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Sunday, 16 December 2018

Community Carols & other Services at St Martin-in-the-Fields

Here are the details of the main services at St Martin-in-the-Fields in the final week of Advent and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:

Community Carols
Tuesday 18 December 2018
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Join us for this joyous celebration of the Christmas season, featuring well-known carols specially chosen by those who work around Trafalgar Square. The service is led by Revd Dr Sam Wells with the Choral Scholars, Occasional Singers and Children’s Voices of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Doors open 5.45pm. All are welcome. No tickets required but come early to be certain of a seat.


The fourth Advent Candle is lit.
Sunday 23 December 2018, 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Crib Family Service

A lively service of readings and carols particularly suitable for younger members of the family and including the Blessing of the Crib.
Monday 24 December 2018, 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Parish Carol Service

A beautiful candlelit celebration of the Christmas story.
Monday 24 December 2018, 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Parish Carol Services

A beautiful candlelit celebration of the Christmas story.
Monday 24 December 2018, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Midnight Mass

The climax of all our Advent preparation and Christmas worship as we light the Christmas candle and welcome the Christ child.
Monday 24 December 2018, 11:00 pm - 11:59 pm

Eucharist Service

Join us as we celebrate Christmas with our combined English and Chinese congregations.
Tuesday 25 December 2018, 10:30 am - 11:30 am

The BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal with St Martin-in-the-Fields raises money to transform the lives of homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK. The St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity directly supports people through The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields and across the UK through the Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) and the Frontline Network.

'On Christmas Night' - A Christmas Celebration from St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Martin's Voices - Recorded in St Martin-in-the-Fields 4th - 5th September 2018. This brand new recording from St Martin's Voices, St Martin-in-the-Fields, has just been released. Directed by Andrew Earis, with organist Ben Giddens, this CD is a mix of the traditional with modern arrangements, and is the perfect gift for any music lover.


St Martin's Voices - The Christ Child.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Windows on the world (425)

London 2016


Rumer - Aretha.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Lifelines: Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt

Great to have the launch of Lifelines: Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt by Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney at St Martin-in-the-Fields this afternoon.

'Life is beautiful . . . and baffling. Any new day may be lit up with beauty and wonder but the next overcast with pain and sadness.

Our time on earth is shot through with questions so vast that we can’t get our minds around them. Humans have always tried to find ways to respond to those questions. It’s usually called ‘wisdom’, and before writing was thought up, it was handed down in stories.

Some of this was bottled in religion and became congealed into creeds and regulations. That’s all right for some, but many of us don’t want to be told what to believe, we’re shy of certainty, suspicious of authority.

We still live with the questions though. Like how the big moments – the birth of a child or the death of a friend – can leave us wondering about how to live in the small moments.

That’s what this book is about. A collection of fieldnotes on how we can live this life, and live it well.

From poets and songwriters, activists and artists, from people with faith, and people without. We’ve nicked their best ideas and added some of our own. Clues and pointers, rather than terms and conditions.'

Martin Wroe studied theology before becoming a staff writer on The Independent and the Observer. He won a Sony Gold Radio Award for the Radio 1 series The Big Holy One, and co-authored, with Malcolm Doney, The Rough Guide to a Better World. The author of several poetry books that no-one has noticed, he also produces collections of stories about people in the north London community where he lives. He is a volunteer vicar in his local parish and a contributor to Thought for the Day on Radio 4. He keeps chickens.

Malcolm Doney trained as a fine artist at what Jarvis Cocker called St Martin’s College - now Central Saint Martin’s UAL - before pursuing a writing career in journalism, advertising and broadcasting. He has written ten books, including, with his wife Meryl, Who Made Me? , a sex guide for seven-year-olds. He is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, and Radio 4’s Something Understood. He lives in the village of Blythburgh, Suffolk, where he is a volunteer priest in the parish church, sometimes joined by his horse, Neville.


Harry Baker - Paper People.

HeartEdge in the New Year

'At the heart. On the edge.' - Hamilton, Wednesday 6 February 10 am - 3.30 pm

We invite you to 'At the heart. On the edge', a day hosted by Rev Joanne Hood, Minister of St John's Parish Church of Scotland, and Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the- Fields, which includes theology, ideas, solutions and support for re-imagining Church. A programme has been developed jointly by St John's Church and St Martin’s.

Among those contributing are: The Very Rev Ian Barcroft, Rev Ross Blackman, Rev Liz Crumlish, Revd Jonathan Evens, Rev Dr Doug Gay,Kenneth Johnston, The Most Revd Mark Strange, Andy Turner and Rev Dr George Whyte. The event also features Rev Dr Robin Hill on ‘Sing with the Swing Band’.

The day, to be held at St John's Church on Wednesday 6 February 10 am to 3.30 pm, will introduce: HeartEdge, which is a growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields. HeartEdge aims to catalyse Kingdom Communities:
  • For those working at the heart of commerce, culture and community
  • With those at the margins and on the edge
  • Building association, learning, development and resource.
To register for your free ticket click here.

Inspired to Follow Workshop - Thursday 14th February, 2.00pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields

How to explore the Christian faith using a more open-ended approach? How to engage a more visually-focused culture? ‘Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story’ is one resource developed by St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The discipleship course uses fine art paintings from the National Gallery, a Biblical story and a short theological reflection to help people explore the Christian faith today. Learn about the genesis of ‘Inspired to Follow’ and discuss its use with Revd Jonathan Evens, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Free to HeartEdge members, £10 for others. To register click here.

For more information contact Jonathan, Associate Vicar for Partnership Development, at

Nazareth Community Workshop - Wednesday 27th February, 2.30pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields

The Nazareth Community was established at St Martin-in-the-Fields in March 2018, now with over fifty members, from the congregation and other churches.

The workshop will be led by Revd Richard Carter, and is an opportunity to learn about the life of the community, and to consider how it could be applied in your own contexts. The afternoon will mirror the Saturday morning sharing time, and will begin in the church.

The session will include: Welcome and introduction; Prayer & silence; Talk; Q&A; Refreshments; Small groups; and Close. There is the option to stay on for Bread for the World, at 6.30pm- a key component of the community’s worship.

Tickets are free for HeartEdge members and £10 for others. To register click here.

For more information, contact


Julie Miller - River Where Mercy Flows.

Tearing down, raising up, at the heart, on the edge

Here is my sermon from this morning's Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Picture a massive road building project cutting through hills and valleys to create a new straight, level road. The vision from Isaiah that John the Baptist quotes in our Gospel reading (Luke 3: 1 – 6) is one that seems to require bulldozers. It reads like the specification for a new motorway or by-pass. “Get the road ready … make a straight path for travel.” “Every valley must be filled up” and “every hill and mountain levelled off.” It doesn’t sound very environmentally friendly but, like the current project on the A14, may result in major archaeological finds.

John the Baptist uses this image to describe his role in preparing for the coming of Jesus. His aim is for the whole human race to see God’s coming salvation. The idea is that everything that would obscure or obstruct sight of God’s salvation would be torn down or raised up so that throughout the entire world there would be no obstacle able to prevent people from seeing God’s salvation. Everyone should be able to see Jesus because there would be nothing impeding our view; no mountains blocking our vision and no valleys from within which we would be unable to look out. The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry was that everyone should clearly see who God is and what God does. Picture a vast flat expanse across which the light of Christ can be seen from wherever you stand and you will get the intended idea.

By quoting from Isaiah, John is making clear that he is recovering the original vision for God’s people to be a light to the nations. When Abraham was called by God he was told that he would become a great and mighty nation and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. The nation founded through his obedience to God’s call was to be a blessing to all nations. The people of Israel were reminded periodically of this call, as in Isaiah 49:6 where we read:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

The prophecies collected together in Isaiah also show the kind of place that Jerusalem was intended to become; a place to which all nations could come to hear from God:

“Many nations will come streaming to it, and their people will say,
‘Let us go to up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God.
He will teach us what he wants us to do;
we will walk in the paths he has chosen.
For the Lord’s teaching comes from Jerusalem;
from Zion he speaks to his people.” (Isaiah 2. 2b & 3a)

Instead of that vision coming to pass, by the time of Jesus, the Temple had become a symbol of Jewish identity with all sorts of people excluded from worship unless they conformed to the detailed requirements of the Mosaic Law. The Temple and the worship in it prevented the free access to God that God wished to see for people of all nations.

In Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and post-resurrection commission to his disciples, we see him tearing down barriers that prevented sight of God and raising up those whose position in society excluded them from worship. In his ministry Jesus expressly went to those who were excluded from Temple worship, including them both by accepting them (and teaching that they will enter the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders) and by healing them so they could actively return to the Temple worship. When he died the curtain separating people from the most holy place in the Temple was torn in two, showing that access to God was now open to all. Jesus also prophesied that the Temple itself would be destroyed and that when this happened his disciples should take his message of love to all nations.

As an Iona Community liturgy puts it, Jesus was ‘Lover of the unlovable, toucher of the untouchable, forgiver of the unforgivable, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, writing heaven’s pardon over earth’s mistakes. The Word became flesh. He lived among us, He was one of us.’ As Christ’s followers today, we inherit the task of putting into practice what Jesus has achieved through his life, death and resurrection. We are the people today who are called to work towards that Isaianic vision of nations streaming to learn what Israel’s God wants them to do, settling disputes among the great nations, hammering swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, and never again preparing to go to war. To do that we follow the up and down vision of Isaiah and John the Baptist; taking down barriers and raising up those who have been brought low.

As was the case for Jesus hearing John the Baptist quote the vision of Isaiah, we too stand at a point in history when the need of a broad and challenging vision for change is placed before us. Our Vicar Sam Wells has suggested that we live in a world that is pervaded by beauty, goodness, energy, creativity, trust, gentleness, joy and love but which is poisoned by violence, hatred, cruelty and fear. What our world needs most of all are communities of trust and support and love that show the kind of life that is possible when we believe that God is with us and rest in the hope that God’s ways will finally prevail.

We don’t have to invent these communities because God has already done so – in the call of Abraham and Jacob to be God’s people Israel, and when the Holy Spirit was sent on the dispirited apostles on the day of Pentecost. We’ve been given thousands of them all round the country and millions all round the world. We’ve been given the church. Yet we also live at a time and in a society where the church is getting smaller; and the church is getting narrower. Those who regularly attend worship are much fewer; and the church’s reputation and energy are becoming associated with initiatives that are introverted and often lack the full breadth of the gospel.

The vision that John the Baptist shared with Jesus in his time was an up and down vision of tearing down and raising up. That vision was necessary preparation for seeing Jesus but when we see Jesus we gain a different vision; an in and out vision, a vision of centre and circumference, of being at the heart and on the edge. By being in the godhead, Jesus was in the heart of God but chose to be on the edge by becoming a human being. Although he remained in the centre of God’s will by being the embodiment of the very heart of God, that led him to place himself on the edge as he took onto his shoulders the weight of the world’s sorrows and found himself temporarily separated from God. Jesus gives us a vision of being both at the heart and on the edge.

We have claimed that vision for ourselves here at St Martin’s seeing ourselves as being at the heart of London, the nation, and the church, while also seeing our calling as to be alongside those on the edge through being excluded, ignored or oppressed by society or church. We have then created in HeartEdge, our ecumenical network of churches, a means of sharing that vision more widely by fostering, catalysing and facilitating renewal on a national scale.

HeartEdge seeks to catalyse kingdom communities – i.e. it aims to foster, not to impose; it sees the kingdom as God’s gift to renew the church, rather than as a mission-field to be conformed to the church’s image; and it sees churches as lively and dynamic communities, rather than defensive and narrow congregations. At over 50 churches, HeartEdge is already big enough for communities to mentor one another, to offer consultancy days to one another, and for larger gatherings to offer an exchange of ideas, encouragement and challenge. We aspire for it not to create clones of St Martin’s, but to become the national embodiment of those committed to the vision to be ‘At the heart. On the edge.’

HeartEdge seeks to share the vision that the heart of the gospel is that God is most often made known among those on the edge and that the church is at its best when it speaks to the heart but takes risks on the edge. This vision not only renews the church but, through that renewal, speaks into the ways in which our world is poisoned by violence, hatred, cruelty and fear offering renewal of society more widely.

The visions of taking down and raising up and of being at the heart and on the edge are Advent visions; visions that that enable us to see Christ’s coming. Isaiah and John the Baptist tell us that God is seen when barriers that exclude are taken down and those who have been brought low are raised up. Jesus’ revelation of God shows that those at the centre can be alongside those on the edge and will be changed as a result.

So, God is seen through an up and down vision that has a vertical axis and also an in and out vision which has a horizontal axis. Pushing these analogies as far as possible the vertical axis equates to the north-south axis on a compass while the horizontal axis equates to the east-west axis, meaning that all the points on the compass are encompassed by these visions. As Isaiah prophesised, all people will see God’s salvation, or, as John Oxenham has it, ‘In Christ there is no east or west, / in him no south or north; / but one great fellowship of love / throughout the whole wide world.’ May that vision become reality for us. Amen.


Christ's Hospital Choir - How Shall I Sing That Majesty.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Encounter Series Videos

Encounter Series

The Autumn Lecture Series at St Martin-in-the-Fields featured lectures which focused on the theme of encounter. How are we changed by the people, events or objects we encounter when we meet them face-to-face? How do prejudices shift? How are new insights born? What inspires us to new ways of being and relating to God and to others? How do we become who we truly are through those we meet? How do we encounter God in our lives? In each of these lectures prominent and inspirational leaders, thinkers and practitioners speak from a personal but also public perspective about the way such encounters have changed the course of their lives.

This year, for the first time, we recorded the Autumn Lecture Series. Videos of Encounter 2018 are now available through our website. A study guide produced for churches wishing to use the videos with their congregations is available from

To watch Sam Wells introducing the Series click here

To watch Richard Carter introducing the speakers click here

To watch Rowan Williams Encountering the Other click here

To watch Christianity Encountering Islam (filmed at Baitul Futuh Mosque) click here

To Watch Encountering London click here

To watch Encountering Jesus of Nazareth
click here

To watch Encountering the Sacred click here

To watch Encountering God click here
The Encounters exhibition by Nicola Green which was shown at St Martin's during the Autumn Lecture Series is accompanied by a book published by Brepols publishers titled Encounters: The Art of Interfaith Dialogue.


Artlyst interview & ArtWay meditation

My latest interview for Artlyst has just been published. This interview is with Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, editor-in-chief of ArtWay, a website which seeks to stimulate reflection on the role of images in church and open up the world of the visual arts to the Church.

In this interview, I discuss with Marleen the inspiration and vision for ArtWay, the legacy left by her father Hans Rookmaaker and her plans for new projects. Marleen intends ArtWay to showcase and open up what has been and is being written about art, whether popularly or scholarly, philosophically or theologically, meditatively or liturgically oriented. In this way, she hopes it will be a platform for reflection about art and to stimulate dialogue enabling the Christian world to become familiar with the quality art that is increasingly available:

'Christianity to me is about all dimensions of life. The world with everything in it is God’s creation, and Christ gave his life to redeem all of reality. This means that all of life is ‘Christian’ and may concern Christian artists, whether they portray the beauty of a bird in the sky or the outrage of a refugee having to live without the comfort of a place she can call her home. This broader view of the Christian life was at the basis of much Dutch 17th-century art – which had its roots in Calvinism – in which various genres besides biblical scenes gained prominence, such as portraits, landscapes and still life's, church interiors, domestic scenes and genre paintings.'

The interview includes Marleen's reflection on the writings of Hans Rookmaaker and so this interview joins two earlier interviews - with Jonathan A. Anderson and Alastair Gordon - which also include reflections on RookMaaker's legacy.

My latest visual meditation for ArtWay has also just been published. Gilly Szego's Mother and Child
prompts reflections on the reality that migrants 'are not fundamentally a threat and a danger': 'They are fundamentally a good thing. We’re all migrants or the sons and daughters thereof; Jesus was a migrant too. To forget that is to forget who we are and to forget who God is.'

My other ArtWay meditations include work by María Inés Aguirre, Giampaolo Babetto, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Alexander de Cadenet, Christopher Clack, Marlene Dumas, Terry Ffyffe, Antoni Gaudi, Nicola GreenMaciej Hoffman, Giacomo Manzù, Michael Pendry, Maurice Novarina, Regan O'Callaghan, Ana Maria Pacheco, John Piper, Albert Servaes, Henry Shelton and Anna Sikorska.

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Kamasi Washington - Truth.

Windows on the world (424)

Kelveden Hatch, 2018


M Ward - Miracle Man.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Foyer Display: Inga Tolchard

‘The drummers’ (2015, acrylic on canvas, 92cm x 62cm) and ‘The fan girls’ (2015, acrylic on canvas, 80cm x 60cm) by Inga Tolchard

St Martin-in-the-Fields is home to several commissions and permanent installations by contemporary artists. We also have an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, as well as a group of artists and craftspeople from the St Martin’s community who show artwork and organise art projects on a temporary basis.

One of the initiatives from this group is a changing display of work by the group members or artists linked to the group. Each month a different artist shows examples of their work, so, if you are able, do return to see the changing display.

Inga Tolchard is a London/Kent based artist. This pair of paintings is set in Bermuda and show a local parade in Hamilton. The paintings, showing local Bermudians, are based on reference photographs taken in Hamilton.


David Axelrod - Songs Of Innocence.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

3 Psalms, Art Songs & Spirituals, Spiritual Jazz

Andy Mackay says of his new recording 3 Psalms

"I have long been fascinated by this collection of ancient poetry and song which has permeated our cultural life. I have tried to reflect this by using the original Hebrew and Latin - the language in which they were written - as well as 17th Century English of the Book of Common Prayer. People of faith will find themselves in familiar territory of prise and mystery and worship while atheists and agnostics can join the extraordinary debate in which the Psalmists sometimes turn from a feeling that God is totally absent or unknowable to arguing with Him because He isn’t doing what they want!"

Free jazz pioneer and civil rights activist Archie Shepp is presenting a new project revisiting his ‘60s output where he explored both his connections to Africa and the civil rights movement that swept America. Kevin le Gendre noted that the spirit of protest "pervades the black church, a haven for African-Americans and touchstone for Civil Rights activists": 

‘Absolutely, you can’t really separate them from the periods that inspired them... slavery, oppression, injustice, he says before putting the current incumbent of the White House in the dock. ‘We’ve always needed spirituals. Donald Trump only represents problems that have existed in our society for centuries. It would be impossible for Trump to have found so much support and so many ears willing to listen without the fact that he was working in fertile soil. Racism and prejudice was already there and he was very much on time for those people who have so long courted fascist ideas. He’s not alone in the world. If we look at Austria and Europe (Sweden of late) in general (at what’s happening there, it’s frightening).'"

Goin' Home is a studio album by Shepp and pianist Horace Parlan. A jazz and gospel album, Goin' Home features Shepp and Parlan's interpretations of African-American folk melodies and spirituals. Its title is an allusion to Shepp's return to his African cultural roots. Shepp had never recorded spirituals before and was overcome with emotion during the album's recording because of the historical and cultural context of the songs.

The rise of Kamasi Washington and his 3-volume album “The Epic” marked an interesting point in recent jazz history as increasing numbers of jazz musicians started exploring spiritual jazz, where the divine meets spontaneity, expressiveness, and eclecticism. Stingray DJAZZ has highlighted five spiritual UK jazz acts:
  • Maisha: Drawing influences from the music of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, as well as West African and Afro-Beat rhythms, the act released their debut EP “Welcome To A New Welcome” in 2016. Led by the drummer Jake Long, Maisha also features one of the biggest raising jazz stars - saxophonist Nubya Garcia.
  • Shabaka Hutchings: The virtuoso saxophonist, composer, and musical leader, Hutchings has been exploring the spirituality aspect in jazz via most of his musical projects: Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming, as well as Shabaka And The Ancestors. His sound has been inspired by many elements found across African continent.
  • Matthew Halsall: Trumpeter Matthew Halsall is probably the most spiritually sounding trumpeter on the jazz map right now. His music has this mesmerizing atmosphere that blends less conventional instruments such as a harp, or flute, together with distinct percussive sounds, slow tempos, and modality. The type of jazz played by him has its roots in different qualities of life: calmness, mindfulness, and above all - spiritualness.
  • Dwight Trible: Dwight Trible has shaped a unique and spiritually saturated sound. Having performed with artists, such as Pharoah Sanders and Kamasi Washington, Trible is perhaps the only true spiritual jazz singer out there at the moment, which gives him a cult status among many jazz fans as well as like-minded musicians.
  • Nat Birchall: One of the lesser known spiritual jazz musicians on the list, Nat Birchall, released his first spiritual jazz record in 1999. Ever since, the saxophonist has been an active member of the UK jazz community. His latest release “Cosmic Language” (Jazzman Records, 2018) combines the already established spiritual jazz elements with classical Indian music, meditation, as well as his favorite instrument - harmonium. Yet, it is the small pump up organ that really defines the sound of Brichall’s music at this moment, giving it Zen-like atmosphere and filling it with the particular energy, which can only be found among classic spiritual jazz musicians, such as Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders.

Archie Shepp & Horace Parlan ‎– Goin' Home.

Windows on the world (423)

Pollenca, 2018


Sam Phillips - Teilhard.

Friday, 30 November 2018

The micro and the macro

The micro and the macro can be contrasted through exhibitions of photography at the Large Glass and Flowers Galleries.

Guido Guidi: Per Strada is a selection of 27 prints by the Italian photographer, to coincide with the publication 'Per Strada’. These photographs were made by Guidi from 1980 to 1994, along the Via Emilia – an ancient Italian road connecting Milan with the Adriatic Sea, which passes close to his home in Cesena.

Guidi's métier is close observation of ordinary things - the peripheral, the overlooked and ordinary - and this is what constitutes beauty and life both on and around the via Emilia, as he explained in a recent interview:

"It is a way of bowing down before things. And that is the religious aspect, a respect for things, for the blade of grass and wanting to give back by means of a precise photograph, where the execution of the detail is perfect, absolute, with no grain. The photograph must be absolute, transparent and cannot be corrected and reviewed later. As Didi-Huberman says, for the ancient painters of the 1400s, the act of imitagere or copying nature was in itself an act of devotion. Not necessarily mastery or technical virtuosity but an act of devotion towards things, the “things which are nothing” as Pasolini says.”

For Guidi, as Charlotte Higgins has remarked, ‘his work is not about the decisive moment but the “provisional moment” – the idea that this moment is one of a procession of many.[i]’ Very often, his images ‘show some kind of aperture – a doorway, a window, the arches of a portico, even the edge of the lens itself.’ A photograph is a frame, he says, ‘and if you put a frame in the picture, you are suggesting that this is not the whole world, that there is something outside.’ As with his close observation of the peripheral and provisional, this device too has a religious aspect, as these photos
direct our attention to what is beyond.

By contrast, the images in Civilization are primarily of cityscapes and crowd scenes taken from height and capturing pattern and movement on the macro level. Visually epic, this exhibition includes: Edward Burtynsky’s images conveying both the sublime aesthetic qualities of the industrialised landscape and the unsettling reality of depleting resources on the planet, through a series of geometric compositions photographed from the air; Nadav Kander exploring the vestiges of the Cold War through the radioactive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia; Robert Polidori creating meticulously detailed, large-scale colour photographs that capture the vestiges that evoke the essence of each setting and its particular meaning, as framed by economic, historical, geographic, political and social forces; Simon Roberts’ conflating the traditional genre of landscape with social documentary by positioning the camera at a deliberate distance and elevation from the most obvious scenic viewpoint, focusing instead on the sidelines or peripheral spaces; and Michael Wolf focusing on life in mega cities documenting the architecture and the vernacular culture of metropolises.

Our fast-changing world is seen from above revealing the complexity of our collective human enterprises which are perpetually evolving, morphing, building and demolishing, rethinking, reframing and reshaping of the world and the people within it. Never before in human history have so many people been so interconnected, and so dependent on one another.

As with the Guidi exhibition, Civilisation is presented to celebrate the launch of a new publication - Civilization, The Way We Live Now by William A. Ewing and Holly Roussell, published by Thames & Hudson.

These contrasting exhibitions show the differing values of close-up, which reveals ‘heaven in ordinarie’ and hints at the beyond, and also of the wide angle city or landscape, revealing the patterns forming the material and spiritual cultures that make up ‘civilization’.


Small Faces - Afterglow Of Your Love.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

HeartEdge Mailer | November 2018

HeartEdge Mailer | November 2018

This month:

HeartEdge events in Hamilton, London and Edinburgh in 2019, plus:

Ann Morisy on mission, Jane Williams on Advent, Vanessa Herrick on vulnerability, Rosie Ward on meetings, Mike Pears on transgressing and Barbara Glasson on balance.

Plus making the café financially viable, a 'Street Wisdom' business, making community spaces work, 'start-up' grants and... Gin!

Also spotting & responding to domestic violence, the 'Edge Fund', How to Collaborate, Musicians Church & painting the divine.

Plus Sam Wells on being with other faiths and Sami Award on space for healing in Palestine.

The church is getting smaller. The church is getting narrower. HeartEdge asks, ‘How do you feel about that? What are you doing about it?’ – and provides ways to turn convictions into actions.

Churches that join HeartEdge collaborate and support each other. We work to become vibrant, welcoming and dynamic signs of hope and contributors to civil society. Together we share expertise on key areas of renewal:
  • Culture – hosting and participating in music, art, and performance 
  • Commerce – generating funds through business ventures, balancing profit with social impact
  • Congregation – staying broad and going deep
  • Compassion – meeting Christ in the stranger and being renewed by those on whom the world has turned its back
HeartEdge is a growing interdenominational movement of churches, offering models for renewal of the church. Join HeartEdge here.


Sarah Jarosz - Ring Them Bells.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Artlyst interview: Peter Howson

A central member of the group of young artists to emerge from the Glasgow School of Art during the 1980s dubbed the New Glasgow Boys, Peter Howson has become one of his generation’s leading figurative painters. In his current exhibition with Flowers Gallery, Howson uses his apocalyptic vision of violence and inhumanity to explore his fears of contemporary radical right-wing politics.

Howson is unusual among mainstream artists in his unashamed use of traditional religious iconography and application of a Trinitarian framework to his artistic practice.

I have interviewed him for Artlyst and have also reviewed Acta Est Fabula, his current exhibition. The interview can be found here and the review here.

Howson says: 'I want my paintings to reveal to the onlooker the folly of believing in some kind of scientific utopia that we are all heading towards. We embraced death in the past, but cannot do it now. We knew the darkness in our hearts in times past, and we feared judgement.'


Good Charlotte - We Believe.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Windows on the world (422)

Pollença, 2018


Archie Shepp - Art Songs & Spirituals.

The end of the Church Year

Here is the Thought for the Week I've put together for the newsletter at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Advent, the beginning of which we celebrate next Sunday, marks the beginning of a journey that we undertake each year as we travel through the Church Year. That also means that this Sunday we have come to the end of that journey, as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

At the beginning of the Church Year we celebrate Christ’s coming into our world and all the ways in which he comes to us again. At the end of the Church Year, we celebrate Christ as past, present, and future King over all the earth, at the same time that we express our faith in a coming Kingdom where the world will once again fully reflect its creator.

On our journey through the Church Year, we follow in the steps of Jesus as he is born, ministers in Galilee, is crucified, and rises again. On that journey we also celebrate the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and reflect both on the mission of the Church and what it means to be a disciple. By making this journey we remind ourselves who we are and whose we are.

We are reminded that God is with us, in Christ, throughout the year and through all the seasons of life. We are here because of Christ. We journey through the Church calendar because of him. We gather, ‘neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free’, because we are one in Christ. It is Christ who presides over his kingdom, his Church, our journey and the table where we share his supper – the Eucharist. Here, throughout the Church Year, we can all come freely week by week to experience and participate in the means of grace that visibly exhibit to us the heart and mind of Christ the King.

(Adapted from


Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Christ The King.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

In the heavenly throne room

Here is my reflection from yesterday's Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields (based on material found here):

The Book of Revelation was written as the Early Church was beginning to experience persecution. Dr. Dennis E. Johnson notes that the ‘historical setting of the book of Revelation is that it is addressed to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia, which is on the west coast of what is now Turkey … It's a period where there is some violent persecution of the church by Roman governmental officials in some places in the empire — not consistent yet. There are also other types of violence, lawless violence, against Christians as well … a variety of churches facing a variety of challenges to their faith — some obvious, overt violence, some far more subtle.’ In Revelation the challenges faced by the Early Church are examined through apocalyptic imagery of a struggle between forces of good and evil, with the assurance given that Christ has won the victory and, therefore, his followers should persevere in the face of persecution.

Chapter 4 is where the story really starts. This is where John is given the ‘revelation’ that gives the book its title. Everything from this point on is part of the vision which is granted to him as he stands there in the heavenly throne room.’ Tom Wright suggests that ‘What we are witnessing in [chapter 4] … is not the final stage in God’s purposes. This is not a vision of the ultimate ‘heaven’, seen as the final resting place of God’s people. It is, rather, the admission of John into ‘heaven’ as it is at the moment. The scene in the heavenly throne room is the present reality; the vision John is given while he is there is a multiple vision of ‘what must take place after these things’ – not ‘the end of the world’ as such, but those terrible events which were going to engulf the world and cause all the suffering for God’s people about which the seven churches have just been so thoroughly warned.’

‘John is summoned into the throne room because, like some of the ancient Israelite prophets, he is privileged to stand in God’s council chamber and hear what is going on in order then to report it to his people back on earth ... The rainbow (verse 3) … takes us back to the story of Noah in Genesis 9, where the great bow in the sky was God’s visible promise of mercy, never again to destroy the earth with a flood.’ The 24 Elders may symbolise the 12 Tribes of Israel combined with the 12 Apostles; Christianity and Judaism linked together in God’s ultimate plan and purposes. The four living creatures have come to be associated with the Gospels and the Gospel writers, but are symbolic of the all-seeing nature of God. Finally, God is worshipped for his holiness, eternal nature, and creativity. In the following chapters we are introduced to Jesus as lion and lamb and then see that conflict ensues with the powers of evil until finally we reach the New Jerusalem in which heaven and earth are joined fully and forever.

The big theme of Revelation, as has been said, is that Jesus is Lord, and he has won, is winning, and will win. With that in mind, Wright says, ‘I have spoken of this scene so far in terms of God’s throne in heaven, and John’s appearing before it like an Old Testament prophet. But the idea of a throne room, with someone sitting on the throne surrounded by senior counsellors, would instantly remind John’s readers of a very different court: that of Caesar. We have already heard hints of the power struggle (the kingdom of God against the kingdoms of the world) in the opening three chapters. Now, by strong implication, we are being invited to see that the powers of the world are simply parodies, cheap imitation copies, of the one Power who really and truly rules in heaven and on earth.’

‘As John’s great vision unfolds, we … see how it is that these human kingdoms have acquired their wicked, cruel power, and how it is that God’s radically different sort of power will win the victory over them. This is the victory in which the seven letters were urging the churches to claim their share. We now discover how that victory comes about. It begins with the unveiling of reality. Behind the complex and messy confusions of church life in ancient Turkey; behind the challenges of the fake synagogues and the threatening rulers; behind the ambiguous struggles and difficulties of ordinary Christians – there stands the heavenly throne room in which the world’s creator and lord remains sovereign. Only by stopping on our tracks and contemplating this vision can we begin to glimpse the reality which not only makes sense of our own realities but enables us, too, to win the victory’.

That is the purpose of this book and John’s vision. In a world of turmoil and in times of persecution, we are called to stand firm and to hold on to the faith because Christ has won the victory. He calls us to live in the light of that victory and know it in our own lives even, or especially, in times of trouble.


Leonard Cohen - The Future.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Guido Guidi, Per Strada & Windows on the world

My Windows on the world photographic series uses framing devices to create a view through to something beyond. I take these photos as a way of suggesting the existence of the divine glimpsed between the lines or on the periphery of our vision.

The Italian photographer Guido Guidi has a similar vision and practice. His métier is close observation of ordinary things - the peripheral, the overlooked and ordinary: He explains:

"It is a way of bowing down before things. And that is the religious aspect, a respect for things, for the blade of grass and wanting to give back by means of a precise photograph, where the execution of the detail is perfect, absolute, with no grain. The photograph must be absolute, transparent and cannot be corrected and reviewed later. As Didi-Huberman says, for the ancient painters of the 1400s, the act of imitagere or copying nature was in itself an act of devotion. Not necessarily mastery or technical virtuosity but an act of devotion towards things, the “things which are nothing” as Pasolini says.” 

For Guidi, as Charlotte Higgins has remarked, ‘his work is not about the decisive moment but the “provisional moment” – the idea that this moment is one of a procession of many.’ 

Very often, his images ‘show some kind of aperture – a doorway, a window, the arches of a portico, even the edge of the lens itself.’ A photograph is a frame, he says, ‘and if you put a frame in the picture, you are suggesting that this is not the whole world, that there is something outside.’ 

As with his close observation of the peripheral and provisional, this device has a religious aspect as these photos direct our attention to what is beyond.

Guidi's work can be seen Guido Guidi: Per Strada at Large Glass until 21 December.


Ringo Starr - Photograph.

Windows on the world (421)

Kelveden Hatch, 2018


Sixpence None the Richer - The Lines Of My Earth.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Windows on the world (420)

London, 2018


Joan Baez - Diamonds And Rust.

Artlyst: Peter Howson - Acta Est Fabula

My latest piece for Artlyst is a review of Peter Howson's Acta Est Fabula at Flowers Gallery

'With this exhibition, we are immersed in scenes of degradation, imposed and sought out, within which occasional moments of self-realisation and awareness occur. This is common ground for Howson, whether in Glasgow, Bosnia or elsewhere; homo homini lupus (man is wolf to man) is consistently demonstrated throughout the world and throughout history. Howson stands with all those artists, such as Bosch, Goya, Dix and Rouault, who have sought to raise our gaze from the mire by painting the extent to which we are sinking in the mire. There is a strong apocalyptic strand to the images he is currently creating; apocalyptic imagery fuelled by the experience of Brexit and the wave of populism of which Brexit is a symptom and for which it was a catalyst.'

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Fairport Convention - Who Knows Where The Time Goes.

Strange Days: Memories of the Future

“Strange Days: Memories of the Future” brings together video and film installations by twenty-one of today’s most radical image makers, all of whom have exhibited at the New Museum in the last ten years. Enigmatic and oracular, the works on view blend visuals and sound into polyphonic, dreamlike compositions that consider the power and fragility of images as the raw material of memory, reverie, and visions the future.

The works in “Strange Days” emphasize a fractured sense of time: history collides with the present, and future speculations are vexed by a distant past.

The exhibition includes Camille Henrot's Grosse Fatigue about which I have written for Artlyst:

'Camille Henrot’s single-channel video Grosse Fatigue blends together origin narratives from many cultures and disciplines combined with images of work, exhibits and spaces at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, where, as part of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, she was granted permission to film aspects of the collections. To these, she adds ‘images found on the internet and scenes filmed in locations as diverse as a pet store and a domestic interior that appear like pop-ups at the screen’s surface.

Henrot creatively layers origin accounts and imagery as a visual equivalent of the knowledge and wisdom juxtaposed within an Institute like the Smithsonian.'  

My review of "Strange Days" has been published in Church Times:

'Grosse Fatigue provides the perfect entry-point to an exhibition of 21 installations, which provide a dizzying more than 11 hours of filmed or videoed images. Just as Grosse Fatigue suggests that the universe and our human perceptions overwhelm and exceed our understanding, so the breadth of this exhibition replicates that experience.'


Bruce Cockburn - Creation Dream.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Inspired to Follow: Art & the Bible Story - Advent Courses

‘Inspired to Follow: Art & the Bible Story’ is a free resource prepared by St Martin-in-the-Fields to help people explore the Christian faith, using paintings and Biblical story as the starting points. It’s been designed as a 22-week course over three terms (although the materials can be used for shorter courses too), and uses fine art paintings in the National Gallery’s collection, along with a theological reflection and a Biblical text, as a spring board for exploring these two questions: How can I deepen my faith in God? What does it mean to follow Jesus today? For more information, see

This Autumn, we have added to the existing materials two Advent Courses of four sessions each. The first addresses the Last Things, the traditional Advent themes of Death, Judgement, Heaven & Hell, while the second covers the following Advent Characters: Elizabeth & Mary; Joseph; Zechariah & Elizabeth; and Herod.

As always with ‘Inspired to Follow: Art & the Bible Story’, these courses use fine art paintings in the National Gallery’s collection. The Last Things course includes: ‘The Lamentation over the Dead Christ’ – Rembrandt; ‘Saint Michael’ - Carlo Crivelli; ‘Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven; central predella panel’ - probably by Fra Angelico; and ‘The Rich Man being led to Hell’ - David Teniers the Younger. The Advent Characters course includes: ‘The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth’ - Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden; ‘The Dream of Saint Joseph’ - Philippe de Champaigne; ‘The Naming of Saint John the Baptist’ - Barent Fabritius; and ‘The Massacre of the Innocents with Herod’ - Gerolamo Mocetto. The materials are available to be downloaded via the link above, as with the existing materials.

We hope you will find these additions to ‘Inspired to Follow: Art & the Bible Story’ a helpful addition to the site and a useful resource in your churches or parishes.

At St Martin-in-the-Fields we began using ‘Inspired to Follow Advent Course - the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven and hell'. This new programme of hour-long gatherings over four Sundays explores the Four Last Things using the following passages and paintings:
  • 4 November Death - Mark 15:33-45 / ‘The Lamentation over the Dead Christ’ Rembrandt
  • 18 November Judgement - Revelation 12:7-17 / ‘Saint Michael’ Carlo Crivelli
  • 2 December Heaven - Revelation 21:1-5, 9-11, 22-27, 22:1-5 / ‘Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven; central predella panel’ probably by Fra Angelico
  • 16 December Hell - Luke 16:19-30 / ‘The Rich Man being led to Hell’ David Teniers the Younger 
All these sessions are at 12.00-1.00pm on Sundays, Austen Williams Room, 4 & 18 November, 2 & 16 December.


Monday, 5 November 2018

The meaning of decoration on Chinese ceramics

St Martin-in-the-Fields, together with the Chinese Speaking Congregations of St Martin's, is organising an occasional series of art talks focusing on aspects of Chinese Art. The third lecture in this series will be on 'The meaning of decoration on Chinese Ceramics' and will be given by Rosemary Scott on Thursday 17 January 2019, 6.30pm in St Martin’s Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields. This will be an illustrated talk (in English).

Rosemary Scott took an honours degree in Chinese Art & Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where she went on to do postgraduate research. On leaving university she joined the Burrell Collection in Glasgow as Assistant Keeper for Oriental art. She became Deputy Keeper of the whole collection a year later. Her next appointment was as Curator of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, SOAS, combining the running of the museum with undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research. In 1995 she became the first Head of the new Museums Department at SOAS, responsible for both the David Foundation and the new Brunei Gallery.

In 1997 she joined Christie's and is currently Senior International Academic Consultant to the Asian Art departments, undertaking research, publication, lecturing and training. She has curated a wide range of exhibitions, and has researched and written numerous books and articles on the Chinese decorative arts. She has travelled widely in East Asia, America and Europe lecturing and undertaking research. She is a former President of the Oriental Ceramic Society, London.

The talk will be held in St Martin's Hall, within the Crypt of St Martin's, and will begin at 6.30pm for one hour. The talk will be followed by a drinks reception in the Bishop Ho Ming Wah Association and Community Centre.

All are very welcome – for further information contact Jonathan Evens – t: 020 7766 1127, e:


Qu Xiao-Song - Drums of Xi.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

ArtWay meditation: NIcola Green

In my latest Visual Meditation for ArtWay I reflect on the faceless portraits of global religious leaders by Nicola Green which can currently be seen at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

'Green has noted that all the religious leaders she has met share the feeling that no one takes much notice of them. Maybe her faceless portraits reflect this sense that they are overlooked and ignored. Many religions, however, encourage adherents to nurture humility in response to the divine. C.S. Lewis wrote that the humble are not thinking about humility, rather they are not thinking about themselves at all. It could be that Green’s religious leaders exemplify this understanding and that her faceless depictions reflect this.'

My other ArtWay meditations include work by María Inés Aguirre, Giampaolo Babetto, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Alexander de CadenetChristopher Clack, Marlene Dumas, Terry Ffyffe, Antoni Gaudi, Maciej Hoffman, Giacomo Manzù, Michael Pendry, Maurice Novarina, Regan O'Callaghan, Ana Maria Pacheco, John Piper, Albert Servaes, Henry Shelton and Anna Sikorska.