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Monday, 26 December 2016

The Divine Image


The Divine Image by Hannah Thomas is at St Stephen Walbrook from 9 - 20 January (Mon - Fri, 10.--am - 4.00pm, except Weds, 11.00am - 3.00pm). The opening night reception will be on Monday 9 January from 6.30pm, all are welcome.

Hannah Rose Thomas is a twenty-four year-old British artist and recent Durham graduate in Arabic and History. Hannah has sold her paintings and received commissions since she was eighteen years-old to fund her humanitarian work in Mozambique, Sudan, Madagascar, and, more recently, in Jordan and Calais.

This special exhibition collects portrait works undertaken during Hannah’s time in refugee camps in Jordan, where she partnered with UNHCR and Relief International to organise art projects for children in the camps. Her most recent portraits are of refugees she has met while volunteering in the Calais ‘Jungle.’

Hannah’s intimate portraits seek to humanise the individuals forced to flee their homes, whose personal stories are otherwise shrouded by statistics. She draws inspiration from Islamic art and Arabic poetry, to celebrate the rich heritage of the Middle East, so often forgotten and overshadowed by war.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by a verse from William Blake’s poem The Divine Image:

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.


Hannah is currently studying an MA at the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London. Her next art project will be in Kurdistan, to assist with the rehabilitation of abducted young women from the Yazidi community.

Painting in Refugee Camps in Jordan

In April 2015, Hannah returned to Jordan to organise an art project for Syrian children living in the refugee camps, with the support of Relief International.

The first canvas painted in Za’atari camp was an expression of the children’s experience of war. After a number of groups of boys and girls had painted on it, the canvas had become an abstract chaos of splashes of red paint, dark colours and layers of the children’s drawings of tanks, soldiers, dead bodies, planes and destroyed homes. It is a small glimpse of all that the children witnessed in war-torn Syria.

However, many of the children confessed to Hannah that they did not want to think about or paint the war any more. Therefore the second canvas painted with the children was a vibrant expression of their memories of Syria. It was inspired by Islamic art and arabesque design, to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East, so often forgotten and overshadowed by war.

After a couple of days at Za’atari, the art project moved to Azraq refugee camp, in the midst of a desolate desert wasteland on the Saudi and Iraqi border. The two canvases painted in Azraq are a reflection of the children’s daily life in the refugee camp. Hannah also painted a mural on one of the new school caravans.

The Diary of a Girl Away From Home

This is a tapestry created from paintings by Syrian girls living in Za’atari Camp this April. The most common image they painted was home, highlighting their longing for the war to end so that they can return to Syria. The Arabic poem is by a Syrian girl named Fatimah about her beloved home:

Take care of my house,
I left in it feelings of safety and security.
Don’t mess with my closet,
It has my clothes drenched with the smell of memories that no one else knows
And pieces of paper that have no value except to myself.
Don’t lift my pillow,
I hid under it my tears in times of sadness
And creatively created many dreams.
Don’t change the order of the books on my bookshelf,
On their pages notes I have written that no one will understand like I do.
As for my desk, don’t touch it,
But leave it with the mess I make while I study.
Please keep my traces in my beloved home,
I will be reunited with it soon.


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Victor Vertunni Family & Friends - Holy Thursday.

Love came down at Christmas


Here is my sermon from  yesterday Eucharist of Christmas at St Martin-in-the-Fields:


In my last parish we commissioned a mosaic which hung on the outside of the East wall of the church facing the street. The mosaic was simply the word ‘Love’ created in grafitti-style. It hung there for several years without a great deal of comment as part of the community garden we created until one Christmas, in high winds, it was blown down from its position on the East wall; quite literally a case of ‘Love came down at Christmas’.

Christina Rossetti’s wonderful carol, from which that phrase comes, focuses on the Christ-child as the ultimate expression of love:

‘Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas …

Love incarnate, love divine’

Through these words, she reminds us that God is love and that the incarnation - God become human - is as much a sign of love for us as is Christ’s crucifixion. As the Apostle John wrote, “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven” (1 John 4. 9 & 10). That is what she means by that marvellous phrase “Love came down at Christmas.” The incarnation is at the heart of Christianity because it is a sign of the love that God has for us. God loves us so much that he is prepared to become one of us, even though this means huge constraints and ultimately leads to his death.

On Christmas Day last year Peter Wehner, an opinion writer for the New York Times, argued in a piece for that paper that: 'Because the Christmas story has been told so often for so long, it’s easy even for Christians to forget how revolutionary Jesus’ birth was. The idea that God would become human and dwell among us, in circumstances both humble and humiliating, shattered previous assumptions.’ As a result, ‘we … do well to remind ourselves of the true meaning of the incarnation.’

So what is that true meaning and what does it mean that love came down? When I have run Quiet Days on prayer in everyday life, I have often used a prayer by David Adam which provides a simple answer to this question.

Escalator prayer

As I ascend this stair
I pray for all who are in despair

All who have been betrayed
All who are dismayed
All who are distressed
All who feel depressed
All ill and in pain
All who are driven insane
All whose hope has flown
All who are alone
All homeless on the street
All who with danger meet

Lord, who came down to share our plight
Lift them into your love and light

(David Adam, PowerLines: Celtic Prayers about Work, Triangle, 1992)

This prayer uses the imagery of descending and ascending an escalator to ask that those at the bottom of the descent will be understood and ministered to before being raised up. The prayer is based on the understanding that, through his incarnation and nativity, Christ comes into the messiness of human life, as a human being, to experience, for himself, all that we experience; the betrayals, dismay, distress, depression, illness, pain, insanity, loss of hope, loneliness, homelessness, danger and despair that many of us experience at periods in our lives and which some experience as their everyday life.

Christ comes to understand all this and to bear it on his shoulders to God, through his death on the cross, in order that, like him, we too can rise to new life and ascend to the life of God himself. “Lord, who came down to share our plight / Lift them into your love and light.” This is the hope held out to us through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem; that he was born into poverty, exile, danger, stigma for our sake, in order to be one with us in our lives. Jesus was born to be Emmanuel – God with us. As John 1. 14 says, in the contemporary translation of the Bible called The Message: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.” This is what Rossetti meant by that marvellous phrase “Love came down at Christmas”.

Because God, through Christ’s birth, has entered our world and moved into our neighbourhood, he has identified himself with us. As we have reflected, he became a human being experiencing the whole trajectory of human existence from conception through birth, puberty, adulthood to death, including all that we experience along the way in terms of relationships, experiences, emotions and temptations. He has been made like us, his brothers and sisters, in every way, tempted in every way just as we are and able to sympathize with our weaknesses. As Hebrews 4. 16 say: “He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all — all but the sin.”

This can be seen as the fulfilment of a promise of God recorded in Isaiah 43. 1 - 3:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

That then means that, as we pass through life’s challenges, we never walk alone. As a result, we have a reason to sing, with the fans of Liverpool F.C.:

“Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone.
You’ll never walk alone.”

The wonderful result of love come down at Christmas - of Christ’s nativity and incarnation – is that God is with us in all of our experiences. He is the one who leads us beside the still waters and walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death and he can do this because in Jesus he has experienced human life for himself. As a result, God understands and will be alongside us in all our experiences. God’s promise is that he will be with us as we walk the path of life and that is where true security is to be found.

As we know from our online lives: ‘... there is no substitute for being there - incarnate or, literally, in the flesh.’ No amount of words that we send ‘by post or by telephone or over social networking sites - can ever match the visceral reality of presence.’ ‘Face to phone or face to screen’ can ‘never match face to face’ (Rhidian Brook, Thought for the Day) and that is why Love came down at Christmas.

The novelist Charles Williams suggests, in ‘The Descent of the Dove,’ that the incarnation, because it is not simply about God taking on flesh but also about our humanity being taken up into God, is also the ultimate affirmative act. This is based on the understanding that nothing is lost and everything can be redeemed. All experience and all images are ultimately to be gathered in and up to God and, in this sense, the beauty found in the selfless giving of the incarnation and crucifixion really will save the world.

So, by becoming one with us through the incarnation – by being the Love which came down at Christmas - God is able to be with us through times of darkness until we come to live with him in the light forever. As David Adam prays, Lord, who came down to share our plight, lift us all into your love and light. Amen.

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Bruce Cockburn - Cry Of A Tiny Babe.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Artists Rebranding The Christmas Tree Tradition

My latest article for Artlyst is entitled 'Artists Rebranding The Christmas Tree Tradition' and highlights Christmas Tree installations in London by Shirazeh Houshiary, Alex Chinneck and Anthony Gormley:

'Whether your preference is for the traditional decorations and associations of the Trafalgar Tree or for the innovative visual images created by these commissioned trees, London affords this year a breadth of engagement with the sight of decorated evergreens and the gift-giving associated with them.'

My other Artlyst articles are:
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Thea Gilmore - Sol Invictus.

Windows on the world (324)


Colchester, 2016

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Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on Christmas Carols.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Update: Redbridge Sophia Hub

Ros Southern writes:

'Thank you so much for your support over the year and we look forward to working with you in 2017.
Here's a few reviews of our work in 2016:
Here's one date to put in your diary - The January Sophia course.
Here's looking forward to 2017,
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year
Best wishes,
Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs'

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Kate Rusby - Life In A Paper Boat.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

HeartEdge

‘At the Heart – on the Edge’ is a day exploring mission by sharing ideas, uncovering solutions and finding support. Starting at 10.30am (coffee from 10am) on 8 February 2017 at St Stephen, Walbrook, London we’ll finish at 3.30pm. The conference will launch HeartEdge, a new network for churches growing practices and patterns of sustainable mission, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Hosted by Revd Dr Sam Wells, our focus on 8 February is on:
  • Congregation – approaches to liturgy, worship and day-to-day communal life
  • Commerce – activities generating finance and developing social enterprise
  • Charity – addressing social needs while retaining congregational participation
  • Culture – art, music and ideas to re-imagine the Christian narrative for the present moment
Interested? Sign up for this launch event and attend what we plan to be an inspiring and practical first conference here >> https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/at-the-heart-on-the-edge-heartedge-conference-2017-tickets-29792821130.

On the high street or in the market place, churches these days make for unusual spaces. Often busy – from community projects and the arts, to hospitality and social enterprise – they frequently engage a wide mix of people including those more used to feeling marginalised and excluded. And if the church hasn't got there yet, it’s probably an aspiration the congregation are working towards.

We think this unusual blend of creative, commercial and community activity that works to include all kinds of people makes many churches essential places in a neighbourhood. It means being at the heart of a community while encountering God among those on the edge.

HeartEdge:

• A network of churches initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields
• For those working at the heart of culture, community and commerce
• With those at the margins and on the edge
• Building association, learning, development and resource

HeartEdge supports churches in blending their mission around four key areas:
  1. Congregation – Inclusive approaches to liturgy, worship and day-to-day communal life
  2. Community – models of outreach serving local need and addressing social justice
  3. Culture – art, music and ideas to re-imagine the Christian narrative for the present moment
  4. Commerce – Commercial activities that generate finance, creatively extending and enhancing mission and ministry through social enterprise
HeartEdge supports its members in finding their stories, sharing resources and connecting effectively with others developing their church and community.

We create spaces where members give from their experience and take from others – an exchange that's often inspiring, always compelling, and mutually useful for all participants.

We want HeartEdge to be an essential resource and a valuable community, as you develop your church and neighbourhood.

When you join HeartEdge you and your church get:
  1. Connections: Access to all kinds of useful contacts and connections to help your church develop cultural, commercial and community activity
  2. Information: Grow your knowledge and insight to help you in your work via the lived experience of others
  3. Visits: Opportunity to meet those most relevant to you in situ, gaining understanding of their work and experience, live
  4. Mentors: Via phone calls & meetings, appropriate learning and support from others
  5. Events: Programmed with bespoke content useful for your context
  6. Publications: An emerging range of resources based on approaches to ministry used by HeartEdge members
  7. Projects: Support and resources to begin specific social justice initiatives
  8. Emails and Online: We’ll keep in touch with you via a monthly email with links to useful resources via our website
HeartEdge is fuelled by its members. Members are people and churches who are makers and takers – people and churches that both give to the network and take from it.

When you join HeartEdge you give us:
  1. Information – about your story and journey as a church. This includes information about what is working well and what isn’t
  2. Money – via payment of a membership fee. We want to resource HeartEdge and this needs paying for. We tell you how we spend the money elsewhere in this pack
  3. Time – to meet other members and participate in a useful and resourcing network
  4. Resource – We think you will have one or more of the following that we think will be useful to others members: ideas, stories, experience, approaches, knowledge, relationships, tactics, strategies and resources. By joining the network you agree, where possible, to share these with others
Generosity is central to HeartEdge – it helps the network to become a useful resource. Your generosity enables members to generate new stories across other communities.

HeartEdge was initiated by the congregation at St Martin-in-the-Fields and will be formally launched early in 2017, but we are seeking founder members now. Join HeartEdge now and you become part of the network as we start out, developing relationships and growing this new resource.

For more information and a membership pack contact Revd Jonathan Evens, Associate Vicar for Partnerships on 02077661127 or jonathan.evens@smitf.org.

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Great Sacred Music - A Hymn for St Cecilia.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Century Plant: A change is coming

Here is my homily from today's lunchtime Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

The Nativity Story contains several examples of God bringing change to people in old age. This story of a child for Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1. 5-25), together with Simeon and Anna recognising the Christ-child when he is presented at the Temple (Luke 2. 22 - 38).

In both instances, the long-awaited event occurs at the end of the live of those involved. These are stories of faithfulness over a lifetime, of belief sustained despite disappointment and of new life occurring in old age.

The singer-songwriter Victoria Williams has a song called 'Century Plant' in which she recounts stories of people whose lives changed significantly in old age, of people finding new talent and purpose which hadn't been apparent through the majority of their life.

She sums these experiences up with the image of a century plant, a cactus which only flowers once in a hundred years, to say it is never too late to make a change, to find a talent, to receive God's blessings.

The issue, as for Zechariah, is that we struggle to believe that things can be different and that change can occur. Often the further on we are in our life journey the more we keep to what we already know rather than making the most of new opportunities. The Nativity Story, as a whole - from Zechariah and Elizabeth to Simeon and Anna, suggests that change can and does come and that lives can blossom in old age, if we recognise and receive what God is already doing.

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Victoria Williams - Century Plant.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Art Impacted - A Radical Response To Radicalisation

My latest article for Artlyst is entitled 'Art Impacted - A Radical Response To Radicalisation'. In the article I try to explore the interface between art and religion in a world in which:

'ISIS destroys the art of civilisations wherever its reach extends, most notably at Palmyra. Brexit threatens to cut off EU arts funding without alternative national sources existing, as demonstrated by the threat from austerity cuts to the wonderful New Art Gallery Walsall. This may leave the Art world, despite its avant-garde image, ever more reliant on the largesse of capitalism and consumerism. Then, in the US those who will come to power in 2017, are those who have consistently sought to censor and neuter the liberal Arts.'

The article references Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks' 'Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence', Andre Serrano's 'Piss Christ', the At Our Mothers' Feet campaign, and Stations2016.

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Lou Reed - Busload Of Faith.

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

Your invitation to our Timebank party Monday 19 December 6-9.30

The Sophia Hubs Timebank Christmas Spirit party special - kids welcome. A fabulous programme of fun and learning, or both. Take a look, come along, bring kids and family. Bollywood dancing, cooking, painting and some interesting and serious stuff. More details and the programme is here
And see the video of our great Ilford Green Pop up Market, Mayor's visit and Santa ride last Saturday.

Hope to see you there,

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs

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Deacon Blue - The Believers.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Churches Together in Westminster AGM: Homelessness and Encounter


The AGM for Churches Together in Westminster will include a talk and displays about the issue of homelessness.

Time & Date: 6.30 for 7pm – 9pm, Monday, 16 January 2017
Venue: Crown Court Church of Scotland, Russell Street, London WC2B 5EZ

Following the CTiW AGM, which is expected to be fairly brief, there will be a talk entitled “Homelessness & Encounter” on the subject of homelessness generally in the City of Westminster, and especially amongst young people. The speaker will be Colin Glover from The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Refreshments will follow with the opportunity to browse displays by a number of leading organisations helping the homeless, including West London Mission and Westminster Churches Night Shelter (Methodist), Depaul Trust, The Passage and “Home for Good” (resettlement support) Scheme (RC), Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church (Baptist), and Borderline (supporting homeless Scots in London). Displays will also be open prior to the AGM, and there will be the opportunity to speak with representatives from the organisations.

All are welcome. Entrance Free.

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Ralph McTell - Streets Of London.

@OurCofE

I have been asked to tweet for @OurCofE from Monday 19 - Sunday 25 December. @OurCofE is an opportunity to give people an idea of how vast, diverse and interesting the Church of England is.

It is an opportunity to reflect and expound on the best of parish and local life in the Church of England – the things that rarely get in the media. Follow my tweets @OurCofE from 10.00am on Monday 19 December and retweet to share the news of what is going on at St Martin-in-the-Field’s and at St Stephen Walbrook.

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St Martin's Voices - I Stood On The River Of Jordan.

Connaught Christmas Tree





I saw the Connaught Christmas Tree recently on a visit to Farm Street Church. Designed by Antony Gormley the Tree has been unveiled outside the Connaught hotel:

'The magnificent Western Red Cedar tree sourced from Shropshire stands 17.5m tall on Carlos Place. Its trunk has been transformed into a tapering column of brilliant light across which dance its branches and foliage.

Commenting on the tree, Gormley said, “It was a joy to collaborate with Zumtobel and their brilliant team of lighting innovators on this project. I thought that rather than decorating the outside of the Christmas tree it would be fun to light its core, the trunk, transforming it into a radiant centre against which the branches would become illuminated and silhouetted. I want the tree to celebrate life and all its myriad forms. At this, the darkest time of the year and at a moment of global dysfunction, I hope this magnificent tree conveys a feeling of continuance and vitality.”'

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Kate Rusby - Kris Kringle.

Michael Coles and Christ Church with St Laurence Brondesbury



I've had the pleasure recently of visiting Christ Church with St Laurence Brondesbury in support of the wonderful work done by St Laurence's Larder. Christ Church also has a collection of paintings by the stained glass artist and iconographer Michael Coles, not all of which can be displayed. However, recent work on the building has enabled this large beautiful crucifix by Michael to be displayed once again.

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The Unthanks - In The Bleak Midwinter.

The Seven Joys of Mary

Here is my Thought for the Week from St Martin-in-the-Fields' newsletter:

‘The Seven Joys of Mary’ is a traditional carol about Mary’s happiness at moments in the life of Jesus, probably inspired by the Seven Joys of the Virgin in the devotional literature and art of Medieval Europe.

The carol has a simple, repetitive but beautiful structure: “The first good joy that Mary had, / It was the joy of one / To see her blessed Jesus / When He was first her Son. / When He was Her first Son, Good Lord; / And happy may we be, / Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost / To all eternity”

That structure is repeated for all seven joys. There are different British and US versions of the carol which taken together give more than seven joys but the basic joys of Mary of which the carol speaks take us from the nativity of Christ (suck at her breast bone) through his ministry (make the lame to go; make the blind to see; read the Bible o’er; bring the dead alive) to his death (upon the crucifix), and on to his resurrection and ascension (wear the crown of heaven).

Part of the reason this carol resonates, besides its beauty, is that it links Christmas with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It even dares to list the Crucifixion as one of Mary’s joys, an incomprehensible idea unless viewed with the eyes of faith.

So the singing of a carol like this can help us more fully explain the meaning of Christmas and save it from mere sentimentality because, as the carol describes, Christ is born into our world to save us by his life, death, and resurrection. That is the ultimate lesson of every true Christmas tradition and the source of all our joys as Christians, as well as those of Mary. May that be our experience this Christmas as we sing carols and hear, once again, the Christmas story told.

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Kate Rusby - Diadem.

Windows on the world (323)


Colchester, 2016

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C.O.B - Spirit Of Love.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Advent & Carols at St Stephen Walbrook

















To date this Advent at St Stephen Walbrook we have hosted: The Supreme Military Order of The Temple of Jerusalem, The Grand Priory of England; Fight for Sight; Michael Varah Memorial Fund; International Animal Rescue; Christ's Hospital Old Blues Association; City Livery Club; and The Worshipful Company of Gardeners. In addition to our regular services and recitals, we have also taken part in the Bank Churches Advent Carol Service, held our own Parish Carol Service, hosted a concert by the Hanover Choir, held a ceremony to invest the Lord Mayor as an Honorary Warden, taken a wedding and held a baptism.

Next week I will be tweeting @OurCofE throughout the week; a week that includes Start:Stop, Carols for a local company, a Walbrook Art Group lecture, our lunchtime Eucharist on a Thursday, and Midnight Mass. Then on Boxing Day (the Feast Day of St Stephen), Radio 4's Daily Service will be led by our curate Sally Muggeridge.

I will also tweet @OurCofE during the week about much that is happening at St Martin-in-the-Fields including: Community Carols, the Crib Service, Parish Carols and the Christmas Day Eucharist (at which I will be preaching).

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Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss - The Wexford Carol.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Advent booklet: HeartEdge principles


This year at St Martin-in-the-Fields we invited our congregation to write pages for our #Advent2016 booklet. Each day a new reading, reflection and prayer on the theme, “At the Heart. On the Edge.”, is being posted on our twitter account and facebook page. Here is my first piece in the booklet which was Wednesday's reflection:

HeartEdge principles

All who believed … had all things in common; they would sell their … goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2. 44 – 47)

The Early Church was formed at the very heart of Jerusalem and Judaism while also being on the edge because they were the few (albeit, a rapidly growing number) who followed and believed in Jesus Christ as Messiah. As such they developed an ethos for and practices of being at the heart and on the edge which have inspired and challenged the Church through the ages. Our understanding of mission as involving compassion, cultural expression and commerce rooted in a vibrant congregational life can be traced right back to these first Christians who gathered together regularly, sold their possessions and goods, gave support to those in need, and whose praise of God included singing the first hymns. In building HeartEdge, a new network of churches for the 21st century, we can find many of the principles that will need to inform this network in the example of these first Christians. They trusted that God would give everything they needed for their life together as people on the edge. They did unbelievable things together by starting with one another’s assets, not their deficits. They thrived as the gifts of all were released and they built one another’s assets.

HeartEdge God, inspire and challenge us through the example of the Early Church in Jerusalem to create opportunities for nurturing generosity and cooperation and, by doing so, encourage others to find their way to becoming abundant communities that open space for generosity and cooperation. Amen.

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The Innocence Mission - Bright As Yellow.

Discover & explore services: Spring 2017 series




Discover & explore services at St Stephen Walbrook feature music and liturgy with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields. These services explore their themes through a thoughtful mix of music, prayers, readings and reflections:
  • “A perfect service of peace in our busy lives.”
  • “Spiritual food in the middle of the day.”
  • “Beautifully and intelligently done.”
The next series of these services of musical discovery will explore significant figures in the history of St Stephen Walbrook.

All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:
  • 9 January – John Dunstable (Music) 
  • 16 January - Sir Christopher Wren (Architecture) 
  • 23 January – Thomas Watson (Preaching) 
  • 30 January – Sir John Vanbrugh (Drama) 
  • 6 February - Thomas Wilson (Patronage) 
  • 13 February – Half Term break 
  • 20 February – George Croly (Poetry) 
  • 27 February – George Griffin Stonestreet (Insurance) 
  • 6 March – Robert S. de Courcey Laffan (Sport) 
  • 13 March – Chad Varah (Charity) 
  • 20 March – Henry Moore (Sculpture) 
  • 27 March – Lanning Roper (Gardening) 
  • 3 April - Patrick Heron (Art) 
  • 10 April – Peter Delaney (Internet)
Discover & explore is “like a little jewel with a number of facets drawing us in and lighting our path.”

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John Dunstable - Quam Pulchra Est.

Weddings at St Stephen Walbrook



Weddings at St Stephen Walbrook are wonderful occasions. To inform couples thinking of St Stephen Walbrook as a possible location for their wedding, we have recently updated the information on our website about weddings held here. To view our leaflet on 'Getting Married at St Stephen Walbrook click here.

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Henry Purcell - Trumpet Tune and Air.
  

Doubting John the Baptist

Here is my sermon from today's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook:

John the Baptist had had a great ministry. He’d gone from being a nobody to having the religious leaders of his day coming and asking whether he was the next Elijah. He had not only recognised Jesus as Israel’s Messiah but had baptised him as well. And as he had baptised Jesus, he had seen the heavens open and God’s Spirit coming down on Jesus and had heard God the Father saying to Jesus, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am well pleased.” At the end of his life, however, everything came to a crashing halt as he was imprisoned by Herod, until his life was cut short by Herodius asking for his head on a platter. How was he affected by this sudden end to his ministry which had had such an impact?

Well, we get a clue from our gospel reading (Matthew 11: 2-11) because John sent a message to Jesus to ask if Jesus was the one that they had been expecting or whether they should look out for someone else. In other words, as he sat in his prison cell, John the Baptist doubted what he had earlier been certain of. After he had baptised Jesus, John had seen the Spirit of God come down and stay on Jesus and had confidently told others that Jesus was the Son of God. Now though he wasn’t so sure and so he sent some of his disciples to Jesus with this question.

Isn’t that similar to our experience as Christians? Don’t we often go through times when we experience a real sense of closeness to God when we feel absolutely certain of what we believe. Times when God feels so close to us that we could almost reach out and touch him. But then there are other times when that kind of confidence and that awareness of God’s presence seem to be far away in the past and we wonder how we could ever have been so sure about what we believed. In these times we haven’t lost our faith but we don’t have the sense of assurance that we once had. Does this mean that we are not following God’s plan for our lives? Does it mean that we have failed or sinned or stopped trusting? The answer to all those questions is no. Think for a moment about the way in which Jesus replies to John’s question.

First, Jesus doesn’t criticise John. He doesn’t tell him to pull up his socks or to be more trusting or to have more faith or to repent for his sins. And then he tells the crowds that there has never been a man greater than John the Baptist. Jesus knows that doubt is part of the journey of faith. Even the greatest man who ever lived experienced periods of doubt. If John the Baptist did, then we should certainly expect to too. Jesus welcomes John coming to him with his doubts and sends back a message of encouragement. John was isolated in his prison cell. He had some contact with his disciples but he was not free and his disciples would only have been able to see him at certain times. In his isolation, it would have been easy for him to retreat into himself with his doubts and allow them to grow and play on his mind without being answered. But that is not what John did, instead he shares his doubts with Jesus. In the same way, we need to share our doubts and difficulties with each other and with God himself. And when others share their doubts and difficulties with us, we need to be like Jesus and give encouragement.

In the message that Jesus sends to John he asks him, firstly, to look again at himself, at Jesus. When we do this, when we honestly look at the Jesus who is revealed to us in the gospels, we see a man who is genuinely like God. We see a man who does and says the things that only God could do and say: “the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.” When we doubt our faith, as we all do at different times in our lives, one of the best things we can do is to remind ourselves of what Jesus is like. Could anyone do and say the things that Jesus did and said and not be God?

The message that Jesus sends to John also asks him to look at the signs of the kingdom that can be seen in Jesus’ ministry. Those things that Jesus said and did were the first signs that the rule and reign of God was coming about on earth. As John looked at these tangible signs of God’s kingdom he could see the prophecies about God’s rule on earth coming true. Like John, we also need to look in our world for signs of God’s kingdom in changed lives and changed communities.

Sometimes as preachers we give the impression that the Christian life should be all highs and no lows. Sometimes preachers even deliberately preach that God’s plan is that we can all become champions, successful in all that we do. But that is to preach and read only a part of what the Bible says, not the whole. God’s way for us often involves apparent failure and hardship. Look at John in this passage. A faith that survives the difficult times is longer lasting that a faith that only knows ease and comfort. It is in the testing times that our faith is stretched and grows. Jesus understands our doubts, he encourages us to share our doubts with others and to support others in their doubts and difficulties. He points us to himself and to the signs of God’s kingdom in our lives and the lives of those around us as an encouragement to us to hold on in those difficult times and see our faith grow and develop as a result.

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On Jordan's Bank, The Baptist's Cry.

Peace on earth: Living as Christ lived






Here is my address from last night's Parish Carol Service at St Stephen Walbrook:

One of my favourite rock bands is U2 whose lead singer and lyricist, Bono, is a big fan of the Psalms. He has written that a lot of the psalms feel to him like the blues. Man shouting at God - "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?" – and some of the songs he has written do the same.

In ‘Peace on Earth’ he writes:

“Heaven on Earth, we need it now / I'm sick of all of this hanging around / Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain / I'm sick of hearing again and again / That there's gonna be peace on Earth …

Hear it every Christmas time / But hope and history won't rhyme /
So, what's it worth? / This peace on Earth”

It was over 2,000 years ago that that glorious song of old was first sung by angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold: "Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven's all-gracious King." So where is it? Why hasn’t it come? These are good questions to ask. Good questions to shout at God, just as occurs in the Psalms and in the blues.

While the Psalms and the blues pose questions, our carols may provide some answers. The carol I’ve just quoted, ‘It came upon a midnight clear,’ acknowledges the lack of peace that we find in the world:

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife / The world has suffered long; / Beneath the angel strain have rolled / Two thousand years of wrong;”

But the problem is then put firmly back in our own court:

“And man, at war with man, hears not / The love-song which they bring; / O hush the noise, ye men of strife / And hear the angels sing.”

The wars we wage throughout our lives drown out the song of the angels and mean that we pay no attention to the peace that the Christ-child came to bring. That is also what we are told in John’s Gospel: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God …”

We have to recognize and receive him in order to access the peace that he brings, as another carol, ‘Joy to the World,’ says clearly:

“Joy to the World, the Lord is come! / Let earth receive her King; / Let every heart prepare Him room, / And Heaven and nature sing,”

So today as we sing carols together, the questions turn back to us. Are we hushing the noise of our strife sufficiently to hear the song of peace which the angels sing? Are we preparing room in our hearts for Christ to be born or are we like the innkeepers who said, “No room.” Are we recognizing and receiving him into our lives in order to become children of God?

You’ll probably have heard the slogan of the Dog’s Trust, ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas.’ Perhaps we need to adapt that slogan to say, ‘Christ is for life, not just for Christmas’ because it is only when we live as Christ lived that the peace he brings comes in our own lives and also between those we know. It is when we live as Christ lived that we give time and care to those who are housebound or elderly; that we feed those who are hungry, that we provide shelter for those who are homeless, that we open our homes to those who are refugees and asylum seekers.

It is when we live as Christ lived that he rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and the wonders of his love. It is when we live as Christ lived that the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace, their King, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

If we are sick of all of the hanging around - sick of sorrow, sick of the pain, sick of hearing again and again that there's gonna be peace on Earth – then we need to prepare room for Christ to be born in our hearts so that we will live as Christ lived and bring peace on earth – to our lives, our friends and family, our community and world. May it be so for us this Christmas.

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U2 - Peace On Earth.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Parish Carols & Midnight Mass




Here are details of our Christmas Services at St Stephen Walbrook, to which all are welcome:

Parish Carols by Candlelight – Wednesday 14 December, 6.00pm

‘Carols for All and Blessing of the Crib’ by Candlelight. A traditional candlelit Carol Service. The great occasion when neighbouring businesses and friends of St Stephen Walbrook come together to celebrate Christmas. Music will be led by the St Stephen's Voices with organist Joe Sentance and there will be much-loved carols to sing, including 'Once in Royal David's City, While shepherds watched their flocks by night, See amid the winter's snow, Away in a manger and Hark the Herald Angels sing'. Choir carols include 'Sir Christemas' and Bethlehem Down'. The service will also include ‘Sir Christèmas’ – Matthias, ‘Bethlehem Down’ – Warlock, and ‘Gaudete’ - arr. Jenkins. Last year, the church was packed so do arrive early to ensure you get a seat. Mince pies and mulled wine.

Midnight Mass – Saturday 24 December, 11.30pm

Join us for the first Communion of Christmas where St Stephen’s Voices and organist Joe Sentance will lead us with ‘Missa Brevis in D, K194’ – Mozart and ‘Sussex Carol’ - arr. Ledger. The service will be followed by mince pies and hot drinks.

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William Matthias - Sir Christèmas.

Seven Good Joys


Bible reading

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”…

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2. 4 – 19)

Meditation:

‘Seven Good Joys’ is a traditional carol about Mary's happiness at moments in the life of Jesus, probably inspired by the Seven Joys of the Virgin in the devotional literature and art of Medieval Europe. I’ve come across this carol only recently, as it is included on Kate Rusby’s excellent Christmas album While Mortals Sleep.

The carol has a simple, repetitive but beautiful structure:

“The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one
To see her blessed Jesus
When He was first her Son.
When He was Her first Son, Good Lord;
And happy may we be,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity”

That structure is repeated for all seven joys. There are different British and US versions of the carol which taken together give more than seven joys but the basic joys of Mary of which the carol speaks are to see her own Son Jesus: suck at her breast bone; make the lame to go; make the blind to see; read the Bible o'er; bring the dead alive; upon the crucifix; and wear the crown of heaven.

These seven joys take us from the nativity of Christ (suck at her breast bone) through his ministry (make the lame to go; make the blind to see; read the Bible o'er; bring the dead alive) to his death (upon the crucifix), and on to his resurrection and ascension (wear the crown of heaven).

Part of the reason this carol resonates, besides its beauty, is that it links Christmas with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It even dares to list the Crucifixion as one of Mary’s joys, an incomprehensible idea unless viewed with the eyes of faith.

So the singing of a carol like this can help us more fully explain the meaning of Christmas and save it from mere sentimentality because, as the carol describes, Christ is born into our world to save us by his life, death, and resurrection. That is the ultimate lesson of every true Christmas tradition and the source of all our joys as Christians, as well as those of Mary. May that be our experience this Christmas as we sing carols and hear, once again, the Christmas story told.

Prayers

God our Father, the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she was to be the mother of your Son. Though Mary was afraid, she responded to your call with joy. Help us to do your will even when it is difficult. Help us to be like Mary and respond YES to what You ask of us. Help us, whom you call to serve you, to share like her in your great work of bringing to our world your love and healing.

Mary was the Mother of Jesus. May we also bring Jesus into the world for others.

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, merciful and gentle: to you be praise and glory for ever. Your light has shone in our darkened world through the child-bearing of blessed Mary; grant that we who have seen your glory may daily be renewed in your image and prepared like her for the coming of your Son.

Mary was the Mother of Jesus. May we also bring Jesus into the world for others.

Almighty God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge. Help us, who greet the birth of Christ with joy, to live in the light of his love and share the good news of your love.

Mary was the Mother of Jesus. May we also bring Jesus into the world for others.

Blessing

May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

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Kate Rusby - Sweet Bells.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Windows on the world (322)


Colchester, 2016

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The Animals - Bring It On Home To Me.

Carols for the Animals

On Thursday at St Stephen Walbrook we hosted International Animal Rescue, recently made Charity of the Year by Justgiving, for their second service of Carols for the Animals with us.

The service included: the BATFA award winning actor and active supporter of animal charities, Peter Egan; Voxcetera, who formed in 2009 establishing themselves as a thriving chamber choir; the Massive Violins, seven cellists who play and sing their own arrangements of rock and pop classics with a bit of folk and classical music thrown in; Caroline Curtis Dolby, Chairwoman of the Fundraising Committee of International Animal Rescue; and Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue.

I shared the following reflection and prayers based on material from ASWA, James Jones and Glenn Pease:

In his birth Jesus is traditionally identified with the animal kingdom. Mary probably made it to Bethlehem riding on a donkey. Jesus was born in a space meant for the shelter of animals. He was laid in a manger meant for the feeding of animals. The first sounds he heard could well have been the sounds of animals. He was first announced to the shepherds whose whole life revolved around the care, feeding, and protection of animals. The Magi made their journey to worship Him on animals likely to have been camels. This means that “The birth of Jesus isn’t just about humans but about all of God’s creation.” (Michael Bourgeois)

The birth of Jesus and his being laid in a manger is actually a signal that the new world to come will be characterised by a very different relationship between humanity and the animal kingdom. The cradling of the Provider of Providence in a manger was a symbol that he is the One who feeds all creatures, both animal and human, and so echoes the song of Psalm 104 that ‘all creatures look to God to give them food in due season.’ As a result, our common calling is to praise our Creator WITH all creation and, as a result, all that we do now with the animal world should reflect the values of God’s coming Kingdom.

The manger is found in Bethlehem, a word meaning ‘House of Bread’, thus magnifying the symbol that God is the Provider of food for all his creatures. And the holiness of this animal’s feeding trough is magnified even further by yet another dimension. The Body of Christ is taken from his mother’s breast and then laid to rest in the manger for others to come and adore him. The Body of Christ is elevated there for all to come and worship; and to feed on him by faith and with thanksgiving. That which was designed and made to feed the animals is sanctified as it cradles the One ‘through whom and for whom all things have come into being’. The manger becomes the altar, the meeting point between God and his creatures.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world. Amen. (St. Basil the Great)

Almighty God, maker of all living things, in whose Fatherly wisdom we trust and depend, we remember with joy and gratitude, all your creatures, whose beauty and diversity enriches our lives beyond measure. We ask your forgiveness for the many ways in which animals are abused and exploited, through both ignorance and greed and we confess before You our part in their suffering, acknowledging the times we have remained silent, lacking the courage to speak out in their defence.
Help us, O Lord, as we endeavour to live in harmony with all Your creatures, leaving only the footprints of true discipleship upon this earth when we leave and not the deep scars of greed and exploitation. Encourage and inspire each one of us to be remembered for our simplicity of heart and generosity of spirit and for our ’oneness’ with all creation. Amen.

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The Massive Violins - All I Want For Christmas.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'Coming up this week
  • Tomorrow Saturday 10th - Ilford Green Pop Up Christmas market 11-3 with stalls, activities and a lovely cafe info here
  • Tomorrow Saturday 10th - launch of Ilford independent Street food market- only halal one in UK, start-up pitches Info here
  • Tuesday 13th Entrepreneurs' club 1-2.30 at Enterprise Desk - Amal Simothy with an accountant's business tips. info here
  • Tuesday 13th evening. Redbridge Chamber Christmas bash. Info here
The following week/s
  • Thurs 15 December - building a stronger Redbridge economy run by FPComms. Info here
  • Timebank Christmas Spirit Skills Swap - an event for residents, businesses and community groups to give and take. Monday 19th December 6-9.30, Ilford info here.
Other great news
Some of our social media posts this week
And thanks so much to Jay Bhatt for a really helpful entrepreneurs' club this week on financial and wealth management and how his start-up is doing.

Have a great weekend,

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs'

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King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Rest in the law of love

Here is my sermon (based on Matthew 11. 28 – 30) from today's lunchtime Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull. It doesn’t sound like something which is light or easy to wear, so in what sense might Jesus be using this farming image to talk about rest for those who come to him?

Jesus would have been very familiar with ploughs and yokes as both are implements made by carpenters. Two animals, usually either oxen or donkeys, would wear the yoke and pull the plough guided from behind by the farmer. Their task was to break up the ground for sowing.

Jesus was speaking in a context where the Pharisees took the 613 commandments in the Torah – the Law of Moses – which were to do with all aspects of life - shaving, tattoos, clothing, work, food and drink, farming, money and so on – and multiplied these commandments by creating detailed instructions about the ways in which each of these commandments was to be kept. Keeping all of these additional rules was indeed a heavy burden for all who tried to do so.

Jesus, by contrast, taught that love was the fulfilling of the Law. Instead of keeping the endless detail of the regulations created by the Pharisees, Jesus said that we should simply love God, ourselves and our neighbours and that all the Law of Moses is actually designed to that end. This was liberating teaching which brought rest for those weighed down by the burden of trying to keep hundreds of commandments and thousands of additional regulations. On the basis of Jesus’ liberating teaching, St Augustine was able to write: ‘Love, and do what you will’ because when the ‘root of love be within’ there is nothing that can spring from that root, but that which is good.

I wonder whether you are ready to leave behind the heavy burden of rules and regulations in order to be accepted or justified and instead open your life to the liberating and restful law of love.

The oxen or donkeys undertaking the ploughing were guided by the farmer using the yoke. As they followed that guidance the yoke sat lightly on their shoulders and the ploughing proceeded apace. If they ignored the guidance of the farmer and pulled in different directions then the yoke would feel heavy and would chafe the neck causing sores or other injuries.

By using this image Jesus is arguing that we have choices about the way in which we live life. We can go off in our own direction pulling away from other people and from God but, when we do so, we are pulling against the way of life for which we have been designed and created. It is when we submit to God’s way of life – the law of love - that we find rest through being in the right place at the right time and living in the right way. When this happens we have a sense of everything coming together and fitting into place which is both profoundly satisfying and restful.

I wonder whether you are prepared to surrender control of your life to the one who created you in all your uniqueness and explore instead how to live in the way for which human beings were created; to live according to the law of love.

Finally, there is the task to which we are called. This image of pairs of oxen ploughing with the use of a yoke fits closely with the task Jesus gave to his disciples when he sent them out in pairs to go to villages and towns ahead of him in order to prepare people for his arrival when he would sow among them the seed of the Word of God.

He said, therefore, that this task - the role of a disciple – although it seems challenging to take up, is actually hugely rewarding as well as being restful in the sense that we are doing God’s will and it is God who does the work, not us. We read in Luke 10, for example, that the seventy disciples Jesus sent out in pairs returned from their mission with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

I wonder whether you are prepared to undertake the challenging, yet strangely restful, task of a disciple of Jesus; that of preparing the ground by sharing the message of love, so that others might receive the Word of God? Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Windows on the world (321)


London, 2016

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Over The Rhine - Here It Is.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Update: Sophia Hubs Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

Coming up this week
  • Saturday - event for small business saturday on Women and Brexit with Nnenna Anyanwu info here
  • Sophia Hubs entrepreneurs' club with Jay Bhatt on why you absolutely must do some financial and wealth management. Tuesday 6.30 at Redbridge Institute. Info here.
  • Find out about World Pay with Amanda of Amazingly Simple. Weds 5-7. Info here
  • Ilford Pop Up Green Christmas market -Saturday 10th, 11-3pm Some free stalls left! Info here
  • And thanks so much to Ahmed Abdulazeem for a really helpful entrepreneurs' club this week on income projection in your business
Apologies it is brief this week!

Have a great weekend,

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs

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The Children - Crystal Palace.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The State We're In - Faith and Politics post-Brexit and the US Election



A large group of Christian leaders came to St Stephen Walbrook today for a special breakfast with guest speaker Michael Wear, Faith Advisor to President Obama. Michael, who has been in the UK this week to talk about his book Reclaiming Hope which can be preordered here, shared insights from the White House and reflections on the changing role of faith in public life. The event was organised by the Good Faith Partnership, in conjunction with Home for Good, Premier Radio and HeartEdge.

St Martin's Voices sang to open the proceedings before Michael spoke about faith, politics, adoption and hope in US politics noting that the next four years will mark a pivotal time for the church in the Western World. He was encouraged by the elevation of women's voices in American Christianity and mentioned Tish H. Warren and the testimony of Nicole Cliffe, in this respect:
  • "Hope is about God coming and crashing into the here and now,"
  • "If you really care about your neighbour you'll love God."
  • "Christian knowledge is for all of life and can be applied to politics."
  • "Christians will be swept aside unless we grapple with the issues that people in general are talking about."
  • "I am convinced that politics is damaging our spiritual lives."
In my welcome to the breakfast, I said the following:

Welcome to St Stephen Walbrook. For those who haven’t been here before this building is one of Christopher Wren’s masterpieces which was built after the Great Fire of London and is the Parish Church for Mansion House, the home of the Lord Mayor of London. In the 1950s, under Chad Varah, this church was the place where Samaritans began and from which it operated in the early part of its existence. That major social outreach programme led to the understanding that when God’s people to gather they should be in community. That understanding led to the reordering of the church so that its people could gather round a circular altar carved by Henry Moore where God would be found at the very centre of the community. Most recently, the church has developed a partnership with St Martin-in-the-Fields which had led to new mission initiatives including early morning reflections for people on their way to work and which has also revitalised the cultural offer (music and visual arts) of the church.

The partnership which St Martin’s has formed with St Stephen’s provides a model for future partnerships which St Martin’s intends to form as a way of building association, learning, development and resource together with other churches. As part of developing its support of partnership working St Martin’s is initiating and incubating a new network of churches called HeartEdge, about which you have been given an information pack among the papers you have been received this morning.

HeartEdge supports churches in blending their mission around four key areas:
  1. Congregation – Inclusive approaches to liturgy, worship and day-to-day community life.
  2. Community – sharing models of outreach which serve local need and address social justice. 
  3. Culture – art, music and ideas to re-imagine the Christian narrative for the present moment.
  4. Commerce – Commercial activities that generate finance but which also creatively extend and enhance mission and ministry through social enterprise.
So, HeartEdge intends to create opportunities for churches to:
  • Learn from each other – building a community of practice.
  • Celebrate achievement – validating a range of activities.
  • Look to the future – evolving new forms of cultural, commercial and community-based work.
Why should you join? We can do unbelievable things together as churches if we start with one another’s assets not our deficits. In a community of fear we begin with our hurts and our stereotypes, and find a hundred reasons why we can’t do things or why certain kinds of people don’t belong. But if we take off our labels (like disabled or wealthy or migrant or evangelical or single) and instead see qualities like passion or commitment or generosity or enthusiasm or humility then there’s no limit to what a community of hope like HeartEdge can do.

By listening to and learning from each other we can build a community of practice able to evolve new forms of cultural, commercial and community based mission and ministry and find our way to becoming abundant communities that open space for generosity and cooperation.

HeartEdge will be launched here on 8 February (please come along) and will provide mentoring, workshops, conferences, mission models and project opportunities to its members as it develops. You don’t need to wait until 8 February, however, to sign up as initial members. We are beginning to get this Membership Pack out to interested churches and to sign up initial members from today’s event onwards. For more information please contact me on jonathan.evens@smitf.org.

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