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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Start:Stop - Dare You To Move


Bible reading
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. (Luke 17. 11 – 14)

Meditation

As human beings we often find security in sameness, in repetition, and in things remaining the same. The result can be that we also remain the same and do not change. Change inevitably involves disruption and movement; something different needs to happen in order that we change. That is what Jesus calls these ten lepers to experience.

They had been ostracised by society because of their condition and had banded together to support each other on the edge of society. In order to make the journey back from the edge of society, in their day, people had to be examined by a priest who could to confirm that their condition had been healed leading to their readmission to society. That is what Jesus told them to go and do but it is significant that they had not been healed at the point that he told them to go. He told them to move, to make a change, but they were not healed until they had begun to make the change and were on their way to see the priest.

Jesus brings the life of God into all that is stagnant in people’s lives. He is the catalyst for change. His arrival on the scene brings the opportunity for hope and faith. Jesus’ arrival and presence are the catalyst and opportunity for change and for the faith that life can be different, can be better than it is now.

As well as being willing to make a move, to change, they have also had to trust in Jesus and in his instructions. It would have been easy for them to say, 'I'm no different, I'm not healed, therefore there's no point in going to see the priest.' They could have stayed where they were in what had become familiar and safe for them. Instead they all set out on what was a risky undertaking where they could have been exposed to ridicule; as, if their healing had not occurred on the way, they could have gone to the priest and been turned away in disgrace as delusional lepers.

There will be points in all our lives where our experience will be similar. We will have been in one place, one job, one role or one way of doing and being for too long and we will be stagnating as a result. Something has to change in order that we grow and develop on new ways and in different aspects of our lives. Sometimes we recognise the situation and choose to change, sometimes the change is forced on us. However it begins and however resentful we might sometimes feel, the only way for us to experience growth and develop in this situation is to make the move and accept the change. While we may not be thankful at the time, often, with hindsight we can see that change was actually good and healing for us.

The rock band Switchfoot put it like this:

“The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
Like today never happened before”

Prayer

Change has come and there are many challenges to be faced and overcome. May we be equal to the task ahead of us, ready to renew ourselves, ready to take on the new, anxious to let go of old ideas that no longer fit, moving with confidence, into the future, your future. Make us strong enough to triumph, flexible enough to grow and change as needed, optimistic enough to see the new opportunities as we move into the changing landscape of our lives. May we accept and welcome the change that has come.

Change has come unbidden, and at times, unwelcome. May we be ready to embrace change and move swiftly forward.

Lord Jesus, you were the catalyst for change and the predictor of change for your first disciples. Help us to see you clearly in the challenges and changes of our times that you might also be our Lord and guide today. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory. Calm our concerns, show us new opportunities, and give us the freedom to discover ourselves afresh in serving you. Show us what you have stored up for us, and give us the courage to follow you.

Change has come unbidden, and at times, unwelcome. May we be ready to embrace change and move swiftly forward.

In the tension between who we are and who we could be, between how it is and how it should be; may we here your call daring us to lift ourselves up off the floor and to move like today never happened before.

Change has come unbidden, and at times, unwelcome. May we be ready to embrace change and move swiftly forward.
Blessing

New opportunities, renewal of our lives, flexibility to grow, moving with confidence into the future, God’s heavenly glory made known. May all those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

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Discover & explore: St Alban




Discover & explore: St Alban at St Stephen Walbrook with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields began in the round. The music sung by ‪the Choral Scholars of St Martin in the Fields included O taste and see – Vaughan Williams, Valiant for Truth – Vaughan Williams, Since by man came death (from ‘Messiah’) – Handel and O Praise God in his holiness – Talbot. We also heard an extract from Bede's account of St Albans' martyrdom.

‪Next Mondays "Discover & Explore" at 1.10pm will explore Constantine as the #Londinium series continues - https://ssw.churchapp.co.uk/events/p8gmbsfw‬.

In my reflection I said:

St Alban’s story and St Alban’s Cathedral, built in his honour, take us back to the beginning of the Christian faith in Britain.

Alban is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the third century in the Roman city of Verulamium (now St Albans), in the valley below the present St Alban’s Cathedral. He was a pagan soldier in the Roman Army stationed in Britain. His exact background is unknown, but popular tradition declares him a native Briton. Bede says he lived during the religious persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian (c.AD 304), though modern historians have argued for similar circumstances which arose some years earlier, during the reigns of Decius (c.254) or Septimus Severus (c.209).

During these dangerous times, Alban received into his house and sheltered a Christian priest, originally un-named but later called Amphibalus in the re-telling of the story, and was so struck by the devotion to God and blameless life of this man whom he protected, that he placed himself under his instruction and became a Christian. A rumour having reached the governor of Verulamium, that the priest was hiding in the house of Alban, he sent soldiers to search it. Alban, seeing them arrive, hastily threw the long cloak of the priest over his own head and shoulders and presented himself to the soldiers as the man whom they sought. He was immediately bound and brought before the governor who, at that moment, was standing at one of the civic altars, offering up a sacrifice. When the cloak, which had concealed Alban's face, was removed, it was immediately revealed that he was not the priest whose arrest the governor had ordered. The latter's anger flamed hot and he ordered Alban, immediately, to sacrifice to the gods or to suffer death.

St. Alban steadfastly refused to offer to idols. Then the magistrate asked, "Of what family and race are you?"

"How can it concern thee to know of what stock I am?" answered Alban. "If thou desirest to know what is my religion, I will tell thee - I am a Christian and am bound by Christian obligations."

"I ask thy name, tell it me immediately."

"I am called Albanus by my parents," he replied, "and I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things." Then the governor said,

"If thou wilt enjoy eternal life, delay not to sacrifice to the great gods." Alban rejoined,

"These sacrifices which are offered to devils are to no avail. Hell is the reward of those who offer them." The governor ordered St. Alban to be scourged, hoping to shake his constancy by pain. But the martyr bore the stripes patiently and even joyously, for our Lord's sake.

When the judge saw that he could not prevail, he ordered Alban to be put to death. On his way to execution, on 20th June, the martyr had to cross a river. "There," says Bede, "he saw a multitude of both sexes, and of every age and rank, assembled to attend the blessed confessor and martyr; and these so crowded the bridge, that he could not pass over that evening. Then St. Alban, urged by an ardent desire to accomplish his martyrdom, drew near to the stream, and the channel was dried up, making a way for him to pass over."

Then the martyr and his escort, followed by an innumerable company of spectators, ascended the hill above Verulamium, now occupied by the abbey church bearing his name. It was then a green hill covered with flowers, sloping gently down into the pleasant plain. However, the executioner refused to perform his office and, throwing down his sword, confessed himself a Christian also. Another man was detailed to deal the blow and both Alban and the executioner, who had refused to strike, were decapitated together. Despite escaping, Amphibalus too was later arrested and martyred at Redbourn, a few miles away.

As with all good stories the legend grew with time and Bede, in particular, elaborated the story. It was he who added that the river miraculously divided to let Alban pass and a spring of water appeared to provide a drink for the saint. He also adds that the executioner's eyes dropped out as he beheaded the saint, a detail that has often been depicted with relish since.

Alban was probably buried in the Roman cemetery now located by modern archaeological digs to the south of the present Cathedral. When Christianity was legalized by the Emperor Constantine the Great, not long afterwards, he was well remembered by the local community who erected a martyrium above his grave. This almost certainly became a place of pilgrimage, even in Roman times. The first churches in St Albans were probably simple structures over Alban’s grave, making this the oldest continuous site of Christian worship in Great Britain. Recent finds suggest an early basilica over the spot and in 429 St Germanus recorded his visit to this church. Bede described ‘a beautiful church, worthy of his martyrdom’. He described the hill as "adorned with wild flowers of every kind" and as a spot "whose natural beauty had long fitted it as a place to be hallowed by the blood of a blessed martyr". The small church survived the pagan Saxon expansion until the present abbey church was founded on the site, by King Offa of Mercia, in AD 793. Matthew Paris, the celebrated medieval historian and most famous of the Abbey’s monks, produced a beautifully illustrated Life of St Alban in the 13th century. This is now at Trinity College in Dublin. Alban's relics were revered by the devout for centuries, before they eventually disappeared during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Tradition has it that they were smuggled away to join previously exchanged relics at St. Pantaleon's Church in Cologne.

Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and the shrine of St Alban can still be seen in St Alban’s Cathedral. Its Purbeck marble base of 1308 supports a modern red and gold canopy under which rests a shoulder-blade said to come from the original relics of the saint’s body. The canopy is embroidered with English wildflowers, commemorating Bede’s description of Alban as ascending a hill "adorned with wild flowers of every kind." The red rose, in particular has come to be a special symbol of the saint reflecting the words of an ancient prayer: ‘Among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines Saint Alban.’ In art, St. Alban is represented, sometimes in civil and sometimes in military dress, bearing the palm of martyrdom and a sword, or a cross and a sword. For over 1700 years, pilgrims have prayed on the hillside in St Albans where he was martyred, many on or near St Alban’s Day, 22 June, when his story is celebrated and re-enacted.

Alban is a saint of the undivided church, a saint for all Christians. His welcome to a persecuted stranger was a powerful example of courage, compassion and hospitality. St Alban is still with us in the Communion of Saints, and in this sacred place we worship God with him and ask his prayers.

https://www.stalbanscathedral.org/history/story-of-st-alban

http://www.stalbansearsdon.co.uk/who-was-st-alban/

http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/alban.html

Prayers

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Alban Triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Eternal Father, when the gospel of Christ first came to our land you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban by making him the first to win a martyr's crown: grant that, following his example, in the fellowship of the saints we may worship you, the living God, and give true witness to 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. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Redeemer, whose Church was strengthened by the blood of your martyr Alban: so bind us, in life and death, to Christ's sacrifice that our lives, broken and offered with his, may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The Alban Prayer: Among the roses of the martyrs brightly shines Saint Alban. Almighty God, We thank you for St Alban’s Cathedral built to your glory and in memory of Alban, our first martyr. Following his example in the fellowship of the saints, may we worship and adore the true and living God, and be faithful witnesses to the Christ, who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Pray for us Alban, pray for us all Saints of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Blessing

May God, who kindled the fire of his love in the hearts of the saints, pour upon you the riches of his grace. May he give you joy in their fellowship and a share in their praises. May he strengthen you to follow them in the way of holiness and to come to the full radiance of glory. 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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Ralph Vaughan Williams - Valiant For Truth.

Private View: central saint martin in the fields





The Private View for central saint martins in the fields, an exhibition of work by recent art and design graduates from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, was held tonight at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

We heard from Sam Wells, Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins, Angela Sanchez del Campo, who curated the exhibition with Mark Dunhill, and Mark Dean who, as UAL Chaplain, helped organise the show.

In an article for ArtlystCentral St Martins in the Fields Design Then And Now, I noted that:

"Throughout its history, St Martin-in-the-Fields has looked beyond its own doors and played an active role in wider social, humanitarian and international issues. In this way, it has helped to form the world around it. This legacy includes involvement in the founding of many charitable and cultural organisations, including Amnesty InternationalShelterThe Big IssueThe Academy of St Martins in the Fields and Central Saint Martins. Of these, the involvement of St Martin’s in the formation of Central Saint Martins is the least known, although the earliest instance of involvement in initiating these significant institutions."

St Martin’s School of Art was established in 1854 by St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Revd Henry Mackenzie and others were concerned that art and design training should be developed alongside the religious and general education already provided by Church schools, to ‘extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry’ following the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The art school soon became independent, and over a century later in 1986 merged with Central School of Art and Design to become Central Saint Martins. Today, the College is an internationally recognised centre for art and design education and research, based in King’s Cross.

For this exhibition Central Saint Martins returns to one of its roots, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Over 150 years later, our connection remains the belief in the power of creativity as a catalyst for change in both individuals and the wider community.

Exhibition opening times –

Monday: 8.00am – 8.00pm
Tuesday: 8.00am – 8.00pm
Wednesday: 8.00am – 10.30pm
Thursday: 8.00am – 9.00pm
Friday: 8.00am – 9.00pm
Saturday: 9.00am – 9.00pm
Sunday: 11.00am – 6.00pm

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Arcade Fire featuring Mavis Staples - I Give You Power.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Windows on the world (366)


London, 2016

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Led Zepplin - Kashmir.

Artlyst article & review

In my latest piece for Artlyst, Central St Martins in the Fields Design Then And Now, I note that:

"Throughout its history, St Martin-in-the-Fields has looked beyond its own doors and played an active role in wider social, humanitarian and international issues. In this way, it has helped to form the world around it. This legacy includes involvement in the founding of many charitable and cultural organisations, including Amnesty International, Shelter, The Big Issue, The Academy of St Martins in the Fields and Central Saint Martins. Of these, the involvement of St Martin’s in the formation of Central Saint Martins is the least known, although the earliest instance of involvement in initiating these significant institutions."

Artlyst have also reviewed 'Creations' by Alexander de Cadenet at St Stephen Walbrook. The review suggests that:

"Priest Revd Jonathan Evens of St Stephens Walbrook, who is taking his spiritual role as a curator of contemporary art and architecture, in the City of London, is bringing a refreshing light of hope for the complications that the City of London holds.

Placing the bronze apple, ‘Creations’ referencing the apple of creation, in the church, Alexander and the Reverand are making a very bold statement with respect to our relationship to those whom we hold dear, allowing a confrontation with the process of God in how we are relating spiritually to the ‘apple of desire’, rebellion, the sanctity of marriage, temptation, demonisation and the universal knowledge that comes from ingesting the journey in to enlightenment and the expansive understanding of the Creator and Creation ...

The safety of the church enables a release from egoic and corrupting forces ...

This is an experience that can be enjoyed and endured in spiritual release while meditating on the bronze apple, the power of the architecture, on the story of Adam and Eve, the apple of creation and understanding the intentions of the church."

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Robert Plant - Bones Of Saints.

Just As I Am












Just As I Am was a weekend of events at St Martin-in-the-Fields marking our 6th annual conference on Disability & Church, in partnership with Inclusive Church. The programme had been planned by a group led by Fiona MacMillan.

Saturday's conference Just As I Am – Living Theology explored the questions - What does it mean to be disabled, and what might that say about God? Do our stories tell us something of God’s story? Are we living theology?

The speakers included Helen Tyers, Darius Traves, Ali Lyon and Sam Wells, who led a workshop on understanding and models of theology. Working in small groups, with a marketplace and silent space, we shared ideas arising from our experience and considered how we can resource each other and the church.

Conference delegate Philip Dawson tweeted the following reflections:
  • Heard an "alternative" interpretation of the life of Charlotte Elliot author of "Just As I Am". She wasn't a weak invalid but a strong woman.
  • Should grief or sickness waste away My life in premature decay, My Father, still I strive to say, "Thy will be done."
  • A key passage which spoke to Charlotte as a disabled woman was 2 Corinthians 3.18. If we look in a mirror the reflection we see is Christ.
  • Helen Tyers suggested many churches still run by those with mindset of Victorian hymnwriters i.e. that disabled are invalids who need to be cured.
  • We heard from Sam Wells who drew on his Christian Ethics book & asked us to imagine "church" as a triangle which we were somewhere inside
  • The three sides represent the "established" "universal" church, the individual "subversive" church and the broad "ecclesial" church.
  • In groups we were asked to think about how the lengths of each side of the triangle has changed over time and where we sit within it.
  • Sam Wells suggested "subversive" church could get so caught up challenging the "universal" church that it lacks message of its own.
  • Suggested "subversive" trying to bang on door of "universal" to be let in implied we all wanted to be "in" with the universal.
  • Perhaps in a post-colonial world where one cannot take Christian theology for granted, we all need to adopt a more "ecclesial" approach.
  • Before I had to leave I heard Darius Traves speak about his work with "Just As I Am" in Yorkshire. An inspiring man!
The day ended with a Eucharist in which we prayed: Loving God. We thank you for feeding us with your bread and wine. We thank you for all we have shared and learnt today. We thank you for our similarities and differences. We thank you for our thoughts, ideas and our truths. Send us out into the world to serve you, knowing that you accept us ... Just as we are.

Our Sunday morning service was a special Eucharist and Healing Service liturgy for St Luke’s Day, written by members of our Disability Advisory Group & Healing Team under the guidance of Sam Wells.

In the service we prayed: Creating God, from of old your plans for your people have been faithful and sure. You provide refuge to all and invite each of us, just as we are, to share in your feast of creation’s wonder. In Christ you extended the invitation to your feast to all peoples; you came to human beings and humanity came to you.

Our preacher was Tim Goode, the Disability Adviser for Southwark Diocese and a trustee of Inclusive Church, who is a member of the conference planning team. Tim said:

"I want to take a moment to paint a picture of a mythical nation. If it were possible to gather together all the disabled people in the world into one nation, that nation would number approximately 650 million. That’s more than ten times the population of the United Kingdom. In fact the nation would be the third largest in the world after China and India.

I would like to now share some of the unique characteristics of this mythical nation. It would have the least access to education. It would have the lowest proportion of its population in employment in the world. It would be the poorest nation on earth. It would have the least access to transport and it would be the least evangelised nation with the lowest proportion involved in a church. It would also be the least listened to. It is also true that everyone of that 650 million is being invited this morning to the wedding banquet.

This is why the Disability Conference being held at St Martin’s this weekend is so important. The inhabitants of this mystical country are speaking up and we are speaking out because we belong to each and every country. We are sharing our lived experience because we have important stories to tell. We are not separated from the king’s invitation for we, like everyone in Trafalgar Square and on the Godstone Road, like everyone anywhere, are made in the image and likeness of God and are loved by God beyond all measure."

The service included the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, accompanied by prayers for healing – for individuals, someone else known to them, or the wider world.

Following the service we launched ‘Calling from the Edge’, a beautifully produced booklet celebrating the first five disability conferences that have been held as a partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church. In the booklet you will find stories and reflections that tell the story that underlies this significant series of conferences. The prophetic voices we hear emanating from the conference and booklet are, rightly, challenging for the Church but, as Sam Wells says in his Foreword to the booklet, we need to recognise the sin of how much we have rejected in the past, and celebrate the grace that God gives us back what we once rejected to become the cornerstone of our lives. That’s what prophetic ministry means.

Finally, we enjoyed a special screening of Summer in the Forest, the new feature-length documentary film about the L'Arche community. It follows the life of the original community in Trosly, France, and explores what it means to be human. We were joined by the director Randall Wright for a discussion after the film led by Katherine Hedderly before ending with the chance to meet and talk over tea in the Lightwell.

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Summer In The Forest.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Prophetic voices calling from the edge


Vox pop interviews given by participants at Prophets & Seers: Calling from the Edge, the 2016 conference on Disability and Church, organised in partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church. Participants shared their message to the Church.

Here is my Thought for the Week for the Parish Newsletter at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

“My weakness and my weariness can be something like a gift.”

“It is really important to have a chance to tell our stories, hear them underpinned by theology and find out how they can – or should – influence wider public policy.”

“We need to move on from welcoming disabled people as an act of grace and see them as whole people with as much right to be there as anyone else.”

“Disabled people are not so much a pastoral problem as a prophetic potential. We need to ask not how the church can care for disabled people but to ask what is the prophetic message of the church in our culture and how disabled people can make a unique contribution to that renewal.”

“Our disabilities don’t necessarily detract from how whole we are, please don’t presume we need to be healed or that we have nothing to contribute – everyone has gifts to give.”

These quotes come from ‘Calling from the Edge’, a beautifully produced booklet celebrating the first five disability conferences that have been held as a partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church. In the booklet you will find stories and reflections that tell the story that underlies this significant series of conferences. We are launching this booklet during a weekend of events that includes the sixth conference in the series, in which we are exploring what being disabled says about God and what the stories of disabled people tell us about God’s story.

All this is predicated on the basis that nothing should be said about us without us and, as a result, that the conference is organised by and for disabled people. The prophetic voices we hear emanating from the conference and booklet are, rightly, challenging for the Church but, as Sam Wells says in his Foreword to the booklet, we need to recognise the sin of how much we have rejected in the past, and celebrate the grace that God gives us back what we once rejected to become the cornerstone of our lives. That’s what prophetic ministry means.

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St Martin's Voices - Gloria.

Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond

Life, death and spirituality were recurrent themes in Rose Finn-Kelcey’s work. She had a simple explanation as to why this was so:

“I was brought up in a family that was quite religious. I was sent to a religious school, so it was quite a big part of my life, and it was something I felt ambivalent about but also at the same time very conscious of. So I wanted to explore that: the spiritual located in the ordinary.”

Driven by the twin desires of reinventing herself and responding to specific sites for her work, she moved from performance based work in the early part of her career to installation and object based work in the latter. Thrilling examples from every phase of her diverse body of work can be found at Modern Art Oxford in this, the first posthumous retrospective of Finn-Kelcey’s artistic practice.

At the Gallery entrance is an immediate instance of Finn-Kelcey’s ability to wryly play with the material and the beyond. God Kennel – A Tabernacle makes us look to the heavens by placing a dog’s kennel on the ceiling. This is to play with the reversibility of dog and God in order to question our perceptions of heaven and earth through the inversion and elevation of the lowly.

Our perceptions of God are further explored in Visual Questionnaire, a project undertaken with ordinands in 1996, while a Sargent Fellow at the British School in Rome. She asked Roman Catholic ordinands to provide visual responses to the questions ‘Where does God live?’ and ‘What does God look like?’ 40 sheets of responses are displayed along one long wall with the mix of simple abstract and complex figurative imagery running along a continuum from traditional religious to secular iconography; all serving to demonstrate the impossibility of visualising the infinite. Several of the ordinands found the exercise impossible to contemplate visually and therefore resorted to words instead of images.

Sally O'Reilly wrote of Finn-Kelcey’s Angel, an installation on the exterior of St Paul’s Bow Common (2004), that she seemed to be emphasising the “difficulty of finding the eloquence to voice the unvoicable, the absurdity of evoking the spiritual from the material.” Yet, as Guy Brett has written, Angel, and other of Finn-Kelcey’s religiously themed works, combine irreverence and genuine spiritual longing in order to both debunk and venerate. Her work is therefore mischievous, challenging, ironic and truthful.

In 1999 she contributed an outdoors sculpture for the Millennium Dome’s public walkways. Four customized vending machines (one of which features in this exhibition) dispensed non-denominational prayers with the prayers being animated on illuminated LED display boards, each named after a popular chocolate bar. Finn-Kelcey explained how It Pays to Pray worked:

"Insert 20p and view your prayer. Press 6 for FLYTE and the animated text goes into action: I Need to be Brave, I Want to be Brave, I don't feel Brave, I feel Scared, Scared to Death. Or press 2 for Ripple: I am so Happy, So Very Very Happy, So Happy to be me, Thank you. I am so Happy; Happy, Happy, Happy, So very Happy just to be me. Then press the return button and get your 20p back."

It Pays to Pray dispenses with the priest as intermediary, a critique both of organised religion and of consumerism, while connecting with the reality that, just as we go to a chocolate vending machine when our blood sugar levels are low, we pray when our spiritual levels are low. Finn-Kelcey also demonstrated this reality through a questionnaire compiled for the catalogue of The British Art Show 4 in which she asked artists and critics, ‘Do you pray? If so to whom and for what?’ thereby discovering that some did, primarily when in need. Finn-Kelcey answered her own question by saying she prayed “To God – ‘Thy will be done’ – but please let me know what it is.”

As this retrospective amply demonstrates, Finn-Kelcey combined avant-garde experimentation with socio-political aims and the exploration of life, belief and beyond. She worked in the belief that, by choosing new mediums and making specific things for specific places, she could continue to reinvent herself and remain a perennial beginner. As Guy Brett has noted this means that no “two works of hers are physically alike; each represents a fresh challenge.” Each is essentially a resurrection or rebirth; an approach to life and art from which a Church needing to re-present the Gospel afresh in each generation could potentially learn.

Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond, Modern Art Oxford, until 15 October 2017 - www.modernartoxford.org.uk/

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Jimi Hendrix - Angel.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Discover & explore: The Early Church in Rome




Discover & explore: The Early Church in Rome at St Stephen Walbrook with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields began in the round. The music sung by ‪the wonderful Choral Scholars of St Martin in the Fields included Cantate Domino by Monteverdi & a Te Deum by Scarlatti. We also heard an extract from a book by George Edmundson, painting a picture of Rome in the 1st century.

‪Next Monday at 1.10pm "Discover & Explore" St Alban as the #Londinium series continues - https://ssw.churchapp.co.uk/events/p8gmbsfw‬.

In my reflection I said:

The Roman Empire was the dominant political and military force during the early days of Christianity, with the city of Rome as its foundation. Therefore, it's helpful to know something of the Roman Empire at that time in order to gain a better understanding of the Christians and churches who lived and ministered in Rome during the first century A.D.

At the time Paul wrote the Book of Romans, the total population of that city was around 1 million people. This made Rome one of the largest Mediterranean cities of the ancient world, along with Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch in Syria, and Corinth in Greece. Rome was the hub of the Roman Empire, which made it the centre of politics and government. It was a relatively wealthy city and included several economic classes -- including slaves, free individuals, official Roman citizens, and nobles of different kinds (political and military). First-century Rome was filled with all kinds of decadence, from the brutal practices of the arena to sexual immorality of all kinds.

During the first century, Rome was heavily influenced by Greek Mythology and the practice of Emperor worship (also known as the Imperial Cult). Thus, most inhabitants of Rome were polytheistic -- they worshiped several different gods and demigods depending on their own situations and preferences. For this reason, Rome contained many temples, shrines, and places of worship without a centralized ritual or practice. Most forms of worship were tolerated and Rome was also a home to "outsiders" of many different cultures, including Christians and Jews.

Nobody is certain who founded the Christian movement in Rome and developed the earliest churches within the city. Many scholars believe the earliest Roman Christians were Jewish inhabitants of Rome who were exposed to Christianity while visiting Jerusalem - perhaps even during the Day of Pentecost when the church was first established (see Acts 2:1-12).

What we do know is that Christianity had become a major presence in the city of Rome by the late 40s A.D. Like most Christians in the ancient world, the Roman Christians were not collected into a single congregation. Instead, small groups of Christ-followers gathered regularly in house churches to worship, fellowship, and study the Scriptures together. As an example, Paul mentioned a specific house church that was led by married converts to Christ named Priscilla and Aquilla (see Romans 16:3-5). Priscilla and Aquila first appear in Acts of the Apostles when Paul arrives in Corinth during his second missionary journey (18:1-2). Tentmakers by trade, this Jewish-Christian couple had recently left Rome after Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from the city. Settling in Corinth, they allowed Paul, a fellow tentmaker, to stay at their home and assisted in his ministry. When Paul went to Ephesus, this holy couple accompanied him. When Paul decided to move on again, Priscilla and Aquilla remained in Ephesus and let their home be used as a church (1 Corinthians 16:19). Paul’s Letter to the Romans indicates that Priscilla and Aquilla later returned to that city and established yet another house church there. (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/house-churches-in-the-new-testament/)

The story of Priscilla and Aquilla demonstrates ease of movement throughout the Roman Empire. Roads were the lifeblood of Ancient Rome. Over the course of 700 years, the Romans built more than 55,000 miles of paved highways throughout Europe—enough to encircle the globe. These engineering marvels ensured the swift movement of goods, soldiers and information across the Empire, including the ability for the Gospel of Christ to spread rapidly and widely.

From Paul’s greetings in Romans 16, we can discern the existence of several other gatherings of Christians in the city. As well as the house church of Priscilla and Aquilla, two more groupings of Christians surface in verses 14 and 15. So, the evidence points to the existence of at least three house churches, with the possibility of even more (https://bible.org/article/origins-church-rome). According to Yale University archaeologists, “The first Christian congregations worshipped in private houses, meeting at the homes of wealthier members on a rotating basis . . . Worship was generally conducted in the atrium, or central courtyard of the house.” (https://ntrf.org/index.php/2016/08/03/first-century-house-churches/) From the New Testament, we learn that house church gatherings included the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, teaching (including the telling of stories about Jesus) and sharing in the Lord’s Supper.

While the people of Rome were tolerant of most religious expressions, that tolerance was largely limited to religions that were polytheistic - meaning, the Roman authorities didn't care who you worshiped as long as you included the emperor and didn't create problems with other religious systems. That was a problem for both Christians and Jews during the middle of the first century as both were fiercely monotheistic; proclaiming the unpopular doctrine that there is only one God and refusing to worship the emperor or acknowledge him as any kind of deity.

For these reasons, Christians and Jews began to experience intense persecution. The Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from the city of Rome in 49 A.D.; this decree lasted until Claudius's death 5 years later. Christians began to experience greater persecution under the rule of Emperor Nero. Paul wrote the Book of Romans during the early reign of Nero, when Christian persecution was just beginning. Persecution became worse near the end of the first century under Emperor Domitian.

The earliest Christian converts in Rome were of Jewish origin and the early Roman churches were dominated and led by Jewish disciples of Jesus. When Claudius expelled all Jews from the city of Rome, however, only the Gentile Christians remained. Therefore, the church grew and expanded as a largely Gentile community from 49 - 54 A.D. When Claudius perished and Jews were allowed back in Rome, the returning Jewish Christians came home to find a church that was much different from the one they had left. This resulted in disagreements about how to incorporate the Old Testament law into following Christ, including rituals such as circumcision.

For these reasons, much of Paul's letter to the Romans includes instructions for Jewish and Gentile Christians on how to live in harmony and properly worship God as a new culture - a new church. For example, Romans 14 offers strong advice on settling disagreements between Jewish and Gentile Christians in connection with eating meat sacrificed to idols and observing the different holy days of the Old Testament law. Despite these many obstacles, the church at Rome experienced healthy growth throughout the first century which explains why Paul was so eager to visit the Christians in Rome and provide additional leadership during their struggles.

Paul, as we heard in our first service in this series, was so desperate to see the Christians in Rome that he used his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar after being arrested by Roman officials in Jerusalem (see Acts 25:8-12). He was sent to Rome and spent several years in a house prison - years he used to train church leaders and Christians within the city. Although eventually released, he was arrested again for preaching the gospel under renewed persecution from Nero. Church tradition holds that Paul was beheaded as a martyr in Rome -- a fitting place for his final act of service to the church and expression of worship to God. (https://www.thoughtco.com/the-early-church-at-rome-363409)

So, to sum up, non-apostolic Jewish Christians brought the faith of Christ to Rome in the early decades of the church. After generating both interest and controversy within the synagogues, Christianity was forced to reorganize in the wake of Claudius’s edict against the Jews. The resulting Gentile-dominated church that received Paul’s letter in the late 50’s met in small groups around the city of Rome but maintained communication and held onto a common identity and mission. Paul and Peter left their mark on these believers, though they merely strengthened the work that had already begun to flourish in the capital city. (https://bible.org/article/origins-church-rome)

Prayers

O Educator, be gracious to thy children, O Educator, Father, Guide of Israel, Son and Father, both one, Lord. Give to us, who follow thy command, to fulfill the likeness of thy image, and to see, according to our strength, the God who is both a good God and a Judge who is not harsh. Do thou thyself bestow all things on us who dwell in thy peace, who have been placed in thy city, who sail the sea of sin unruffled, that we may be made tranquil and supported by the Holy Spirit, the unutterable Wisdom, by night and day, unto the perfect day, to sing eternal thanksgiving to the one only Father and Son, Son and Father, Educator and Teacher with the Holy Spirit. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

—Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215)

We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

—1 Clement (c. 96)

O Lord God, your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his resurrection he restores life and peace in all creation. Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance and those oppressed by their fellow humans. Remember in your kingdom those who have died. Lead the oppressors towards compassion and give hope to the suffering. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Blessing

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them. Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

—A Syriac Christmas liturgy (late third or early fourth century)

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Domenico Scarlatti - Te Deum.

Business Harvest Festival


You are invited to the Business Harvest Festival at St Stephen Walbrook at 12.45pm on Thursday 12th October, followed by a light lunch. Our preacher on this occasion will be The Ven. Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London.

Traditionally, harvest is a time when the country gives thanks for the natural gifts of the land and the safe harvesting of them.

At St Stephen Walbrook, we give thanks for that but, as you may know, have a tradition of inviting representatives of local businesses to bring a symbol of their work and place it on the Henry Moore altar at the start of the service. Some examples of symbols presented in the past have been books, building development plans, food, financial accounts, a bottle of wine, a trowel, an insurance policy, a scaffolding bolt, and items of clothing. All will be returned after the service.

We very much hope that you will be able to join us and also include your business associates in the invitation. If you are able to attend, please do consider bringing a symbol of your work with you to place on the altar. Do stay afterwards, if you can, for a light lunch.

It would be a great help for catering purposes if you could let us know whether you or your colleagues can join us and present a symbol of your work. Please RSVP to office@ststephenwalbrook.net or phone 020 7626 9000.

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Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

central saint martins in the fields













Thursday 5 October – Saturday 4 November
central saint martins in the fields


An exhibition of work by recent art and design graduates from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London



St Martin’s School of Art was established in 1854 by St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Revd Henry Mackenzie and others were concerned that art and design training should be developed alongside the religious and general education already provided by Church schools, to ‘extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry’ following the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The art school soon became independent, and over a century later in 1986 merged with Central School of Art and Design to become Central Saint Martins. Today, the College is an internationally recognised centre for art and design education and research, based in King’s Cross.

For this exhibition Central Saint Martins returns to one of its roots, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Over 150 years later, our connection remains the belief in the power of creativity as a catalyst for change in both individuals and the wider community.

Curated by Angela Sanchez del Campo and Mark Dunhill

Organised by Mark Dean, UAL Chaplaincy and Jonathan Evens, St Martin-in-the-Fields

Supported by University of the Arts London and Diocese of London University Chaplaincy

Special thanks to The Vicar and Churchwardens of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Allyson Hargreaves, Paul Haywood, Anne Smith, Andrew Willson

#CSMITF

Opening times –

Monday: 8.00am – 8.00pm
Tuesday: 8.00am – 8.00pm
Wednesday: 8.00am – 10.30pm
Thursday: 8.00am – 9.00pm
Friday: 8.00am – 9.00pm
Saturday: 9.00am – 9.00pm
Sunday: 11.00am – 6.00pm

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The Jam - Art School.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Windows on the world (365)


London, 2016

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Gerald Finzi - Magnificat, Op. 36.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Tim Rollins and K.O.S., The moonlight was behind them...

“Great art is an instrument of God,” says Tim Rollins, founder of K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) who are exhibiting at Maureen Paley Gallery until 12 November. This is so, Rollins states, because you have to “bring faith to art as you do to God” and artists imitate “the penultimate creativity of God.”

However, you won’t see overtly religious imagery if you visit The moonlight was behind them...; in part, because the title of this exhibition finds its root in the gothic novel Dracula by Bram Stoker with an ominous darkness that Rollins and K.O.S. think relates to our current political and social condition.

Rollins’ collaboration with the members of K.O.S. takes the form of drawings, sculptural objects, paintings on canvas and paper. They highlight quotes from books, plays, operas and prose with which they engage as they relate the stories to their own experiences or to politics. Their art is created directly on these inspirational texts.

In this exhibition: “Gretchen am Spinnrade (after Goethe and Schubert) reflects on the swooning for Faust by Gretchen, distracted by her treadle. With the Brothers Grimm tale Rumpelstiltskin, the spinning of straw into gold hints at the blind pursuit of material splendour in a late capitalist period that might be seen to discourage critical thought. Tim Rollins and K.O.S. also revisit George Orwell's Animal Farm, with the relevance of the allegorical narrative only becoming more potent since its original publication. Other work makes reference to Goethe’s epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, 1774.”

Although they have engaged, on other occasions, with religious texts and imagery – as with I See the Promised Land or The Temptation of Saint Anthony – the religious underpinning of their work is not primarily found in their use of symbolism. Rather, it concerns their processes of creation.

These involve reading and researching inspirational texts in order to find images that make literature visible. K.O.S. artist Robert Branch has spoken of this process as one which involves struggle in a social experience. He says, “Art making doesn’t come with written instructions, with a step-by-step process.” Instead, you “just kind of feel it out” because art “is a process of faith.” In this way, Rollins suggests, you “become an instrument for something that cannot be articulated any other way.” “Like the paint, you’re a medium” for “some spirit … making something manifest.” This process of faith, Rollins says, is about making “the invisible visible, vision becoming visible, and making hope material, power manifest, and Spirit sensuous.”

Rollins is “an active member in the music, arts, and HIV/AIDS ministries at Memorial Baptist Church in Harlem” and draws deeply on his church experiences in discussing art as a process of faith. He speaks about Holy Ghost moments saying that people “underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit”: “We don’t make this work. It is not like speaking in tongues. It is the Holy Spirit present … Painting is capable of rapture. Our paintings are ecstatic utterances made material and visible.”

So, if you want to experience rapture, spiritual ecstasy and, even, the “glory of God,” then this exhibition based on horror, fairy tale and political allegory may be just the place to go.

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The Voices of East Harlem - Simple Song Of Freedom.

Business Harvest Festival



You are invited to the Business Harvest Festival at St Stephen Walbrook at 12.45pm on Thursday 12th October, followed by a light lunch. Our preacher on this occasion will be The Ven. Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London.

Traditionally, harvest is a time when the country gives thanks for the natural gifts of the land and the safe harvesting of them.

At St Stephen Walbrook, we give thanks for that but, as you may know, have a tradition of inviting representatives of local businesses to bring a symbol of their work and place it on the Henry Moore altar at the start of the service. Some examples of symbols presented in the past have been books, building development plans, food, financial accounts, a bottle of wine, a trowel, an insurance policy, a scaffolding bolt, and items of clothing. All will be returned after the service.

We very much hope that you will be able to join us and also include your business associates in the invitation. If you are able to attend, please do consider bringing a symbol of your work with you to place on the altar. Do stay afterwards, if you can, for a light lunch.

It would be a great help for catering purposes if you could let us know whether you or your colleagues can join us and present a symbol of your work. Please RSVP to office@ststephenwalbrook.net or phone 020 7626 9000.

You may also be interested in our next plus+ presentation which will take place at 6.30pm on Thursday 19 October (preceded by Evening Prayer at 6.15pm), when The Revd Sally Muggeridge will speak from personal experience about campaigns to increase the numbers of women on Boards.

plus+ presentations are a new series of events exploring the place of faith in the world of business. Future dates for plus+ presentations include:
  • 9th November Barbara Ridpath, Director of St Paul's Institute, will speak on Transitions: how to make life-changing career changes by choice or necessity. 
  • 18 January 2018, our presenter will be Professor Richard Higginson (Director of Faith in Business, Ridley Hall Cambridge) speaking about Christian entrepreneurs living out their faith. 
  • 15 February 2018 - Revd Dr Fiona Stewart-Darling, Canary Wharf MultiFaith Chaplaincy. 
Finally, our current art exhibition is 'Creations' by the sculptor Alexander de Cadenet. Alexander is exhibiting, until 3 November, a series of bronze and silver sculptures featuring ‘consumables’ that contain deeper spiritual messages. The works include a selection of his ‘Life-Burger’ hamburger sculptures and 'Creation' – a larger scale shiny bronze apple with three bites taken from it – two adult bites and baby bite in between. His sculptures explore the relationship between the spiritual dimension of art and consumerism and, at their root, are an exploration of what gives life meaning. These are themes which also link to this season of Harvest.

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Fred Pratt Green - For The Fruits Of His Creation.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

central saint martins in the fields


central saint martins in the fields is an exhibition of work by recent art and design graduates from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JH from 5 October – 4 November 2017 (Monday: 8am – 8pm, Tuesday: 8am – 8pm, Wednesday: 8am – 10.30pm, Thursday: 8am – 9pm, Friday: 8am – 9pm,
Saturday: 9am – 9pm, Sunday: 11am – 6pm).

St Martin's School of Art was established in 1854 by St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Revd Henry Mackenzie and others were concerned that art and design training should be developed alongside the religious and general education already provided by Church schools, to ‘extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry’ following the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The art school soon became independent, and over a century later in 1986 merged with Central School of Art and Design to become Central Saint Martins. Today, the College is an internationally recognised centre for art and design education and research, based in King’s Cross.

For this exhibition Central Saint Martins returns to one of its roots, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Over 150 years later, our connection remains the belief in the power of creativity as a catalyst for change in both individuals and the wider community.

The exhibition has been curated by Angela Sanchez del Campo and Mark Dunhill.

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London Sinfonietta & Central Saint Martins - SPEAKS.

The Canticle of the Creatures

Here is the reflection that I shared in the Choral Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields today:

I recently visited the Friary at Hilfield which is part of the Society of St Francis, an Anglican Franciscan Religious Order. They are followers of Jesus Christ after the manner of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. Established in 1921 on the edge of the Dorset Downs and overlooking the Blackmore Vale, Hilfield has regularly provided refuge and rehabilitation for homeless men. Today, six Franciscan brothers form the core of a larger community who work on the Friary land - 19 acres of wildflower meadows and woodlands which have been designated as Special Nature Conservation Interest - and who offer hospitality to people of diverse backgrounds and needs. Each day is shaped by a pattern of prayer, meals together, work, reflection and recreation.

One of the many aspects of Hilfield that attracted my attention is their meditative Canticle Garden based on the Canticle of the Creatures which he composed towards the end of his life, a song which gives voice to all creation in praise and honour of God: Most High, all powerful, good Lord, To you be praise, glory, honour and blessing. Only to you, Most High, do they belong And no one is worthy to call upon your name. May you be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures…… and he goes on to include the sun, moon, stars, earth, water, fire, plants, fruits and flowers.

Brother Samuel from Hilfield has explained what Francis is doing in this Canticle as follows: ‘Everything gives praise, finds its true purpose, by being what it truly is and by doing what it does – the sun in shining, the moon in gleaming, the stars in glistening, the earth in producing fruit, fire in warming etc – and we, the human brothers and sisters of Francis, joining the song. Most people seem to think that worship is something done exclusively in and by churches – with organs and choirs and the like – and, certainly, the task of the Church is to offer praise and worship back to God, but Francis reminds us that when we worship in church we are joining in with something that has been going on since the beginning of time, since the ‘morning stars sang together’. Perhaps we should spend more effort and energy in trying to sing in harmony with them rather than just working our way through Hymns Ancient & Modern or Mission Praise! Having lived at Hilfield Friary now for a good number of years, I have seen from the experience of some of those who have come to us quite broken and lost and who have worked the land with us (and I know this from my own experience too) how engaging closely with creation can heal, restore and re-direct our lives; it can become an act of praise and worship. Singing from the same song-sheet with the whole created order brings us back into right relationship with ourselves, with each other and with the Source and Giver of all.’

It was for this reason that 'the Feast Day of Saint Francis was also designated World Animal Day in 1931 by ecologists in Florence Italy in order to bring focus to endangered species and celebrate animals everywhere. Numerous churches throughout the world observe the Sunday closest to October the 4th with a Blessing of the Animals, and animals are celebrated all over the world with celebrations in synagogues, parks and fields. The mission of World Animal Day is to: celebrate animal life in all its forms; celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom; acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives; and acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives.'

'Today about 40% of all species on Earth are threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, invasive species and illegal hunting, poaching and wildlife trade. There are about 3,100 animals classified worldwide as endangered and that number is growing larger every day. It is now more important than ever for people everywhere to take action to protect animals. Some simple steps you can take to protect animals are: protect wildlife habitats, pick up litter and participate in beach cleanups, recycle and reduce energy use and minimize the use of herbicides and pesticides.'

To take such simple steps is to begin to do what the Hilfield Community do, as they seek to put Jesus Christ at the heart of their community life and, following the example of St Francis, seek to: live in simplicity, humility and peace with each other; welcome others who come to visit us, especially the marginal and the stranger; have care for and delight in our environment; work for justice and peace in our world; witness to the abundant generosity of God in our life together; share the vision of living peacefully and sustainably in our world; and, as the Canticle of the Creatures enables us to do, join in the song of all creation in praise and thanksgiving.

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Sofia Gubaidulina - The Canticle of the Sun of St Francis of Assisi Part I.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Start:Stop - Disturb us, O Lord


Bible reading

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened … They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him … Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3. 6 – 13)

Meditation

I was attracted to the opportunity to show Alexander de Cadenet’s sculptures at St Stephen Walbrook because the Christian scriptures and tradition raise important questions regarding what and how much we consume. Alex’s sculptures draw on the spiritual dimension in life to explore similar questions. The Life-Burger sculptures, in particular, explore the relationship between the spiritual dimension of art and consumerism and, at their root, are an exploration of what gives life meaning. This exhibition therefore provides a space in which profound personal reflection and review can occur.

L.A. art critic Peter Frank has stated that, "We're at a moment in modern history where the excess has gotten staggeringly wretched … For the meta-rich, the world is their fast food joint, and their appetite insatiable." When I interviewed Alex for Artlyst, I asked him why he thought this situation was problematic. He said: “What’s problematic is the desire to consume and accumulate for the sake of it – often to run away from pain or discomfort – beauty and pleasure can at some point become quite warped and grotesque without limits, where even the original value gets lost or diluted within excess. I think it’s become more and more prevalent in the world today.”

His other key work for this show is ‘Creation’ – a large scale shiny bronze apple with three bites taken from it – two adult bites and baby bite in between. This clearly references the second Creation story in the Book of Genesis, where Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat the apple from the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil which Adam and Eve had been forbidden to eat. Adam also eats the apple (the second adult bite) but when challenged by God passes the buck to Eve who then puts the blame on the serpent.

The Genesis Creation stories can be read as descriptions of key human tendencies such as our grasping after those things that we have been told we should not have, our willingness to cross boundaries to acquire them and our refusal to accept personal responsibility for our own actions when we are found out. You can see the link between these characteristics and the consumerist desires that are satirized in the ‘Life-Burgers’. The Biblical witness is that these desires characterise every generation. This may be why the baby bite appears in Alex’s ‘Creation’ as indication to these tendencies in future, as well as current, generations.

Yet, Alex has also stated that, “In Genesis, we were told by God not to take a bite from the apple, yet it was by taking a bite that we became ‘self-conscious’ and self-consciousness is what is necessary for making art.” This is also a part of the story as, by eating the apple, Adam and Eve gained knowledge of good and evil. This can be understood in terms of the development of consciousness in human beings which enables us to create, but which also means that our creativity can be used for good or for evil. The creation of luxury goods and of weapons of mass destruction involve considerable creativity on our part, as human beings, but may not have contributed greatly to our own well-being or that of society.

That brings us back, I think, to the possibility that this exhibition may provide a space in which profound personal reflection and review can occur as these sculptures are an exploration of what gives life meaning and purpose. I pray that that may be so and end with an extract from a prayer of Francis Drake, as adapted by Desmond Tutu: Disturb us, O Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life when, having fallen in love with time, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim. Amen.

Prayers

O God, awaken us to the challenges of this day. Open our eyes to the subtle pervasiveness of consumerism, that we might see our culture, the church, and ourselves in your divine light. Remind us that you are the source of our hope and the giver of all that is good. You alone are worthy of our praise. Bring us to new life, that we might be your people.

Disturb us, O Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life.

Jesus, we come before you with the sincere desire to be faithful. Yet we are often misguided and fail to reflect your image in us. We confess we are seduced by the lure of greater wealth and the accumulation of things; help us find true contentment in your presence and your grace. We confess that we are sometimes overwhelmed with the disparity between rich and poor and that we do not know how to respond. Help us to build your kingdom of peace and justice.

Disturb us, O Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life.

(https://www.ncchurches.org/lectionary-archive/year-c/materialism-consumerism-proper-13/)

Blessing

Disturb us, O Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life when, having fallen in love with time, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim. And the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

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Greater Richmond Children's Choir - Prayer of Desmond Tutu.