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Monday, 15 October 2018

Private View of 'Journey' at All Hallows by the Tower

‘Journey’ is commission4mission's latest group show which opened tonight at All Hallows by the Tower with a Private View. Former Bishop of Barking David Hawkins celebrated 10 years since the initial conversation between Henry Shelton and himself from which sparked into life the idea of commission4mission. He suggested that the development of commission4mission indicates that the good, the true and the beautiful are profoundly attractive characteristics of both God and the arts.

The exhibition runs from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 27 October and can be viewed during the church’s normal opening hours – Mon – Fri 10.00am – 6.00pm, Sat – Sun 10.00am – 5.00pm (except during services).

The title and theme for the exhibition can be understood in terms of journeys that are emotional, pilgrimage, personal, biblical etc. We encouraged our artists to reflect broadly on the theme and 23 artists have responded with imagery that ranges from birth and death (the journey of life) to geographical journeys (including street scenes), plastic pollution (blown or washed around the globe), and Stations of the Cross, among others. A mix of abstract and representational imagery has been created, utilising ceramics, collage, digital illustration, drawing, painting, photography and sculpture.

‘6 years and 26 miles’ by Hayley Bowen depicts the pilgrimage of 15 year old Mary Jones, a girl from a poor Welsh family, who in the year 1800 walked 26 miles barefoot to the town of Bala (and back again) across rough countryside to buy a copy of the Welsh language Bible from The Rev.Thomas Charles after saving up for one for six years. The story inspired the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

David Hawkins and Dorothy Morris both make use of household plastics in their work. David writes: “2018 has seen carrier bags become the latest culprits of pollution. Yet, backlit by the sun they become angels, and remind us to look for ‘heaven in ordinary’. The Celts celebrated the sacred in everyday life. Even our plastic bags ‘caught in a thicket’ can pose as messengers on Jacob’s ladder, in Mary’s parlour or over the shepherds’ fields. As Donald Allchin used to say, ‘the mundane is the edge of glory’.”

Dorothy Morris says of her work: “These little paintings tell the story of the journey of our household plastics ending up polluting our seas. I live in an idyllic place by an estuary and one day I went for a 20 minute walk and collected 3 bin bags of rubbish! From this walk I have created 30 6×6 canvas images altogether, which I combine in sets of 4 images.”

During the period of the exhibition commission4mission have also organised City Art in Faith: A Guided Walk of selected churches in the City of London, 2-4pm, October 25th 2018. Meet at the entrance of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, Tower Hill. Guided by Mark Lewis, artist and lecturer. No charge but donations appreciated. This walk will include seven churches and Mark will give a brief historical context for each of the churches visited and discuss the contemporary works of art to be found there and the artists who produced them. Walkers will also see examples of contemporary commissioned street sculpture while walking between venues. Churches to be visited: All Hallows-by-the-Tower – St Edmund King and Martyr – St Mary Woolnoth – St Stephen Walbrook – St Lawrence Jewry – St Mary-le-Bow – St Nicholas Cole Abbey. All churches feature in the City of London “Art of Faith” walk.

commission4mission's AGM will be held at 2.00pm at All Hallows by the Tower on Sunday 28 October. At the AGM Mark Lewis will provide information about next year’s commission4mission Art Retreat with the Othona Community in Bradwell-on-Sea (7 – 10 May 2019).


The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna be (500 Miles).

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Windows on the world (416)

Whitechapel, 2018


The Velvet Underground - I Found A Reason.

Something Worth Sharing Day 2

Something Worth Sharing was a weekend of events to mark the 7th annual conference on Disability and Church, a partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church.

Today we began with a Eucharist and Healing Service for St Luke’s Day. This special service reflected the weekend’s themes using liturgy written by members of St Martin’s Disability Advisory Group and Healing Team. The service included the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, accompanied by prayers for healing. The service was followed by a Theology Group meeting which explored the history, theology of and approaches to Ecumenism.

Later we had a special screening of Defiant Lives, a feature-length documentary which was followed by discussion of the issues and ideas. Defiant Lives tells the story of the disability rights movement in the UK, US and Australia, mixing archive footage and recent interviews with disabled people who fought for a society where everyone can participate.

Twitter comment on the film and the panel discussion included:
  • Defiant Lives is a documentary telling the story of the Disability Rights Movement in Australia, UK & US.
  • "They weren't considered human." Harrowing reminders from history of #disability rights movement.
  • "In a culture of Othering, the Others are in danger. Crimes against us aren't really crimes. We cease being human."
  • Attitudes of paternalism & pity challenged by #disability rights movement. 
  • "To boldly go where all others have been before" - history of direct action, hard-won right to travel on "public" transport.
  • Beyond legislation - law is first step. Making it work is much harder... Usually "if someone complains, we'll fix it." Still not working.
  • Ed Roberts, US pioneer of Independent living, on the importance Personal Assistants as valued and specialist role. "Disabled people do best when their support workers do best.
  • "unless disabled people are involved, they're going to get it wrong" Lessons from history in #defiantlives.
  • Why is taking so long, even now, to get our voices out there?
  • The dominant charity stories diminish us. These must be changed. The language of hymns must change. 
  • People with lived experience building own theology - church needs to hear authentic spirituality derived from lived experience.
  • Church needs to reconsider its model of humanity - no steps to sanctuary and central altar saying God is in our midst.
  • Fighting for the right to go where everyone else has already gone before - this is my daily reality.
  • Church should be with marginalised but cut funding on disability issues at time when austerity cuts began to impact. 
  • Disabled people are the canaries in the coal mine - more in poverty, more disadvantaged. Church must speak out on these issues. 

June Boyce-Tillman: Blessing Song. 

The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe

My most recent book review has been published by ArtWay and is of Adrian Barlow's Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe (Lutterworth Press 2018).

'Kempe offers a radical revaluation of the life, work and reputation of Charles Eamer Kempe (1837–1907), one of the most remarkable and influential figures in late Victorian and Edwardian church art. Kempe's name became synonymous with a distinctive style of stained glass, furnishing and decoration deriving from late mediaeval and early Renaissance models. To this day, his hand can be seen in churches and cathedrals worldwide.

Drawing on newly available archive material, Adrian Barlow evaluates Kempe's achievement in creating a Studio or School of artists and craftsmen who interpreted his designs and remained fiercely loyal to his aesthetic and religious ideals. He assesses his legacy and reputation today, as well as exploring his networks of patrons and influence, which stretched from the Royal Family and the Church of England hierarchy to the literary and artistic beau monde. These networks intersected at Kempe's stunning Sussex country house, Old Place, his 'Palace of Art'. Created to embody his ideals of beauty and history, it holds the key to understanding his contradictory personality, his public and private faces.'

In the review, I state that: 'Kempe’s is a fascinating story of a self-made man in tune with his own era who built a brand able to endure for sixty years. In common with A.W.N. Pugin, William Morris and G.F. Watts, he also created a home which fully expressed his personal inspiration and vision and was considered a masterpiece in its day. In one volume Barlow tells Kempe’s story and that of his collaborators, assesses key works and considers Kempe’s legacy and reputation. He brings Kempe’s faith-full practice to life while arguing for the ongoing significance of work based on an unchanging belief that past styles of faith were the best expression for contemporary faith.'


Edward Elgar - The Spirit Of The Lord.

Something Worth Sharing Day 1

Something Worth Sharing was a weekend of events to mark the 7th annual conference on Disability and Church, a partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church. Saturday's Something Worth Sharing conference recognised that disabled people can be isolated by experience or geography, and face barriers to belonging in churches and communities.Therefore, the conference explored what we can do to unlock gates and open our gifts. From access statements to advisory groups, using language and structure, connecting and gathering, we explored ideas and shared practical resources for getting in and joining in.

Speakers included: June Boyce-Tillman, Tim Goode, Fiona MacMillan, Ann Memmott, Emily Richardson and Sam Wells. Through plenary talks and in small groups, with a silent space and a marketplace, this was a day to resource each other and the church organised by and for disabled people, supporters and people with an interest in disability issues.

Tweets from the conference provide an in-the-moment view of the content and delegate's responses to it:
  • Fiona MacMillan introduces the day and reminds us that without one person here today, the day would be slightly different. We all bring something worth sharing.
  • We have a full programme for the day but, as always, nothing is compulsory but everything is offered by invitation.
  • Fiona introduces @KHedderly as our conference chaplain for the day. 
  • Nikki Goodhew is our first storyteller speaker, sharing her story with us. Nikki experienced new issues with access in church when licensed as a reader. Services which she is involved in have to be adapted, restructured.
  • "I have particular issues with vestries and chancel steps"
  • Using crutches on funeral visits can be an icebreaker for families. Not a lot of people used to meeting a disabled minister.
  • Nikki is interested in how technology could be used more in the diocese. Eg for training, involving people who are excluded by distance etc
  • Listening & Learning today #worthsharing a great opening and stories of access and now theology from Sam Wells unpacking ‘practical’ theology
  • Revd Sam Wells sharing on practical theology. Sam avoids the term "practical theology" as it implies that there is another kind of theology. If the Word became flesh, then all theology is practical.
  • Next up, Rev Prof. June Boyce-Tillman on Language and the importance of story.
  • We have a narrative, stories we live by. People who don't conform to those stories and stereotypes are often ignored.
  • Our Hymnals contain many out-of-date notions of disability from the Victorian era. How can we change that narrative in our worship?
  • We need new images of God because there is not a single person who cannot embody God. We need to expand our discourse about the Divine.
  • What are we ‘accessing’ is it just the building? @AnnMemmott says no so much more we accessing God and enabling people to feel safe, and to be leaders, welcomers and includers.
  • The internet makes negotiating access much simpler. Eg. Google Streetview for parking & pictures of the church layout on their website.
  • We get caught up with "buildings" when we think about access. We are accessing God in prayer, worship & communion and also accessing each other in fellowship.
  • Often we see disabled people as those needing to be welcomed/included but we should see disabled people's gifts as those doing the welcoming/including.
  • Observation from the floor: we often make God inaccessible through the use of our language. We need to be mindful of this.
  • Problems begin when our cultural stereotypes are then assumed to be God-given.
  • Focus on society as problem rather than impairment or condition was radical idea.
  • Today I met a young man at today’s conference who I learnt so much from as I did others today.
  • Our artspace and wailing wall offer opportunities for more creative, reflective responses to the day.
  • Utmost gratitude for a very reflective afternoon on Disability & Church. Such good discussion held on access, vocation, language, & differing needs. Special thanks to @emjric for your social media talk!
  • Such a good day at the #worthsharing conference. Much loved friends and colleagues aplenty, making a big difference to disabled & neurodiverse Christians. Huge thanks to all.
  • Glad to be a speaker at the @livingedgeconf with @smitf_london & @inclusivechurch ." Something worth sharing." Disability. Neurodiversity. Access. Church.