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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: Latest ArtWay report

My latest Church of the Month report for ArtWay focuses on St Alban Romford. Featuring fifteen Stations of the Cross by Charles Gurrey, a Christus Rex by Peter Eugene Ball, seven stained glass windows by Patrick Reyntiens, and a chancel ceiling mural by Mark Cazalet, the church is a fine example of contemporary ecclesiastical art.

This Church of the Month report follows on from others about Aylesford Priory, Canterbury CathedralChapel of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, HemChelmsford 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.

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Arvo Part - The Deer's Cry.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Update: Sophia Hub Seven Kings

Ros Southern writes:

'Why not join in the Timebank skills swap this Saturday 6th June, 2 - 4.30pm. There's a lot on offer - see the flyer - and its best to book but you could just turn up.

Another Timebank offer is the first Redbridge Health Farm day on Weds 17th June. Read here for info.
Enterprise club this Tuesday at 12.45pm is more work on business canvasses with Aidan. A fab way to manage your start-up on one page. Info here.

Thanks so much to Liam of GLE for the info on loans, credit ratings etc. Tried to capture as much as I could here.
We want to help build collaborations within Redbridge and also to help get Redbridge tenders for Redbridge folk. Read here about a meeting this week re: a young people tender.
And the Seven Kings pop up market is now looking for small stall holders. This is an exciting opportunity to bring more trading opportunities - don't miss out! Saturday 13 June. Info here

Also another opportunity at Forest Farm Peace Garden in Hainault.
Best wishes,
Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
ros.southern@sophiahubs.com
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
Blog: https://sophiahubs7k.wordpress.com/.
c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB.'

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The Band - The Shape I'm In.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Windows on the world (343)


Acco, 2014

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Bob Dylan - In The Garden.

The diversity of Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost is the turning point in the history of Christ’s Church. The believers have gone from gathering together in fear of the authorities to gathering together in readiness for the promised gift. They are waiting to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Jesus has spoken to them about the Kingdom of God and told them that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them they will be filled with power and will be witnesses to him in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. That prophecy and promise is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit enables the believers to take God’s message to all.

We often think that Jesus’ words, “you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” mean that they were to start with their own people and gradually move from there to the ends of earth. What we forget is that on the day of Pentecost there were Jews and Gentile converts living in Jerusalem who had come from many different parts of the world. The different countries or areas are listed for us in verses 9 – 11 of Acts 2: Parthia, Media and Elam; Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia; Pontus and Asia; Phrygia and Pamphylia; Egypt and Libya; Rome, Crete and Arabia. A real diversity of nationalities and ethnicities was right there on the streets in Jerusalem that day.

This diversity meant that a diversity of languages were being spoken in Jerusalem and the coming of the Holy Spirit enabled the believers in Jerusalem to engage with the diversity that they found. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they all began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. As a result, although the believers were mainly Galileans and not known for being multi-lingual, each person there in Jerusalem heard God’s message in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit embraced the diversity of Jerusalem and gave the believers the tools they needed to communicate in and through that diversity.

But those diversities – of nationality and language – aren’t the only diversities mentioned in this passage. In explaining what God is doing at that time in Jerusalem, Peter speaks about a diversity of age and gender. Look at the passage that he quotes from the Book of Joel in verses 17 - 21 – there we find the Holy Spirit being poured out on everyone, young and old, men and women, so that all see visions, dream dreams and proclaim God’s message. God uses the diversity of age and gender among the believers in order to speak to the diversity of nations and languages in Jerusalem.

Now think about our situation here in London. Doesn’t it, in some ways, seem similar to the situation in Jerusalem? London has always been one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities. Throughout history, people have come from every continent and corner of the globe to live, to visit, and to mix. Today the city brings together more than 50 ethnic communities of 10,000 or more people. More than 70 different national cuisines are available and a staggering 300 different languages are spoken. The world is right here in London, just as it was in Jerusalem.

Just as, at Pentecost, God poured out his Spirit on old and young, men and women, so a similar diversity can be seen in the City and among City Churches. That diversity is given to us so that we can proclaim the message of God to people of every ethnicity, age, gender, disability, sexuality and religion. And we need the Holy Spirit’s power, gifts and enabling to make that happen.

We need to remember too that as the Early Church grew and as God’s message spread there were people who tried to restrict this wonderful new diversity. Even Peter, who led this move into diversity at Pentecost, on one occasion in Galatia tried to restrict the diversity of what God was doing and had to be rebuked by Paul. In the same way today, there are those both in the Church and in our society who want to place restrictions on this diversity.

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

This sermon can be heard at the London Internet Church site.

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Vertical Worship Band - Spirit Of The Living God.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Via Cordis – The Way of the Heart


St Stephen Walbrook is to host an exhibition of ceramics & paintings by María Inés Aguirre (MIA) entitled 'Via Cordis – The Way of the Heart' (Monday 8th – Friday 26th June, 10.00am – 4.00pm). An exhibition reception is being held with MIA on Monday 15th June, 6.30pm, at which I will speak about 'Art as Gift'. All are welcome.

Each painting, MIA says, “is a solar flare of colours” where every colour is an emotion. The critic Pierre Restany identified the distinctive quality of MIA’s art as having its roots in her emotional life which then manifests itself in “the exuberance and spontaneity of her painting.”

MIA has spoken of risk and adventure, and the resulting spontaneity, as being key to her art. Her work fuses colour, music, emotion and nature in “a sun-burst of colour, of joy and imagination.”

As Michael Hutchinson-Uzielli has noted, this means that "Mia's paintings map her emotions and imagination, with colour, texture and sinuous lines depicting the landscape of her thoughts.” Her work is, therefore, cartography of the heart or soul, as she, herself, has suggested in selecting the title ‘Via Cordis: The Way of the Heart’ for this show.

MIA says the following words of Paul Klee, from 1918, describe her own creative process: “Everything around me dissolves and interesting works emerge as if of their own accord. My hand is entirely the instrument of a distant sphere. It isnʼt my head that is working, but something else, something higher, something somewhere more remote. I must have great friends out there – obscure, but also brilliant - and theyʼre all very good to me.”

MIA’s identification with Klee’s description of creativity as involving a sense of giftedness from a higher force helps us in understanding the emotional impact of her work more fully. As a result, we could either see the emotions she maps in her work as being divinely inspired or think that by following and depicting those emotions she taps into the divine.

Her work has connected with traditional religious iconography, although not with traditional outcomes. Her ‘Via Crucis’, ‘Via Lucis’ and now ‘Via Cordis’ exhibitions have engaged with the imagery of the ‘Stations of the Cross’, the ‘Path of Light’ and now the ‘Way of the Heart’. Through these series she has reflected on emotions provoked by the Passion of Christ while seeing that narrative as also representing the different moods of modern man.

These are works to contemplate as, through energy of line and brilliance of colour (that “sun-burst of joy and imagination”), they refresh the soul.

MIA studied Fine Art at the University of Tucumán (Argentina) and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. She has exhibited in Europe, Asia and the Americas and has shows later this year in Hong Kong, France and Argentina. Her work stands out for its colour, energy and spontaneity. Her fascination with the connections between music and colour led her to become the first visual artist in residence at Steinway & Sons, London, where she transformed a Steinway Model D concert grand piano into 'Dancing Soul'. She is represented by ArtMoorHouse - Moor House, 120 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5ET. Tel: +44(0)7502211914. Email: info@artmoorhouse.com. Web: http://www.artmoorhouse.com/.

St Stephen Walbrook – Tel: 020 7626 9000. Email: office@ststephenwalbrook.net. Web: www.ststephenwalbrook.net.

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The Civil Wars - Sacred Heart.

Temple: a crisis of faith

Temple is a new play by Steve Waters at the Donmar Warehouse which is a fictional account inspired by the Occupy London movement in 2011.

On 15 October 2011 Occupy London makes camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. On 21 October 2011 a building that had kept open through floods, the Blitz and terrorist threats closes its doors. On 28 October City of London initiates legal action against Occupy to begin removing them from outside the Cathedral ...

Set in the heart of a very British crisis, the play explores a crisis of conscience, a crisis of authority and a crisis of faith.

Giles Fraser, who was at the centre of these events, writes about them in today's Guardian as exploring "a theological question that takes us back to the very foundations of the Christian faith"; the tension, inherent within the Christian faith, "between swapping the rags of the oppressed for the ermine of high office."

Fraser suggests that it is if the play captures something of this theological dynamic, with justification on both sides, that it will have succeeded.

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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Greenwich views




















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Rickie Lee Jones - The Moon Is Made Of Gold.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Windows on the world (342)


Isafie, 2014

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Paul Mealor - Peace.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Update: Sophia Hub Seven Kings

Ros Southern writes:

'Very pleased to announce that there will be a Saturday Pop-up outside Seven Kings station in June. Looking for stalls and more. Info here.

Thanks to Barkingside 21 for blogging about local business week and mentioning Sophia Hubs! Read blog here.

Looking forward to Tuesday's enterprise club with experienced business advisor Liam Hickey on loans, premises and much more. Info here

We are taking bookings for the next exciting Timebank skills swap on Saturday 6 June. Info here

Thanks to Mark Braniff for being speaker this week and leading an arty, deep and really helpful session. Click here for info and pics.

Please do check out green business directory and see who's missing.

Looking forward to our appearance at the Redbridge Council Fairness Commission on Tuesday.

And finally - we have a Redbridge staycation health farm day on Wednesday 17th June. Info to follow.'

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Mark of the Cross

'The cross is a symbol for the human face. Step in front of a mirror, take a look at your face: you will see a cross marked within, wherever it may be.'

(Arnulf Rainer, quoted in Kreuze)

Mark of the Cross 

 


















Your face, set like flint,
set towards Jerusalem,
bears the mark of the cross.
You carry the cross
in the resolution
written on
your features.
Death is the choice,
the decision,
the destiny,
revealed
in the blood,
sweat and tears
secreted from
your face
in prayerful questions,
prophetic grief,
pain-full acceptance,
then
imprinted on
Veronica’s veil.

(from Mark of the Cross by Henry Shelton and Jonathan Evens)

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Shaped and defined by Jesus

One of the big dilemma’s parent’s face is how to enable their children to become independent and make their own way in the world. At the point that their children ’leave the nest,’ parents have understandable worries about the extent to which their children will cope in the ‘real world’ and what the world will do to their children. While we know that life in the ‘real world’ involves confronting challenges and, at times, dangers, we know too that children cannot be kept ‘wrapped in cotton wool’; they have to be enabled to mature into adults and developing independence from those who have nurtured them as children is an important element in maturing.

In Acts 20.28–end and John 17.11–19, we hear Jesus and Paul expressing similar anxieties in relation to the disciples and churches that they are leaving behind. Jesus prays for God the Father to protect the disciples in a world which may hate them and to which they do not fully belong. Similarly, Paul commends his churches to God expecting that, at times, they will be attacked by savage wolves.

Their sense is that the world can be a conflicted place for Christians and we might therefore expect them to pray that we should be kept entirely away from danger. Instead, just as parents can ultimately do more harm to their children by keeping them cooped up at home, so the place Jesus and Paul want Christians to be is in the world, despite its dangers, but for us to be shaped by God there, and not by the world. That seems to be what Jesus means when he says that his disciples do not belong to the world, just as he does not belong to the world.

Eugene Petersen, in his paraphrase of this passage, puts it like this: “I gave them your word; the godless world hated them because of it, because they didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; your word is consecrating truth.”

In these passages, both Jesus and Paul spoke of Christians as sanctified. To be sanctified, as Eugene Peterson, makes clear is to be shaped and defined by God (his word and the message of his grace), rather than shaped and defined by the world. If Christianity means anything and makes any difference in the world then it must be because we live and act differently as a result of its influence.

In the Diocese of Chelmsford, where I ministered before coming to St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Diocesan strategy is called ‘Transforming Presence’ and is based on that same thought that “there should be something distinctive and attractive about the way we live our lives,” as, “if our lives are indistinguishable from anyone else’s it is little wonder that people conclude that the Christian faith is our hobby; a fascinating and exhausting pastime, but not the life changing transformation that is evident in the lives we lead Monday to Saturday.”

That is the prayer of Jesus and Paul, in these passages, that we grow as Christians by living in the ‘real world’ but shaped and defined (consecrated) by the Spirit and words of Jesus as we do so. As a result, instead of our lives being shaped and defined by the world, we become a transforming presence for Christ within the world.

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Delirious? - Paint The Town Red.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Via Cordis - The Way of the Heart


'Via Cordis – The Way of the Heart' is an exhibition of ceramics & paintings by María Inés Aguirre (MIA) in June at St Stephen Walbrook (Monday 8th – Friday 26th June, 10.00am – 4.00pm). An exhibition reception is being held with MIA on Monday 15th June, 6.30pm, at which I will speak about 'Art as Gift'. All are welcome.

MIA studied Fine Art at the University of Tucumán (Argentina) and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. She has exhibited in Europe, Asia and the Americas and has shows later this year in Hong Kong, France and Argentina. Her work stands out for its colour, energy and spontaneity. Her fascination with the connections between music and colour led her to become the first visual artist in residence at Steinway & Sons, London, where she transformed a Steinway Model D concert grand piano into 'Dancing Soul'. 

Through her 'Via Crucis', 'Via Lucis' and now 'Via Cordis' series she has reflected on emotions provoked by the Passion of Christ while seeing that narrative as also representing the different moods of modern man. These are works to contemplate as, through energy of line and brilliance of colour, they refresh the soul.

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The Harbour Lights - Another Rainbow.

Mariano Chelo - Armageddon

I was at ArtMoorHouse this evening for the opening of  “Armageddon”, an exhibition of paintings by Mariano Chelo:

"In the Book of Revelation Armageddon is described as the final confrontation, the great battle between God and the False Prophet’s armies. A war necessitated by the fiendishly evil ambitions of humankind and their evil source of power.

While referring to a specific location, Armageddon carries also the profound symbolic meaning of Apocalypse, seen as the end of the world as we know it.

For Mariano Chelo Armageddon assumes a more personal interpretation, a meaning which is centred on the fear of demise. It is around this very concept that Mariano Chelo develops his entire artistic narrative. A deep inner conflict which is represented in his early works by a figurative and neo-cubist language dominated by heavy, insistent black brushstrokes.

A fear of the existential void appeased by the glimpse of traces of possible life in the final horizon, represented, as for the works on show, by an unlimited space where liquid transparent colours dominate and where red is paramount.

Mariano Chelo's human journey moves us and suggests to us possible existential pathways. It is an imaginary “migration”, a voyage through a deep dark sea, a “passage” towards the unexplored, a metaphor to express our inability to fully know the result of our quests.

It is the duty of the artist – as Chelo seems to suggest – to absorb the impurities and the pain of the human lives and to render them serene, purified to eyes of those who are able to decode the secret of art."

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Monday, 18 May 2015

In recognition of the beauty and the value of people with intellectual disabilities


Jean Vanier began his remarks at tonight's Templeton Prize ceremony in St Martin-in-the-Fields by saying:

"Thank you for this magnificent award that you have given in recognition of the beauty and the value of people with intellectual disabilities. This beauty has been revealed as we have lived together in L’Arche and accompanied each other in Faith and Light. People with intellectual disabilities are the ones who are the heart of our communities, they are the ones who have revealed to so many people - families, assistants and friends - their human and spiritual gifts, and they are the ones who have inspired the fruitful growth of Faith and Light and L’Arche throughout the world. It is to them this prize will be given, so that many more people with intellectual disabilities throughout the world may grow in greater inner freedom, discover their fundamental value as human beings and children of God. They in turn will be able to help many so-called “normal” people, imprisoned by our cultures orientated towards power, winning, and individual success, to discover what it means to be human."

His remarks can be read in full by clicking here, while the ceremony, including St Martin's Voices and a L'Arche performance and song, can be viewed by clicking here (from 19th May).

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Sydney Carter - I Come Like A Beggar.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sophia Hub Seven Kings update

Ros Southern writes:

"Here's the links to information that will hopefully be of interest...

Enterprise club speaker this Tuesday 19th May at 12.30 is Mark Braniff, business mentor, therapist, artist. Info here

On Tuesday evening there is an excellent business networking event at Redbridge College or acrowdfunding workshop at GLA.(which I am attending)

There's potential for alternative therapists to run tasters and free or cheap stalls at Forest Farm Peace Garden world music day event. Click here for info.

Jenny has devised the first draft of the online Redbridge green business directory. Who is missing? Please take a look and let us know.

Michael St Hill of MSH Finishes needs local premises urgently - the business needs to move out of his bedroom. Can you help? Click here to see Michael in his own words.

The next fabulous Timebank skills swap is Saturday 6th June - do you want to offer a skill or get some help? Info here

Advance notice of the Timebank 'Redbridge health farm day' on Wednesday 17th June. More news next week but feel free to email sevenkingstimebank@sophiahubs.com if you are interested in a 'daycation' with yoga, relaxation, pampering, nature...

Thanks to Sat Kumar of Hansons Estates for being our informative speaker last week - info here.

And finally don't forget to take a look at the Redbridge CVS list of current funding opportunities.

Best wishes,

Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings

M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
ros.southern@sophiahubs.com
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings blog: https://sophiahubs7k.wordpress.com/
c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB"

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Paul Weller - I'm Where I Should Be.

The Prophet and the Losses: Relating to Islam and Islamists

This evening the Revd Dr Sam Wells preached on The Prophet and the Losses: Relating to Islam and Islamists. The sermon will be available to read shortly by clicking here. My thoughts on British Shared Values and Faith, which have some synergies with this sermon, can be read here.

The intercessions I prepared to complement this sermon follow:

Eternal God, one God, living and subsisting in yourself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, we adore you for you have spoken to us; every nation and tribe and language and people. You did not abandon either Ishmael or Isaac and we therefore pray in trust for your continued care of the faith communities which have grown from their seed. We stand in awe and gratitude for your persistent love towards each and all of your children: Christian, Jew, Muslim, as well as those with other faiths. As Christians, Jews or Muslims may we remember, and profoundly affirm, what we share as children of Abraham, people of our Books and as monotheists. Strengthen our resolve to share common ground by living face to face and side by side in peace with one another.

Jesus, whose death is a fundamental statement of the centrality of nonviolence, you experienced in person torture and death as a prisoner of conscience. You were beaten and flogged and sentenced to an agonizing death though you had done no wrong. Be now with prisoners of conscience throughout the world. Be with them in their fear and loneliness, in the agony of physical and mental torture, and in the face of execution and death. Stretch out your hands in power to break their chains. Bless all those, like Amnesty International, trying to secure their release. May the ways of peace and diplomacy prevail over acts of violence and aggression. Be merciful to the oppressor and the torturer, and place a new heart within them. Forgive all injustice in our lives, and transform us to be instruments of your peace, for by your wounds we are healed.

Holy Spirit, who makes Christ and his benefits present to us now and who is therefore active in bringing many from East and West to sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, we pray for all who are working for peace in the tangled conflicts of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and other nations today. For international leaders holding a thread of control, for the politicians holding a thread of power, for the religious leaders holding a thread of authority, for the fighters holding a thread of influence, and the citizens clinging to a thread of hope. We pray particularly for refugees like the Rohingya caught up in issues beyond their community and unable to fi8nd a place to lay their head. Give to them a home and to us: understanding that puts an end to strife; mercy that quenches hatred; forgiveness that overcomes vengeance; the strength it takes to listen rather than to judge; growth in trust rather than fear of the other; the courage and persistence to try again and again to make peace even when peace eludes us.

Holy Trinity, within whom love is constantly exchanged and shared, may we experience the extension of that exchange in shared conversation and action with those of other faiths. In the spirit of that exchange we pray using words from the Sufi poet Rumi, asking for a world in which through love all that is bitter will be sweet, all that is copper will be gold, all dregs will turn to purest wine, all pain will turn to medicine. That through Love the dead will all become alive and the king turn into a slave. We also share in the Shabbat prayer crying out for rest from pain and turmoil and hard service. May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease; when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Then nation shall not threaten nation and humankind will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labour and to love. Compassionate God, bless all the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. Fulfil the promise conveyed in Scripture: "I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you. I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war." Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.

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Eric Whitacre - Hope, Faith, Life, Love.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Modern art and City churches


The statue of St Michael commemorating the fallen of World War I at St Michael Cornhill is a bronze from 1920 by Richard Reginald Goulden. A winged and helmeted Christian angel brandishing a flaming sword, stands on a stone which bears the inscription. To the left two wild cats prowl; to the right, four cherubic children cluster at the angelic feet.

During the Great War, 1914 - 1919, the names were recorded on this site of 2130 men who from offices in the parishes of this united benefice volunteered to serve their country in the Navy and Army. Of these it is known that at least 170 gave their lives for the freedom of the world.

In WW1 Goulden served with the Royal Engineers in France. Other London works by Goulden include: a war memorial at St John, Hackney, the Hornsey County School War Memorial now housed in the Crouch End Town Hall, the St Christopher statue on the war memorial at the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, and a memorial in Kensal Green cemetery to Thomas Power O'Connor.


The memorial window in the narthex of St Andrew by the Wardrobe is dedicated to Sir Ivor Bulmer Thomas, who masterminded the reconstruction of the church after the war. A detailed etching of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe can be seen in the window.

An energetic Renaissance man – former spy, athlete and leader writer for The Times, Labour MP for Keighley and devout Christian – Ivor Bulmer-Thomas (1905–93) was determined to make a difference and gathered together his closest allies and influential friends to form a new charity, the Friends of Friendless Churches, inaugurated on 3 July 1957 in Committee Room 13 of the House of Commons. The architect Harry Goodhart-Rendel, the philanthropist Samuel Gurney, the politician Roy Jenkins, Lady Mander, the artist John Piper, the banker and politician John Smith, and the architectural historian John Summerson were all members of the first Executive Committee. John Betjeman was elected Honorary Editor, Lawrence Jones Honorary Secretary, and the architect Sir Albert Richardson a Vice President.

This window was engraved by Frank Grenier F.G.E. who has been engraving glass for over 20 years. He studied under Simon Whistler and has held exhibitions in London, Hong Kong, Maastricht, Leerdam, Oxford and Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Guild of Glass Engravers. He engraves with tungsten points and diamond burrs. His work ranges from goblets to church windows, and includes clear and coloured glass.

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Harold Darke - Sanctus.

Discover & explore: A service series of musical discovery




Discover & explore: Music and liturgy with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Revd Jonathan Evens.

A service series of musical discovery exploring themes of beauty, faith, home, imagination, leisure, love and work. Includes music by Thomas Tallis, Moses Hogan and James Whitbourn, and readings from the Bible, Brother Lawrence, Ernesto Cardenal, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, W.H. Davies, Magna Carta, among others.

15th June - 27th July 2015, 1.10-1.50pm St Stephen Walbrook: 15th June: Faith; 22nd June: Home;
29th June: Love; 6th July: Work; 13th July: Imagination; 20th July: Leisure; 27th July: Beauty.

The series is a partnership with Guildhall Art Gallery using themes from the recent rehang of their collection. Join us for a guided tour of the Guildhall Art Gallery collection, as part of the Discover & explore series, which will take place on 21 July at 1.10pm. Meet in the main entrance of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

To coincide with its 15th anniversary, Guildhall Art Gallery has undergone a complete rehang of its permanent collection. Many of the works now on display have not been shown before at the Gallery. The collection of the Victorian paintings demonstrates changing attitudes to fine art in the 19th century. Artists turned their attention to the reality of modern life as their main inspiration, With its focus on everyday subjects, such as home, work, leisure, love, beauty, faith, and imagination, the new Victorian re-hang offers surprising relevance to life in the 21st century and challenges pre-conceptions about Victorian art being ‘dated’.

The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields have an essential musical role at this great church. Every year twelve scholars are appointed to sing regular services while also gaining concert experience, benefiting from an extensive training in all aspects of sacred and secular choral music. They are led by the Director of Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Andrew Earis.

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James Whitbourn - Give Us The Wings Of Faith.

The Prophet and the Losses: Relating to Islam and Islamists

St Martin-in-the-Fields has an ongoing Issues of our Time series on themes and challenges of the day with choral music sung by the Choir and Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields and sermons from Revd Dr Sam Wells.

This Sunday the topic is The Prophet and the Losses: Relating to Islam and Islamists. The service begins at 5.00pm.

Earlier topics in the series have included: Choosing our Government and Governing our Choices: The Coming Election; Full of Years – The Wisdom of Old Age; and The Family: A Nuclear Necessity or an Extended Memory?, among many others.

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Rumi - Say I Am You.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Windows on the world (341)


Mount Carmel, 2014

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John Prine - Thats The Way That The World Goes Round.

Barking Episcopal Area Art Trail

To understand why an Art Trail like the Barking Episcopal Area Art Trail is needed it is necessary to know some of the background to the relationship between Christianity and the Arts in the 20th century.

After classical antiquity, ‘Christianity became the predominant power shaping European culture between the 13th and 19th centuries. Biblical texts, commentaries, and apocryphal stories inspired artists and patrons alike to create these objects of devotion ...’ and ‘to evoke the nature of ... sacred mysteries in visual terms.’

Artists and their advisors were faced with the challenge of suggesting, in visual terms, the nature of Christian mysteries – such as the visions experienced, or miracles performed, by the saints – as well as other profound theological beliefs and debates.‘

However, by the time Impressionism initiated modern art, art had already freed itself in many ways from the patronage of the Church and, as form not content became the primary focus of modernism, the developments of modern art led to an increasingly strained relationship between the Church and the visual arts.

Andrew Spira, writing in The Avant-Garde Icon, notes that ‘Avant-garde artists were passionate and vociferous in their denunciation of the credulity, passivity, manipulation and conservatism of conventional religiosity.’

Mark C. Taylor has noted that ‘the development of modern art follows an "inexorable logic" that leads from figuration and ornamentation to abstraction and formalism. The process of abstraction reaches closure when the work of art becomes totally self-reflexive and transparently self-referential ... Painting that is essentially about painting seems to leave little room for religious and spiritual concerns.’

Additionally, as Dan Fox has stated in frieze, ‘For most of the 20th century, art aligned itself with progressive rationalist secularity and radical subjectivity; the ideas that have fed into art come from modern philosophy, liberal or radical politics, sociology and pop culture rather than theology.’

Fox also writes that ‘It’s also a question of finance: the money that funds art doesn’t come from churches or religious orders like it did hundreds of years ago.’

Anselm Franke, head of visual arts and film at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, sums the situation up by saying that: ‘The historical break with religion continues. We would not think of hanging something that someone prays to in a museum ... Faith is incompatible with art end even destroys the sovereignty of art and the kinds of experiences we are looking for when we frequent art spaces.'

As a result, Dan Fox states, ‘contemporary artists who openly declare affiliation to Judaeo-Christian or Islamic religions are usually regarded with the kind of suspicion reserved for Mormon polygamists and celebrity Scientologists.’

Modern art looked, sounded and felt very different from the art that had traditionally been made for the Church, meaning that the Church avoided using modern art while many modern artists were excitedly exploring new ways of creating art and couldn’t see any connection between what they were doing and the styles of art which the Church continued to use. As a result, there was a whole segment of society – artists and art lovers – that were not being impacted by Christianity.

The Church has often not valued sufficiently the artworks it has commissioned; at times their significance has not been understood or shared, at other times the works have been controversial and may have been banned or not publicized as a result. Often the artworks have been regarded as subsidiary to the liturgy and have not been publicized in order that the focus of the faithful would not be deflected. ‘Christian Art’ has become a contested term and the Church has been unsure whether to continue to use it and, if not, how else to speak of its commissions. There has also been significant debate about the relative values of commissioning artists who are Christians and contemporary ‘masters’ who may not be Christians.

The Rt Revd David Hawkins, former Bishop of Barking and Patron of commission4mission, has said that, ‘There is a great need for the Church to re‐engage with the visual Arts. The Church has enjoyed a long and happy marriage with art in the past but in recent centuries has suffered something of a separation.’

Despite this sense of conflict and separation, there is a more positive story to tell of engagement between Christianity and the Arts. There has been a continuing engagement by the Church with contemporary art from the Post-Impressionists to the present day. This engagement has often been contentious and contested but it has nevertheless been a continuing relationship involving both mainstream artists with a Christian faith and church commissions undertaken by mainstream artists who have not professed the faith.

Mark C. Taylor insists that, ‘One of the most puzzling paradoxes of twentieth-century cultural interpretation is that, while theologians, philosophers of religion, and art critics deny or surpress the religious significance of the visual arts, many of the leading modern artists insist that their work cannot be understood apart from religious questions and spiritual issues.’

Benedict Read in his 1998 lecture to the Royal Society of British Sculptors noted that following the Second World War: ‘Churches were being repaired. New work was being installed in them. There was an expansion of church buildings with works of art in them … There is an alternative world there of the commissioning of art for specific purposes that, with no disrespect to established art historians, simply doesn't feature in our notion of cultural history in the post-war period.’

Read was speaking of the UK but a similar situation occurred in mainland Europe and in both settings, while the church building programme has slowed somewhat, the commissioning of contemporary art has not, meaning we have and are witnessing something of a renaissance of commissioned art for churches and cathedrals.

Key figures in initiating and then sustaining aspects of this renaissance in its initial phases included the artists Maurice Denis and Albert Gleizes, the philosopher Jacques Maritain, and the churchmen Bishop George Bell, Dominican Friar’s Couturier and Régamey, and Canon Walter Hussey.

Commission, a relatively recent exhibition at the Wallspace Gallery, and the Art + Christianity Enquiry monograph Contemporary Art in British Churches brought that story up-to-date. Artists featured in Commission included Tracey Emin, Henry Moore, Craigie Aitchison, Mark Cazalet, Stephen Cox, Chris Gollon, Shirazeh Houshiary, Iain McKillop, Rona Smith and Alison Watt.

The central argument of Contemporary Art in British Churches is that we are witnessing something of a renaissance of commissioned art for churches and cathedrals in this country. Paul Bayley argues that this upsurge of commissioning from the church sees many significant contemporary artists, such as those featured in Commission, creating art for church spaces. The approach underpinning this upsurge is synonymous with that of Bell and Hussey, Couturier and Régamey, who argued that ‘each generation must appeal to the masters of living art, and today those masters come first from secular art.’

The aim of the Art Trail is to raise awareness of the rich and diverse range of modern and contemporary arts and crafts from the last 100 years which can be found within churches and, in particular, the 36 churches featured on this Trail. The significant works of art in these churches, taken collectively, represent a major contribution to the legacy of the church as an important commissioner of art.

These include past contributions by significant artists such as Eric Gill, Hans Feibusch, John Hutton and John Piper. In recent years, churches have continued to commission work by many important artists such as Mark Cazalet, Jane Quail and Henry Shelton together with other emerging artists who are now coming to prominence.

Work on the Art Trail was initiated by commission4mission, an arts organisation encouraging churches to commission contemporary art, with the hope of increasing interest and stimulating engagement with the visual arts in the service of contemporary Christian faith.

The visual arts can contribute to the mission of the church by speaking eloquently of the Christian faith; providing a reason for people to visit a church; making a link between churches and local organisations and providing a focus around which local people can come together for a shared activity.

A leaflet documenting the Art Trail, which was researched and developed by commission4mission member, artist and Fine Arts lecturer, Mark Lewis, publicises the Trail and provides information about the featured artists and churches. The leaflet includes a map showing the churches featured on the Trail together with contact details, so that visits to one or more churches can be planned in advance.

Mark Lewis’ brief was to research commissioned art and craft in the Episcopal Area from the past 100 years. While stained glass is the dominant Ecclesiastical art form, he was also concerned to show a diversity and variety of media and styles within the selections made. He highlighted works such as the significant mosaic by John Piper at St Paul’s Harlow and the striking ‘Spencer-esque’ mural byFyffe Christie at St Margaret’s Standford Rivers. Churches with particularly fine collections of artworks included: St Albans, Romford; St Andrew’s Leytonstone; St Barnabas Walthamstow; St Margaret’s Barking; St Mary’s South Woodford;; and, the church chosen as the location for the launch event, St Paul’s Goodmayes.

The Trail was launched at St Pauls Goodmayes on Thursday 17th February by the Bishops of Chelmsford and Barking. At the launch event, The Rt. Revd. Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, said: “I do not know what other art form could convey and hold the possibility of converging in so many layers. Not just do the visual arts comment on biblical narrative, but they illuminate it in a way that written or spoken forms cannot, being linear forms. Art opens windows on a set of concepts and ideas and brings them together. These windows offer a fresh perspective onto the faith we share, that other forms simply cannot.”

The Bishop of Barking stated that: “Our inspiration for understanding Christianity comes from the visual arts … The visual arts continue to be an important way of communicating our faith. Words are not enough to express the breadth, depth and height of what we want to communicate. It’s then that the visual arts express what we want to communicate.

God knew that: for centuries he relied on the words of the prophets and then he realized that he needed to send his Son to communicate in ways that words could not, the breadth, depth and height of his love. The word became flesh: the most beautiful living sculpture ever created – Jesus Christ.”

The Barking Episcopal Area Art Trail has inspired at least two similar initiatives. The Revd David New has created a leaflet as a guide to stained glass windows created by Thomas Denny for churches in the Three-Choirs area (Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester Dioceses).

David writes that: "Thomas Denny, born in London, trained in drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art. One day a friend asked him to consider creating a stained glass window for a church in Scotland (Killearn 1983). Thus began a remarkable career that has produced over 30 stained glass windows in Cathedrals and Churches of this country. Tom’s love for painting and drawing, especially the things of nature, is evident in his windows ... All of Tom’s windows express biblical themes and are conducive to silent meditation. Find a seat; feel the colours; give time for the details to emerge; reflect."

In addition, and also inspired by the Barking Episcopal Area Art Trail, Beat Rink is organizing an Art & Church Trail in Lucerne, in the context of a Christian conference, at the end of this year. Church leaders in this beautiful city are very excited about the concept and are currently working to develop their plans.

The web page for the Art Trail on the website for the Chelmsford Diocese also features new and additional works which could not be included in the original Trail. This includes:
  • Altar frontal by Anne Creasey at Christ Church Thamesview, Bastable Avenue, Barking IG11 0NG. Contact: Gerry Williams. Tel: 07914 676079 (http://www.christchurch-thamesview.org.uk); 
  • Graffiti Love, a mosaic by Viki Isherwood Metzler, and a Trinity sculpture incorporating a mosaic by Sergiy Shkanov can be seen in the community garden at St John's Seven Kings, St John's Road, Ilford IG2 7BB. Contact Churchwardens. Tel: 020 8598 1536 (http://stjohns7kings.org.uk/);
  • Holy Water Stoup by Mark Lewis at St Margaret of Antioch, Perth Road/Balfour Road, Ilford IG1 4HZ. Contact: Fr. Stephen Pugh. Tel: 020 8554 7542 (http://www.stmargaretilford.org.uk);
  • Life of St Augustine, cast concrete achitectural frieze by Steven Sykes at Holy Trinity & St Augustine of Hippo, Leytonstone, 4 Holloway Road, Leytonstone Ell 4LD. Contact: Revd Ian Harker. Tel: 020 8539 6067 (http://www.trinityleytonstone.org/indexnext.htm);
  • Nativity reredos with cross and candlesticks by Francis Stephens (a pupil of Martin Travers) at the Church of the Holy Innocents, High Beach IG10 4BF. Contact: Revd. Gill Hopkins. Tel: 01992 760492. (http://www.highbeachchurch.org.uk/); 
  • People praising God and giving grace received to others, sculpted oak panels by Jane Quail at St Paul's East Ham, Burges Road, East Ham E6 2EU. Contact: Rev. Merrin Playle. Tel: 020 8472 5531 (http://www.achurchnearyou.com/east-ham-st-paul/);
  • Restoration, a wood engraving by Peter S. Smith (a member of the Society of Wood Engravers) commissioned by St John the Baptist Leytonstone in 2011 to celebrate the completion of restoration work at the church. Church Lane/High Road, Leytonstone. Contact: Churchwardens. Tel: 020 8257 2792 (http://www.stjohns-leytonstone.org.uk/);
  • Stained glass including a window designed by Edward Burne-Jones at Ilford Hospital Chapel, 48 Ilford Hill, Ilford IG1 2AT. Contact: Fr. Martin Hawse. Tel: 020 8590 2098 (http://www.ilfordhospitalchapel.co.uk);
  • The Good Samaritan, engraved window by John Hutton at St George's Barkingside, Woodford Avenue/Gants Hill Crescent, Barkingside IG2 6XQ. Contact: Revd Benjamin Wallis. Tel: 020 8550 4149 (http://stgeorge-barkingside.co.uk/); and
  • Graphic art and banners by Caroline Richardson at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Collier Row (http://www.thegoodshepherd.co.uk/).
All of which demonstrates that the Church is engaged with the visual Arts and that the long and happy marriage with art that the Church has enjoyed continues to this day.

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U2 & BB King - When Love Comes To Town.

When the boss is away ...

Last night the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev'd and Rt Hon Justin Welby preached at a service celebrating the Ascension which was broadcast live on Radio 4 from St Martin-in-the-Fields. Led by The Revd Dr Sam Wells, the service featured the Daily Service Singers and the Choir of St Martin's singing the music of GF Handel, who inaugurated the original St Martin's organ in 1727. Excerpts from Handel's 'Utrecht Te Deum' and 'Messiah' - including the Hallelujah Chorus - reflected the majesty of Jesus' Ascension into Heaven to reign as King of Kings. The Archbishop's sermon can be read by clicking here and heard by clicking here.

My Ascension Day sermon preached at St Stephen Walbrook follows and will be available shortly to listen to on the London Internet Church site:

How do we respond when the boss is away? That was the scenario for several of the parables that Jesus told, including one of the best known; the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25. 14 - 30). In this story responsibilities are delegated to three workers, two of whom shoulder their responsibilities and develop the business so that it grows. The third, however, is so paralysed by the responsibility and the possibility of failure that he does nothing with the responsibilities that have been entrusted to him and consequently there is no development and no growth. When the boss returns the first two are rewarded and the third is sacked.

Jesus told this and other parables where the boss is absent, in order to prepare his disciples for his death, resurrection and ascension. He was the one who was going to leave and when he left them, at the point of his Ascension, he was entrusting them with the responsibility of continuing his mission and ministry in his physical absence. It has to be said that this was and is an awesome responsibility and we can readily understand why the third worker was paralysed by fear at the prospect. However, it also shows the value that Jesus saw in his disciples and sees in us. It is amazing but true that God believes in us enough to entrust us with working towards the coming of his kingdom, on earth as in heaven.

Like the third worker in the Parable of the Talents we often shy away from responsibility, although we don’t actually have that choice. Peter Rollins reminds us that ‘the famous philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that we are “condemned to freedom”.’ For Sartre, he says, ‘this meant that we are responsible beings. However we are not merely responsible for the decisions we make ... we are also responsible for the decisions we postpone or fail to act on.’

‘This means that we are not only responsible for what we do, but also for what we don’t do. Like a poker player in the middle of a tournament, even doing nothing is an act that will help decide the direction of the game. In this way we are constantly wagering on our existence. Every move, and every failure to move, closes down an infinite range of possible worlds while opening up an entirely new range.’

The choice for Sartre ‘was not between taking responsibility or not, but rather between acknowledging our inherent responsibility or attempting to deny it.’ ‘Instead of the impotent and impossible attempt to flee our freedom Sartre encouraged us to face it, embrace it and make resolute decisions in light of it.’

Jesus’ parables and his Ascension make clear to us the reality of responsibility. The one that we think is in charge and responsible is no longer there which makes us aware of our own responsibility. As Rollins and Sartre suggest we always had that responsibility but our tendency is to avoid or deny it. Our responsibility is huge as the parable suggests that we are responsible for using all that we have for the benefit of the world. If the Boss represents God then his property is the world and we, his workers, are placed in charge of his world and given responsibility for its change and development.

How will we respond to the challenge of Jesus’ parables and his Ascension? In the story, the faithful workers are those that accept this responsibility and act on it. The unfaithful worker is the one who does nothing, who does not act. Are we faithful or unfaithful workers? Are our lives dedicated to working for the benefit of others and our world?

It is important to also note that in the parable, and following the Ascension, we have been given the resources needed for this responsibility. In the parable the Boss gave out resources (the ‘talents’) alongside responsibilities. After the Ascension, the Holy Spirit came to empower Jesus’ disciples.

Do we recognise that each of us has much that we can give; that we are all people with talents and possessions however lacking in confidence and means we may sometimes be? We all have something we can offer, so how can we, through our lives and work, benefit and develop the world for which God has given humanity responsibility? What resources - in terms of abilities, job, income and possessions - has God given to us in order to fulfil our responsibility to benefit and develop the world?

Through his Ascension, Jesus challenges us as to whether we will be faithful or unfaithful servants? How will we respond? If we accept the responsibility we have been given, we should then pray for quiet courage to match this hour. We did not choose to be born or to live in such an age; but we ask that its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustices anger us, its possibilities inspire us and its vigour renew us for the sake of Christ’s kingdom come, on earth as in his heaven.

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G.F. Handel - Utrecht Te Deum.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Valence House








Valence House was voted by the Guardian as one of the 50 best free things to do in London. The only surviving manor house in Dagenham, it dates back to Medieval times and is still partially surrounded by a moat. The site on which Valence House now stands was first recorded in a property deed in 1269. The house that stands today dates back at least to the 1400s.

The Valence House gallery traces the history of the house and surrounding land, and looks at many of the people who have lived there. It contains a model of the house in 1921, when it was still a family home. Following extensive refurbishment in 2010, exciting galleries tell the story of Barking and Dagenham and its people throughout the ages.

As well as exploring the museum, visitors can discover the tranquil herb garden and Dig for Victory plot, or research local and family history in the Archives and Local Studies Centre.

The Valence House grounds used to include the whole of what is now Valence Park. The moat was dug to encircle the house over 700 years ago! Along its banks are swamp cypresses, which glow a spectactular red in autumn. Between the moat and the house sits a spectacular veteran evergreen Holm Oak, judged to be one of the Great Trees of London.

Approaching the house, you can’t miss the tulip tree (Liriodendron). Its orange and yellow flower is the Valence House logo. A ginkgo biloba tree nestles close to the wall to the left of the door. An English Oak (Quercus robur) was planted nearby to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Between Valence House and Valence Library is an ancient coppiced hazel. The remains of an ancient yew tunnel and holly trees shield the park and library from Becontree Avenue.

Valence House also offers a year-round programme of events for all the family. Visits can be rounded off by enjoying light refreshments in the Oasis Café and browsing the gift shop.

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Alisha's Attic - The Indispensibles.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

British Shared Values and Faith

The Muslim Community & Education Centre and Global One 2015 hosted an event today exploring shared values among faith communities in Britain. The event aimed to encourage meaningful and insightful conversation on the issue of shared values and faith in Britain, and brought together leaders and thinkers from Britain’s faith communities as part of a multi-faith discussion panel chaired by The Right Honourable Baroness Berridge which included Rabbi James BaadenImam Asharaf Salah and myself.

With the rise of religious discrimination and tension in the UK and around the world, proactive inter-faith dialogue is as important and relevant as ever. Faith communities in the UK face increasing challenges and yet provide invaluable resources in the form of education, guidance, social engagement and community support on local, national and international levels. In the run up to and aftermath of the general election British values have been constantly in the media spotlight with questions about what British values really mean and how they are compatible with major religions.

A 2014 study by Ipsos Mori revealed that Britons overestimate the proportion of Muslims in the country by a factor of four. These mass misconceptions become problematic when combined with biased perceptions of Islam leading people to feel threatened by the faith and its perceived incompatibility with British values. A similar study for Jewish Policy Research found that 28% of respondents felt anti semitism in the UK had increased a lot in the past five years; whilst 40% felt it had increased a little.

Faith communities’ participation in civil society is an important aspect of building strong cohesive communities. As participation is an indicator of how vibrant a civil society is faith participation can play an enabling and empowering role for many faith communities particularly those which are disadvantaged.

By bringing together religious, social and political leaders and thinkers The Muslim Community & Education Centre and Global One 2015 hoped to bring the discussion on shared values and faith to the forefront of British community life and find positive and achievable solutions to the problems faced by these communities today.

In my contribution to the debate I said the following:

This week my sermon at St Stephen Walbrook was based on James 1. 22, “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.” This passage says that if we are hearers of God’s word and not doers, we are like those who look at themselves in a mirror and immediately forget what they were like. “A first century mirror was not the silvered glass one without which no bathroom is complete today. It was beaten bronze and gave a fuzzy image. If you wanted to be sure your face was not dirty a quick glance was not sufficient. You would need to peer intently, work out what was required, then go and find some clean water to do something about it. The same is true of the way we react to encountering God. The real blessing of the Christian faith does not lie in listening to sermons or reciting liturgies, but in dwelling on what is true until it transforms what we do. A genuine encounter with Jesus provokes action.”

The action it produces is, as the letter of James states, “care for orphans and widows in their distress.” Jesus said, in the Parable of the sheep and goats, that God’s judgement on us will be based on our actions; giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison. These actions are to be the end result of our faith. If our looking deeply into God’s word does not result in our doing these things, our faith is not genuine and we are not walking the walk as Christians.

One summary of those words from and thoughts based on the Christian scriptures would be the sentence known as the Golden Rule which appears in the scriptures of many faiths i.e. ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

Let us bear these thoughts in mind, as shared values, as we think a little now about the contribution of Christianity to shared British values.

Julian Rivers has argued in ‘Religion and Law’, that:

“The political and legal implications of Christianity have been quite different from those of Judaism and Islam.” “Judaism and Islam manifested themselves as the law of an entire community organised around those faiths. So it makes sense to talk of Islamic or Jewish criminal law, family law, property law, law of contracts, charitable foundations and so on.” “Instead, under God, in Christianity, there are two authorities on earth, not one, and they are church and government. The sphere of church is characterised by salvific grace, by individual commitment, by freedom – so much so that the very concept of law might be out of place in the church (although Christian ecclesiological traditions vary considerably on that particular question). The sphere of government is characterised by judgement and coercion in the service of goods common to all of humankind. The tasks of government may be considered primarily in terms of restraining evil, or of coordinating human action in pursuit of the common good.”

He notes that, as a result, English law has been beneficially affected by Christianity” and summarises the argument of Lord Denning (Master of the Rolls 1962-1981) who, on his retirement as President of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, published a pamphlet on this topic: “These included a belief in the importance of truth, requirements of good faith in statutory interpretation and contractual obligations, the development of the law of negligence, basic presuppositions of criminal law (such as the requirement to demonstrate that the accused had a ‘guilty mind’), the principle of government under law, the rise of social welfare legislation, and the centrality of a Christian conception of marriage.”

To this list Rivers adds the following:

“Modern commitments to political liberty and equality within the law emerged out of debates which were internal to Christianity; debates which were catalysed by the inescapably radical liberty and equality exemplified by Jesus and his disciples. Jesus is the model of the accountable public servant, using power for the good of others and conscious of his answerability to a higher tribunal. English nationhood owes more than a little to the example of Israel. Christianity also reinforced a commitment to authority, order and the rule of law.”

Dipti Patel has explored, in a paper on the religious foundations of Human Rights, approaches to understanding Human Rights based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. She writes that:

“The central understanding of the human being within the Judeo-Christian tradition starts with the idea that God was the creator of all things. He created man in his own image: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image and likeness of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1, 9:6). This supports the idea of rights that all enjoy by virtue of their common humanity. By virtue of reflecting the divine image, absolute worth is accorded to human beings. This gives all human beings a special status, a unique value, or ... his dignity. Therefore the human being has absolute and inviolable worth. A human being is not to be valued for what society can do with him, he is not a means to an end. Being created in God’s image is to be understood ‘in the sense of God bestowing dignity and honour upon man’. This is explained in Psalm (8:5) where it is stated ‘You have made him but a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor.’ This means that every human being is to be treated with love and respect.”

This is a shared understanding within the Judeo-Christian tradition, while the particular Christian perspective on this issue is that:

“In the New Testament, the Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ, perfected divine regard for the human being. Through Christ humanity is freed from sin and as a result of the Fall, redeemed before God, and exists in a state of grace. So it is in Christ that the image of God, obscured and blurred by sin, is restored. The human being has supreme value with infinite worth; he is not a bearer of borrowed values. So the Christian understanding of human rights is entirely a function of the value divinely granted to humans through Christ. This is absolute and universal. The absolute value of a person pre-exists any social differences, all are seen as equal, and as a result the value is universal. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is Jesus Christ, who is to be received by faith (Romans 3:21- 25). The origin of human rights language in the Judeo-Christian tradition therefore starts with the idea of the creation of man in the image of God, and is therefore absolute, and the state of grace, which is universal. This is the reason why it is important to recognise the dignity of every human being regardless of any social differences. Dignity is inherent. Human rights law provides for a way to recognise the respect for dignity.”

One significant point in the development of Human Rights legislation and the history of Christian influence on British values which is being celebrated this year, is the signing of Magna Carta: “In 1215, after King John of England violated a number of ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, his subjects forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which enumerates what later came to be thought of as human rights. Among them was the right of the church to be free from governmental interference, the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property and to be protected from excessive taxes. It established the right of widows who owned property to choose not to remarry, and established principles of due process and equality before the law. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery and official misconduct. Widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the development of modern democracy, the Magna Carta was a crucial turning point in the struggle to establish freedom.”

Magna Carta starts as a religious document, concerned with the “health of the soul” of the King, and with the “honour of God,” and with the “exaltation of the Holy Church”. Dr Mike West notes that “Magna Carta established the freedom of the English church from state interference and this has grown to enshrine the rights of each individual to enjoy religious freedom. Today it challenges faith communities to examine the part they might play in the development of a liberal democracy and to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem in international relations.”

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Yusuf Islam - Peace Train.