Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Windows on the world (438)

London, 2019


Mumford and Sons - Believe.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Review - John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing

My latest review for Church Times is of “John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing” at Two Temple Place:

'Ruskin was a man of many words, who believed that, through drawing, one had the power to say what could not otherwise be said. He built his reputation on the power of his words as an art critic, author, and lecturer, but his subject was the power of seeing, because, for him, the teaching of art was “the teaching of all things”. He believed that the “greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way”. “To see clearly”, he said, “is poetry, prophecy, and religion — all in one.”

Art, then, is an expression of “the love and the will of God” to which we gain access primarily by looking closely at the splendour of nature.'

In a review for ArtWay of Adrian Barlow's book Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe I noted that:

'The legacy and reputation of many significant Victorians is complex and contradictory because their often great achievements were fashioned on the oppression of Empire and the superiority and arrogance which fuelled aggressive expansion presenting exploitation of others and their natural resources as being the introduction of civilisation.'

In addition to the Kempe review, my exhibition review for Church Times covering 'Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary,' at Tate Britain and 'Seen & Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame,' at Guildhall Art Gallery also explores the complex legacy left by the Victorians.


Florence and the Machine - Big God.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Artlyst: Curating Spiritual Sensibilities In Changing Times

In my latest article for Artlyst I report on a day (19 February) spent visiting exhibitions in London that demonstrate the breadth of curatorial approaches to art and spirituality; approaches that are expanding and are becoming normative.

In the article I argue that:

'These exhibitions offer a breadth of curatorial approaches to the exploration of interactions between art and spirituality: retrospectives that engage with the religious questions and spiritual issues raised by the artists themselves; historical surveys that recognise the part that faith played within the diverse range of work created in a specific period or by a certain group; empathetic documentary reportage of faith communities; exploration of worldview themes in the work of linked artists; and installations that create space for immersion, improvisation and contemplation. The combination of all these on one day of exhibition viewing represents a major shift in contemporary sensibilities.'

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Rickie Lee Jones - Nobody Knows My Name.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

commission4mission: 'Reconciliation' exhibition & Private View

Mercurial Dance gave their final performance of the day at Coventry Cathedral just prior to the Private View of our ‘Reconciliation’ exhibition in the Chapel of Christ the Servant. The Route 10 project explores our relationship to health and wellbeing, and our bodies’ capacity to heal. The piece has been based on conversations with both health professionals and people along the no.10 bus route.

The Revd Canon David Stone, Precentor and Sub-Dean at Coventry Cathedral, and Mark Lewis, Chair of commission4mission, welcomed guests to the Private View. Mark spoke about the themes of reconciliation found in the exhibition from the reconciliatory aspects of the life of Christ, contemporary issues including plastic pollution and conflict in the Middle East, plus images referring to the reconciliation ministry of Coventry Cathedral. The exhibition ends with two images of an embrace alongside Deborah Harrison‘s sculpture depicting clasped hands.

‘Reconciliation’ is an exhibition by commission4mission artists in the Chapel of Christ the Servant at Coventry Cathedral (1 Hill Top, Coventry CV1 5AB) from 10 March – 12 April 2019. Cathedral opening hours: Mon to Sat – 10 am to 5 pm (Last entry for visitors is 4 pm), Sun – 12 noon to 4 pm (Last entry is 3 pm).

‘Reconciliation’ is a group show by commission4mission artists. The title and theme for the exhibition can be understood in terms of reconciliations that are emotional, political, personal, biblical, national, communal etc.

Revd Jonathan Evens, commission4mission’s secretary says: ‘Our artists have reflected broadly on the theme responding with imagery that ranges from various forms of embrace, through pardoning and connections to aspects of the Life of Christ including Annunciation, Crucifixion and Glorification. Contemporary issues addressed include conflicts in the Middle East and plastic pollution. There are also images of Coventry Cathedral itself, emphasising its reconciliation ministry. A mix of abstract and representational imagery has been created, utilising ceramics, collage, digital illustration, drawing, painting, photography and sculpture.’

The exhibition includes work by Ally Ashworth, Hayley Bowen, Harvey Bradley, IrinaBradley, Valerie Dean, Mary Donaghey, Jonathan Evens, Maurizio Galia, Michael Garaway, John Gentry, Clorinda Goodman, Laura Grenci, Deborah Harrison, David Hawkins, Anthony Hodgson, Eugenia Jacobs, Mark Lewis, David Millidge, Lucy Morrish, Irene Novelli, Janet Roberts, Henry Shelton, and Peter Webb.

‘The Last Supper’, a sculpture by David Millidge is inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic Christian masterpiece. However, it is not about Judas or betrayal. It is about the journey of religious tolerance. The disciples in this Last Supper are all identical figures but decorated with a thin veneer of symbols and images representing different faiths (ceramic transfers).

David says: ‘If we are to continue living in a world where wars, conflicts, prejudice and persecution remain on the decline, we must continue to break down the barriers that divide us with acceptance and respect for the different faiths that we live by. My sculpture portrays an optimistic vision of a future where all ideologies sit side by side in harmony.’

The faiths represented, approximately in order of affiliated members are: Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Taoism, Bahaism, Confucianism, Jainism, and Shintoism.

Mary Donaghey’s contribution also images a reconciliation yet to be realised. In To Arm is to Harm, leaders of five countries dealing or buying arms smile as arms are burnt. The background shows their distressed faces as they see what they and the Arms Trade enable; destruction of Palestinian homes (rebuilding shown), etc..

Former Bishop of Barking, David Hawkins also addresses contemporary issues with his mixed media pieces: ‘Carrier bags have become the latest culprits in the war on pollution, with two million being purchased every minute across the globe. Back lit by the sun, they become angels of death and destruction. Our Celtic forbears saw God’s activity in the mundane of everyday life – in our century, even in carrier bags.’

The Angels of Death pictured in these images feature in Old Testament stories which foreshadow the forgiveness and reconciliation to be found in the death of Christ.

Similarly, Michael Garaway’s ‘Friday Process – Mark’ also focuses on the significance of Christ’s crucifixion coming as it does from a series of four which present in graphical form the symbolic ‘hardware’ related to Christ’s suffering and death, as described in the Gospel accounts.


Friday, 8 March 2019

Windows on the world (437)

London, 2019


Delirious? - Find Me In The River.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

HeartEdge Mailer | February 2019

HeartEdge Mailer | February 2019

HeartEdge is an international ecumenical movement.
  • We are churches and other organisations developing mission.
  • We focus on 4 areas - commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion.
  • Join us! Details here.
Each month we collect and email stories, web links, news related to our focus: commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion.

Useful, inspiring, practical - it's a resource.

This month:
  • Migrants, asylum seekers and church as hospitality and safe place
  • Making good ideas real via CMS and 'Out of the Box' and Birmingham Bike project,
  • Churches running cafés and soft play business plus how to curate art in a church building.
  • Tips on community storytelling and the conflict in our congregations.
  • Laura Everett on pedal power and prayer, biking around Boston.
Read the Mailer here.


Lizz Wright - I Remember, I Believe.

Menu options for Lent

Here is my reflection from the 8.30am Ash Wednesday Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

I grew up in non-conformist churches where Lent was never a feature of their annual programmes. As a result, I have always felt that I have looked at Lent a little bit like an outsider. From that ‘outsider’s’ perspective it seems to me that there are three main ways of using Lent; all of which are ultimately to do with deepening our relationship with God.

The first is to give up something for Lent. This way of approaching Lent clearly derives from Biblical teachings on fasting such as those that we heard read in our readings. Fasting could either be a response to a particular circumstance, as in the reading from Joel, or part of a regular pattern of abstinence, as in our reading from Matthew’s Gospel.

In the first instance, we have a strong and particular sense of our unworthiness and need for forgiveness and our fasting is a part of our repentance; a way of saying to ourselves and to God that we are sorry for what we have done and intend to turn away from it. When fasting is part of a regular pattern of abstinence then it is usually more to do with freeing up time in which to spend in prayer and study of the scriptures than it is about a specific need for forgiveness.

What often happens in Lent as we give up chocolates or alcohol or whatever it is for the 40 days of Lent is usually more like the second example than the first. That doesn’t mean that Lent can’t be about responses to specific sin. It certainly can be an opportunity for that kind of self examination and repentance and this is something that our Lenten liturgy encourages as the opening responses ‘Good Lord, deliver us’ are intended as a rigorous self examination.

However, for most of us it is more likely that our abstinence during Lent will not be prompted by awareness of particular sins than by it being our usual practice. In this instance, it is worth pointing out that giving something up is in fact only half of the biblical package. The reason people in scripture abstained from food for certain periods was in order to use the time gained in prayer and study of the scriptures. So, if we do the former but not the latter then we are missing out on the real benefit and purpose of Lent which is to deepen our relationship with God by spending more time with him in prayer than is usually the case. A further aspect to giving something up is the opportunity to reflect and act on the needs of those who have so much less than ourselves and the Diocesan Lent Appeal which we are supporting will give us means by which we can take action in that regard, with a focus on ending Modern Day Slavery.

The second approach is to take something up for Lent. Traditionally, in Churches, this has meant attending a Lent study group or reading a Lent book; both of which are intended to take us deeper into an aspect of our faith and relationship with God.

The book we are studying here, The Confessions of St Augustine, is one of the greatest spiritual autobiographies written, and has had a significant impact on the church. It is “a canticle to God, full of psychological insights, which tells the story of a soul, and also the story of God, and how he is constantly at work seeking us.” We will be guided through the text, with a fresh translation by Benignus O’Rourke OSA, which sheds new light on Augustine’s spiritual journey. Each evening will follow the pattern of a community Eucharist at 6.30pm, where the different chapters of Confessions are introduced, followed by a simple shared supper and then listening groups. The book and our study guide are available from the Verger’s office today.

Often taking up a Lent study or book does also involve us in giving something up as well. I’m thinking of our time which may not usually be spent in that kind of regular study or reading or where we may be committing ourselves to extra study or reading.

In more recent years however taking something up for Lent has developed beyond study and reading to encompass actions and, in particular, acts of kindness. You could, for example, try the ‘Love Life Live Lent’ initiative which was first developed in the Diocese of Birmingham where a different act of kindness is suggested for each day of Lent. A similar approach is Christian Aid’s Count Your Blessings leaflet which suggests an action a week during Lent.

The final approach to Lent is to view it as being a time of preparation for Easter by reflecting on all that Jesus went through for our sake and all he achieved for us through his Passion and Resurrection. Some traditional ways in which people have done so have included regularly praying the Stations of the Cross or meditating on the Seven Last Words that Jesus spoke from the Cross.

The art exhibition we have in the Foyer during Lent and Eastertide may assist in doing so. Its theme of ‘Leaves for Healing’ is taken from Ezekiel 47:1-12, a vision of a transformed desert landscape. In a barren landscape the passage finishes with a wonderful vision of the fruit from the trees that grow being food and the leaves used for healing. We have here a vision of life being released into the dry desert of Ezekiel’s time and encouragement for us to imagine this life flowing into our 21st century context. The exhibition utilises this imagery to explore themes of flourishing, growth, healing and worship, with the two halves of the exhibition – one in Lent, one in Eastertide - reflecting the transition from wilderness to fertile land.

So these are some of the menu options before us as we begin this Lent. Which will we choose? They are not, of course, mutually exclusive and some might choose a gourmet Lent by taking up all the available options while others may pick ‘n’ mix by sampling a little of this and some of that. Whatever you decide the challenge is to make active use of the next forty days in order to deepen your relationship with God.


Lord Jesus, Think On Me.