the church representing the Curé of Ars is one of the most important he created. Like a graphic novel, this window has four scenes: the priest "persecuted by devils", the appearance of John the Baptist to the priest, asking him to be particularly honoured in Ars, the encounter with an unknown rider who "gave a grant to ... pay the expenses of the Chapel of St. John the Baptist" and finally a crowd of pilgrims thronging to Ars to hear the word of this humble priest. As Lada Umstätter notes, these scenes are particularly rich in contemporary details. Cingria also designed four windows for the narthex, including Jacob, Job and Joseph. Poncet has four windows in the main body of the church, as well as three other windows behind the organ depicting Old Testament characters. Poncet also designed the boxes for the nave ceiling, which were executed by the decorators Wercur and Hohler of Geneva.
Georges de Traz created a unique and inventive fresco-style composition featuring false vaults and based on the Acts of the Apostles in the ceilings of the aisles. In addition to images of the four Evangelists, these scenes include: Pentecost; St. Peter healing at the temple gate; the stoning of St. Stephen; St. Peter confusing Simon Magus; St. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch; St. Peter's vision at Joppa; St. Paul at the Areopagus; and the arrival of St. Paul in Rome. The scenes are connected by plant foliage and flowers between which eight medallions alternate with monochrome hexagons. The medallions depict the four prophets preceding Christ - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel - plus St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome and St. Gregory. The ten hexagons show scenes from the Old Testament which prefigure the New Testament.
The sculptor Casimir Reymond ‘was commissioned to make the statue of the Virgin and four bas-reliefs.’ These are embedded in the pilasters and depict the parish priest of Ars, St. Philomena, St. Anne and St. Anthony. Reymond studied painting at the School of Fine Arts in Geneva before turning to sculpture. His commissions include work for Lausanne Cathedral, the Federal Supreme Court and the Denantou Park.
The sculptor and engraver François Bocquet completed the Stations of the Cross. This same artist also prepared the plaster model for the tympanum of the entrance porch, which was carved by the stonemason Caccia of Lausanne. Christ sits on his heavenly throne, surrounded by the four Evangelists, raising his hand as a sign of welcome and blessing.
The welcome shown to artists and their work here gave significant impetus to the broader renaissance of sacred art in the twentieth century which I have explored through my sabbatical art pilgrimage.