Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Artlyst - Bill Viola And The Art Of Contemplation

In my latest feature article for Artlyst I explore the extent to which Bill Viola’s works, which can be seen at the Royal Academy from 26 January alongside drawings by Michelangelo, reveal the essentially contemplative nature of art and of the viewing of art. 

In the piece I explore Viola's use of slowness, stillness, silence and sacrament noting that prayer and meditation in religious traditions also use these same elements suggesting that there is potentially much fruitful exploration possible between the forms of contemplation found in the Arts and in religion:

'Viola has said that the form his interest in the spiritual side of things has taken has been, in a tranquil way, to merely look with great focus at the ordinary things around him that he found wondrous. His works ask us to do the same.'

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Paul Weller - The Soul Searchers.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Christina Rossetti: Vision, Verse, Ecology & Faith

In an exploration of the celebrated Victorian poet's significant connection with visual art, Christina Rossetti: Vision & Verse at the Watts Gallery brings together paintings, illustrations, works on paper and photography.

Presenting portraits of the poet and highlights of the many visual images inspired by her words - alongside Rossetti's own intriguing and virtually unknown drawings - this exhibition considers Christina Rossetti's complex attitude to visual art, recognising the enduring appeal of Rossetti's verse to visual artists from the 1850s through to the present day.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) is among the greatest of English Victorian poets. Born in London to an intellectually minded Anglo-Italian family, Rossetti was the youngest of four supremely talented children, all of whom succeeded as artists and writers.

A precocious and deeply creative child, Rossetti had her own first book of poetry privately printed by her grandfather when she was just 16 years old. The luminous early portraits of the poet that will feature in this show, created by her Pre-Raphaelite artist-brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, highlight the exceptionally visual and creative family environment in which she grew up. Rossetti studied art herself, attending the North London Drawing School in the early 1850s. Her own charming and rarely seen animal drawings feature in the exhibition, as does Sing-Song, her collection of nursery rhymes for children which are by turns humorous and touching.

Christina Rossetti spent her early adulthood surrounded by, and modelling for, key figures of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She also made her own original contributions to the movement by writing poetry for their journal The Germ. Exploring the ways in which Christina and Dante Gabriel creatively collaborated, the exhibition features his illustrations for Goblin Market (1862 and 1865) and The Prince's Progress (1866).

While ostensibly reclusive, Rossetti was very well connected in the British art world, and cared deeply about how her poetry was illustrated, as it was regularly from the 1850s onwards. The exhibition includes lively illustrations to her poetry by Arthur Hughes and Frederick Sandys.

From the 1860s, paintings inspired by Rossetti's poems, such as Arthur Hughes's The Mower (1865), began to appear at London exhibitions, offering freer interpretations of Rossetti's words than were usually possible with printed illustrations. The celebrated pioneer of art photography, Julia Margaret Cameron, based her composition The Minstrel Group on a poem. Sometimes the results alarmed Rossetti, but these reinterpretations set a trend for artists to reimagine her works in pencil and paint that continues to this day.

The intensity of Rossetti's vision, her colloquial style and the lyrical quality of her verse continued to speak powerfully after the poet's death in 1894, and as this exhibition shows, Rossetti's striking imagery has continued to inspire visual artists.

This exhibition is co-curated by Dr Susan Owens, an art historian and writer, and former curator of paintings at the V&A. To coincide with the exhibition an accompanying publication, Christina Rossetti: Poetry in Art, has been released. This is the first art book to explore Rossetti's art and poetry together, including her own artworks, illustrations to her writing, and art inspired by her.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) is among the greatest of English Victorian poets. The intensity of her vision, her colloquial style, and the lyrical quality of her verse still speak powerfully to us today, while her striking imagery has always inspired artists. Rossetti lived in an exceptionally visual environment: her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was the leading member of the avant-garde Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and she became a favorite model for the group. She sat for the face of Christ in William Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, while both John Everett Millais and Frederick Sandys illustrated her poetry. Later on, the pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and the great Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff were inspired by Rossetti’s enigmatic verses. This engaging book explores the full artistic context of Rossetti’s life and poetry: her own complicated attitude to pictures; the many portraits of her by artists, including her brother, John Brett, and Lewis Carroll; her own intriguing and virtually unknown drawings; and the wealth of visual images inspired by her words.

Additionally, on Saturday 26 January in the Watts Gallery, Emma Mason will present her own absorbing new study of Christina Rossetti, Christina Rossetti - Poetry, Ecology, Faith, on her spiritual life and her connection with the natural world. A committed supporter of animal welfare, and a keen observer of the diversity of creation, Rossetti considered it her Christian duty to maintain it in a state of equilibrium and equality. Drawing on poetry, diaries, letters and devotional commentaries, the author offers a fresh narrative of the life and work of Rossetti in which her theology and ecology are deemed inseparable if not equivalent.


Windows on the world (429)

Soller, 2018


Friday, 11 January 2019

Perfect love drives out all fear

Here is the reflection I shared in Wednesday's Choral Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love (1 John 4. 11 – 18).

The writer of the first letter of John sees no place in Christianity for fear because fear has to do with punishment and Christianity has nothing to do with punishment. Yet the idea of eternal damnation through 'the endless, bloodthirsty torment of body, mind and spirit in Hell' captured the Christian imagination over many centuries and is 'the stuff of nightmares, graveyard humour and revivalist preaching.' It is an idea wholly based on fear.

Our Vicar Sam Wells has noted two major objections to the traditional understanding of hell - the moral objection and the sovereignty problem. The existence of hell implies that God isn’t all loving, otherwise he couldn’t consign parts of his creation to eternal damnation, and that God isn’t all powerful, otherwise he’d be able to bring their torment to an end whenever he saw fit. But there is also an objection thrown up by today’s Epistle which is not primarily to do with God and is instead to do with us; that is, how genuine is our love of God if it generated primarily by fear of Hell?

The writer of the first letter of John says that love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. What removes fear and gives boldness on the day of judgement is a process of change by which Christ takes on our humanity, and in exchange gives us a share in his divinity. We become like him; as he is, so are we!

Christmas reveals the mystery of this "marvellous exchange", the Creator becomes a human being, born of the Virgin. We are made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity. Christ takes what is ours and gives us what is his. In this “wonderful exchange', Christ assumes our place and gives us his place. According to Thomas F. Torrance (possibly the most important British academic theologian of the 20th century), the “wonderful exchange” embedded in the incarnation is: “the redemptive translation of [humanity] from one state into another brought about by Christ who in his self-abnegating love took our place that we might have his place, becoming what we are that we might become what he is.”

This change is both a state of being and a daily process of renewal in Christ. The daily process of renewal is, in essence, a refining and reforming process which then leads us to a different understanding of the biblical imagery of fiery furnaces, lakes of fire and its contents of burning sulphur; all traditionally understood as forming the fear inducing fires of Hell. Sam Wells has contributed an alternative understanding based on those same texts and images, with the key being words spoken by the prophet Malachi: “Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness”.

'Think about this picture of a refiner’s fire. Imagine that there is indeed a fire which burns, not eternally, but until the last day. And that after we die, every little piece of us that has not turned to the glory of God, every tiny part of our history or character, every word or thought or deed that shrinks from God’s grace is burned off by the refiner’s fire. And that means that when that process is finished not all of our earthly self gets to heaven. But not none of it, either, even among the worst that humanity has produced. Out of such as remains from the refiner’s fire, God remakes a heavenly body fit for worship, friendship and eating with him forever. So, Hell is not an eternal horror that abides forever as a scar on the face of God’s glory. Hell is a refiner’s fire, from which that in us that has been soaked in God’s forgiveness and transforming sanctification moves on quite rapidly, but in which that in us that has turned away from the glory of God remains being prepared to meet God for as long as it takes until the job is done.'

This is a picture of hell that stays true to the scriptural imagery, stays true to our faith in the self-giving and loving character of God, and stays true to our belief in the almightiness of God. Most importantly, it takes fear of Hell out of the equation leaving us free to do what the writer of the first letter of John wants, to love God for God’s own sake, not for fear of punishment. It leaves us able to pray:

Loving God, if I love thee for hope of heaven, then deny me heaven; if I love thee for fear of hell, then give me hell; but if I love thee for thyself alone, then give me thyself alone. Amen.


Arvo Pärt - Stabat Mater.

Monday, 7 January 2019

HeartEdge in the New Year


To be held from 6.30pm on Monday, 21 January 2019 at Salvation Army Regent Hall, 275 Oxford St, Mayfair, London W1C 2DJ.

For poster please click here Annual Meeting v2018

The main purpose of our meeting this year is to explore the model of mission (congregation, compassion, culture & commerce) advocated by HeartEdge, a new ecumenical movement for renewal. Before this, from 6.30 to 7.00pm we will present reports of CTiW activities during the past year; the Meet the Neighbours events; our Prayer Vigil; our income and expenditure; the Prisons Mission and our strengthened Executive Committee. There will also be opportunities for questions and discussion of future plans. If any votes are required, each church which is in paid up membership will be entitled to a single vote. Copies of our constitution, which is consistent with the Churches Together in England model can be found on the web-site

HeartEdge has been initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields and churches in Westminster have been early adopters in the movement. We will hear from churches such as Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Notre Dame de France and St James Piccadilly about the reasons why they have joined HeartEdge and of mission initiatives to do with congregation, compassion, culture and commerce. This is an opportunity to hear about innovative mission activity in Westminster and to explore the ways in which integrated approaches to mission impact communities.

'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


Pēteris Vasks - Lord Open Our Eyes.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Foyer Display: Michelle Fuller






A Human Being

Native to earth


#M.I.G.R.A.N.T – This label captures only a finite idea of who I know I am.

2) The ‘Hostile Environment’ – the inhumane barriers constructed to debilitate and scar individuals - blocking integration.

by Michelle Fuller

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 our community who show artwork and organise art projects on a temporary basis. One initiative of this group is a changing display of work by 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.

Michelle Fuller has been based in the UK since 2001. She is an accountant who formerly worked for the NHS for nine years. Having experienced the UK immigration ‘hostile environment’ first hand she decided to speak out about it. Since 2016 she has been a volunteer writer for the charity Migrant Voice, which encourages migrants to tell their stories and campaign for positive change. She conducts interviews and her articles continue to be published on their website.

In the summer of 2018 her two photos displayed here were part of Migrant Voice’s, ‘Changing Lenses, London Stories of Integration’ project which was exhibited at the Guardian. Michelle’s additional photos from the project can be found online here:

Migrant Voice is a migrant-led organisation supporting fellow migrants, refugees and asylum seekers regardless of status or country of origin. They develop the media skills and confidence of migrants so that they may contribute directly to the media and public debates about migration in order to counter xenophobia and increase support for the rights of migrants.


Saturday, 5 January 2019

Windows on the world (428)

Palma, 2018


Neil Young - Give Me Strength.