Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Betty Spackman: Posthumanism Debates

My latest interview for Artlyst is with Betty Spackman discussing past work and her latest installation 'A Creature Chronicle':

'Life and learning cannot be compartmentalised. One thing affects all things. Different ways of seeing help us all to see more and to see more clearly. Faith and science communities have mainly been at odds and separate and the Christian community, in particular, has resisted seeing past belief systems they think they must adhere to and are afraid to explore new advances in science and technology. They are afraid to question and to learn from science as though God is going to be destroyed by knowledge. Yet faith is not about answers but mystery and awe – about walking in blindness. Science also walks blindly to discover and find their way. I feel we should be walking beside each other as we explore, and the faith community should be offering the questions of how any new thing discovered can be used to love – or not. And the arts? Well, I believe more than at any other time in human history, the arts can play the role of mediators, interpreters, and inquisitors – as well as comforters, and healers. The arts can allow difference without exclusion and controversy without intellectual or spiritual apartheid. I am often frustrated that I cannot be anything but an artist – and yet as an artist, I hope to be able to provide this place of hospitality and humility where the big questions of life can be examined freely and safely.'

My other Artlyst pieces are:



Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Bright Horses.

Beth McKillop - Picturing the Buddha

The British Library has an exhibition Buddhism, curated by Jana Igunma (Henry Ginsburg Curator of Thai, Lao and Cambodian) and San San May (Curator of Burmese) which runs until the 23rd of February, 2020. It is a truly wonderful exhibition with a range of striking items, from illuminated manuscripts and palm leaf manuscripts to sutra incised in silver and gold, covering the whole development of Buddhism across Asia and the three main traditions of Buddhism, alongside items related to Buddhist practices, contemporary productions and evocative soundscapes.

Beth McKillop, senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum and President of the Oriental Ceramic Society, gave an illustrated talk on 'Picturing the Buddha' at St Martin-in-the-Fields last Thursday, which was a marvellous introduction to the British Library's Buddhism exhibition. The talk discussed depictions of the Buddha included in the exhibition and, more generally, within Chinese Art.


Leonard Cohen - Listen To The Hummingbird

Windows on the world (261)

London, 2019


Brandon Flowers - Dreams Come True. 

Hidden Gems - Bill Fay & Malcolm Morley

2020 has been labelled a Biblical year for TV with 'The New Pope' following 'The First Temptation of Christ' while 'The Two Popes' is still on cinema screens. Fascinating as these are for those who explore the interface between faith and culture, the most interesting work is often that which is or has been more hidden.

'Bill Fay Was a Hidden Gem. One Musician Made Finding Him a Mission.' is New York Times headline for an article exploring the background to Fay's latest album 'Countless Branches.'

Bill Fay made two albums at the beginning of the 1970s before losing his contract and disappearing from the scene. The strength of these albums, particularly the second 'Time of the Last Persecution,' led several musicians and producers to find Fay and assist in releasing more of his music.

Fay’s first two albums since his rediscovery, “Life Is People” in 2012 and “Who Is the Sender?” in 2015, were both profitable and effective follow-ups to the records he’d made 40 years earlier resulting in the recording of the most recent 'Countless Branches.'

Grayson Haver Currin notes that Fay's: 'self-titled 1970 debut featured idealistic odes to friendship, nature and peace swaddled in swooping strings and cascading horns. But only a year later, he’d turned to thorny rock for “Time of the Last Persecution.” Fueled by the horrors of the Vietnam War and the violence of the Jim Crow South, Fay railed against social corruption for 14 fractured songs, framing life as a revolving door of chances to get right with God.'

With the more recent albums Fay is: 'still writing about his distrust of governments and his belief in the goodness of people. Henry smartly dressed those songs in chamber-pop elegance. Tweedy lent his voice to a jangling tune called “This World,” while Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce added subtle harmonies to “Bring It On Lord,” a paean to valuing the days you have left. Fay’s voice wavered and rasped with age, the seams worn like proud wrinkles of wisdom.'

A Bill Fay song is often a 'deceptively simple thing, which carries more emotional weight than its concision and brevity might imply.' They are musical haikus on 'his recurring themes: nature, the family of man, the cycle of life and the ineffable vastness of it all.' The most recent releases being 'as pointed and as poignant as anything he’s ever recorded, as if songs waiting for their time have finally found their rightful place within our current zeitgeist.'

Nigel Cross explains that Malcolm Morley’s 'first musical steps into the public eye came as the leader and chief songwriter of Help Yourself, and it was with them that Morley made his mark, recording four albums for UA (and a posthumously released fifth one) between 1971 and 1973': 'Ignored by record buyers at the time, there are now many who believe these albums rank as some of the most musically enduring and unique releases of their era. Post-Help Yourself, Morley played with a diverse array of musicians including Bees Make Honey, Wreckless Eric, Kirsty MacColl, and Man, long-lived Welsh rockers whom he has recently re-joined.'

'The songs on his new CD started to flow after a bout of illness over the winter of 2017/18.' 'Sound-wise with the sizzling organ and his newly-acquired Telecaster on some of the songs they suggest vintage Band or even the Dylan of Highway 61 Revisited and Tempest.'

Richard Gould writes that:

'Malcolm’s voice now bears a rich smoky timbre and the imagery in his lyrics carries a certain world weariness of the experiences of life.

As for the tracks themselves, proceedings open up with ‘To Evangeline’ – a mid paced effort with the aforementioned organ nicely to the fore. The couplet regarding the woman and the babe on the bridge is nothing short of brilliant by my book. It almost has the feel of being from the lineage of ‘Paper Leaves’ – one of the early Morley classics that still sounds so good today. Next up is ‘Forgotten Land’, and this has a feel about it not a million miles from Tony Joe White – we tend not to have too many swamps in the UK, maybe we could settle for some fertile moist woodlands with a moody groove.

‘A Walk On The Water’ carries some great biblical imagery in its lyrics. ‘What Hurts’ has a JJ Cale swing and growl to it. The only cover here is ‘Two Brothers’ and is an American Civil War tale – anybody else remember the early 60s TV series ‘The Americans’ – the Clanfield family where Jeff joined the Confederates and his brother Ben the Unionists ? You’ll be impressed by Malcolm’s acoustic picking. ‘Broken’, as with ‘All Washed Up’, the mood belies what the title may lead you to suppose. Not for the first time, you will find the lyrics intriguing in their imagery. Some lovely organ breaks courtesy of Daisy Rollins.

‘Must Be The Devil In Me’ – sounds as though it could be an old Blues Standard. The title track, ‘Infinity Lake’ comes across as perhaps the most perfect piece among those on offer here – the understated music allows the lyrics to bite and hit. ‘All Washed Up’, although hardly a joyous sentiment, the track kicks along with another set of quality lyrics. Matters conclude with ‘Rambling Boy’ and its tone is perhaps the closest to that which Malcolm put to such good effect on the previously cited ‘Summerlands’. There is a magical air to its rural purity and imagery.'

Bill Fay - Countless Branches.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Review - Barbara Hepworth: Divided Circle

My latest review for Church Times is of Barbara Hepworth: Divided Circle at The Heong Gallery:

'The works in this exhibition demon­strate Hepworth’s intuitive and spiritual understandings of form and energy. Form is inherent in the material and needs to be discerned by the artist to be realised. This con­cept of truth to materials is a spir­itual search for the inscape (the term coined by Gerard Manley Hopkins) or essence of objects and artefacts as originally created by God. Energy is found in ideas, the imaginative concept that gives life and vitality to the material; and this vitality is its spiritual inner life, force and energy.'

Other of my pieces for Church Times can be found here.


Bill Fay - In Human Hands.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

HeartEdge events & activities 2020

In 2020 HeartEdge will be creating new resources for members based on the 4Cs (compassion, culture, commerce, congregation), introducing HeartEdge hub churches to provide more regionally based support, holding Introductory Days in Norwich, Liverpool, Penzance, Christchurch and other locations, organising consultancy days as requested by members, holding 4Cs events (such as the Deepening Spirituality day in London on 1 February), organising our 3rd national conference (21 and 22 September, London), beginning a new community of practitioners, and further developing our partnerships and networks in Europe and the US.

Some upcoming events include:

Rooted in Jesus workshop - Resourcing Innovative Mission

Rooted in Jesus involves four days together, talking about discipleship, leadership, evangelism, formation, preaching, and much more—so we can go out and be the Body of Christ. HeartEdge will be there together with our partner TryTank Experimental Lab:

Workshop 3: Thursday, January 23, 2020; 2:00PM - 3:20PM, Resourcing Innovative Mission, Rev. Jonathan Evens, Associate Vicar HeartEdge, St.-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. HeartEdge is an international, ecumenical movement for renewal of the Church, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields. This workshop will use key HeartEdge concepts to enable reflection on innovative mission and ways in which such mission can be resourced. The workshop will provide opportunities to share ideas, identify key challenges and assets for future initiatives. and assets for future initiatives.

Deepening Spirituality, Saturday 1 February, London Centre for Spiritual Direction, St Edmund's Church, 59 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9EA

Many of us want to go deeper with our Spirituality, but often lack ideas of how to do that. This is a day to explore and experience a number of different approaches to deepening the spirituality of individuals and congregations including accompanied prayer, art, lay communities, spiritual direction and more. There will also be an opportunity for personal refreshment.

Canon Dr Nigel Rooms, Partnership for Missional Church UK, CMS; Richard Carter, Associate Vicar for Mission, St Martin-in-the-Fields; Julie Dunstan, Director for Formation and Professional Development, LCSD; Antonia Lynn, Community Warden and Referrals Coordinator, LCSD.

Register at For further information, please contact

The day is being run in partnership between members of HeartEdge and the team from the London Centre for Spiritual Direction.

East of England | HeartEdge Day
12 February 2020, 10:00 – 3:30pm, 'At the Heart - on the Edge' at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich.

A mix of theology, ideas and support for re-imagining Church. Developed by the Diocese of Norwich, St Peter Mancroft and St Martin’s the day explores, with input and examples from local churches, the HeartEdge 4Cs. The day includes input from Sam Wells plus local practitioners all experts by experience - sharing their insights about assets and obstacles.

The day is about exploring practice related to the HeartEdge 4C's. About what works - and why, and the learning from when things don't work out.

Details and book in here.

Liverpool | HeartEdge Day
1st April 2020 from 10am - 3.30pm, Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady and Saint Nicholas), 5 Old Churchyard, Liverpool, L2 8GW

The Liverpool HeartEdge day includes input from Sam Wells plus local practitioners all experts by experience - sharing their insights about assets and obstacles.

The day is about exploring practice related to the HeartEdge 4C's. About what works - and why, and the learning from when things don't work out.

The day is organised and programmed locally, by practitioners who know about issues, challenges and opportunities in Liverpool. All participants focus on learning and sharing ideas and experience that are transferable. It makes the day useful!

To learn more and book your place visit here.

Members of the HeartEdge team will also be out-and-about giving presentations and/or preaching at HeartEdge partners:

Over The Rhine - May God Love You (Like You've Never Been Loved).

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Windows on the world (260)

Johannesburg, 2019


Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More.