Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Monday, 31 July 2017

St Martin-in-the-Fields, HeartEdge and Greenbelt


St Martin-in-the-Field's is going to Greenbelt this year and will be offering three programme elements. Alastair McKay will be showcasing three sessions of Inspired to Follow / Art and Bible Story (see http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/…/st-martin-in-the-fields-insp…/). Andrew Earis will be leading three choral sessions (see http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/…/st-martin-in-the-fields-grea…/) and I will be participating in The Exchange, on the Monday, sharing stories about the use of social enterprise for the common good (see http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/artists/cliff-mills/).

Alastair McKay and Ayla Lepine will facilitate taster sessions from the new online interactive discipleship resource from St Martin-in-the-Fields and the National Gallery, ‘Art and the Bible Story: Inspired to Follow’, which looks at the Biblical story through fine art paintings. Alastair McKay is a half-time priest at St Martin-in-the-Fields, who also works as an adult educator, facilitator, and coach with clergy and church groups, having previously headed up Bridge Builders for nearly 20 years. He is passionate about helping people to learn and grow. Ayla Lepine is a Fellow in Art History at the University of Essex and an ordinand at Westcott House. She has taught at the Courtauld, Yale, and King’s College London, and has published widely on the intersections across theology and the arts.

Singers from St Martin-in-the-Fields, with their Director of Music Andrew Earis, explore through word and song some of the great music of our religious heritage. Three years ago St Martin-in-the-Fields launched a weekly event called ‘Great Sacred Music’. Taking place each Thursday lunchtime, the 35 minute long sequence explores through word and song some of the great music of our religious heritage.

The Exchange will be open for business throughout the Festival. Go there to think together over the weekend about enterprise for the common good. With Ryan Rushton from Co-op Energy, Vivian Woodell from the Phone Co-op and David Alcock from Anthony Collins Solicitors. David Alcock is Head of Social Business at Birmingham law firm Anthony Collins Solicitors, where he works with community organisations, social enterprises, co-operatives, charities and faith groups. David is a specialist in governance issues in the third sector and is also at the forefront of developing innovative mutual models of delivering public services. He has advised numerous organisations on governance and contractual matters at board level, as well as training new and potential board members on their duties and responsibilities. He also helped develop good practice in community asset transfer, and resident-led estate regeneration.

On Monday at 1:00 PM, the Exchange session will be Cathedrals and commerce: The challenge facing large churches. Large churches are getting involved in enterprise activity to stay open – but didn’t Jesus turn over the tables of the money changers? How can we find the right way through commerce and cathedrals? With The Very Revd John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Alison Inglis-Jones from the Trussell Trust, Jonny Gordon-Farleigh from Stir to Action, Rev Jonathan Evens from the HeartEdge project at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Chaired by Cliff Mills, Anthony Collins Solicitors.

Cliff Mills is a solicitor who writes constitutions for co-operative, mutual and member-based organisations. These have included the leading retail co-operatives societies, NHS Foundation Trusts, tenant and employee-owned social housing providers, and a range of other sectors including leisure services, community health, primary care, youth services, community shops, energy and probation. He has been involved in the modernisation of co-operative and community benefit society legislation, and the development of new forms of ownership for public services. He has undertaken governance reviews for the Co-operative Group, Post Office Limited and other organisations in the media, IT and healthcare. He is the joint author of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, the high-level strategy document for the International Co-operative Alliance.

Enterprise, faith and community seem to be intersecting with each other with increasing frequency and regularity in the modern world. Some might see this in terms of “markets, state and church”, but in a Greenbelt context it’s more about how these things come together in our own lives: in our places of work and education, as consumers, volunteers and as members of our secular and faith communities. There is more overlapping, with these apparently different areas spilling over into each other.

In this session titled “Cathedrals and Commerce”, we want to explore the two subjects contained in the title, but we want to approach them from the starting point of what’s going on at the grass-roots, and how enterprise, faith and community are coming together and crossing over. We have four speakers who are each going to give us their own insight on this, two from outside the church, two from inside. These four speakers will provide food for our own thought and reflection – and subsequent discussion about “Cathedrals and Commerce; the challenges they face”; with one eye on the door in case somebody marches in and decides to turn over the tables of the money changers once again.

Anthony Collins Solicitors are also partnering HeartEdge in one of three regional events this autumn to be held in Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh. Hosted by Rev Dr Sam Wells, these 'At the Heart. On the Edge.' events will include theology, ideas, solutions and support. In Birmingham, the programme has been developed by Anthony Collins Solicitors, Birmingham Churches Together, St Martin in the Bull Ring and Thrive Together Birmingham.



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Kate Rusby - Life In A Paper Boat.

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

"Sophia Hubs news and blogs on our fab recent events :)
  • Ros is moving on! And sort of staying.... read all about it here and Sophia Hubs changes 
  • We were very pleased with our Business of Greening Redbridge event - a community and business networking evening on 28 June. We are hoping that this may set the course for the green economy in Redbridge and Sophia Hubs and it affects us all. info here
  • We were also pleased with a very good event in Barkingside to celebrate Independent Retailer Day on 4th July with the Barkingside Festival. Read about it here and see the video. Hoping that this may lead to a bigger celebration in Redbridge next year. Info here
  • Our Ilford Green Pop Up Market is taking a month off in August and is re-launching on 9th September as a pilot environmental and community hub with a range of  activities/workshops/ demos each month. Info here
Coming up...
  • Hub Central workshop - tomorrow - Saturday 1-3. Creating Customer Value. £7.50 or £5.00 for members. info here
  • Regular workshops by Hub Central in Ilford Library - info here
  • Free and open source IT tools monthly workshop, 4th August 1--3. Ilford library. Info here
  • A week long residential, international training course for those working with youth 2-10th September in Bucks. A project of Adrian Gheorge and his start up from Redbridge. Info here
Don't forget...
This info is all on our help and support page and we try to keep it up to date

It has been an honour to work with the business community in supporting start-ups and to bridge the gap between the community and business sectors. And to meet so many wonderful people with so much skill and experience. I've loved the work and couldnt bear to leave and so our paths may cross with my Board duties.

Future mailings are likely to be sent from info@sophiahubs.com, so do add that to your address book.

With very best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge

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HeartEdge Mailer July 2017

Andy Turner writes:

"Welcome to the HeartEdge Mailer...

Our passion is growing Kingdom communities - via four C’s - congregations, culture, commercial activity and acts of compassion.

This month - Methodist minister Barbara Glasson on resilience, Rowan Williams on prayer, Al Barrett on after Grenfell, Tracy Ullman on gentrification.

Plus - how to better connect with your community, how to organise an event, and social enterprise beyond the cafe - examples from ‘Clean for Good’ and new HeartEdge members.
Find HeartEdge at Greenbelt! And HeartEdge dates this autumn. And Sam Wells on seventy-five years after Beveridge.
Enjoy? Tell your friends and like us on Facebook!"

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Greenbelt Festival: acts of the imagination.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Artlyst interview - Alexander de Cadenet

My latest interview for Artlyst is with Alexander de Cadenet, who will exhibit ‘Creation’ and a selection of ‘Life-Burgers’ at St Stephen Walbrook, where we will also host a conference, organised in partnership with Alex and Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine, that will explore the relationship between art and the spiritual dimension. The conference takes words spoken by Eckhart Tolle in an interview with Alex as inspiration, ”True art can play an important part in the awakening of humanity.”


Alex has said that “Being an artist is about having a voice in the world, a pure and authentic voice in a challenging world. It is a way of sharing personal insights and encounters with the world, of exploring the mysteries of our existence and our place in the grand scheme. Art is the intersection between the formless dimension and the world of form; it embodies our connection to nature or the intelligence that is responsible for our existences.”

He has recently founded Awakened Artists; a platform to showcase specially invited artists whose work accesses a deeper spiritual dimension. Awakened Artists is an international community of visual artists who believe that the production of art is a spiritual act and contributes towards the evolving consciousness of those that create it and also those that experience it. 

On the back of these initiatives, I wanted to find out more about his understanding of art as a way of exploring what gives life a deeper meaning and how this has evolved in relation to his own life journey. That is what we explore together in this interview.

My other Artlyst articles are:
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Beth Nielsen Chapman - How We Love.

Foyer display: Ali



The changing monthly display by the artists and craftspeoples group at St Martin-in-the-Fields in the Foyer of the Crypt during August is by Ali.

Each month a different member of the group will show an example of their work, so do look regularly to see the changing display.

The complementary pieces on display bring together Ali's sewing skills and her experience, in 2009, of breast cancer.

Brart I and Brart II were created from the contents of Ali's lingerie drawer after the experience of reconstructive breast surgery left her with a collection of beautiful but redundant bras. Sewing during convalescence enabled times of reflection and prayerful contemplation.

Since 2011, Ali has also shared this creative service with other women with breast cancer, showing the different ways that lost lingerie can be reclaimed and recycled into something beautiful. Learn more at: brart.co.uk.

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Delirious? - Love Is The Compass.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Londinium - The City's Roman Story



Author and historian, Tom Holland, and Chairman of Culture, Heritage and Libraries, Graham Packham, launched Londinium - The City's Roman Story on Thursday at London's Roman Amphitheatre.

The Londinium season of events enables visitors to enjoy a spectacular variety of events and activities as the City celebrates its Roman heritage. Explore the City of London’s Roman heritage with gladiator games, 3D animated projections, talks by leading historians including Mary Beard, outdoor films and archaeological tours in historic London sites.

The City of London is located on the original Roman settlement of Londinium. Founded around AD 50, Londinium grew to become a thriving town bustling with traders and people from every corner of the empire. This summer, 2,000 years on, the Romans return to the City with the Londinium season of events. Unearth the lost history and buried secrets of Roman London that lie beneath the City; explore London’s Roman baths, amphitheatre, Mithraeum and the Roman wall; and learn more about the history of London with a packed programme of interactive activities for all the family. Follow the City of London on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the history unfold, and share your own experience using #RomanLondon.


The autumn Discover & explore series at St Stephen Walbrook will be part of the ‘Londinium’ programme and will explore Rome, London & Christianity through music, prayers, readings and reflections. Highlights include St Paul in Rome, Constantine, and The Temple of Mithras and St Stephen Walbrook:
  • 25th September - St Paul in Rome
  • 2 October - St Peter in Rome
  • 9 October - The Early Church in Rome
  • 16 October – St Alban
  • 23 October – Constantine
  • 30 October – Christianity in Roman London
  • 6 November – The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook
  • 13 November – St Augustine
  • 20 November – St Mellitus
  • 27 November – St Erkenwald & St Ethelburga
Discover & explore has been described as "A really wonderful series of services; intelligent, thought provoking and hopeful - the perfect way to start your working week!"

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Nickel Creek - When In Rome.

Unravelling the complex genetic architecture of epilepsy

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit the Epilepsy Society's research centre in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, which is enabling the Society to carry out the most advanced epilepsy research in Europe and translate it into clinical practice. 

The state-of-the-art two-storey building integrates research with a medical unit, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite and therapeutic drug monitoring unit. It offers a spacious laboratory, four new consulting rooms, offices, a library, seminar room and video conferencing facilities. But above all it offers new hope for people with epilepsy.

One of the greatest challenges facing those treating people with epilepsy today is lack of knowledge about the underlying causes of epilepsy. Advanced scanning techniques enable the researchers to see the effects of seizures on a person’s brain. However, it is still not possible to explain how one single seizure happens – what is that final event that causes excess electrical activity in the brain to generate a seizure.

For 70 per cent of people with epilepsy, anti-epileptic drugs can control their seizures but a further 30 per cent do not respond to medication.

Research at this centre focuses on two distinct areas: brain imaging and genetics. One of the most significant innovations at the centre is the installation of a DNA sequencer. This has the potential to revolutionise the way epilepsy is diagnosed and treated based on a person’s DNA sequence or genome. It is a passport to the future and a gateway to earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatments.

Their vision is to unravel the complex genetic architecture of the epilepsies and to take new discoveries directly to patient care, so improving the lives of everyone with epilepsy. Epilepsy Society research centre is key to this vision.

Explore the cutting-edge technology in the research centre here. Step inside the laboratory and see how the DNA sequencer works. Find out more about the research projects taking place at the research centre. 

Epilepsy can be a life-changing diagnosis. Unpredictable seizures, loss of independence, side-effects of medication - all of these can have a devastating impact on someone's quality of life. Epilepsy Society is here to ensure everyone has the best possible chance at accurate diagnosis, treatment and personal support. Support their work by clicking here.

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Joy Division - These Days.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Windows on the world (355)


Brussels, 2016

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Rhiannon Giddens - Wayfaring Stranger.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

"To do something for others for a change instead of just being a selfish bastard"

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

For the last 26 years an annual Pilgrimage has been organised from St Martin-in-the-Fields to Canterbury to raise funds for our work with homeless people here in the centre of London. This memorable and picturesque four day walk from the steps of St Martin’s along the Pilgrims Way covers 74 miles. The journey ends in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral with the laying of flowers on the tomb of Revd Dick Sheppard.

On the Saturday of the Pilgrimage the weary Pilgrims are glad to stay overnight at Aylesford Priory. Their programme for the walk is tight, so there may not be much time to explore the Priory – showers and sleep are likely to be the priority – but, were they to do so, they would find marvellous ceramics throughout the Priory by the celebrated Polish artist and ceramicist, Adam Kossowski, who devoted much of his working life to places of Christian worship following his release from Soviet labour camp. He said: ‘…When I was so deep in this calamity and nearly dead I promised myself that if I came out of this subhuman land I would tender my thanks to God.’

At Aylesford Priory, he certainly did that. Kossowski spent the last 20 years of his life, until he died in 1986, narrating important Christian events and the history of the Carmelite Order through his craft. So much so that his work has been described as "a prayer in stone."

Among the Chapels that he decorated at the Priory is St Anne’s Chapel. This is a chapel which reflects the value of our families through walls with ceramics that tell the story of Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne as it is told in the apocryphal gospel of James. As you look around this predominantly green Chapel - green to reflect hope and new life – you see: an angel appear to Joachim in the fields telling him his prayers are answered; Joachim meeting his wife at the city gates and telling him she is pregnant at long last; The birth of Mary; and Anne and Mary going to the temple so Mary can be dedicated to the service of God.

The story of Anne and Joachim appears to be based heavily on that of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. A cult of devotion to Saint Anne is documented in the East in the 6th century, and had spread to the West by the 10th century. Devotion to Saint Joachim developed in the 14th century. The Church maintains their feast day both to emphasise God's plan from the beginning to send his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem fallen humanity; and also to show God's faithfulness in keeping his covenant with all generations. The feast day is traditionally a time to pray for families.

Families are essentially an incubator in which to learn about the reality of love. The Friars provide a guide to the different Chapels which can be visited at Aylesford Priority and this includes a prayer to say in each Chapel. The prayer for St Anne’s Chapel articulates a realism about our experience of family life that reflects what it would have been like for Mary growing up with her parents. The prayer begins by acknowledging the importance of the family at the heart of faith and the bringing of our own family before God to thank him for their presence in our life. It then continues, ‘You alone know the longings and struggles of each one of us, and you alone know our failures and regrets. Bless us with loving forbearance with one another. Heal any wounds that divide us and bring us together in eternal life with you.’

The reality of learning to love in families is bound up with longings and struggles, failures and regrets, loving forbearance, and the healing of wounds that divide us. If we allow ourselves to learn to love through these experiences, then we are enabled to love not just our own families but others outside our immediate family and friends as well. Some years ago a reporter from The Independent joined the Canterbury Pilgrimage. One of the pilgrims to which he spoke was a barrister and a judge, with a wife and kids and a comfortable life in west London. So what, he asked, had prompted him to leave all this behind for four days of the toughest walking he had ever done? The reply was, "As penance for my sins … and to do something for others for a change instead of just being a selfish bastard."

The reporter and that pilgrim both learnt through the Pilgrimage that while love may begin at home, it isn’t intended to end there. We can potentially learn love in our family, but if our love remains within our family unit then it is limited, restricted, selfish even. The love which Mary learnt from her parents and which Jesus then learnt from Mary and Joseph was a love that encompassed others, even the world itself! Just like that Judge and the Independent reporter we need to learn to look outside of the places where we are currently living comfortable lives to do something for others for a change instead of just being selfish.

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Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Artlyst article: Polish Art In Britain

My latest article for Artlyst focuses on Art Out of the Bloodlands: A Century of Polish Artists in Britain at the Ben Uri Gallery. This exhibition explores the contribution made by the largest migrant community to 20th/21st Century British Art by highlighting the work of Polish artists who have worked and continue to work in Britain. Featured artists include Jankel Adler, Janina Baranowska, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Stanislaw Frenkiel, Feliks Topolski and Alfred Wolmark, complemented by contemporary practitioners working in London now. Many of the featured works retain symbols of Polish national identity, from Catholicism and the cavalry, to the dark forests and traditional embroidery.

In the article I say that:

"Exile and rejection are themes with deep biblical roots and as significant numbers of Polish artists, in reaction and response, have been influenced by Roman Catholicism; it comes as no surprise to find such themes among their work and featuring in this exhibition. Bohusz-Szyszko and other exiled Polish artists such as Baranowska, Frenkiel, Adam Kossowski, Henryk Gotlib, Marek Zulawski, and Aleksander Zyw were part of a consistent but under-recognised strand of artists’ employing sacred themes which runs throughout the 20th century in the UK."

My other Artlyst articles are:
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Lal & Mike Waterson - Bright Phoebus.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Latest ArtWay Visual Meditation: 'Les Colombes' by Michael Pendry

In my latest Visual Meditation for ArtWay I reflect on Les Colombes, Michael Pendry's multi-media installation which was recently at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

"The flock of doves headed from the entrance of the church towards the sanctuary, where lies the answer to all the questions of our spiritual potential – who am I, where do I come from, where am I going? In answer to these questions, the descent of the Spirit in the bodily form of a dove tells us that we are the beloved sons and daughters of our Father God and that we are here to use our God-given abilities to do work for him that only we can do. Sam Wells says that: “When at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, Jesus wasn’t blown away – he was touched more deeply than words can say or eyes can perceive. That’s what this exhibition is about – and what’s more, it affirms that the Holy Spirit works through the humble hands of you and me."

My other ArtWay meditations include work by María Inés Aguirre, Giampaolo Babetto, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Christopher Clack, Marlene Dumas, Terry Ffyffe, Antoni Gaudi, Maciej Hoffman, Giacomo Manzù, Maurice NovarinaRegan O'CallaghanAna Maria Pacheco, John Piper, Albert Servaes and Henry Shelton.

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Valerie June - Long, Lonely Road.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Londinium and Discover & explore


From gladiator games to Boudica’s revenge, the Romans return to the City of London this summer with the Londinium season of events. Choose from family activities, themed performances, guided tours of Roman London and many more things to do during Londinium.

The autumn Discover & explore series at St Stephen Walbrook will be part of the ‘Londinium’ programme organised by the City of London and will explore Rome, London & Christianity through music, prayers, readings and reflections. 

Highlights include St Paul in Rome, Constantine, and The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook:
  • 25th September - St Paul in Rome
  • 2 October - St Peter in Rome
  • 9 October - The Early Church in Rome
  • 16 October – St Alban
  • 23 October – Constantine
  • 30 October – Christianity in Roman London
  • 6 November – The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook
  • 13 November – St Augustine
  • 20 November – St Mellitus
  • 27 November – St Erkenwald & St Ethelburga
Discover & explore has been described as "A really wonderful series of services; intelligent, thought provoking and hopeful - the perfect way to start your working week!"

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Christopher Walker - Mass of St Paul.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Windows on the world (354)


Brussels, 2016

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Noel Paul Stookey - Hymn.

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

My latest exhibition review for Church Times is of Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at the Serpentine Gallery. In the review I argue that Perry:

'may be the perfect artist for our troubled times, because he absorbs into himself and his creations a multiplicity of references, which he mirrors back to our culture, but refracted through the perspective of his dual identities.

This makes his work prophetic as it re-presents ourselves and our culture, but in ways that playfully challenge and criticise our notions of identity and the basis for these notions.'

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Peter, Paul & Mary - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

PRELUDES & VOLLENTERIES 1



Thursday 14 September, 6.00pm
St Stephen Walbrook (39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN).

Peter Sheppard Skærved begins his exploration of the 17th Century violin, inspired by the astonishing churches of the Square Mile. This series of salons will explores the dialogue between the great architecture of Wren, Hawksmoor and Hooke, and the work of the violin makers and composers whose instruments and music flooded in the London in the years after the Restoration.

St Stephen Walbrook is one of the most unashamedly Italianate of Wren’s astonishing City churches. It is the perfect space to hear one of the great early 17th Century Cremonese violins, by Girolamo Amati, in a salon programme focussing on the Northern Italian violin style of the 1600s.

Works for solo violin including.

Heinrich Biber – Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata XVI) ‘Guardian Angel, companion of Mankind’ and others by Tomasso Vitali, Giuseppe Torelli, Nicola Matteis, Biagio Marini. Played on a violin by Girolamo Amati (1628)

Plus world premiere: Peter Sheppard Skærved – ‘voil qe’m digaz cals mais vos plaz’ (Lombarda of Toulouse).

Tickets (limited number) available on Eventbrite and on the door, or reservations from ptrshpprdskrvd@aol.com .

Next concert in the Series: Preludes & Vollenteries 2: St Margaret Lothbury, 29th September 2017 6pm.

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Peter Sheppard Skærved - B-Minor Fantasie.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Economies of scarcity and abundance

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

The disciples were in a place of scarcity – ‘we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.’ Jesus says that the place of scarcity can be the place to find abundance – ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch’ (Luke 5. 1 - 11). When the disciples do as Jesus requests, they receive abundance – ‘they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.’ In order to receive God’s abundance, they have to utilize their abilities, skills or gifts as fishermen by sailing out into the deep water and putting down their nets.

The disciples found that the place of scarcity is the place where abundance can be found and this is also the witness of scripture. Sam Wells, the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, has said that ‘the Old Testament was written because God’s people in exile found it not a time of despair but one of renewal, not a time simply of losing the land but more wonderfully of gaining a new and deeper relationship with God.’ ‘The New Testament was written because the early Christians found that the execution of their Lord and Saviour was not the end of the story but the beginning, that his agony was the foretaste of glory, that his killers meant it for evil but God meant it for good.’

The key for the disciples in moving from scarcity to abundance was the use of their skills and abilities – their God-given gifts. John McKnight and Peter Block are pioneers of asset-based community development. In their book ‘The Abundant Community’ they talk about our consumer society as an economy of scarcity because it ‘constantly tells us that we are insufficient and that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside of our immediate community.’ Instead, they argue that ‘we can do unbelievable things by starting with our assets, not our deficits. We all have gifts to offer, even the most seemingly marginal among us. Using our particular assets (our skills, experience, insights and ideas) we have the God-given power to create a hope-filled life and can be the architects of the future where we want to live.’

This is true too for churches, which thrive when the gifts of all their members are released and they build on one another’s assets. The currency of the kingdom of God is of things that never run out. ‘The secret of happiness is learning to love the things God gives us in plenty. There’s no global shortage of friendship, kindness, generosity, sympathy, creativity, faithfulness, laughter, love. These are the currency of abundance.

The Church of today needs to rediscover his teaching because God gives us the abundance of the kingdom to renew the poverty of the church. In our generation God has given his Church a financial crisis, and this can only be for one reason: to teach us that abundance does not lie in financial security, and to show us that only in relationships of mutual interdependence, relationships that money obscures as often as it enables, does abundant life lie.

We are part of HeartEdge, a growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields and launched here, at St Stephen Walbrook, in February, which is seeking to do just that; to support the Church through rediscovery of this teaching.

The challenge for us as a church and as individuals is this, Are we going to live in the economy of scarcity, ‘the economy that is fine as far as it goes, but turns out not to go very far – the economy that only includes certain people, only buys certain things, only lasts a limited length of time – the economy of anxiety and scarcity?’ Or are we going to live in the economy of abundance, ‘the economy where the only use of wealth is to make friends and set people free, the economy in which you are never homeless and you cannot be destitute because you have spent your time and money making friends who will always welcome you into their homes – the economy of abundance, where generosity is the best investment? Which is it to be?’ If we live in the economy of scarcity we will spend our lives fearing for our jobs, our livelihoods, our reputations, our health, our families, our lives themselves. If we live in the economy of abundance we won’t fear anything. We’ll have the things that money can’t buy and we’ll know the things that hardship and even death can’t take away from us. We’ll have learned to love the things God gives us in plenty. We will be living truly abundant life.

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Simon Lole - The Father's Love.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Start:Stop - Doing our common business for the love of God


Bible reading

‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Meditation

Brother Lawrence was a member of the Carmelite Order in France during the 17th Century. He spent most of his life in the kitchen or mending shoes, but became a great spiritual guide. He saw God in the mundane tasks he carried out in the priory kitchen. Daily life for him was an ongoing conversation with God. He wrote: 'we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment.'

Brother Lawrence said:

‘Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?’

‘The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.’

‘Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.’

'We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.'

George Herbert’s poem ‘The Elixir’ (also sung as the hymn ‘Teach me my God and king in all things thee to see’) that, with these attitudes, drudgery is made divine. A servant who sweeps a room for love of God ‘makes that and the action fine.’ He claims that this attitude and approach:

‘is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.’

Prayer

Lord God, steer us away from means, methods, rules and devices for reminding us of Your love and presence with us. Instead, give us a simple desire to do our common business wholly for love of You.
Bring us into a consciousness of Your presence, as we do our common business wholly for the love of You.

May we see that times of business need not differ from times of prayer, as we need only to recognize God intimately present with us to address ourselves to Him every moment. Bring us into a consciousness of Your presence, as we do our common business wholly for the love of You.

May we not become weary of doing little things for the love of You, recognizing that You regard not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. Bring us into a consciousness of Your presence, as we do our common business wholly for the love of You.

Teach us to see You in all things, give thanks in all circumstances and rejoice at all times, as we pray constantly through the actions our common business. Bring us into a consciousness of Your presence, as we do our common business wholly for the love of You.

Blessing

Rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances. Doing little things and our common business for love of God. Recognising God in every moment and seeing Him in all things. May those blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us and remain with us always. Amen.

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George Herbert - Teach Me, My God And King..

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Windows on the world (353)


Worth, 2017

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Van Morrison - In The Garden.

Worth Abbey: At the Heart, On the Edge.























One hundred and eight members of the congregation, clergy, choir and C-Club members from St Martin-in-the-Fields gathered together this weekend at Worth Abbey; the theme of the weekend was At the Heart, On the Edge. Jane Williams, Neil MacGregor, Tim Bissett, the Disability Advisory Group and many others from our community led reflections, along with an evening of Great Sacred Choral Classics: Allegri Miserere in the Abbey Church with the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Revd Dr Sam Wells.

It was wonderful to be back at Worth Abbey and to be there together with so many from the St Martin's community. Our Education Committee had organised a particularly full and varied programme. 

The weekend as a whole was wonderful but highlights for me included insights from: Jane Williams on truthful prayer in the Psalms that enable us to anger and concern; Neil McGregor exploring our human need to share the sacred by expressing what is beyond our grasp; our Disability Advisory Group speaking from lived experience about reclaiming the healing miracles in the Gospels; a Theology Group that began by reflecting on reasons why the central act in human history occurred on the edge of Empire and influence; our Choir singing Allegri's Miserere in the resonant acoustic of the Abbey church with reflections from Sam Wells; and a special closing Eucharist drawing all our activities and reflections together.  

I gave an update on HeartEdge, the growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas initiated by St Martin's. Tim Bissett did the same in relation to the Frontline Network, which equips and supports those on the front line working with homeless and vulnerably housed people.

In addition there was also time for socialising, games, children's activities, walks, an art activity, a film, Tai Chi session, a tour of the Abbey and worship both with our community and with the monks. The art activity, led by Andrew and Helen Carter and Alice Bree, created a wall hanging depicting swallows darting to the centre of two large circles, as well as also being on the edge.

Phyllis Santa-Maria was one of those who came. She reflected: 'Wonderful St Martin-in-the-Fields Parish weekend at Worth Abbey, East Sussex. It's my fourth one, done biennially, and hard to believe each one is better than the last. Our theme, 'At the heart. On the edge.' focused on how we as a church in the heart of London and being with people on the edges of society and the economic mainstream can deepen our commitment to ourselves and our communities for making the world a better place. We prayed, learned from each other and guests, had a great, stimulating time.' 

Since I last visited Worth Abbey the monks have commissioned Heatherwick Studio to design and develop a furniture strategy as part of wider renovations to the Abbey church. The furniture package included pew benches, choir stalls with misericord seats and desks, benches, credence tables, server seats and reconciliation (confessional) rooms. Heatherwick has embedded curved threads of ash into the dark walnut pews.

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Gregorio Allegri - Missa Vidi Turbam Magnam.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Worthship






One hundred and eight members of the congregation, clergy, choir and C-Club members of St Martin-in-the-Fields will gather together this weekend at Worth Abbey; the theme of the weekend is At the Heart, On the Edge. Jane Williams, Neil MacGregor, Tim Bissett, the Disability Advisory Group and many others from our community will be leading reflections, along with an evening of Great Sacred Choral Classics: Allegri Miserere in the Abbey Church with the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Revd Dr Sam Wells. We hold both the congregation at St Martin's and the congregation at Worth in our prayers.

Here's my Thought for the Week for this week's Parish Newsletter at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which relates to the Parish Weekend:

The church at Worth Abbey, designed by Francis Pollen, is an incredible space; subterranean, circular and with a central lantern lighting the cavernous space.

In a poem written there during a past retreat, I wrote of this lantern as a channel for prayer and praise to reach God:

Down dimly-lit stairwells
into a cavernous immensity
of curved brick, concrete and darkness
to stand still, transfixed,
in silent expanse
focused on the glow
and gleam
of the white stone table
over which
the crucified Christ hangs
from concrete cross-beams.
Morning light softly
infiltrates,
casting shadows,
bringing the dawn.
Monks move like shadows,
spectral figures flitting
between material pillars,
robes rustle rhythmically
and doors close echoingly
as they glide
to private devotions
and public prayer.
A zither sends its solitary note
to circumnavigate
the circuitous void
where every sound is magnified
and heard.
Dual voices lead
the hushed plainsong chant
that ascends.
Our simple psalm tones
rise like smoke, like incense,
as we are broken
and opened
by luminous harmonies.
The space and acoustic
act and appear as
the inside of a hi-fi speaker;
the lantern, like an industrial chimney,
funnels the aromatic incense
of prayer and praise
to tease and to please
the senses of God.

Whether we gather for worship this Sunday at Worth Abbey or at St Martin's, our praises will be a sweet aroma that will be received by and will delight God.

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Gregorio Allegri - Miserere.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Specks, Logs and Projective Identification

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

"Amen, you wonderful priest." The climatic scene in the BBC drama Broken had Fr Michael, the central character, sharing the Eucharist at a Mass for his dead mother, with each of his parishioners saying to him as they received, "Amen, you wonderful priest".

Events had conspired to create a crisis of faith for him at this point in the drama and he had planned to step down as a priest as a result. We presume though that the affirmation he receives from his parishioners at this low moment in his ministry enables him to continue.

Broken is an excellent example of a drama based on a good priest. There have been others in recent years; the comedy Rev and the film Calvary, for example. What they all have in common is the understanding that a good priest is not perfect.

In Broken, Fr Michael clearly struggles with his own demons at the same time that he comes alongside his parishioners to support them in their struggles. Indeed, he is enabled to support them with empathy and understanding because he is honest about his own struggles. It is this honesty and vulnerability which makes him 'good', not any sense of supposed moral perfection.

In our Gospel passage (Luke 6. 37 - 42) Jesus illustrates how easy we find it to criticise others - to see the speck in another’s eye, whilst ignoring the log in our own. Jesus is calling us to become, like Fr Michael, aware primarily of our own faults and failings (this is, after all, the point of including confession in church services) and then to use this awareness not to prevent us from acting (because we are overwhelmed by guilt) but instead to use it as a spur to acting to support and enable others out of the empathy and understanding that results from our awareness of our own shortcomings.

‘Maybe you know the saying, "When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you." Jesus had a version of this wisdom when he said, "Don't focus on the speck in your brother's eye while ignoring the log in your own eye." When cruel accusations fly, we all need to hear the voice of reason that says, "Look in the mirror … You might just be talking about yourself" …

We all know what it's like to get caught up in the heat of the moment. When we cannot bear to see something painful in ourselves, we want to get rid of it. We want to relocate the ugliness we feel about ourselves and put it into someone else. We say those bad feelings do not apply to us; they apply to someone else. The fancy psychoanalytic term for this unconscious process is projective identification. We get rid of the unwanted feelings (projection) and identify them as belonging to someone else (identification).' (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/headshrinkers-guide-the-galaxy/201109/three-fingers-pointing-back-you)

Jesus is calling for us to look within ourselves for our faults before we ever start pointing them out in others. Another proverb covers similar ground: There is so much good in the worst of us, / There is so much bad in the best of us / That it ill behoves any of us /To find fault with the rest of us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted this proverb when he said, ‘There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.’ In reflecting on this quote, Katha Waters, Bookstore and Resource Center Manager at The King Center, suggests that we often don’t see things as they are, but instead see things as we are. People often seem to judge others not based on the real person, but on their own prejudices. Since perception is reality to most people, we often misjudge others based on misconceived generalizations. As we have been reflecting, no one is perfect, no one is all good or bad. To understand this should be to have better tolerance for people and not let hate overcome us. So, next time we are tempted to criticise another person, maybe we should stop to think whether we are really judging them or are really looking at a reflection of ourselves (http://www.thekingcenter.org/blog/mlk-quote-week-good-and-evil-all-us).

The point of this isn’t that we become overwhelmed by guilt or a sense of failure. Instead, Jesus is calling us to become, like Fr Michael, aware primarily of our own faults and failings in order to use this awareness as a spur to acting to support and enable others out of the empathy and understanding that results from our awareness of our own shortcomings.

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Nina Simone - I Think It's Going To Rain Today.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Start:Stop - This is his commandment


Bible reading

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action … Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. (1 John 3. 16 – 24)

Meditation

In a recent episode of Broken, the gritty drama on the BBC about a Roman Catholic priest and his parishioners, Father Michael had to mediate when one of his parishioner’s Helen Oyenusi, the mother of a son with mental health issues who has been killed by the Police, was visited by her devout brother, Daniel Martin, who then clashed violently with her gay neighbour, Carl McKenna, as all were trying to come to terms with her son, Vernon's, death. In a moving statement at the end of the episode, Helen spoke about the way in which Carl’s mother had loved her son and simply accepted the reality of his sexuality. She said that, ‘Her love was unconditional and that’s exactly how it should be.’

That is what the writer of the Letter of John also says: ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’ He also said that ‘We know love by this, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us.’ That is unconditional love, and, as a result, ‘we ought to lay down our lives for one another’ because this is Christ’s commend to us – God’s commandment is ‘that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.’

Jesus and his first disciples lived in a culture where there were 613 commandments in the Torah, the Law of Moses. The Pharisees had then taken these 613 commandments and multiplied these commandments by creating detailed instructions about the ways in which each of these commandments was to be kept. Keeping all of these additional rules was a heavy burden for all who tried to do so and a point of tension and conflict for Jesus and the Pharisees.

Jesus, by contrast, taught that love was the fulfilling of the Law. Instead of keeping the endless detail of the regulations created by the Pharisees, Jesus said that we should simply love God, ourselves and our neighbours and that all the Law of Moses is actually designed to that end. This was liberating teaching which brought rest for those weighed down by the burden of trying to keep hundreds of commandments and thousands of additional regulations.

As Christians we are not called to keep 613 specific individual Commandments and are certainly not called to practice the additional detailed instructions relating to them devised by the Pharisees. Instead, there is one simple command which fulfils all the Law, when genuinely practised, and that is the love of which Helen Oyenusi spoke, unconditional love.

The one commandment of God is that we should ‘believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.’ All who obey this commandment abide in God, and he abides in them. We know what this love is like because Jesus laid down his life for us and, therefore, this one commandment requires everything of us; that we, too, ought to lay down our lives for others.

Prayers

Your love flows like a stream into the ocean of your Grace. Your love encircles this world, displays your faithfulness. Your love is patient and kind, brings wholeness and true peace. Your love is all we desire to heal our brokenness. As all things pass and fade away love remains eternally. We pray that our lives would be filled and overflowing with the power of your love so we can make a difference in this world and bring honour to you. We ask for your help in reminding us that the most important things are not what we do outwardly, it’s not based on any talent or gift, but the most significant thing we can do in this life is simply to love you and to choose to love others. Lord thank you that your love is kind. Help us to extend kindness to others.

Lord thank you that your love is patient. Help us show patience with those around us. Lord thank you that true love is not jealous. Help us cast aside feelings of jealousy or hatred towards others. Lord thank you that your love does not brag and is not arrogant. Help us not to live with pride or arrogance, but to choose to walk with humility and grace. Lord thank you that true love does not act unbecomingly. Lord help us to extend kindness instead of rudeness towards others. Help us to lay aside the critical tone and tearing down with our words, so that we can truly walk in peace. Lord thank you that true love does not seek its own. Lord help us not to live selfishly, looking only to our own interests. Lord thank you that your love is kind. Help us to extend kindness to others.

Help us to love as you love. Fill us with your Spirit so that we can choose what is best. We are weak Lord, but we know also, that even when we are weak, you are strong within us. Thank you that it’s not all up to us. Thank you that you equip us to face each day with the power of your love, your forgiveness, and your grace. Lord thank you that your love is kind. Help us to extend kindness to others.

The Blessing

O Lord, to you we raise this our offering of praise for the love you have shown us since the moment of our birth. May we love You in all things and above all things. May we reach the joy which You have prepared for us in Heaven. And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest on us and remain with us now and forever. Amen.

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Victoria Williams - You R Loved.