Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Spirit of Colin McCahon

The Spirit of Colin McCahon by Zoe Alderton provides a vivid historical contextualisation of New Zealand's premier modern artist, clearly explaining his esoteric religious themes and symbols. 

Via a framework of visual rhetoric, this book explores the social factors that formed McCahon's religious and environmental beliefs, and justifications as to why his audience often missed the intended point of spiritual his discourse - or chose to ignore it. 

The Spirit of Colin McCahon tracks the intricate process by which the artist's body of work turned from optimism to misery, and explains the many communicative techniques he employed in order to arrest suspicion towards his Christian prophecy. 

More broadly, The Spirit of Colin McCahon outlines a model of analysis for the intersection of art and religion, and the place of images as rhetorical devices within Antipodean culture. The emerging field of religion and visual culture is important not only to students of New Zealand art history, but also to a growing field of appreciation for the communicative power of images. This book provides a helpful model for examining art and literature as social and religious tools, and advances the importance of visual rhetoric within studies of art and social expression.


Dave Dobbyn - Song Of The Years.

Speaking in tongues

Art Below's Stations of the Cross exhibition at Marylebone Parish Church may be over but Paul Benney's 'Speaking in Tongues' and ‘St. Jude Thaddeus’ from his 12 Apostle series remain on display through May 2015.

The subjects of 'Speaking in Tongues' are all friends and contemporaries of the artist, and are depicted as the Apostles with Pentecostal flames hovering above them. The reflective surface allows the viewer to appear to be part of the group in an extraordinary and thought-provoking way. Benney's depiction of light emanating from the head as an animation of the spirit has echoes in the imagery of many different religions and is a particular fascination for Benney. 

'Speaking in Tongues' follows on thematically from the major exhibition of Benney's widely publicised show Night Paintings at Somerset House, where he is an artist-in-residence. The work brings together Benney's talents as both a contemporary artist and one of the UK's most celebrated portrait painters.


Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place.

Windows on the world (335)

London, 2015


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Visual meditation: 'Solo' by Marlene Dumas

My latest visual meditation for ArtWay focuses on Marlene Dumas' Solo, a crucifixion image which can currently be seen in Dumas' retrospective at Tate Modern entitled The Image as Burden.

In this meditation I say that:

'Solo, and the other Crucifixions from this show, are images of aloneness. Christ and his cross exist in voids of darkness or light. In Solo the dark cross fills the white void, while Christ is compressed and condensed at the pinnacle of the painting and at the point of death; a defeated, forsaken, tragic figure. As with many of Dumas’ images, these Crucifixions are meditations on the depths of human suffering; homo homini lupus est, ‘man is a wolf to man’.'


Torres - New Skin.

Where is God at Work?

Difficult boss; annoying colleagues; boring work? Asked to work harder and harder; told by your manager to lie; tempted to do something bad? 

Where is God at Work? by Will Morris will help you think through the calling to be a Christian at work by showing how God can be unexpectedly present even in the most difficult people and dilemmas. Work can become a place where you can exercise your talents, positively influence your business, and be a witness to Christ just by being who you are.

Will Morris is a priest and a tax lawyer (a combination that strikes some as odd). He is Director, Global Tax Policy, in GE (General Electric’s) corporate tax department. He also chairs the CBI and BIAC Taxation Committees. He was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 2010, and is a colleague of mine as a member of the clergy team at St Martin-in-the-Fields

On his new blog Will writes:

'Many people wonder whether and how God is with them, at work, during the week. Many workplaces don’t feel that great, don’t feel like places of opportunity. There can be enormous tension. Tyrannical bosses. Horrible colleagues. Stupid, pointless, meaningless rules. Long hours. Little sympathy or empathy. The threat of redundancy.

All of these things can make the workplace seem a bit of a nightmare. So, how on earth can God be there – or is work simply the place where you go to earn the money that you can then spend in order to be able to forget it ? I believe there’s more to it than that. That, with God, the workplace can become a place of almost limitless opportunity where you can work with him in his ongoing act of creation. You can make things and provide services that people need, but you can also help your fellow workers who are hurting, and, even if only in small ways, help and encourage your business to be just that bit better.

But to do this you need to exercise your imagination to think about how God might be present in such an apparently unlikely place. The Old Testament story of “Jacob’s Ladder” helps me. In that story, Jacob, on the run from his brother Esau whom he has cheated out of a blessing, lies down in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There’s nothing special, and he’s nothing special. He’s not a saint, and there’s no church, no altar. And yet in this place, in his sleep he sees a ladder appear from heaven with angels ascending and descending. And God makes him incredible, wonderful promises about the future. When Jacob wakes up he exclaims: “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” Might your work place not be the same? It can be – if only you are prepared to be surprised!'


Bill Fay - City Of Dreams.

Who Is The Sender?

In the latest edition of Uncut several musicians speak about the spirituality of music.

One of the feature articles explores the making of many of Van Morrison's best albums from Astral Weeks (Lewis Merenstein - '... it was immediately clear to me that he was being born again') to Back on Top (Walter Samuel - 'I'm not sure how he does it... it just comes out of him. It just happens'). From the musicians who played on these albums there is much talk about 'looking for the spark,' 'channelling,' 'transcendental telepathy,' and 'intuitive communication'. When he channelled or connected with the spark Morrison set everyone else on fire so that the atmosphere was truly transcendental.

In his interview Morrison describes this as 'creating space.' The key to the creation of space - the stretching out of time - is listening, watching and absorbing. Most musicians, he says, don't understand this. They 'might be great technically; but they don't have the feeling;' the ability to listen in order to be in the same space and have 'a collective experience,' The phrase he regularly used for the times 'when he felt it was working' was, 'I think it's all coming together.'

My co-authored book with Peter Banks, The Secret Chord, is essentially an extended exploration of this experience common to artists and musicians, which is often described in spiritual terms, of things coming together - gelling, coalescing - into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Jef Labes, a longtime associate of Morrison, notes that:

'He once said to me that he sees all his work as variations on one piece of music that he channels. He doesn't sit down and work on songs, he gets a rush of energy. He'll grab a guitar and start playing, switch on a recording device, and whatever comes out, he'll write down. It arrives as almost a complete work ... when that goes away he's sad and exhausted, and when it's there, when he's visited by the spirit, he's compelled to get it out. It's scary. He has no idea where it comes from.'

The song 'Who Is The Sender?' on Bill Fay's latest album is about this same phenomenon, which Fay sees as 'songfinding' rather than songwriting:

'Ask Bill Fay about his relationship with his instrument and he says something revealing, not "Ever since I learnt to play the piano", but "Ever since the piano taught me..."

What the piano taught him was how to connect to one of the great joys of his life. "Music gives," he says. And he is a grateful receiver. But, it makes him wonder, "Who is the sender?" ...

joy and sadness are indeed deep in this material, which Bill describes as "alternative gospel". Though it clearly stems from his belief, he doesn't seek to proselytise or convert anybody, but just hopes to share the concerns he puts into the words and the feelings that he receives from the music: 

"Goodness, beauty, comfort. If something gives in the world, that's a good thing, isn't it? Maybe that's what music wants to do."'


Van Morrison - Listen To The Lion.

Friday, 27 March 2015

CANA Cambodia 2015 conference

Steve Scott writes:

"CANA stands for Christian Artists Networking Association, and we are committed to learning better ways of networking and empowering artists in different parts of the world. To that end we have organized conferences in Thailand, Bali and Bulgaria, with participants from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and America.

This is an update on our proposed Cambodia 2015 conference. We are looking at the week of the 22-29 of August.

Some have indicated that an `entire week’ might not be possible for them and have suggested having the conference (or the main part at least) over a FOUR DAY period ending on 29th. (if this your situation, please let me know….)

We will be based in Phnom Penh. Once we conclude with Phnom Penh we have the option of additional days in Siem Reap. (there is much to learn there!! Can you join us for additional days? Please let me know!!))

This CANA arts conference in 2015 will offer a valuable experience for both CANA international artists and creatives, as well as local/Cambodian artists learning and growing in faith. As we talk to each other, and share work and ideas, we will have opportunity to reflect upon Cambodia’s cultural heritage…. its recent history, and its hope and aspirations for a flourishing future. We will consider these things together in the light of our shared Christian faith.

There will be teaching and performances from Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry
CANA Philippines….and others.

Many of you have expressed interest in being there, and sharing your work as part of the program. Many others are in our larger database and would perhaps consider In order to finalize plans and make accommodation arrangements we need firm numbers and commitments to work with as we continue to talk with local groups and organizations. We want to keep `in land costs’ DOWN but in order to do that we need to hear from YOU.

We need your help in finalizing the plans!!

We are assessing accommodation needs (headcount) local transport needs, and also need to hear how long you can join us for (up to and including Siem Reap: Please indicate)

Please let us know by MARCH 30th if you are truly able to join us. The response to this 30th March deadline is growing. It is going to be an interesting conference based on the variety of participants sharing so far ......

If you have questions, please get in touch"


Steve Scott - When World's Collide.

Update: Sophia Hub Seven Kings

Ros Southern writes:

"We had a great finale to the Sophia course this week - see what happened here.

We had a Timebank workshop this week led by start-up Wellspring Therapies. Info click here

The enterprise club this week will be featuring Jung, Plato and Clive! Info here.

There's some interesting free workshops for start-ups in London. Info here.

What would you like to learn or offer at our next Timebank community skills swap? We need to hear from you. Click here

You gotta keep up with news in your field and pass on to your Facebook and Twitter followers says Aceil Haddad, enterprise club speaker this week. Click here

And finally, we want to know WHAT HELP YOU WANT at the enterprise club? Tahir is helping us to tailor our support. Click here to file your requests.

And still places left for the Chambers comedy night. I'm going! Click here

Have a good fortnight and the next update will be in 2 weeks time.

Best wishes,


Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings blog:
c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB"


Sufjan Stevens - For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti.

Modern art in City churches

Modern and contemporary art which has been commissioned by churches is often under-publicised and therefore often overlooked. Despite the many tourists who visit, this is really no less the case in the City of London than elsewhere as tourist guides often focus on other aspects of the heritage found in the City's churches

As I visit the City churches I hope to be able to photograph some of the modern and contemporary art which is to be found. I have already posted a photograph of the sculpture by Jean Lamb which is at St Mary Woolnoth and have, of course, posted about the artworks at St Stephen Walbrook. More recently I have photographed the stained glass window by Nicola Kantorowicz which is at St Botolph without Bishopsgate. This window was presented to the church in 1997 by the Worshipful Company of Bowyers to mark the restoration of the church after the St Mary Axe and Bishopsgate bombs.

The artist runs her own studio designing and making windows for both secular and ecclesiastical settings. Other examples of her work can be found in churches in Kent, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Berkshire. She writes that her work is "always abstract in style" and for church commissions she draws "on inspiration from theological themes and using symbolism and colour to express spiritual concepts." She has developed a personal style, "mixing techniques to create unusual surfaces and detail."


Nickel Creek - When In Rome.

Turning expectations upside down

Here is my sermon from yesterday's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook, which focused on the events of Palm Sunday. An audio version of this sermon will shortly be found at the website of the London Internet Church.

At my first training weekend as a curate the first Bishop to address us, the then Bishop of Barking, David Hawkins, performed a handstand to demonstrate the way in which Jesus, through his life and teaching turns our understanding of life upside down. Jesus had a marvellous way of subverting people’s expectations. He did it when he called on the one without sin to cast the first stone. He did it when he, their Master, served the disciples by washing their feet. And he did it on the occasion of his entry into Jerusalem too.

Some people at the time expected him, if he really was Israel’s Messiah or King, to lead an armed rebellion against their Roman oppressors. As his ministry had gone on these people had begun pressing him to declare his hand and make it crystal clear whether he was the one to lead this armed rebellion or not. Jesus chose the moment of his entry into Jerusalem to declare his hand, but not in the way that those people expected. Instead of coming into Jerusalem as a warrior King on a war-horse leading an army he came unarmed and riding on a donkey.

In doing so, he was pointing all those who knew the Hebrew Scriptures well to a passage in Zechariah which says this: “Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion! Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The Lord says, “I will remove the war-chariots from Israel and take the horses from Jerusalem; the bows used in battle will be destroyed. Your king will make peace among the nations; he will rule from sea to sea, from the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9: 9 & 10)

By entering Jerusalem in this way, Jesus made it crystal clear that he was the King - the Messiah - that was expected but also that he would not be the kind of King or Messiah that they was expected. He would not come as the warrior King who will destroy Israel’s enemies or oppressors. Under his rule the only things to be destroyed are weapons themselves – the war-chariots, war-horses and bows that the Zechariah passage spoke about. He came as the Prince of Peace, not as the Warrior King. He came as the King who humbled himself by riding on the lowest, poorest form of transport – a colt, the foal of a donkey – not as a King who exalted himself on the largest, fastest steed. Later on he would wash his disciples’ feet as a way of saying that peace comes through service. And he was preparing to sacrifice all, including his own life, in order to serve his enemies by saving them.

Sometime after Jesus’ death and resurrection the Apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians how Jesus had made peace among the nations. He said: “Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God.” (Ephesians 2: 14-16)

Instead of destroying the enemies of Israel as some expected, Jesus came to love his enemies and unite them with his own people, making peace. Paul then goes further to say that there are no distinctions either between slaves and free, between men and women, or between those thought of as civilised and those thought of as barbarians, all are one in Christ. The implication is that there are no barriers or divisions that should separate, for all can be one in Christ.

As a result, we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by being peacemakers in our homes, communities and workplaces. Just as Jesus did the reverse of what people expected, by loving those who were thought of as the enemies of his people and sacrificing himself in order to bring those two groups together, so we need to do the same in relation to the divisions we experience in our own time and culture. Church needs to be a place and space in which we reverse people’s expectations by living and demonstrating Jesus’ embrace of all.

Now, we need to acknowledge that the Church hasn’t always had a great track record in doing this. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Slave Trade, for example, all seem to have been the reverse of what Jesus did. We need to show real sorrow over that history and the effect that it still has in certain parts of the world today. But there have also been great examples from the Church, even in our own lifetimes, of people like Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu who have tried to follow much more closely in Jesus’ footsteps.

We can learn from the example of such people so that we too become people who reveal Jesus in our world by following where he led in turning people’s expectations upside down and sacrificing ourselves in order to bring peace between all people regardless of any distinctions.


Candace Bogan - Give Me Jesus.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Acts of the Assassins and Jesus Novels

Philip Hensher's review for The Guardian of Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard is interesting for three reasons. First, he understands the significance of the use made in the Bible of multiple narratives:

"Christianity is unusual among religions in being founded on different ways of telling the same story. As early as the late second century, theologians were denouncing Christians who tried to limit the story of Christ to a single telling, and by the fifth century, the canonical account had been reduced to four accounts and no fewer. The lives of the four evangelists, with their different emphases, were surrounded by different non-canonical accounts, such as the second-century Gospel of Judas, that anyone with a sense of curiosity can investigate without a sense of impiety."

Second, he provides a helpful summary of the best of recent Jesus novels:

"In recent years, novelists have seized on this narrative multiplicity to tell the story in their own way ... we have seen novels such as Jim Crace’s Quarantine, Naomi Alderman’s The Liars’ Gospel, Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, CK Stead’s My Name Was Judas and Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary. There are very many more of much less compelling quality than these, the best of the bunch ... Most of the Jesus-centred new fiction retells the familiar story of Christ from an unrecorded viewpoint, whether Mary, Mary Magdalene, Judas (very often) or Jesus himself."

Third, he senses that the novel's narrative and style ultimately views the resurrection as being a story that we cannot simply explain away:

"Beard ... embarks upon the gloriously futile project of telling the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection, and the subsequent martyrdom of all the disciples, one by one, in the manner of a police procedural, with a hapless gumshoe trying to track down the killer before he gets any further down the list of victims.

This is, of course, extraordinarily funny ... Applying the rational genre of the crime thriller to the magical defiance of the gospel narratives results in some alternative possibilities ... as the novel goes on, it becomes touching, futile, thoughtful. What is the mystery of Christ’s resurrection and the joyful walk towards martyrdom but a narrative that we can only gaze at and realise the inadequacies of our tools for explanation?"


Lauryn Hill - The Passion.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sculpture in Central London

Set amongst London's iconic architectural landmarks, such as the Gherkin by Norman Foster and the Lloyd’s building by Richard Rogers, Sculpture in the City draws visitors into the City transforming the EC3 insurance area. Secret Affair (Silver) by Jim Lambie is one of seven keyhole-shaped portals forged from stainless steel and finished in different colours. The work invites viewers to pass through it, and responds to its environment by creating a free-standing doorway or ‘frame’ in space, and by literally reflecting – through its mirrored silver coating – the area in which it stands.

Stephen Balkenhol's poignant and powerful Couple is located above eye-line at More London and prompts the viewer to look up. Altai Sadikhzade creates his sculptures as if they were multi-dimensional paintings. His work exempli­fies a new discovery of the world through its colourful, self-constructing text, teeming with ‘apparatuses’, hieroglyphs, esoteric epistles, palm trees, anthropomorphic machines, extra-terrestrial ‘guardians’, star observers and people. Mugham (Spring) is located outside St Lawrence Jewry and is part of the Buta Festival.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has said, "As Hans Haacke's take on the equestrian statue trots into Trafalgar Square, it brings another reason for Londoners and tourists to visit this cultural landmark. Gift Horse is a startlingly original comment on the relationship between art and commerce and I hope it will stimulate as much debate as the other works that have appeared on the Fourth Plinth."


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Let The Day Begin.

Windows on the world (334)

Nazareth, 2014


Simple Minds - Let The Day Begin.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Update: Sophia Hub Seven Kings

Ros Southern writes:

News to pass on this week (please always pass on news for me to pass on!)

The speaker at the enterprise club on Tuesday (24th March) is Aciel Haddad on PR and also social media. Also Tahir will introduce a new feature to the club. Info here. We have been waiting to book Aciel for ages!!

The next skills swap is 21st April and we are looking for ideas click here

Stephanie, Timebank manager, has written a blog about the last skills swap - take a look. :)

The ECHO business timebank is offering a great range of workshops for free, click here for info.

Don't forget the Chambers comedy and networking night. Got 4 so far from Sophia Hubs - want more! click here for info.

A list of start-ups currently tweeting - please do follow them click here. If I have missed you off let me know!

Best wishes,


Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings blog:
c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB


Spock's Beard - The Kindness Of Strangers.

Stations of the Cross

Henry Shelton is a noted painter of religious art in a contemporary style. He trained as an apprentice draughtsman in a London studio developing his drawing skills in lettering and fine art. After 15 years he set up his own studio receiving many commissions from such clients as the Science Museum, borough councils, private and corporate bodies.

In recent years he has worked designing in studios across the world, including Hong Kong and the USA. Throughout this time he has painted Christian art and his commissions include an Ascension installed as an altarpiece in the Church of the Saviour, Chell Heath; the Millennium clock tower in Goodmayes, and the memorial etched-glass windows in All Saints Church, Goodmayes, depicting events in the life of Jesus. In 2007 he had a one-man exhibition in York Minister where he showed this set of Stations of the Cross. Most recently, he has completed commissions for St Luke’s Chapel in Queens Hospital Romford, a contemporary set of Stations of the Crown of Thorns for St Paul’s Goodmayes and etched windows for All Saints Hutton.

Shelton has painted four sets of Stations of the Cross, two of which have been combined with meditations by Rev Jonathan Evens. These have been published by These pictures, poems and prayers enable us to follow Jesus on his journey to the cross reflecting both on the significance and the pain of that journey as we do so. With their second sequence, ‘The Passion,’ both aimed to pare down the images and words to their emotional and theological core. The mark making and imagery is minimal but they hope in a way that makes maximum impact. Their first sequence, ‘Mark of the Cross,’ was described by Rev Steve Santry as "Stunning artwork and thought provoking words [which] open up the events around Easter in a new and imaginative way."

Shelton says of his semi-abstract style and minimal flowing lines, that, “as I’ve got older I’ve learnt that ‘less is more’ and through the development of my work I’ve learnt to express emotion in a semi-abstract form.” This is why he paints; “it all goes back to feeling; the pathos of suffering.”

The power of art to evoke emotion is what originally inspired Shelton and which has sustained his work throughout his career: “When I first saw the great Rembrandt’s in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the power of his images seemed to transcend time. The same thing attracted me to Christian Art as a choirboy at All Saints West Ham; the art spoke to me. I used to look at the altar and see images that were just so powerful. The images seemed to bring the past into the present and to form a profound link with the lineage of the past. I see myself as an artist trying in my small way to continue that lineage and my passion as a Christian artist is to keep that lineage alive in my generation as a witness.”

Shelton says of commission4mission, of which he is a founding member and which encourages churches to commission contemporary art: “I want us to be offering quality work and craftsmanship, rather than mass-produced work, to continue the legacy of the Church as a great commissioner of art. The Church has, in fact, commissioned some of the greatest works of art ever produced.”

To have his work in churches, Shelton says, “really is the fulfilment of my life’s work.” He doesn’t have much ambition to show in galleries and says that, “the whole point for me is to create reaction and engage people; for people to enjoy and be moved by my work, just as I’ve been engaged by the work of other artists.”


Neal Morse - King Jesus.

United Guilds Service

The 73rd Service of the United Guilds of the City of London saw representatives of the Livery Companies pack St Pauls Cathedral today for a service to mark the work of the Livery Companies in the City of London. London’s 110 livery companies, the oldest of which trace their history back to medieval times, are today groups of men and women committed to charitable giving for schools, crafts, training, almshouses and much more besides.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, preached an excellent sermon which praised the wealth creation and philanthropy of the City whilst questioning the size of wage differentials in the City, in particular by comparison to the 4:1 ratio used by the Quakers at Friends House.

Following the Service I enjoyed lunch at Drapers Hall. Founded over 600 years ago, the Drapers’ Company is incorporated by Royal Charter and is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London. The Drapers’ Company today actively supports carefully selected charitable causes. Much of their work concentrates on enabling young people to pursue educational qualifications, rise above social exclusion, and reach their full potential. They also focus on helping those in need or experiencing hardship through support of organisations working with the homeless, older people, disabled people and prisoners. The Company has been restoring links with its ancient heritage through support for technical textiles and textile conservation, heritage and the arts, and projects in areas of Northern Ireland.


John Ireland - Greater Love.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Passiontide and Holy Week

In addition to our regular Tuesday lunchtime music recitals and Friday lunchtime organ recitals, the following will also take place at St Stephen Walbrook during the final weeks of Lent and into Passiontide and Holy Week:

Stations of the Cross

A set of Stations of the Cross by the noted religious artist Henry Shelton, previously displayed at York Minister, will be displayed at St Stephen Walbrook from Monday 23rd March until Saturday 4th April. These are available during church opening hours for personal prayer and reflection but I will also lead us in praying the Stations at 2.00pm on Thursday 26th March and Thursday 2nd April.

In addition on those same Thursdays, two multi-media meditation series of the Stations of the Cross will be shown as a looped projection between 11.00am and 3.00pm. These feature images by Henry Shelton together with my own meditations and are, again, made available for personal prayer and reflection. Should you be unable to come to St Stephen Walbrook over this period but wish to view these presentations, they can be downloaded from and


Thursday 26th March, 12.45pm: Eucharist focusing of the events of Palm Sunday and including the Blessing of Palm Crosses.

Thursday 2nd April, 12.45pm: Maundy Thursday Eucharist commemorating the Institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem. The musical setting will be Palestrina's Aeterna Christi munera.

Saturday 4th April, 6.00pm: The Easter Vigil - Easter is celebrated at St Stephen Walbrook on Easter Eve. The Easter Vigil Service celebrates the Blessing of the Paschal Candle, the remaking of Baptismal promises and the first Eucharist of Easter. The musical setting will be Mozart's Missa solemnis K 337.

At St Martin-in-the-Fields, the programme is as follows:

Sunday 29 March – Palm Sunday
8.00am Holy Communion (BCP)
9.45am Palm Sunday Procession

We meet at the corner of St James’s Park near Admiralty Arch. Join theChoir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Salvation Army Band for a procession with palms, led by a donkey, into church.

10.00am Eucharist with the reading of the Passion Gospel
1.00pm Service in Mandarin
2.15pm Service in Cantonese
5.00pm The Passion according to St John

Monday 30 March – Holy Week
8.30am Morning Prayer
1.15pm Holy Communion (DSC)
6.00pm Holy Communion with homily

Tuesday 31 March – Holy Week
8.30am Morning Prayer
1.15pm Holy Communion (DSC)
6.00pm Holy Communion with homily

Wednesday 1 April – Holy Week
8.30am Morning Prayer
1.00pm Choral Eucharist
4.30pm Choral Evensong
6.30pm Bread For the World in Holy Week

Thursday 2 April – Maundy Thursday
8.30am Morning Prayer
1.00pm Great Sacred Music
6.30pm Maundy Thursday Liturgy
Preacher: Revd Katherine Hedderly

Friday 3 April – Good Friday
8.30am Morning Prayer
10.00am Good Friday Service for All Ages
12 noon The Three Hours: God made strange
Revd Lucy Winkett, Vicar of St James Piccadilly, is the
preacher in this service of reflections on the passion of Christ.
With the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Saturday 4 April – Holy Saturday
9.00am Morning Prayer

Sunday 5 April – Easter Day
5.30am The Easter Vigil and the First Eucharist of Easter
10.00am Easter Eucharist
Preacher: Revd Dr Sam Wells
With the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields
1.00pm Service in Mandarin
2.15pm Service in Cantonese
5.00pm Choral Evensong with the
Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - Aeterna Christi munera.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Airbrushed from Art History: Paul Thek

'Though overlooked by much of the American art establishment, Paul Thek’s ephemeral installations and collaborative strategies continue to inform and influence a generation of younger artists. (Whitney Museum of American Art)

'Unlike that of his contemporaries in the 1960s who were making work regarded as minimalism, Paul Thek’s work was messy, representational and auto-biographical and involved personal insight and spirituality. A sculptor, painter, and one of the first artists to create environments or installations, Thek came to recognition showing his sculptures in New York galleries in the 1960s. The first works exhibited, Technological Reliquaries, which he began making in 1964 are sometimes referred to as ‘meat pieces’ as they were meant to resemble flesh. At the end of the sixties, Thek left for Europe, where he created extraordinary environments, incorporating elements from art, literature, theatre, and religion, often employing fragile and ephemeral substances, including wax and latex.' (The Modern Institute)

'The idea of “Procession” lies deep in the heart of all of Thek’s work and life, which were conjoined in an always-evolving experience that was ephemeral or nomadic, unfixed, collaborative, full of ritual, and anti-concrete. An early work, Pyramid/A Work in Progress (1971–1972), is a room-size encampment of sorts in which multiple sculptures and found objects were connected by elaborate ad hoc walkways and passages. Begun as a monthlong process of environmental creation with the loose cadre of artists known as Artist’s Co-op, the work was called by Thek both a “time temple” and a “life theatre” and exemplified his approach to mythic, personal art as well as camp theatricality, sensual spirituality, and communal creativity.' (Walker Art Center)

'Thek once told Swiss art historian and curator Harald Szeemann, "Art is Liturgy, and if the public responds to their sacred character, then I hope I realized my aim, at least at that instance." To Thek, a Brooklyn-born boy raised Catholic, art had to have a religious aspect, usually one that revolved around martyrdom or decay.' (Out)

Dr. Stefan Kraus of Kolumba, the Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne, says:

'... in the case of Thek, it is hard to ignore the fact that he engaged throughout his life with the central questions of Christianity. The discovery of a written description of one of his Fishmen as ‘Birth and Death Fishman in Excelsis – Great Flesh Explosion’ thus confirmed our view of this state of uncertainty between life and death ...

[Art is Liturgy] is quoted from a comment made by Thek in conversation with Harald Szeemann, when he named the late-medieval theologian Meister Eckhart and the Holy Scripture among his key sources. The exhibition explores this claim, as well as the possibility of its opposite – the extent to which liturgy itself might be art. Liturgy gives a communicable form to belief, allows it to be experienced via the senses, becoming transformed into a reality of its own. This claim to a distinct reality beyond the factual, the rational or even the illustrative is something shared by art and religion.'


Communards - Never Can Say Goodbye.

Abundance in scarcity

We live in a time of austerity where our government is implementing a series of sustained reductions in public spending, intended to reduce the budget deficit. Initiated in 2010 the austerity programme is currently expected to extend to at least 2018.

As a result, we live in a time of relative scarcity compared with the preceding years of a booming economy. There are important questions to be asked, particularly in the light of the coming General Election, about the fairness of where the cuts have fallen.

The reality of living in a time of scarcity has parallels to the feeding of the five thousand where Jesus and those with him are in the wilderness with no food except for the five small barley loaves and two small fish offered by a boy in the crowd. Jesus’ disciples essentially despair in the light of their situation as there is nowhere to go to buy food, they have insufficient money for the numbers involved and the boy’s lunch is too small to share with any but a few.

Jesus, however, brings abundance in the place of scarcity. He prepares the crowd to eat, gives thanks to God and begins to share the little that they have. As the sharing commences, the food is found to be sufficient for everyone’s needs with 12 baskets of leftover bread gathered together at the end of the meal.

How did this happen? We don’t know. It was a miracle certainly, but whether the miracle was a supernatural multiplication of food or whether the miracle was that the sharing of the boy’s lunch enabled others to also share food that they had but were keeping to themselves, we simply don’t know for sure. The result, however, was one that we need to find ways of experiencing in times of austerity; abundance in the face of scarcity.

In my previous parish we formed a Sophia Hub. This is essentially a support service for those wanting to benefit the local community by starting a social enterprise. Within the package of support provided, we included a Timebank. This is a form of volunteering in which the time people give is banked and exchanged. The members of the Timebank offer their skills to other members and make requests of help or input that they would like. Every hour that members spend in helping another member in some way is banked and can be spent by receiving help from others in the Timebank. No money changes hands but the 60+ members have now exchanged more than 340 hours since the Timebank was set up.

At a recent Timebank skills swap event that following offers were made: training on selling through Ebay, help with using social media, crotcheting with plastic bags, basic maths help, meditation, massage or Reiki sessions, legal consumer advice, bread making, creative writing, marketing advice, mobile website building, English as a foreign language, French conversation, making toiletries from natural products and a stress management workshop. By exchanging their time and skills, these are people who are experiencing abundance in a time of scarcity.

St Paul quotes Jesus as teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive and Christ sets us an example of one who gives all that he had without counting the cost or asking anything in return. Yet, the reality is that when we give, we do receive although often not in the same way that we have given. Jesus spoke about this reality when said, ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

This is a promise about abundance in scarcity which is demonstrated by the feeding of the five thousand. But it is predicated on our willingness to give, to share, as members of the Timebank do in Seven Kings and, perhaps, as those in the crowd on the mountain in Galilee also learned to do on the day of this miracle.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Maurizio Galia, illustrator and musician

During commission4mission's Arts in Worship event on Saturday I had the opportunity to meet Italian artist, illustrator and musician, Maurizio Galia.

Born in Moncalieri (Turin) Italy on the 28th May 1963, Maurizio Galia studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, from 1978 until 1986, under the direction of Francesco Tabusso, Enzo Sciavolino and Sergio Saroni. From 1982 he worked for various agencies and specialized as visual designer and illustrator for comics and books. During these years he also worked part-time as a musician in a Prog Rock group.


Maury E I Pronomi - Oceano.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Artistic heritage: St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Stephen Walbrook

One of many exciting aspects to the role of Priest for Partnership Development that I have recently begun is the opportunity to connect with the way in which both churches have engaged with the visual arts.

St Stephen Walbrook is an Anglican Parish Church rich in heritage but one which remains actively involved in the City of London. The current church was built by Sir Christopher Wren 1672-80 and accommodates a major and controversial reordering centred around Henry Moore's circular altar.

After the bombing of World War Two St Stephen Walbrook was restored and the interior was redesigned to express contemporary worship. Most of the fittings had been burnt or destroyed and it meant that seating and altar arrangements could be thought out again. Thus it was that Henry Moore was persuaded to design and carve a central altar using travertine marble from the quarry near Rome used by Michelangelo. Commissioned by Lord Palumbo, the altar was carved in 1972.

The Ven. Peter Delaney has written that by carving a round altar table with forms cut into the circular sides Moore suggested that the centre of the church reflected the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac as a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and the place for the offering of the Eucharist at the heart of Christian worship. This place was designed for people to gather as a community around the altar where God could be found at the centre. The axis of the church is now under the dome designed by Sir Christopher Wren and no longer has an east west orientation. This speaks of this new century where we see God at the centre of all life as the Moore altar is at the centre of this church and this church is at the centre of this city.

The restoration cost £1. 3 million. The altar measuring 8ft across and weighing several tons was at the centre of a controversy and court case as a result of objections and eventually was resolved by going to the highest ecclesiastical court of the land, the Court of Ecclesiastical Cases Reserved where the judges ruled that the Moore altar was acceptable as an altar for the Church of England!

Moore’s altar is complemented by colourful abstract kneelers designed by Patrick Heron and candlesticks designed and made by Hans Coper. The building was finally rededicated in 1987.

Trafalgar Square is well known as the location for the world famous art collections in the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery. But in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields there is also a special space for art lovers, as the Gallery in the Crypt’s dramatic 18th Century architecture makes a stunning backdrop to display modern art and photography.

St Martin-in-the-Fields is also home to several commissions and permanent installations by contemporary artists. Nicholas Holtham has written that, as an adjunct to the main renewal project at St Martin's, "an Arts Advisory Panel was formed and a series of commissions have helped to complete the transformation of the building." These include:

Processional Cross, 2013, by Brian Catling: Catling’s exquisite design references a ‘cross of poverty’: not an ornate object, but one crafted from basic materials by someone with the simple desire to fashion the powerful symbol of the Cross. The starting point is two pieces of wood humbly tied together by a length of string; a third piece of wood hanging from the centre provides an allusion to St Martin tearing his cloak in two and giving half to a beggar. Through casting the cross in a strong yet lightweight aluminium and gilding it in white gold, Catling’s original idea is transformed into an extraordinary emblem of the church. Throughout the process the cross has been worked on by hand, creating an original and conceptually complex work.

East Window, 2008, by Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne: The East Window was commissioned as part of the Renewal of St Martin-in-the-Fields, our major £36m building project from 2005-2008. Light was a key theme of the project and the East Window was designed to let in as much light as possible while creating a work of art that is uplifting and inspirational. The artist was given a brief suggesting a minimal, possibly monochromatic design would be appropriate and that a potential starting point or subject was that of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, a story which has had a continuous thread of resonance for St Martin’s.

Altar, 2011, by Shirazeh Houshiary & Pip Horne: The Altar is designed by Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne, creators of our East Window, and was dedicated at the Patronal Festival in celebration of our patron saint, St Martin of Tours on 13 November 2011. The Altar is at the symbolic and spiritual heart of our church. It is the place where we gather together in communion with one another and with God, and where broken bread and shared wine become the signs of God’s everlasting love for us. It is a sacred space, the place of transformation, the altar upon which we remember the death of Christ and the suffering of the world, but also the place of resurrection and hope. Designed to complement the East Window, the Altar is made from a single block of Travertine Stone that appears to float on a plinth of dark stained oak. These materials have been selected to harmonise with the colours used in the interior of the church. It is gently illuminated by LED lights placed within the hollowed out stone.

The Saint John’s Bible, Heritage edition, presented to St Martin-in-the-Fields in 2009: Created by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota under the creative direction of Donald Jackson, the Saint John’s Bible is a union of an ancient Benedictine tradition with the technology and vision of today, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium of multiple cultures and multiple faiths. St Martin-in-the-Fields has been given a Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible. It was a gift from Saint John’s Abbey made possible by the generosity of Dan and Katherine Whalen. Created in a series of seven volumes, the bible is used in services in Church and some of the volumes are on permanent display in the Foyer. The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by the Roman Catholic Benedictine Monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. It was created by a team of scribes, artists and craftspeople in a scriptorium in Monmouthshire under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and the scribe to HM Queen Elizabeth ll’s Crown Office and the House of Lords. Measuring more than two feet by three feet, the bible parallels that of its medieval predecessors, written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments and gold leaf while incorporating modern themes, images and technology of the 21st century.

In the Beginning by Mike Chapman, presented to St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1999: Mike Chapman’s beautiful sculpture In the Beginning was commissioned to mark the new millennium and was part of the 1999 Trafalgar Square Christmas celebrations. Carved in a 4.5 tonne block of Portland Stone, this work is now permanently on display at the entrance to the church. In The beginning is well-loved by thousands of visitors to St Martin’s every year and as the artist said “It seemed to me that a tiny life-size baby craved from stone in such an enormous environment would be the best way to remind us all of just whose birthday we are celebrating.”

Shadow No 66 (triptych) 1996 by Brad Lochore: This oil on canvas by Brad Lochore explores the fleeting essence of an object using the effects of light mediated via cinema and photography. Lochore’s paintings poetically underline the impermanence and fragility of our lives, and remind us that although we may recognize real things in such artworks, they are after all illusory. Shadow No 66 (triptych) is on permanent display in the Crypt. Brad Lochore says, “On a metaphorical level shadows are a sign of absence – they indicate the ‘not being there’ of the thing they depict – and that is a very persuasive way to talk about the problem of the picture. For instance, an apple in a painting, no matter how beautifully painted, is not there. It seems to me that a critical part of being a painter is not just to make pretty pictures – it’s to address the problem of pictures. And for me, painting shadows, which is predominantly what I do, is a way I can remorselessly address that dilemma. The dilemma is that the human senses have never been assaulted by so much imagery as now, and I think we forget that. Every minute we encounter a world mediated by pictures, so the ‘real’ is mainly conveyed through images now. And that is not to mourn the passing of a better time, it’s just to recognise how the world is. It seems to me that one of the primary tasks of art is to foreground that problem”

Tapestry by Gerhard Richter: In the Dick Sheppard Chapel, a tapestry by Gerhard Richter has been lent by a generous donor. Rev. Richard Carter writes that the tapestry fills this small chapel with light and energy, warmth and imagination. It is like hanging resurrection on the wall. Sit and gaze at the colours; the cross that leads you through layers into the beyond.


Nickel Creek - Reasons Why.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: Latest ArtWay report

My latest Church of the Month report for ArtWay focuses on the Chapel of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Hem. Featuring mosaics and windows by Alfred Manessier, sculptures by Jean Roulland and Eugène Dodeigne, and a tapestry of the Holy Face made by the Plasse Le Caisne studio after a painting by Georges Rouault, the church is a fine example of art sacré after World War II.

This Church of the Month report follows on from others about Aylesford Priory, Canterbury Cathedral, Chelmsford Cathedral, Lumen, Notre Dame du Léman, Romont, Sint Martinuskerk Latem, St Aidan of Lindisfarne and St Mary the Virgin, Downe, as well as earlier reports of visits to sites associated with Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Antoni Gaudi and Henri Matisse.


Hildegard von Bingen - Voice of the Living Light.

Windows on the world (333)

Nazareth, 2014


Joni Mitchell - Love.

Art as epiphany and sacrament

Here is the sermon which I preached at today's commission4mission's service celebrating the Arts held at St Stephen Walbrook as part of an Arts in Worship event:

Please look at The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio and ask yourself three questions: What is central in this picture? How does the artist point us to what is central? Why are those things central?

At the centre of this picture and at the centre of the story it depicts is a very simple and ordinary action; breaking bread or tearing a loaf of bread into two pieces. Although it is a simple and ordinary thing to do, it becomes a very important act when Jesus does it because this is the moment when Jesus’ two disciples realise who he is. They suddenly realise that this stranger who they have been walking with and talking to for hours on the Emmaus Road is actually Jesus himself, risen from the dead. They are amazed and thrilled, shocked and surprised, and we can see that clearly on the faces and in the actions of the disciples as they are portrayed in this painting.

Something very simple and ordinary suddenly becomes full of meaning and significance. This simple, ordinary action opens their eyes so that they can suddenly see Jesus as he really is. That is art in action! Art captures or creates moments when ordinary things are seen as significant.

When our eyes are suddenly opened to see meaning and significance in something that we had previously thought of as simple and ordinary that is called an epiphany. Caravaggio’s painting is a picture of an epiphany occurring for the disciples on the Emmaus Road but it is also an epiphany itself because it brings the story to life in a way that helps us see it afresh, as though we were seeing it for the first time.

The disciples realise it is Jesus when the bread is broken because Jesus at the Last Supper made the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine (the Eucharist) into a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible sign of an inward grace and so it is something more than an epiphany. In a sacramental act there is a connection between the symbolic act and the reality being symbolised, which does not need to occur in an epiphany. So, an epiphany is a realisation or sign of significance, while a sacrament is a visual symbol of an inner change. For Christians the taking of bread and wine into our bodies symbolises the taking of Jesus into our lives. As a result, art (or the visual) can symbolise inner change and be sacramental.

This understanding of epiphany and sacrament is based on the doctrine of the Incarnation; the belief that, in Jesus, God himself became a human being and lived in a particular culture and time. Jesus is an epiphany because he is the visible image of the invisible God. For the Church this has been the primary reason why we have such a strong tradition of figurative art. As Rowan Williams has written, ‘God became truly human in Jesus … And if Jesus was indeed truly human, we can represent his human nature as with any other member of the human race.’ But when we do so ‘we’re not trying to show a humanity apart from divine life, but a humanity soaked through with divine life … We don’t depict just a slice of history when we depict Jesus; we show a life radiating the life and force of God.’

Williams goes on to write that it is when ‘we approach the whole matter in prayer and adoration’ that ‘the image that is made becomes in turn something that in its own way radiates [the] light and force’ of God. He is implying therefore that an important element of prayer is paying attention.

In 2007, the Uffizi Museum in Florence lent Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation to the Tokyo National Museum for three months. More than 10,000 visitors flocked to the museum every day to see the renaissance masterpiece. A number which, when divided by the museum's opening hours, equates to each visitor having about three seconds in front of the painting - barely long enough to say the artist's name, let alone enjoy the subtleties of his work.

By contrast, a well-known art historian, observed as he entered the first room of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery, went nose-to-nose with Leonardo's The Musician (1486), and there he stayed for about 10 minutes, rocking backwards and forwards, before moving from side-to-side, and then finally stepping back four paces and eyeing up the small painting from distance. And then he repeated the exercise. Twice.

The 10,000 visitors per day visiting the Tokyo National Museum during those three months wanted to see Leonardo’s Annunciation, but did they really ‘see’ it? They certainly didn’t see it in the same way that the art critic saw Leonardo's Musician.

Art historian Daniel Siedell has said: ‘It is a cliché, but I would suggest that one must approach contemporary art with an open mind … Attending to … details, looking closely, is a useful discipline for us as Christians, who are supposed to see Christ everywhere, especially in the faces of all people. If we dismiss artwork that is strange, unfamiliar, unconventional, if we are inattentive to visual details, how can we be attentive to those around us?’ Daniel Siedell (

The Bible is full of encouragement to reflect. The words, reflect, consider, ponder, meditate and examine, crop up everywhere. God encourages us to reflect on everything; his words (2 Timothy 2.7), his great acts (1 Samuel 12.24), his statutes (Psalm 119.95), his miracles (Mark 6.52), Jesus (Hebrews 3.1), God's servants (Job 1.8), the heavens (Psalm 8.3), the plants (Matthew 6.28), the weak (Psalm 41.1), the wicked (Psalm 37.10), oppression (Ecclesiastes 4.1), labour (Ecclesiastes 4.4), the heart (Proverbs 24.12), our troubles (Psalm 9.13), our enemies (Psalm 25.19), our sins (2 Corinthians 13.5). Everything is up for reflection but we are guided by the need to look for the excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4.8) and to learn from whatever we see or experience (Proverbs 24.32).

Clearly all this reflection cannot take place just at specific times. Just as we are told to pray always, the implication of the Bible's encouragement to reflection is that we should reflect at all times. We need to make a habit of reflection, a habit of learning from experience and of looking for the excellent things. We can do this by paying prayerful attention to all that is around us – what we see, do and experience. Everything around us can potentially be part of our ongoing conversation with God, part of which is reflection. This is a style of prayer that seems to go back at the very least to the Celtic Christians, who had a sense of the heavenly being found in the earthly, particularly in the ordinary tasks of home and work, together with the sense that every task can be blessed if we see God in it.

David Adam writes that, ‘If our God is to be found only in our churches and our private prayers, we are denuding the world of His reality and our faith of credibility. We need to reveal that our God is in all the world and waits to be discovered there – or, to be more exact, the world is in Him, all is in the heart of God.’

Attending to details in the way Daniel Siedell suggests is the outworking of St Paul’s words in Philippians 4. 8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4. 8). We are called to look for and look at these things as we go through life. This is an excellent approach to bear in mind when also looking at art.

Then, as Rowan Williams writes, visual images will be to us ‘human actions that seek to be open to God’s action’ and which can ‘open a gateway for God.’ If we pay prayerful attention, art can truly be epiphany and sacrament to us.


Steve Scott - Sun Poem.