Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Friday, 30 September 2016

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'Reminder - our EGM tomorrow Saturday to elect new board and entrepreneurs club on community trading in Redbridge

Here's the info - hoping the change of time from 8.30 am to 10.15am has got through to everyone!

This coming week:

Tuesday 4th 6.30-8.30pm - Entrepreneurs' club with Amal Simothy, Ilford Accountant on facing the uncomfortable to make your start-up grow! Info here.

Wednesday 5th - Ilford Tech meet up for techie start-ups and businesses. info here

Friday 7th - Free, open source IT tools workshop. Enterprise Desk 1-3. Info here on this monthly workshop
Other information

Our plan to create a directory of Redbridge social enterprises info here

The City Business Library programme for Oct-December is here.
future dates for your diary

Start up Britain bus tour is coming to Ilford Thurs 13 Oct info here
Really hope to see many of you tomorrow morning at our Redbridge Institute base :)

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge / 07707 460309'


Lou Reed - Teach The Gifted Children.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Bernard Bergonzi RIP

In the Guardian obituary of Bernard Bergonzi, we read: 'In 1982 an essay by Bergonzi was included in Why I Am Still a Catholic, a collection edited by Peter Stanford. Bergonzi remained a lifelong practising Catholic, though of a distinctly liberal temperament. Occasionally describing himself as a “papist critic,” he was a man of the second Vatican council, and the winds of change that were blowing through the church in the 60s.'

David Lodge wrote: 'I always looked forward to these meetings because we had plenty to talk about: new books, our current projects, literary and academic gossip, and the state of the Catholic church. Bernard took a particular interest in my novels that dealt with this last subject, and wrote perceptively but not uncritically about them.'


Gerard Manley Hopkins - The Leaden Echo & the Golden Echo.

Theological reflection: End of Life with Dementia

Here is the theological reflection that I shared last night as part of the evening on End of Life with Dementia held at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

In her book, ‘My Year with a Horse: Feeling the fear but doing it anyway,’ Hazel Southam writes of facing the daunting task of telling her dad that he isn’t coming home: ‘I visit him as soon as I’m back and … sit down and tell him the truth. This is his home now. He’s not well enough to come home. And he won’t be getting better. This team of carers can look after him properly and we simply can’t. I am very, very sorry. He looks me in the eye and under­stands. We hold hands and cry. He never cries.

We have the kind of conversation that you have before someone dies. We talk of love and laughter, God, cats, The Guardian, and cricket. I remind him of the village where we all grew up, of its orchards, his football team. He asks, “Where do I live?” and “Where is my house?” a great deal these days. I used to try explaining, but as none of it makes any sense to him — the past 75 years having been wiped out — I talk about the village instead. That he remembers.

I feel, as my mother often says, like a wrung-out piece of rag. There are things that you don’t want to tell your parents: my A-level results aren’t very good; I’ve left my job with the big publishing company; I’ll be reporting from a war zone. But “You’re not coming home” is by far the worst. I comfort myself with the thought that, however bleak this moment, it won’t come again. Daddy knows now, and whilst we may discuss it in the future, it won’t be like this. Only, of course, it is. The next day and the day after and every day for years he will ask when he’s coming home and I will have to tell him the freshly shocking news that he won’t be. Every time it will be new to him, as five minutes later he will have forgotten it entirely. It is my own personal hell, and his, too, probably.’

Nicci Gerrard, from John’s Campaign, puts it like this: ‘When people are in the last stages of dementia, we who love them (we whom they have loved) may bend over them, trying to find in the sounds they are making some words, sentences, a form of communication and a kind of meaning. Even a syllable is precious now. It is a bit like a parent straining to hear language emerging from their baby’s babble of sound – but with a baby this emergent language marks the beginning of the great formation of the self, and is full of hope and possibility.

With the person who lives – and who dies – with dementia, the language that connects us to others is disappearing, the self is being broken up. An entire world is being un-made. We come to darkness, silence, the radical slowing of death: dementia’s long goodbye.’

Gerrard notes that this long goodbye occurs because ‘Telling stories is part of what makes us human’: ‘With stories, we make sense of the world and impose a kind of order on to chaos. We continually edit our own lives into a narrative that will give it a coherent meaning: without this, we’re lost.

And people with advanced dementia become lost: lost to us and lost themselves. They can no longer speak themselves and without memory to bind the pieces of their life together, they are trapped in an endless present.‘

That was Hazel Southam’s experience too, but, she instinctively found a way of sparking memories in her father by retelling part of his story: ‘I used to try explaining, but as none of it makes any sense to him — the past 75 years having been wiped out — I talk about the village instead. That he remembers.’

Healthcare professionals are increasingly recognising that ‘Storytelling sparks memories, encourages verbalization and promotes self-esteem among those with dementia.’ The Contented Dementia Trust who advocate the SPECAL method explain the significance of story in this way: ‘A person with dementia will experience random, intermittent and increasingly frequent memory blanks relating to the facts around recent events. However, some memories of past events are always available and can be readily recalled by the person, given the right circumstances.

The SPECAL method uses selected intact memories from the person’s pre-dementia past and links these to their activities in the present. This means that the person is able to maintain a relatively content life in the present, drawing on their own memories of situations and activities which may have occurred many years ago but still have useful meaning for them in their life today.’

Narrative theology says that, as human beings, we are storytellers, and, as Christians, we blend our story with God’s story. Roger Olson helpfully summarises the main aspects of narrative theology. The Bible, he writes, tells ‘the great story of God whose central character (for Christians, at least) is Jesus Christ.’ ‘Therefore, all must be interpreted in light of that story and its purpose—to reveal the character of God through his mighty acts leading up to and centering around Jesus Christ.’

‘Theology is our best human attempt to understand the biblical drama-story’ and that is done by ‘“living the story” together with a community of faith shaped by the story.’ ‘The task of the church is to “faithfully improvise” the “rest of the story.” Christians are not called simply to live in the story; they are called to continue the story in their own cultural contexts. First they must be grounded in the story. They must be people for whom the story “absorbs the world.” Second, they must together (communally) improvise the “rest of the story” faithfully to the story given in the Bible.’

These two stories - the personal story of the person with dementia and the meta-narrative of salvation history – should intertwine throughout our lives as Christians, but, perhaps, never more significantly as we approach death. One common experience for clergy after funerals or memorials is to hear people say, I wish the person we had been remembering could have heard those tributes while they were alive. That could always have been the case, if we had been more intentional about hearing, re-calling and celebrating the story of that person. In the case of those with dementia, to do so is even more vital as it sparks past memories which may have useful meaning for today but even at the point of death, although the person may be unable to respond, there may nevertheless be an ability to hear and take comfort from the celebration of their life through storytelling.

As Christians, we can do more because our personal story can be blended with God’s story. This is particularly so in relation to the Eucharist, where the key events in God’s story are re-enacted and re-membered. It has been my experience, in taking communion to parishioners with dementia, that this celebration has been the moment in the visit when those I have been visiting have become most engaged, most participative and most present as they remember and join in with familiar words and phrases, recalling the prayers and re-inhabiting the story.

As Christians, our hope is also that this story and our being blended with it does not end. This hope has, I think, been articulated well by scientist and priest, John Polkinghorne, who says that "the immensely complex ‘information-bearing pattern’ (memories, character, etc) carried at any one time by the matter of my body ... is the soul and, though it will dissolve with the decay of my body, it is a perfectly sensible hope that the faithful God will not allow it to be lost but will preserve it in the divine memory in order to restore its embodiment in the great divine act of resurrection."

For all these reasons I agree with Nicci Gerrard, who ends the article from which I have quoted, by saying: ‘The question of how we care for those with dementia is also a question of how we live and how we die. It is about what it means to be human. We are all human. We all have stories.’


Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'Coming up this week....
  • Saturday 24th - Google Digital Garage at Enterprise Desk 10pm info here
  • Tuesday 27th - Redbridge Chamber breakfast - topic 'The Chinese Connection'.Info here
Next week
  • Saturday 1st October - Sophia Hubs EGM to elect our new Board - 10.15 am(changed time!) - see link below
  • Saturday 1st October - Entrepreneurs' club - a Sophia Hubs Special with Aidan Ward - 'Encouraging Community Trading, co-designing services between businesses and the community'. Please do come! Info here - please read and pass on
  • Tues 4 Oct - Entrepreneurs club 6.30pm speaker to be advised
  • Weds 5 Oct - Ilford Tech meet up for techie start-ups and businesses. info here
  • Fri 7 Oct - Free, open source IT tools workshop. Enterprise Desk 1-3. Info here on this monthly workshop
Other information
  • See the results of our Timebank focus groups and what's happening with the Timebank. Info here
  • Timebank story of the week - Mario the electrician
  • Our plan to create a directory of Redbridge social enterprises info here
  • The City Business Library programme for Oct-December is here. future dates for your diary
  • Start up Britain bus tour is coming to Ilford Thurs 13 Oct info here
Some of our Facebook and Twitter Likes this week:
Finally, thanks to Asari St Hill for being our entrepreneurs' club speaker this week

Have a great weekend!

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge / 07707 460309'


Bruce Springsteen - Rocky Ground.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Business Harvest Festival

At St Stephen Walbrook we have a tradition that companies in the parish designate someone to bring an object to represent their work and to place it on the altar as a symbol at the beginning of our Business Harvest Festival service.

Businesses and organisations representing the work found in the Parish of St Stephen last year included: Arthur J Gallagher, The City of London Police, The Don Restaurant and ‘Sign of the Don’, Rynda Property Investors, Vestra Wealth LLP, The Friends of the City Churches, U3A, London Internet Church, City of London Corporation, Sir Robert McAlpine, Christian Aid, commission4mission, Walbrook Music Trust, Threadneedle Asset Management, Central London Samaritans, British Arab Commercial Bank and Coq d’Argent, among others.

Among the items placed on the Henry Moore designed altar during 2015’s Service were a PCSO's black bowler, bolts, bronze and glass from local construction sites, paintings and drawings, a variety of reports and brochures, bread, wine and fruit, a hi-vis jacket, and a telephone representing the work of Samaritans.

This year our Business Harvest Festival will be held on Thursday 6th October at 12.45pm. All are welcome.


Benjamin Britten - Jubilate Deo.

Windows on the world (311)

London, 2016


Taize - Jubilate Deo.

Discover & explore: Stewardship & finance

The latest series of Discover & explore services of musical discovery at St Stephen Walbrook will explore themes of stewardship & finance. We will be led by the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields with input from Revds Jonathan Evens, Alastair McKay and Sally Muggeridge.

All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:

• Monday 3rd October: Time
• Monday 10th October: Talents
• Monday 17th October: Treasure/Gold
• Monday 24th October: Guidance
• Monday 31st October: Promises (All Souls)
• Monday 7th November: Safety
• Monday 14th November: Money
• Monday 21st November: Security

Discover & explore services have been described as “perfect services of peace in our busy lives” and explore their themes through a thoughtful mix of music, prayers, readings and reflections.

Discover & explore service series are supported by The Worshipful Company of Grocers, for whose generous support we are most grateful.


Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields - The Call.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Zi Ling & Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

Today I was at the Private View for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition exhibition at the Mall Galleries to see Zi Ling's Anniversary (2016), one of her watercolour series on older couples.

Ling creates portraits or explorations of relationships by working from photographs with which she feels an intuitive connection. Previously Ling has had work in the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours 2016 Exhibition (where she won the Leathersellers First Prize of £1000 to a young artist with her painting 'Rikishi'), Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2016, Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibition, the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition exhibition 2015, and Society of Women Artists (where she won the Rosemary & Company Art Prize); all at the Mall Galleries. Click here to see examples of Ling's work.


Moby - Saints.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

UN International Day of Peace: London Is Open

London Boroughs Faiths Network’s peace & reconciliation strand includes convening the London Peace Network, which marks the UN International Day of Peace each year.

Film-makers, artists, religious leaders and LBFN friends from across the capital are gathering today at 8.00am at St Martin-in-the-Fields for the premiere of a short film celebrating London’s places of worship – we are open and welcoming, not closed and fearful.

The film is inspired by the Mayor of London’s #LondonIsOpen series and will be shown at Southwark Cathedral later in the year in the presence of the Mayor. Churches, Islamic centres, temples, synagogues, meeting houses and gurdwaras will be open to guests during their times of worship or meeting on 23, 24 and 25 September – contact LBFN for details.


The Children - Mother And Child.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Start:Stop - The connectedness of all things

Bible reading

I ask … on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17. 20 - 24)


Geoff Mulgan, when Director of The Young Foundation, wrote that “seeing the connectedness of things is the starting point for understanding a world that otherwise appears baffling” and “the growing connectedness of the world is the most important social and economic fact of our times.” Mulgan saw connectedness manifested “in the growth of physical links like telecom networks; in rising flows of goods, money, ideas and people; in the interconnectedness of culture and the environment; and in new forms of social organisation.”

While he has been in America, Sadiq Khan has been arguing that “there is a huge amount political leaders can do to ensure people of different ethnicities, faiths, cultures, age groups, sexualities and incomes don’t just tolerate each other, but live truly interconnected lives as neighbours, citizens and friends.” He has been talking about building bridges rather than walls because “the world has been busy building separation barriers at a rate perhaps unequalled in history: at least 6,000 miles of wire, concrete, steel, sand, stone, mesh; anything to keep peoples out – or in.” Jon Henley has written that: “What is odd is that this building is happening at a time when less-physical walls appear to be crumbling. This is the age of the global economy, multinationals, vanishing trade barriers; of "the free movement of goods, capital, services and people", unprecedented mobility and instantaneous communication.”

We can see connectedness manifested in the relations within the Godhead as they are revealed to us through this prayer of Jesus which is recorded in John 17 - “you are in me and I am in you.” We are then drawn into this interconnectivity found at the heart of the Godhead - “may they also be in us” – in order that we participate in an exchange of love which precedes the creation of the world. When Jesus prayed that his followers might all be one, he prayed this on the basis that his followers might be in God as he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He was praying that we, who follow in his footsteps, would experience the same oneness with God and each other that he enjoys with God, his Father. In essence, his prayer is that we will experience unity, because unity is what is at the very heart of God.

John’s Gospel shows us two different patterns of society, each with a different centre or ruling power. In the first, “the ruling principle is the dictator ME, my ego-centric ego, and the pattern of society is people competing with, manipulating and trying to control each other.” In the second, “the ruling principle is the Spirit of Love, and the pattern of society is one of compassion – people giving to each other what they really are, and accepting what others are, recognising their differences, and sharing their vulnerability.”

Jesus’ focus on unity on unity among his followers because of the unity that exists within the Trinity suggests that, as his followers, we should favour collaboration, coalition, alliances and unions over independence. The unity found in the Godhead is the source of the connectedness of things found within the world and is also the starting point for understanding a world that otherwise appears baffling.


Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, may we know love as you know love, may we exchange love as you exchange love, may we live love as you live love, may we know unity as you know unity.

May we share connectedness as you share connectedness, you in us and ourselves in you.

God of connectedness, teach us that churches, communities and businesses thrive when the gifts of all their members are released and they build one another’s assets. Thus is deficit turned to plenitude, threat turned to companionship, and fear turned to joy. This is the life of the kingdom, may it be our experience too.

May we share connectedness as you share connectedness, you in us and ourselves in you.

God of love, may your words inform our speech as we discuss how to build bridges rather than walls. May your love influence our behaviour towards those with whom we work and enable us to live truly interconnected lives as neighbours, citizens and friends. May your actions impact our activities inspiring new initiatives characterized by service of others and creative understandings of the common good.

May we share connectedness as you share connectedness, you in us and ourselves in you.


Releasing the gifts of all, building one another’s assets, deficit turned to plenitude, threat turned to companionship, fear turned to joy. May all those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


The Voices of Harlem - Giving Love 1973.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'Here's some news of events and support for you or for you to pass on....

This week:
  • Tuesday - 3 hour start-your business workshop at Enterprise Desk on Tuesday 20th 1-4 Info here
  • Thursday - final 'enterprising redbridge' seminar for community groups - Thursday 22nd 5.30. Info here
  • Friday - Sophia Hubs entrepreneurs' club, Friday 23rd 1-2.30, Enterprise Desk. Speaker - will email separately.
Next week:
  • Tuesday 27th - Redbridge Chamber breakfast - topic the Chinese connection - info here
  • Saturday 1st Oct - Sophia Hubs breakfast and Extraordinary General Meeting to elect our new Board and start out as an independent hub. Everyone welcome, info here
  • Saturday 1st Oct - Entrepreneurs club - topic 'making your business social' 10.30 - speaker to be advised
Other news:
  • We need your help in creating a Redbridge directory of social enterprises - info here.
  • Start Up Britain bus comes to Redbridge on Thursday 13 October. info here
  • We have been holding Timebank focus groups, led by Sam Cowan. First outcome - social media volunteer and sharing the good news stories. Info here.
Don't forget, guest blogs always welcome!

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge
07707 460309'


Martyn Joseph - Land Of Evermore.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Kim Poor, Fernando Montaño, Kirill Burlov & Claudio Crismani at St Stephen Walbrook

Continuing the trend of works of art in churches set by Bill Viola’s Mary in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Ana Maria Pacheco’s installation at Chichester Cathedral, Brazilian artist Kim Poor’s exhibition The Shadow Of Angels opens at Wren’s masterpiece St. Stephen Walbrook on October 3rd with a fanfare of Art, Music and Ballet from 6.30pm. The Royal Ballet’s rising star Fernando Montaño will perform The Swan from Saint-SaensCarnival des Animaux to and around Henry Moore’s controversial altar, followed by a troupe led by Ballet Rambert’s Kirill Burlov. Expect to see top names from the worlds of art and music.

Kim Poor is a Brazilian painter based in London and Rio de Janeiro whose unique technique of glass fused on steel plate was baptised ‘Diaphanism’ by Salvador Dali. Her work has featured on record sleeves, in a book illustrating the lyrics of British rock band Genesis and has been exhibited worldwide including successful solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo with her Legends of The Amazon multimedia show.

Her latest exhibition, The Shadow Of Angels, will open on 3rd October 2016 at one of Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous churches, St. Stephen Walbrook. Curated by art historian and critic Edward Lucie-Smith, it explores the mythology of angels, their universal appeal, their spirituality and presence in our lives. Their iconography is a unifying force throughout time and a connection in all religions and cultures. In these troubled times, angels represent our need for reassurance, an illusion or reality in a very unstable world. They can be our protectors, guides, messengers or the dark mirrored side of demons; a manifestation of life and death or the true bridge to the Divine.

Lucie-Smith comments … “The dreamlike quality of Kim Poor’s work aligns it with the Magic Realism which can be found in the work of great contemporary Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Isabel Allende.“

From 3rd to 29th October 2016 at St. Stephen Walbrook, City of London (weekdays 10.00am - 4.00pm, Wednesdays 11.00am - 3.00pm)..

During The Shadow of Angels, the “amazing, daring and magnetic artist” Claudio Crismani will also perform. Crismani will play Etudes Australes, First Book Nos. 1-8 by John Cage and Suite from The Bluebeard Castle by Béla Bartók at St Stephen Walbrook on Tuesday 25 October at 7:00 pm. Tickets are £15.00 from the Box Office at St Martin-in-the-Fields or on the door.

American critic John Maxim concluded his review on Music Life about Claudio Crismani’s concert dedicated to Scriabin’s music with those words. The music by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin has always been at the centre of Crismani’s artistic interests.

Crismani was born in Trieste and he began studying music with Andrea Giorgi as a young boy. Between Andro and Claudio a solid, lifelong fraternal friendship was built in time.

He continued studying piano with Alessandro Costantinides and composition with Mario Bugamelli, graduating with full marks at the Bolzano Conservatory. He then perfected his technique studying with Marguerite Kazuro in Warsaw for five years. His international career began in Paris in 1979 with a recital at the “Salle Pleyel” and a series of radio and tv recordings for “France Musique”. Since then he has performed all over Europe, Russia, Israel, USA, Japan and Australia and in the most distinguished concert halls. He has worked with directors such as James Lawrence Levine, Cristoph von Dohnányi and Thomas Sanderling and performed with internationally renowned orchestras, among which: The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra, The European Community Chamber Orchestra, Les Solistes de Moscou, The Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra and The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1986 Claudio Crismani was invited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Liszt’s death by performing twelve concerts in England and playing the complete “Années de Pèlerinage” and the transcriptions of Wagner’s operas. In 1987, UNESCO named him “European Artist” and invited him to perform at the “International Music Soiree” at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. That same year he was appointed “Guest Artist” of the Van Leer Foundation in Jerusalem and under this aegis he became co-founder of the Horowitz Festival. In the Nineties, he staged a three-evening performance of the complete Poems and Sonatas for piano by Scriabin, which was repeated several times in different countries. He had an exclusive record contract with RS for twelve years and won two Discographic Awards. This period was marked by an important collaboration and friendship with the great Russian pianist Lazar Berman.

His performance of Scriabin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra together with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Sanderling and recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London, was a true publishing success story.

After a concert tour in 2002/2003 marking his thirtieth year of artistic activity (he was described as one of the major artists of his generation), Claudio Crismani decided to retire from the concert scene and devote himself exclusively to a long period of study. In 2014, he returned on the musical scene – among others – with “The Prometheus Project”, which is a transposition of Alexander Scriabin’s “Promethean” dream, designed to be a literary, artistic and (of course) musical experience. He rewrote it together with his friend Edward Lucie-Smith as a synesthetic blend, suspended between visual art and music, literature and history. Here, Pasternak and Scriabin intersect with contemporary traits, tracing a hitherto undescribed randomness of real-life moments spanning from Russia to Trieste and present and future human relations developing between Trieste and London.

In 2015, Claudio Crismani returned on the international scene at the exhibition on Boris Pasternak: “la Genesi del Sogno” (The Genesis of the Dream). The event highlighted artworks by Oleg Kudryashov, photographs by Moisei Nappelbaum and Crismani’s concert (performed strictly on a Fazioli piano) at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, and repeated in 2016 in Cividale del Friuli with a tribute to Boulez.


Claudio Crismani plays Béla Bartók.

St Martin-in-the-Fields Autumn Lecture Series Introduction

Autumn Lecture Series Intro

With the UK voting to leave the European Union and with increasing division, xenophobia, and confusion over future national and international relationships, the St Martin-in-the-Fields Autumn Lecture Series examines the crucial question: Who is my Neighbour?

  • 19 September - Rowan Williams 
  • 3 October - Michael Northcott 
  • 17 October - Sarah Teather 
  • 24 October - Sarah Coakley 
  • 31 October - Stanley Hauerwas 
  • 14 November - Sam Wells 

Find out more:

Great Sacred Music - A Hymn for St Cecilia.

News round-up: Papal plots, David Shrigley & Nick Cave

Today's Guardian asks why are there so many papal plots in fiction? From Dan Brown to Graham Greene, the papacy has long proved fascinating to writers so Mark Lawson examines the mysteries around this powerful figure and the church he leads. He identifies the work of Morris West as particularly prescient:

'West’s novels have an astonishing record of prophecy. The Shoes of the Fisherman was published on the day that John XIII died, and imagined an eastern European anti-Soviet cardinal ending the long line of Italian popes, which duly happened in 1978, when Cardinal Wotyla of Kraków became John Paul II. The unlikely plot of The Clowns of God (1981), in which a pope resigns because he can no longer face the burdens of office, was validated in February 2013 by the retirement of Benedict XVI. In West’s final conclave novel, Eminence (1998), the leading candidate to become pope, a Latin American radical called Cardinal Luca Rossini, now reads as a spooky preview of the Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio becoming Pope Francis.'
Lawson writes on the coincidence of the publication of Conclave this month with The Young Pope starting on Sky Atlantic in October and Doctor Faustus being at the Barbican.

'In two weeks, David Shrigley’s new sculpture will be unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. At first sight it looks like a work that needs no artspeak to explain its meaning. It’s a giant thumbs-up, cast in bronze. And who doesn’t understand that? Just in case there’s any doubt, Shrigley has titled the piece Really Good. He’s even made the thumb extra long, to emphasise the “really”.' He was interviewed by Marcus Field for the Evening Standard:

'Faith is an occasional theme, although Shrigley treads gently here. His parents are Christians, his mother an Anglican, his father an Evangelical. Shrigley himself went to church until he was 16 “and then I did sociology A-level and I stopped”.

He still has a lot of time for the principles, though. “I’m a sympathiser,” he tells me. “I think if you remove the aspects to do with gender and homosexuality, if you take that out of all the main religions, then I would say that if people lived by their central tenets — love thy neighbour, altruism, compassion, kindness — then the world would probably be a better place. And I think it’s wrong to separate Christianity from politics. What would Jesus do? Well, he certainly wouldn’t vote Conservative. He certainly wouldn’t dismantle the NHS.”'

Alexis Petridis has written an excellent review of Nick Cave's new album Skeleton Tree which scotches the idea that the album is about the death of Cave's son. Petridis concludes, this is 'an album that is no less brilliant, but perhaps less straightforward, than initial reactions suggested: not so much an exploration of grief as an example of how grief overwhelms or seeps into everything – a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.'


Nick Cave - I Need You.

Friday, 16 September 2016

God in Fashion

What has God got to do with fashion? In the video above Revd Peterson Feital explores how the Bible references clothing, what God would do differently if He was in charge of London Fashion Week and how Christians working in fashion are brought together through prayer.

Drawing upon his Christian beliefs and own intimate experience of the fashion industry, Simon Ward, formerly CEO of the British Fashion Council, recently launched The Character of Fashion, his powerful new book which investigates what the fashion industry can learn from God in order to change how it views the world and operates.

Some of the themes discussed in the book include not only how people can utilise their faith to better support each other in the workplace and create new and imaginative designs; but also how Christian values can tackle such contemporary and controversial issues as body image, the over-sexualisation of young models and the working conditions of low paid clothing manufacturers.

The first book in a series that has been dubbed ‘Multi-Talented God’, The Character of Fashion was launched at Simon Ward’s local church, St Sepulchre’s in Holborn, to coincide with London Fashion Week, which he had previously organised for many years in his role on the British Fashion Council.

Can faithful shoppers be shoppers of faith? How does religion relate to fashion? Can spirituality have style? Should the fashion industry respond to people who want to express their faith and spirituality through their clothes?

Artscom Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies Professor Reina Lewis, London College of Fashion brings together fashion designers and consumers, bloggers and journalists, educators and entrepreneurs, politicians and activists in a timely appraisal of these issues. With participants from secular and religious communities, Faith and Fashion provides an open forum for discussions about the opportunities - and the challenges - of melding religion with fashion.


After The Fire - High Fashion.

Windows on the world (310)

London, 2016


Rolling Stones - Wild Horses.

Great Fire 350: Radio 4 Sunday Worship & Songs of Praise

It's not too late to listen to 'Phoenix from the Ashes', the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship service that I led at St Stephen Walbrook to mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire. The service features the Bishop of London Richard Chartres preaching on the theme of the Great Fire.
The BBC were back at St Stephen Walbrook this morning to record material for the edition of Songs of Praise which will also mark Great Fire 350. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was described as an act of God and in this edition Pam Rhodes will explore why and discovers the new city churches that formed the heart of the city that rose from the ashes.

Early on Sunday, 2nd September 1666, a fire in a bakery near London Bridge became out of control and a strong wind fanned the flames westward. Not only the wooden houses, but warehouses, public buildings and churches were consumed in the fierce heat - molten lead running in the gutters, while stone was burnt to lime. The Great Fire destroyed over three quarters of the City.

A large number of the City Churches were rebuilt, many designed by Sir Christopher Wren, including one of his most famous, St Stephen Walbrook.

The ever increasing range and diversity of Christian worship in the City Churches today was celebrated in the Radio 4 service by including contributions from some of the newer priests in the City, including Rev David Ingall from St Sepulchre's, and Revd Sally Muggeridge from St Stephen's.


Illuminare Choir - Ubi Caritas.

Medium: Religion - Artwork meant to inspire, contemplate, and strengthen faith

Medium: Religion is a new exhibition at the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art & Design which explores the subject of religion through the eyes of seven contemporary artists. Coinciding with the 225th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights and American Democracy Project grants to the university, the UCM Gallery of Art & Design will display the work of national and international artists with this exhibition. Works made on the subject of religion will be featured. Artists Raudel Arteaga, Chris Clack, Scott Freeman, Kysa Johnson, Tobi Kahn, Justine Kuran, and Tashi Norbu have created artwork for this exhibition meant to inspire, contemplate, and strengthen faith.

A public lecture by Tobi Kahn on the importance of visual language and art as healing is scheduled for October 10, 2016 at 1 p.m. Tobi Kahn is a painter and sculptor whose work has been shown in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 60 museum and groups shows since he was selected as one of nine artists to be included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art. For thirty years, Kahn has been steadfast in the pursuit of his distinct vision and persistent in his commitment to the redemptive possibilities of art. In paint, stone, and bronze, he has explored the correspondence between the intimate and monumental.

Chris Clack says, ‘I have been making images for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember there has always been an element of religious imagery or content in the work I have produced. Why this should be, I do not really know. What I do know is that the connection between religion and art is for me a profound one, one that I think has implications for the way we think about religion as well as art.’

My meditation on Chris Clack's Descent II can be read by clicking here.


Arvo Pärt - Como anhela la cierva.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Terry Ffyffe: The Art of Reconciliation

I spoke tonight, together with Edward Lucie-Smith, at the Private View of 'Painting the Light', an exhibition by Terry Ffyffe, which can be seen at 5th Base Gallery until 18th September.

Edward, who has recently written on Terry's work, focused on the change in direction that it represents, while I focused on its reconciliatory nature:

Two of the paintings in this exhibition have been on show at St Stephen Walbrook over the past ten days as part of the current exhibition by commission4mission and I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to contemplate them there.

I have the good fortune to minister at two of the most special churches in Central London; St Stephen Walbrook and St Martin-in-the-Fields. One of the things I like most about being at St Martin in the Fields is talking with visitors about Shirazeh Houshiary's East Window with its central oval and curved lines. I always emphasize that the artist did not want to give her own interpretation of the image in order that those viewing it should be entirely free to make their own response to it.

Terry's work is similarly rich and capable of sustaining multiple interpretations, so these brief reflections are not intended to close down interpretation by being in any way definite but, instead, are intended to provide one or two of many ways of entering and inhabiting these works.

My first response is in relation to the sense of the fragmentary in these works; with these fragments, whether geometric shapes or free-flowing patterns, then being linked and united to form a harmonised whole. Terry's art is, therefore, an art of reconciliation; a facet of modernism that is, I think, under-recognised in the visual arts whilst being more widely acknowledged as a facet of modernist poetry. David Jones, in describing his poem ‘The Anathemata’, said he had fashioned a ‘coat of many colours’ from a ‘series of fragments, fragmented bits, chance scraps’ that had come his way by this channel or that influence.

With these paintings, Terry has, I think, done the same as this is a key aspect of his ‘Cosmic‘ art which comes from his experience of meditation; of entering the world of ‘liquid light’ where the realization of the unity of all things, the oneness of all creation becomes certain knowledge.

My second way into these works is through the sense that Terry is inspired by organic patterns in nature; both at the micro and macro levels. Inspiration has come as he has looked through the telescope and the microscope. Indeed, one understanding of the rectangles in Background Radiation could be to see them as microscope slides. Terry believes that the patterns of the micro in nature mirror those of the macro: that the patterns and shapes of particles match those found in the great expanses of the universe.

His belief that ‘the beauty of the designs that underlie every aspect of nature … can only be the work of God’ reminds me of Antoni Gaudi who ‘described nature as ‘the Great Book, always open, that we should force ourselves to read’ and thought that ‘everything structural or ornamental that an architect might imagine was already prefigured in natural form.’

Gaudí famously suggested that, 'originality is returning to the origin' and, as a result, based his buildings on a simple premise: If nature is the work of God, and if architectural forms are derived from nature, then the best way to honour God is to design buildings based on his work. That, I believe, has real synergy with the inspirations for this exhibition and is a key reason why these paintings themselves are so inspiring. So, I want to offer my congratulations to Terry on his amazing originality and inspiration.


Bloc Party - Into The Earth.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Congruity and controversy: exploring issues for contemporary commissions

Today I gave an illustrated talk at St Stephen Walbrook entitled 'Congruity and controversy: exploring issues for contemporary commissions.' Modern commissions by Henry Moore, Patrick Heron, Hans Coper and Andrew Varah at St Stephen Walbrook bring into focus some of the key issues and questions regarding modern or contemporary commissions. I explored these issues in the context of 'Reflection', the latest exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook by commission4mission. The essence of what I had to say in this talk can be found by clicking here.


Michael Kiwanuka - The Final Frame.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Scenes of Brussels


Jacques Brel - Ne Me Quitte Pas.

Windows on the world (409)

London, 2016


Friday, 9 September 2016

Art in Brussels

My recent brief visit to Brussels provided the opportunity to see work by James Ensor, George Minne, Albert Servaes, and also contemporary art at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

Housing more than 13.000 works of arts, the Ixelles Museum presents all the greatest European’s painting styles spanning four centuries. This includes realism, impressionism, luminism, neo-impressionism, symbolism, fauvism, expressionism, surrealism. This museum also owes its reputation to its prestigious collection of end-of-the century posters featuring more than one thousand original items among which many lithographs. The Museum of Ixelles’ collections are particularly rich in works of Belgian art of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries: a period that corresponds to the history of Belgian modern art. As a result, this was my first opportunity to see work by Ensor and Minne, in particular Ensor's stunning Christ calming the Waters and Minne's L’Agenouillé.

Located at the heart of Brussels, where between 1884 and 1914 the exhibitions of Les XX and La Libre Esthétique made the city one of the artistic capitals of the late nineteenth century, Musée Fin-de-Siècle Museum (part of Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts) is distinguished by visual artists like Constantin Meunier, James Ensor, Henri Evenepoel, Fernand Khnopff, Léon Spilliaert and Georges Minne testify to the effervescent activity of this period, reflected also in all other creative fields: literature, opera, music, architecture, photography and poetry (Maurice Maeterlinck, Emile Verhaeren, Octave Maus, Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde, Maurice Kufferath, Guillaume Lekeu and others).

Here was much work by Ensor, together with works by Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh that mirrored some of Ensor's achievements, interests and themes. Around the turn of the 20th century, several artists came to live and work in the rural village of Sint-Martens-Latem, about a dozen kilometres from Ghent: George Minne, Valerius de Saedeleer, Karel and Gustave van de Woestyne, Albert Servaes. They sought to live close to the local peasants, believing that these simple folk, and the countryside itself, would help them develop a new, more profound and more inward-looking art. Religious feeling played a major role in their lives and in their work. A selection of their work can be seen at this Museum. I also particularly appreciated seeing works by Jan Toorop and Jakob Smits as well as the opportunity to see for the first time the work of Charles de Groux and Henry de Groux. I also appreciated seeing the remnants of the excellent Andres Serrano retrospective exhibition which had recently ended.

In 1937, Albert Servaes collaborated with the stained-glass glazier Florent-Prosper Colpaert to produce three large stained-glass windows for the World Exhibition in Paris, entitled, respectively The Creation of Eve, Redemption and Original Sin. In 1939, these stained-glass windows were donated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the church wardens of the Church of the Holy Family in Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, who housed them there. I visited the church in order to see these three pieces which are the only stained-glass windows designed by Servaes that have survived in Belgium.

Each term the ambulatory in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula hosts an exhibition of contemporary art organised by Alain Arnould OP. When I visited the exhibition was by Jacques Noe. Following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the main altar was brought forward. Michel Smolders was commissioned to sculpt a new altar, which was consecrated in June 2000. On the left-hand side pillar, the Christ in ascension in beaten copper (1968) is a work by Camille Colruyt. Elsewhere in the Cathedral, works by Felix de BoeckCharles Delporte and Malel can also be seen,

The Église St-Nicolas is a delightful little church behind the Bourse which has modern stained glass from a 1950s restoration.

Finally, A Lighthouse for Lampedusa was at BOZAR. Thomas Kilpper is an artist who wants to encourage public debates on politically sensitive issues. Inaugurated on 19 June, his lighthouse invites European citizens to put pressure on their governments to bring an end to the massacre of refugees in the Mediterranean and adopt a humane and fair immigration and integration policy. The work of Thomas Kilpper refers to two very real lighthouses: the Lighthouse of Alexandria, considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, and the Cape Grecale lighthouse on Lampedusa, which is no help to the refugees, turned as it is towards Europe.


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Jesus Alone.