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Monday, 27 June 2016

Discover & explore - St Peter

Today's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook was the last in the current series. I reflected on the life and thought of St Peter using a poem by Malcolm Guite and a meditation by Alan Stewart. The service featured the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing:
  • Introit - Duruflé, Tu es Petrus
  • Anthem - Britten, A Hymn of St Peter
  • Anthem - Bairstow, The King of Love my Shepherd is
  • Closing - Palestrina, Agnus Dei (I & II) from Missa ‘Tu es Petrus’
In my reflection I said:

The Singing Detective is a TV drama serial by Dennis Potter that was first shown in the 1980s. The story is about Philip Marlow, a writer of detective novelettes in the style of Raymond Chandler including one called ‘The Singing Detective’. At the beginning of the series Marlow is confined to a hospital bed because of the psoriasis which has affected every part of his body.

Marlow’s situation is that his childhood beliefs and commitments to God and to his parents have been betrayed through key incidents such as his seeing his mother’s adultery and his allowing another schoolboy, Mark Binney, to be punished for something that Marlow himself had done. His inability to face these betrayals has led him into a lifestyle where he abused and betrayed those he loved and it is only as he is stripped by his illness that he can begin to face these memories, come to accept who he is and move beyond these abusive relationships and The Singing Detective shows us how this happens.

The story is about the way in which Marlow faces up to the key events in his past. He has to re-inhabit his past, almost re-live it, in order that he comes to feel sorrow for the way in which he betrayed Mark Binney. It is only at the point that he re-lives that experience and feels sorrow for what he did that he is able to get up from his bed and walk again.

I mention this, because what Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective is very similar to what Peter experiences in our Bible reading (John 21. 12 - 19). Peter betrayed Jesus by denying him three times. Since the crucifixion Peter would have been in agony in his conscience over the way in which he failed Jesus at Jesus’ moment of need. The agonies that Philip Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective help us to flesh out this story as it is told in the Bible and to understand a little more of what Peter would have felt at the time.

When Peter meets Jesus by Lake Tiberias, Jesus forces Peter to re-live that experience of betrayal. That is why Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ These three questions mirror Peter’s three denials and take him back into that experience. Like Marlow, Peter has to re-inhabit his past in order to move on from it. As Jesus questions Peter, his sense of remorse for what he had done would have been immense.

Peter denied Jesus three times and so Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ When they have finished re-living the experience of his denial, Peter finds that he has three affirmations that counter-balance his three denials. By taking him back into the experience of denial Jesus turns Peter’s denials into affirmations and he turns Peter’s memory of the denial from a negative memory into a positive one. The denial happened, Peter would never have forgotten that but then he was given the opportunity to turn it into a positive affirmation of his love for Jesus and that would have been the memory that he carried forward with him.

Like Peter and like Philip Marlow we can carry around with us the memory of bad events that have happened to us – things that we did to others or things that others did to us. If we are not careful the memory of these events from the past will twist and harm our life now, in the present. The way to be released from the harm and hurt of these memories is, with the help of others, to go back into those memories, to re-live them, feeling sorrow what the wrong that we did and finding positive ways in which we can show that sorrow and repair the hurt that we have done or which has been done to us.

If that is your situation then put yourself in Peter’s place now as you read a meditation written by Revd. Alan Stewart based on this passage:

I am the one who ran away when I said I never would
I didn’t believe you when you said
‘the sheep will scatter’

I am the one who sat in the shadows avoiding eyes
I never believed I’d disown you like this
Not once, but three times

I am the one who wasn’t there while you died that death
I couldn’t believe that this was how
The story ends

‘do you love me?’ he later asked
‘I love you’ I replied
‘feed my lambs’

I am the one who hid in an upstairs room
I wanted to run but there was no longer
anywhere to go

I am the one who could find no solace nowhere
I wanted to open my eyes and see him there
Laughing

I am the one who wept my heart raw with regret
I wanted to tell him ‘I’m sorry…
I do love you.’

‘do you love me?’ he asked again
‘I do love you’ I replied
‘take care of my sheep’

I am the one who woke to the sound of women’s voices
I longed to believe they’d seen you, but hope
Was still on its knees

I am the one who ran to where they lay your body down
I longed to destroy the rumours
Before they destroyed me

I am the one who saw you arrive like a ghost
I longed to reach out and touch you, but I couldn’t
even look at you

‘do you love me?’ he asked for a third time
looking into my eyes
and my heart tore within me

‘you know that I love you’ I replied
‘then feed my sheep’

(Revd. Alan Stewart)

The next series of Discover & explore services will explore themes of stewardship & finance:
  • Monday 3rd October: Time 
  • Monday 10th October: Talents 
  • Monday 17th October: Treasure/Gold 
  • Monday 24th October: Guidance 
  • Monday 31st October: Promises (All Souls Day) 
  • Monday 7th November: Safety 
  • Monday 14th November: Money 
  • Monday 21st November: Security


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Maurice Duruflé - Tu Est Petrus.

Statements on the EU Referendum result

On the St Martin-in-the-Fields website, Sam Wells states:

'We now face a new future grateful to be in a democracy where the people’s voice speaks – even when it says what many experience as horrifying. The decision means the nation will leave the EU; it doesn’t automatically mean a war on immigration or economic catastrophe; it must not be allowed to bring about a rise in intolerance and exclusion. It’s up to the whole country now to show that what we have in common is greater than what divides us.'

Angus Ritchie asks some apposite questions of those of us who voted to remain and view the prospect of Brexit as horrifying:

'By far the best piece I have read on the referendum is John Harris's extended essay in The Guardian. Harris, who voted to Remain, warns at the "deep anger and seething worry" which has gripped so much of the country, outside the economic powerhouse of London ...

Harris demands that we listen to a world beyond the metropolitan and middle-class. It is easy to denounce the "bigotry" of the Leave campaign without acknowledging one's own social and economic location. Remainers need to be careful not to fall into our own Pharasaism, for we have sins which require repentance. We speak of social solidarity now, but how much has it inspired us to action on behalf of those in our own land who have been left behind by capitalism? And, when we have acted, have we been motivated by a genuine desire for change or by a shallow self-righteousness - more interested in signalling our virtue than in achieving genuine change?

It is tempting to respond to this week's vote with shrill denunciations, flattering ourselves that this counts as a "prophetic" response. But Harris's essay suggests a more appropriate reaction. We need, first of all, to listen - and to listen in particular from the Nazareths of England and Wales; the unglamorous, left-behind places, which modern capitalism does not value.

For, as these areas will soon discover, the triumph of the Leave campaign is unlikely to address their plight. The challenge for Christians (however we voted in the referendum) is to listen to their genuine and justified grievances, and to help them organise for justice - making common cause with the migrant communities which the worst of the Leave campaign encouraged them to scapegoat.'

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Beth Rowley - Nobody's Fault But Mine.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Alastair McKay - Priesting



Great to be at my colleague Alastair McKay's priesting (together with Kath Duce, Debbie Hore and Jeffrey Lake) this afternoon at St Stephen Rochester Row. The service was led by Bishop Nigel Stock and featured the parish's liturgical dance group.

Alastair designs and leads adult learning and training along with providing a range of consultancy services to church ministers and lay leaders. He is also serving a half-time curacy at St Martin-in-the-Fields, following ordination in July 2015.

Alastair spent 20 years developing and leading Bridge Builders, handing over leadership in March 2015. Prior to that he worked as a civil servant in the Department of the Environment, in Westminster. He started out his career as a secondary school teacher in West Yorkshire.

Alastair has a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Wales and an MA in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University. His doctoral research explored how disagreement is handled, and what use is made of facilitation skills, in church staff meetings.

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Eastern Mennonite High School Choir - The Size Of Your Heart.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Bob Holman & Phil Evens: Affluence and position as inconsistent with Christian faith

In 1970 my father, Phil Evens, entered social-work education by becoming a lecturer in applied social studies at Oxford University. There, he discovered that he did not fit into the exclusive network of “North Oxbridge Society”, and so he moved nearer to his ideological home and working-class identity by setting up an Applied Action Research Community Work Project in 1973. It was called the Barton Project, after the council estate on which it was based.

His experiences and other contributions to the development of community work were published in Community Work: Theory and practice (1974) and The Barton Project (1976). Both books applied his Christian faith to his work, and called for the active involvement of Christians in community work and other public services.

Similarly in 1976, Bob Holman 'resigned his professorship in social administration at Bath University to become a community worker on the city’s deprived Southdown estate. He saw his affluence and position as inconsistent with his Christian faith. He and his wife, Annette, and their two children, Ruth and David, moved from a comfortable middle-class area in the city to a home next to the estate and he started the project where he then worked.'

In 1976, the Barton Project project lost funding, and my father's job was restructured away. He returned, somewhat disillusioned, to his roots in Somerset, where he became self-employed as a landscape gardener. During this mid-life crisis, he and his family began worshipping for the first time in the C of E, and he continued, as he had done for many years, to set up and run Christian youth clubs. Involvement in wider aspects of Anglican ministry led to his call to train for ordination.

At Trinity College, Bristol, he set up the Voice of the People Trust, to sponsor Christian ministry in urban priority areas through community-work projects linked to parishes. Work on the trust was carried out in conjunction with his ministry, first, as a curate at Aston Parish Church, and then as Vicar of St Edmund’s, Tyesley.

'After a decade in Bath, in 1987 [Bob Holman] went to live and work on the vast and deprived Easterhouse estate in Glasgow. He always wanted to show what could be done to motivate and involve people and bring communities together. Bob spurned any distinction between himself and other residents, calling himself a “resourceful friend”. His daily work involved filling in social security forms, accompany young people to court or helping a neighbour to raise a loan for a new cooker.'

Holman, who died on 15 June, became a regular contributor to the Guardian which published some extracts from his writing following his death:

'I will not lose my Christianity. It came before my socialism. The example and values of Jesus Christ led me to seek a societal implementation through politics. The writings of Richard Tawney and the practices of Keir Hardie and George Lansbury led me into the Labour party. But Christianity is more than politics. It will be with me to the end.'

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Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - All That Has Grown.

Winifred Knights, David Jones & Malvina Cheek

The Guardian profiles the current retrospective of work by Winifred Knights, one of the most original, pioneering British artists of the first half of the 20th century:

'This summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery is mounting a retrospective of her work, the first ever. On display are all her significant pieces, including The Marriage at Cana (1923), shipped from New Zealand, and Scenes from the Life of St Martin of Tours (1928‑33), a stunning triptych that will be unhooked from the wall of Canterbury Cathedral and trundled up the A2 to south London. Most thrilling of all, The Santissima Trinita (1924-30), generally considered Knights’ masterpiece, has been lent by its private owners. These works appear alongside The Deluge, together with scores of preparatory sketches.'

Also profiled is In Parenthesis by David Jones:

'Part-biography, part-fiction, the book is a lyrical epic that traces, via an alter-ego called John Ball, the contours of Jones’s own wartime journey, from his embarkation for France in 1915 to the Somme in 1916 ...

The Somme did ... mark a transition, for Jones, from what he describes in the preface to In Parenthesis as “the period of the individual rifle-man, of the ‘old sweat’ of the Boer campaign”, to a “relentless, mechanised affair” of “wholesale slaughter”, that destroyed any ancient sense of continuity in the “domestic life of small contingents of men”.

It is this break, this “change in the character of our lives in the infantry” as the war shifted from the personal and the human to the impersonal and the mechanised, with which In Parenthesis is often concerned. The central opposition throughout the book is not British versus German, but rather mechanical versus natural; the “unmaking” modern science of shell and machine gun versus the “making” communities of artisan infantrymen, desperately trying to maintain the form of their collapsing worlds with nothing more than their hands and tools.'

The obituary of Malvina Cheek notes that:

'In her later career, a series of large canvases, painted with a rich autumnal palette, reflected her interest in spirituality, in particular Freud and Jung. While she was growing up, her father had not encouraged a religious leaning in his household and she may have found an equally cool reception from her husband, an atheist, but the work displays an unmistakable passion.'

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Bloc Party - Only He Can Hear Me.

Discover & explore: St Peter


This Monday's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook, beginning 1.10pm, is the last in the current series. I will be reflecting on the life and thought of St Peter using a poem by Malcolm Guite and a meditation by Alan Stewart. The service will feature the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing:
  • Introit - Duruflé, Tu es Petrus
  • Anthem - Britten, A Hymn of St Peter
  • Anthem - Bairstow, The King of Love my Shepherd is
  • Closing - Palestrina, Agnus Dei (I & II) from Missa ‘Tu es Petrus’
Discover & explore 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 Discover & explore services will explore themes of stewardship & finance:
  • Monday 3rd October: Time 
  • Monday 10th October: Talents 
  • Monday 17th October: Treasure/Gold 
  • Monday 24th October: Guidance 
  • Monday 31st October: Promises (All Souls Day) 
  • Monday 7th November: Safety 
  • Monday 14th November: Money 
  • Monday 21st November: Security 


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Benjamin Britten - Hymn To St Peter.

Windows on the world (398)


Pleshey, 2016

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Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Shine.

Sally Muggeridge - Priesting






Sally Muggeridge, curate at St Stephen Walbrook who was profiled in Thursday's Financial Times, was priested at St James's Sussex Gardens this afternoon along with five other of her priestly colleagues. The Service was splendid with excellent music and was led by The Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth.

The FT profile noted: "Throughout her career, Revd Muggeridge has been a vocal advocate of increasing the role of women in business and the church. At Pearson, she was head of diversity and in 2010 became the first woman to be appointed to the board of Total, the French energy group."

Accordingly, as part of her ministry at St Stephen Walbrook, Sally is currently organising our 'Women in the City of London - More than just a place of work' event on Tuesday 12th July from 6.30pm. This is an evening which will highlight the civic, cultural, charitable and social opportunities in the City of London, including networks as a route to fuller participation. We also look forward to welcoming WATCH (London) to St Stephen Walbrook for their At Home this Wednesday.  

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Joseph Haydn - Missa Sancti Nicolai.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ministry to City folk: examples and encouragement


Sally Muggeridge, curate at St Stephen Walbrook, has been profiled in today's Financial Times:

'Her current workplace is the church of St Stephen Walbrook, in the heart of the City. Given its location, few of its congregation are local residents. Instead, its most frequent visitors are workers from nearby offices, and Revd Muggeridge believes her understanding of the pressures of life in the City helps her provide the support they need.

“My role is now one of pastoral care of stressed City workers,” she says. “So many seek chats, prayers, a quick discussion [about] a worry about family life and work. A prayer needed, a smile, a service — I can help with examples and encouragement.”'


As part of her ministry in the City, Sally is currently organising our 'Women in the City of London - More than just a place of work' event on Tuesday 12th July from 6.30pm. This is an evening which will highlight the civic, cultural, charitable and social opportunities in the City of London, including networks as a route to fuller participation.

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Bloc Party - Virtue.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Start:Stop - Shut the door!


Bible reading

“… whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6. 5 & 6)

Meditation

Last week the Church remembered Evelyn Underhill who, from the mid-1920s onwards, became highly-regarded as a retreat conductor and an influential spiritual director.

In her book on The Fruits of The Spirit, she wrote about this passage in relation to retreats:

“Christ, who so seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction of that … recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God.

"When you pray, go into a room by yourself - and shut the door." I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words, and those three words define what we have to try to do. Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it - but that is not … the shutting of the door …

Shut the door. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Nearly everyone pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that a whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life.

But Christ said shut and He meant shut. A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side. The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete. It is no use at all to enter that room, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, the reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence. All these must be left outside.

The object … is not intercession or self-exploration, but such communion with Him as shall afterwards make you more powerful in intercession; such self loss in Him as shall heal your wounds by new contact with His life and love.”

Jesus’ words were addressed to ordinary people going about their everyday lives, so his call to shut the door when praying was for each time we pray. Seeking the opportunity of being alone with God and attending to God in order that we may do His will better in our everyday lives was intended by Jesus as a regular experience. The distractions Evelyn Underhill notes are with us each time we pray. We need to face them each time we pray. Jesus said, ‘whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Our reward will be, as Evelyn Underhill wrote, ‘real communion with God.’

Prayer

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires know, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.

O God, be present with us always, dwell within our hearts. With thy light and thy Spirit guide our souls, our thoughts, and all our actions, that we may teach thy Word, that thy healing power may be in us and in thy church universal.

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.

Almighty God, who has given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto You and does promise that when two or three are gathered together in Your name You will grant their requests; fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Your servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of Your truth, and in the world to come life everlasting.

As we shut the door in prayer may we know real communion with you.

Blessing

May the Father from whom every family in earth and heaven receives its name strengthen you with his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, and that, knowing his love, broad and long, deep and high beyond our knowledge, you may be filled with all the fullness of God; 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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Aretha Franklin - Are You Sure.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Windows on the world (397)


Goodmayes, 2016

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Gordon Gano (feat. Mary Lou Lord) - Oh, Wonder.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

If you inject enough poison into the political bloodstream, somebody will get sick

Jonathan Freedland has written an apposite comment piece in today's Guardian which connects the killing of Jo Cox with the "violence in France involving English football fans", the "loathing of the European Union and a resistance to immigration that is clearly heard by many as nothing more than hostility to foreigners."

Freedland's argument that if 'you inject enough poison into the political bloodstream' (the abuse and loathing of politicians which has become commonplace), 'somebody will get sick,' is essentially an illustration of René Girard's theory of mimetic violence. 

Giles Fraser has written that no modern thinker has done more than Girard 'to understand the self-repeating patterns through which violence flows.' 'And there can be no more disturbing conclusion than his, especially now: that violence is a form of copying, that violence is contagious, and that, as he put it: "Violence is like a raging fire that feeds on the very objects intended to smother its flames."'

'Girard’s answer to mimetic violence is that we must break the cycle by refusing to mirror our enemies. Indeed, his rejection of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not hand-wringing pacifism – it is bloody-minded, hard-nosed defiance; a refusal to be defined by the violent other, a refusal to answer back in kind.'

'Girard goes on to argue that the most vociferous critic of religion turns out to be a Jewish prophet called Jesus of Nazareth. Girard understands the ministry of Jesus to be that of deliberately standing in the place of the innocent victim thus to reveal the profound wickedness of the whole scapegoat mechanism. And as he is strung up to die, the violence of religion is exposed in all its gruesome destructiveness.'

The argument made by Freedland and Girard applies equally to the scapegoating and targeting of the LGBTI community in Orlando, therefore I pray for all impacted by the scapegoating of others that has been so clearly seen this week using words prepared by Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Grieving God,
in your son you experienced the agony of the pointless,
savage, premature end of life.
Hold the hand of those who have lost loved ones in Orlando [and in Birstall];
restore the confidence of any who fear if ever they can relax,
or have fun, or enjoy themselves again;
calm the fears of all whose identity makes them subject
to the perverse hatred and grotesque violence of others;
and hasten a world where all are celebrated
for who they are as your children,
where difference is a sign of your diverse abundance,
and where there is no use for guns.
Through the wounded yet ascended Christ,
your personification of solidarity and embodiment of hope.
Amen.

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Friday, 17 June 2016

Latest commission4mission e-news

The Summer edition of commission4mission’s e-news can be viewed by clicking here. This edition includes news of our next exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook, services at St Martin-in-the-Fields and All Saints Goodmayes, opportunities to contribute to ‘Church Is’, plus news of exhibitions involving Chris Clack, Terry Ffyffe and Michael Garaway.

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Church is - Dave Parr.

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'Here's the news from Sophia Hubs Redbridge this week. Please come along, get involved and help to spread the word :)

SATURDAY - the fabulous Timebank skills trading event - 1pm - 3pm at Enterprise Desk, Ilford library. Information here.

TUESDAY - Entrepreneur's club is a social media working session - bring your laptops and devices. Help available. Info here.

FOLLOWING WEEK is London Tech week.

There's a fabulous programme of events in Redbridge libraries for businesses info here

And this includes our tech entrepreneur's club on Friday 24th June - beginners guide to making a business mobile phone app. Info here.

OTHER INFO...

Please pass on information to community groups about our fab Enterprising Redbridge seminars. Next one 29 June. Info here

Thandi Ejindu - You Tube personality and Redbridge start-up business blog on creating you a 5 min promotional video. Info here

Nnenna Anyanwu is doing a business survey as part of her environmental masters. Please help by taking a 3 minute survey on the circular economy.

Redbridge Chamber breakfast topic for Tuesday 28 June is the regeneration of Ilford with Jas Athwal as speaker. Book the date!

Seven Kings park is still looking for a refreshments van - a business opportunity.info here.

And here's the City Business Library seminars and business support July - September. Info here

Please send in your success stories and information you think should be shared.

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge, 07707 460309'

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Peteris Vasks - Klātbūtne.

Discover & explore: St John the Baptist


There are just two more Discover & explore services remaining in our current series at St Stephen Walbrook. On Monday 20 June at 1.10pm Sally Muggeridge will lead our reflections on the life and thought of St John the Baptist, while on Monday 27 June at 1.10pm I will lead our reflections on the life and thought of St Peter.

The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields will sing at both services. On Monday 20th they will sing:
  • Introit: Victoria - Ut queant laxis;
  • Anthem: Byrd - Agnus Dei (from Mass for Four Voices);
  • Anthem: Gibbons - This is the Record of John; and
  • Anthem: Fauré - Cantique de Jean Racine.
The autumn series of Discover & explore services will begin on 3 October and run until 21 November at 1.10pm on Mondays. The themes to be explored involve aspects of Stewardship and relate particularly to the financial role of the City of London: Time, Talents, Treasure/Gold, Guidance, Promises, Safety, Money, and Security. This series will include a service for All Souls Day on the theme of Promises. Our Discover & explore service series are supported by The Worshipful Company of Grocers.

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 Orlando Gibbons - This Is The Record Of John.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace

Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace: Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art (Hardback) book cover

Jonathan Koestlé-Cate launched his book Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace - Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art at Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday with a conversation held with Revd Charles Pickstone.

The "book asks what conditions are favourable to enhancing and expanding the possibilities of church-based art, and how can these conditions be addressed? What viable language or strategies can be formulated to understand and analyse art's role within the church? Focusing on concepts drawn from anthropology, comparative religion, art theory, theology and philosophy, this book formulates a lexicon of terms built around the notion of encounter in order to review the effective uses and experience of contemporary art in churches. The author concludes with the prognosis that art for the church has reached a critical and decisive phase in its history, testing the assumption that contemporary art should be a taken-for-granted element of modern church life."

The conversation between Koestlé-Cate and Pickstone reviewed a selection of the artworks specifically explored and discussed in the book. The White Mass by James Lee Byars at Sankt Peter, Köln was held up as an exemplary temporary installation in an ecclesiastical context. The work "consisted of four pillars and a ring made of white marble, brightly lit by a 2000 watt bulb. The ring was set in the middle of the central aisle, with the pillars forming a square around it, which in turn echoed the rectangle formed by the central columns of the church. Each pillar had two letters carved at the top, which represented a different aspect of the questioning spirit of the work. During Mass the white-clad priest and his two acolytes interacted with the work in an orchestrated synthesis of performance and worship."

Fr Friedhelm Mennekes, the incumbent at Sankt Peter, Köln, "exemplifies a view at the other extreme to [Jacques] Maritain et al, declaring a fundamental distrust of the believing artist. Mennekes simply refuses to use Christian artists, since artistic vision, he cautions, is always in danger of being compromised, or taking second place to, Christian zeal. In this he follows [Père Marie-Alain] Couturier's lead."

This view has no time, therefore, for the approach of the Diocese of London's Capital Vision 2020 which aims to build a growing network of vibrant individuals from throughout the worlds of art and culture in London who can speak the language of creatives, engaging and taking the Church into that world and, as creative Christians, helping the Church resonate with its culture while still remaining countercultural disciples of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, the celebrations of the Mass during Byars' installation had much in common with the emphasis on decentralized leadership, congregational participation, multi-sensory experience, ritual and narrative form found in alternative worship. This was perhaps most the case in relation to the anarchic experiments in transformance art offered by the Belfast-based collective Ikon who challenged the distinction between theist and atheist, faith and no faith and whose main gathering employed a cocktail of live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection in an attempt to open up the possibility of a theodramatic event. However, it is likely that even Ikon's inhabiting of a space on the outer edges of religious life would have been sufficiently detached from organised religion to escape Mennekes' hermeneutic of suspicion.

Koestlé-Cate writes that, "If a place for art that is not explicitly religious has been affirmed in the church today, an art that is cannot be proscriptively denied; if a place for Christian art or explicitly religious art is not denied, neither can it be prescriptively affirmed." The danger of this approach is that no-one, whether believing or non-believing artists, feels affirmed, and that was essentially the substance of the conversations that I was party to following the conversation between Pickstone and Koestle-Cate.

Their conversation moved on to discussion of the statue of Mary by David Wynne in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral. In contrast with the approval given to The White Mass this was discussed as a lifeless commission which had rightly been savaged by Germaine Greer as 'bad' art.

The issue here is the basis on which such critiques and judgements are made. My perception is there are no shared objective criteria on which such judgements can be made and, as a result, are either entirely based on subjective criteria or on a consensus held by certain groups, generally those most responsible for promoting the work in the first place (i.e. gallery owners, curators and critics). In the case of Greer's critique, Wynne is part of the wrong group - the group favoured by the Prince of Wales - while Mennekes' measure is simply that non-believing artists are good and believing artists are bad.

Grayson Perry acknowledges in Playing to the Gallery that, within the art world, the rule by which people work is that of consensus plus time i.e. “If it's agreed amongst the tribe for a fairly sustained amount of time, then it becomes good taste.” This is, essentially, no different to the seeking after rules which Perry criticizes in the lower middle class: “good taste is just an illusion; it's just that they're obeying the rules of their tribe.” The reality is that many choose to work on the basis that, as artists, commissioners, critics, curators, gallery owners, historians or patrons, they know what good taste is because of consensus plus time. If one is in agreement with the consensus it is, of course, a safe place to be.

Koestlé-Cate's book is a substantive contribution to these debates and is of particular value because it explores what viable language or strategies can be formulated to understand and analyse art's role within the church. It may be, however, that what is revealed is that the language and strategies currently employed ultimately satisfy no one because they each privilege particular groups over others, as opposed to looking for the good in all.

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Leonard Cohen - Almost Like The Blues.

Allow yourself to be found by God

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

As a seven year old I got lost on a very busy bank holiday in the Parade Gardens in Bath. The Parade Gardens are popular pleasure grounds which overlook the River Avon and the weir by Robert Adams’ Pulteney Bridge.

So, for my panicked parents as they searched for me, there was not only the fear that I might have been taken but also the fear that I might have gone in the water. As it was, while they were combing the whole area looking for me, I was happily enjoying an ice cream at the local Police Station where I had been taken by those who realised that I was lost. Eventually, my parents also came to the Police Station and we were reunited.

Their searching for me was a sign of their love. Understandably, because of the love that they had as parents for their children they would not stop searching until I had been found. The shepherd and woman in these two stories are exactly the same. Because of their concern for the sheep and coin which are lost, they will not give up searching until they have been found. The sheep and the coin are loved and this love is revealed or proved through the search.

The point of these parables then is for us to know that we are similarly loved by God because he also searches for us until we are found. This search is the story of the Gospels:

Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2. 6 – 8)

Christ went on this search to seek and save those who are lost. That is why these parables are told in the context of the welcome Jesus gave to sinners. As a result, we find Paul saying, in 1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.”

John Newton was another who came to regard himself as the foremost among sinners and who wrote: “Amazing Grace, how sweet, the sound. That saved, a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found.”

Christ’s search for us, his journey of salvation, shows how much we are loved by him. He gives up all he has in order to seek us out and rescue us. This is love, we read in 1 John 3, “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

How much are you loved by God? So much that his Son left all he had in heaven to become a human being and die to rescue you for God. Imagine how I felt as a child to be found by my parents, imagine how the sheep in the story felt to be found by the Shepherd. That is what it means to be loved by God, to be found by God.

Do you know that kind of love? Have you been sought and found? The Good Shepherd searches for the lost with God’s attentive love, looking and listening, finding and carrying; carrying us home, like a sheep on the shoulders, from the cliff edges of our lives.

The lost almost universally consider themselves worthless but these parables specifically deny that assumption. What is lost is the most precious thing or person of all; the person or thing for which everything else will be given up or set aside. What is lost and found is us. We are the ones for whom Christ searches at the expense of all that he has, including, in the end, his own life. We are the most precious lost person for whom he searches. We are precious, we are loved. Do you know that love? Have you received that love?

The Revd Richard Carter says:

“Christ is saying forgiveness is not about our punishment, it’s not even about our repentance, it’s about being found, being found by God, and allowing ourselves to be found. That’s all you have to do. You have to allow yourself, allow yourself to be found by God, and it is the greatest gift you will ever receive; a free and undeserved gift. The extent of it is astonishing, it takes your breath away.”

“Amazing love! how can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me.”

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And Can It Be.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Evelyn Underhill: real communion with God

Here is the sermon I preached for today's lunchtime Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Pleshey Retreat House in Essex is a much loved location for many of us here at St Martin-in-the-Fields as it has been the venue in recent years for our annual silent retreat. The popularity of Pleshey as a retreat house was established by Evelyn Underhill, who is remembered by the Church today, and who was the most distinguished Retreat Conductor of her time.

Born in 1875, Evelyn Underhill was in her thirties before she began to explore religion. At first, she wrote on the mystics, most notably in her book Mysticism, published in 1911. Her spiritual journey brought her in 1921 back to the Church of England, in which she had been baptised and confirmed. From the mid-1920s, she became highly-regarded as a retreat conductor and an influential spiritual director. Of her many books, Worship, published in 1936, embodied her approach to what she saw as the mystery of faith. She died on this day in 1941.

Evelyn made her first retreat at Pleshey during Ascensiontide in 1921, and conducted her first retreat there during Lent in 1924. She loved the Retreat House at Pleshey which, she wrote after her first retreat here, 'seems soaked in love and prayer,' and many of her retreats each year were conducted here.

In her book on The Fruits of The Spirit, she writes about retreats in relation to today’s Gospel reading:

“We all know pretty well why we come into Retreat; we come to seek the opportunity of being alone with God and attending to God in order that we may do His will better in our everyday lives. We have come to live for a few days the life of prayer and deepen our contact with the spiritual realities on which our lives depend - to recover, if we can, our spiritual poise. We do not come for spiritual information, but for spiritual food and air - to wait on the Lord and renew our strength - not for our own sakes, but for the sake of the world.

Now Christ, who so seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction of that withdrawal, that recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God.

"When you pray, go into a room by yourself - and shut the door." I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words, and those three words define what we have to try to do. Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it - but that is not making a Retreat! It is the shutting of the door, which makes the whole difference between a true Retreat and a worried religious weekend.

Shut the door. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Nearly everyone pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that a whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life.

But Christ said shut and He meant shut. A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side. The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete. It is no use at all to enter that room, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, the reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence. All these must be left outside.

The object of Retreat is not intercession of self-exploration, but such communion with Him as shall afterwards make you more powerful in intercession; such self loss in Him as shall heal your wounds by new contact with His life and love.”

Evelyn Underhill was writing specifically for retreatants but Jesus’ words were not originally addressed to those on retreat. Instead, they were addressed to ordinary people going about their everyday lives, so his call to shut the door when praying was not once a year when we are on retreat but each time we pray. Likewise, seeking the opportunity of being alone with God and attending to God in order that we may do His will better in our everyday lives is not intended by Jesus as a once a year opportunity, rather as a regular experience. The distractions Evelyn Underhill notes in relation to retreats, are also with us each time we pray. We need to face them each time we pray, not just once a year on retreat. Jesus said, ‘whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ The result will be, as Evelyn Underhill wrote, ‘real communion with God.’

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Victoria Williams - Holy Spirit.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Discover & explore - St Martin of Tours



Today's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook explored the life and thought of St Martin of Tours, as 2016 is the 1700th anniversary of the birth of the patron saint for our partner church. The next Discover & explore service is at 1.10pm on Monday 20th June and will explore the life and thought of St John the Baptist.

Today the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields sang Jacob Handl's Hic est Martinus, David Bednall's The souls of the Righteous, Martin Shaw's Lord, make us Instruments of thy Peace, C.V. Stanford's Beati Quorum Via.

The service included my meditation on St Martin:

Outside the gates of Amiens,
in the depths of winter’s bitter cold,
a shivering, half-naked beggar
begs people for pity.
They walk on by on the other side.
The true protagonist of history is the beggar -
Testing and challenging responsiveness,
refining our compassion.
A young tribune rides through the gates
protective armour gleaming,
offensive weapon at his side,
luxurious lined cloak across his shoulders.
From a height, in one quick stroke
he slashes the lovely mantle in two -
the high and mighty considering the lowly -
his death-dealing sword used to give life.
Half to the beggar, clad only in rags,
half retained, sharing not possessing.
At night, in dream, he sees Christ clothed
in the part of his cloak which had covered the beggar.
From Christ begging for our hearts,
to our hearts begging for Christ.
“Here is Martin,” says Christ,
“the Roman soldier who is not baptised;
it is he who has clothed me.”

The Revd Alastair McKay, curate at St Martin-in-the-Fields, led the service and gave the following reflection about St Martin:

St Martin was born in 316 in what is today part of Hungary. His parents were pagans, and his father was an officer in the Roman army. While Martin was a child, his father was stationed in Italy, and here Martin met Christians and was drawn to the Christian faith. He became a catechumen, one preparing for baptism.

An imperial edict required the sons of veterans to join the army. Although not yet sixteen – the minimum age – his father, wanting his son to follow in his footsteps, compelled Martin to take the military oath. However, Martin differentiated himself from his fellow soldiers by avoiding the usual soldierly vices, and by giving part of his pay to those in need.

Martin was stationed at Amiens, in present-day France. As he rode into town one bitterly cold winter’s day, he noticed a poor man at the gates, thinly clad, begging, and being ignored by the passers-by. Having nothing with him but the clothes he wore, Martin descended from his horse, drew his sword, and cut his woollen cloak in two pieces. He gave half to the beggar, and wrapped the other half around himself.

The following night, Martin had a dream in which he saw Jesus, surrounded by angels, and dressed in the half of the cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels, “Martin, as yet only a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.” Martin took this as a spur to be immediately baptised, and to commit himself to following Christ.

Some Germanic tribes invaded Gaul at this time, and, with his fellow soldiers, Martin went before the Emperor Julian to receive a war-bounty. But Martin was moved to refuse it, and said to the Emperor: “Up to now, I’ve served you as a soldier; allow me henceforth to serve Christ. Give the bounty to these others. I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” The Emperor was angered, and accused Martin of cowardice; Martin replied that he was ready to go into battle unarmed, in the name of Christ. He was imprisoned for his refusal to fight, but later discharged.

Having been released from the army, Martin went to study in Poitiers under Bishop Hillary, who later ordained him deacon. Martin then heard a summons in a dream to revisit his family home. There Martin converted his mother and some others, but could not win over his father. Martin later returned to Gaul, and led a monastic life, founding several monasteries.

When Martin was aged 55, the bishop of Tours died, and the people demanded that Martin be the new bishop. Martin refused, but the people lured him to Tours with a plea to come and pray for a sick woman. When he entered the town, they forcibly conveyed him to the church, and obliged Martin to accept being made their bishop.

As bishop, Martin continued to lead an austere and devout life; but he was unable to bear the constant interruptions in Tours, and retreated to a secluded spot. As bishop he visited his parishes and was concerned for those in need. He also destroyed pagan temples, and felled trees held sacred by pagans. On one occasion he was pulling down a temple when a crowd of pagans fell on him in a fury, one brandishing a sword. Martin stood and bared his breast, at which the armed man apparently fell backwards, and pleaded for forgiveness.

Martin interceded for some who were deemed heretics and whom another bishop wanted put to death. Martin argued that it was sufficient to excommunicate them, and they should not be killed.

Martin was revered following his death, and became the patron saint of France. There are many churches dedicated to St Martin, including several here in London.

Martin’s story resonates with my own in several ways. Like Martin, I was born the son of an army officer. Unlike Martin, as a boy I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and be a soldier too – although that desire didn’t follow through into adulthood. Like Martin, as a young man I became a Christian. And like Martin’s parents, my parents found this disturbing. Unlike Martin, I’ve so far been unsuccessful in convincing either of my parents to follow Christ. Having gone on to marry a woman who was part of a pacifist Christian group called Mennonites, I became convinced that I was called to follow the non-violent example of Jesus, just as Martin was. Like Martin, I understand this to mean refusing to be involved in killing others, and instead to be committed to working for peace.

What can we learn from Martin for today? If there’s one lesson, it’s this: working for peace is harder than working for war. In refusing to fight, Martin told the Emperor that he was a soldier for Christ. He went on to show us what that means. It means being willing to sacrifice for those in need, whilst continuing to care appropriately for oneself – hence sharing half of one’s cloak, but keeping half. It means working hard to develop a life of prayer and intimacy with God. It means sharing the good news of Jesus with those one knows and loves. It means being willing, even against one’s own desires, to undertake a public role of leadership and service, if called to do so. It means being willing to challenge the forces of darkness in our world, through non-violent direct action. It means interceding on behalf even of our enemies, and resisting calls for such people to be put to death. So Martin shows us that fighting for peace is harder than working for war. And the question Martin asks us is this: will we too be soldiers for Christ? Are we too willing to pay the price for working non-violently for peace.

God of true peace, who has shown us the path of peace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; be with all those serving in the military services, that they might be inspired by the example of St Martin; bless all those fighting non-violently for peace in our world, including the United Nations, and many NGOs; and give your spirit of love to those using non-violent direct action in the struggle for peace, among them Christian Peacemaker Teams.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of compassion, who has shown your love for the poor in this world through the example of Jesus and of Martin; strengthen all those working with people in need, especially those who are without sufficient clothing, food or shelter, among them the Connection at St Martin’s, and those serving the needs of refugees in our world, including the UNHCR.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Life-giving God, who has brought us unbridled good news in Jesus Christ; give encouragement to all your children who seek to share the good news of Jesus with those they know; bless the ministry of Ric Thorpe, the Bishop of Islington, as he and his team challenge the Church of England to share your good news; and inspire all those working for peace within your Church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and his team, and also Bridge Builders Ministries.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Blessing
Gracious God, who called Martin from the armies of this world to be a faithful soldier of Christ:
give us grace to follow him in his love and compassion for the needy, and in struggling for peace and good in the world; and enable your Church to claim for all people their inheritance as children of God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever; and may we all know the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this day and every day. Amen.

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C.V. Stanford - Beati Quorum Via.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Christianity and literature

Following on from my recent post on American Catholic poets & writers I thought it would be worthwhile bringing together links to posts on this blog which explore the links between Christianity and literature.

My ‘Airbrushed from art history’ series surveys the Christian contribution to the Visual Arts which is broad and significant but is far from having been comprehensively documented. My co-authored book The Secret Chord explored aspects of the interplay between faith and music (and the Arts, more broadly). I have also posted an outline summary of the Christian contribution to rock and pop music

To explore the contribution made by Christianity to the Arts is important because the story of modern and contemporary Arts is often told primarily as a secular story. To redress this imbalance has significance in: encouraging support for those who explore aspects of Christianity in and through the Arts; providing role models for emerging artists who are Christians; and enabling appreciation of the nourishment and haunting which can be had by acknowledging the contribution which Christianity has made to the Arts.

My key literature posts are:
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Michael McDermott - The Great American Novel.

Sophia Hub Redbridge - Update

Ros Southern writes:

'Coming up this week:

  • Entrepreneur's club on marketing on Tuesday at 12 noon at Enterprise Desk with Otatade Okojie.She is a start-up business and speaking is part of her marketing! She has 10 years experience and we'll do pitching practice and lots more. Take a look!. Info here, please book and pass on the word.
  • Timebank trading event on Saturday 1-3 at Enterprise Desk, Ilford Library. A fabulous, unexpected, communty and business building opportunity. Info here, please book and pass on the word.
Other great initiatives and opportunities...

  • For any community group, big or small, join up to the Enterprising Redbridge support. Next business seminar is Weds 19 June at 5.30. Info here
  • Myra Whiskar is offering coaching for start-ups - we think we've found her two candidates but there may be room for one more. Info here
  • The next 3 hour free intro to starting your own business workshop with London Small business centre is 19 July. Book here
  • City Business Library fantastic seminars are continuing daily (weekdays) as usual – cheap or free.Info here
  • Its tech week coming up and our entrepreneur's club is teeming up with Enterprise Desk for a tech –build your first business phone app on Friday 24 June 6pm. Some booking info here, more to follow
  • Seven Kings park is looking for a refreshments van - business opportunity! info here

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge
W: www.sophiahubs7k.wordpress.com 
M: 07707 460309 / 020 8590 2568 (answerphone)
T: @sophiahubs7k F: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings'

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The Style Council - Headstart For Happiness.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Discover & explore and Start:Stop


This Monday's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook (1.10pm) will explore the life and thought of St Martin of Tours as 2016 is the 1700th anniversary of the birth of the patron saint for our partner church. The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields will sing Handl's Hic est Martinus, David Bednall's The souls of the Righteous, Martin Shaw's Lord, make us Instruments of thy Peace, C.V. Stanford's Beati Quorum Via.

The Revd Alastair McKay, curate at St Martin-in-the-Fields, will lead the service and give the reflection about St Martin. The service will also include my meditation on St Martin. Alastair will also lead our Start:Stop reflections on Tuesday morning between 7.30 and 9.30am.


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David Bednall - In Paradisum.

Services celebrating the Arts

Bread for the World

Wednesday evenings at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ) build community through an informal Eucharist with prayer, music, word and reflection. The music for the evening is led by the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields and those present gather around the altar together as the first disciples did to share in the Eucharist together. The time in church is followed by a simple soup supper in the Austen Williams Room, No 6 St Martin’s Place, followed by the opportunity to reflect on and explore the bible together. It’s a great way to find focus during a busy week, to be close to God, make friends, pray and explore faith.

On Wednesday 22nd June, commission4mission artists will be sharing their experiences of inspiration and their thoughts on the place of the Arts in worship. The service begins at 6.30pm and the artists contributing are Irina Bradley, Valerie Dean, Tim Harrold and Henry Shelton. All are welcome.



Service celebrating the Arts

Our annual service celebrating the Arts will be held at All Saints Goodmayes(Goodmayes Lane, Goodmayes, Ilford, London, IG3 9SJ On Sunday 10th July at 3.15pm. All Saints Goodmayes recently commissioned an East Window from Henry Shelton and Richard Paton through commission4mission and the service will celebrate the completion of this commission. Anthony Hodgson will display his painting ‘The Bridge’ and will reflect on its themes using music and poetry. All are welcome.

The Bridge

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The Innocence Mission - You Chase The Light.

Diocese of London: Fourth & Fifth 'For Refugee' events






The final 'For Refugee' events organised by Capital Mass were held this week in the Edmonton and Willesden Areas. I attended to share information about the International Group initiative which St Martin-in-the-Fields is promoting and supporting.

Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin’s, spoke at the Edmonton event, while at Willesden we heard an update on the situation in Greece and aid provided by United Society.

Sam began his talk by sharing the statement issued by St Martin's on the Migrant Crisis:

The plight of those entering Europe in large numbers seeking safety, hope and a future is distressing and stirring. As a community we are made up of people who are themselves refugees, many who have known oppression, several who have themselves migrated to make a living in a new country, and a number, including myself, whose parents or grandparents came to this land fleeing persecution.

We recognise and affirm the actions many congregations and communities are taking to befriend and support migrants. Our own ministry with asylum-seekers has been a source of growth and discovery and a blessing to our whole community. We celebrate the warmth and welcome that migrants have received in several parts of Europe.

We wish to challenge some of the widely-stated assumptions surrounding the migrant crisis.
We challenge the notion that efforts must be entirely focused on addressing conflict in the countries of origin. Intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya didn’t work; non-intervention in Syria didn’t work either. There is no simple off-shore solution.

We challenge the conviction that Britain is ‘full’ and there is neither space nor employment for newcomers. Our own community of staff and volunteers is immeasurably enriched by people from all over the world who have made our city their home – some junior, others who have risen to senior roles; their skills and enthusiasm are a blessing to us all.

We challenge the way immigration is discussed as a question of duty – of whether Britain is obliged to take in people who are fleeing persecution elsewhere, how one can verify that the claim is genuine, whether one has to limit the number even of the persecuted, and whether anyone migrating largely for economic benefit has any right to be here. We maintain that migrants have always, and will always, be a source of initiative and energy, inspiration and renewal. The British population is almost entirely made up of people whose ancestors were migrants for a host of reasons: the nation’s dynamism lies in the confluence of diverse cultures.

We appreciate the drawbacks of making migration easier and the risks of thereby exacerbating the circumstances that bring it about. But we are a nation that loves to back the underdog; we are a people whose finest hour has been in standing up in the face of oppression; and we long for our country to show its true colours today.

A prayer in the midst of the migrant crisis

Wilderness God, your Son was a displaced person in Bethlehem, a refugee in Egypt, and had nowhere to lay his head in Galilee. Bless all who have nowhere to lay their head today, who find themselves strangers on earth, pilgrims to they know not where, facing rejection, closed doors, suspicion and fear. Give them companions in their distress, hope in their wandering, and safe lodging at their journey’s end. And make us a people of grace, wisdom and hospitality, who know that our true identity is to be lost, until we find our eternal home in you. Through Christ our rejected yet risen Lord. Amen

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Henryk Górecki - Miserere.