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Friday, 31 October 2008

Secularism: a multi-belief debate

Jay Lakhani, one of those who contributed to Ethics in a global economy, has sent the following information about an event discussing 'Secularism' from a multi-belief perspective:

Sunday 7 December 2008 3-5pm - S E C U L A R I S M

Join us to look at the nature and role and place of various forms of secularism within a many and non-faith society:

Following three brief key-note presentations there will be time both for questions and discussion and also opportunity to consider how best to continue to raise the profile of this type of conversation within this more inter faith context.

London Inter Faith Centre has limited car parking space available on a first come first served basis. Nearest Underground - Queens Park on the Bakerloo Line (Zone 2). Nearest Overground - Brondesbury Park on the Silverlink North London Line.

For more information or to reserve a place - 7604 3053 and


Al Green - God Is Standing By.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ethics in a global economy

Here are some of the comments that have been received following Wednesday's seminar on Ethics in a global economy:
  • "Thank you for a really well organised and interesting event with good speakers and discussion."
  • "I certainly received the impression the seminar was greatly appreciated by everyone present and am convinced we will be able to build on it as we begin to plan our next seminar together."
  • "Just wanted to say thank you for yesterday's event. I felt it was a valuable first conversation and the speakers created an interesting range of perspectives. I hope we can do some kind of follow up to this. It would be good to start the ball rolling and help get a multi-faith response to this more widely heard."
  • "I was very impressed with the contribution from the rest of the group. This country has given many good things to the rest of the world like (as Ed remarked) the Banking system. Yet people in this country do not recognise the even greater concept they posses - dignifying humanity - this concept too needs to be globalised. What we may do in a small group can become the catalyst to do this."
  • "I hope you were encouraged by today - I thought it went very well and had an interesting mix of people and contributers. I particularly valued the exercise we particpated in on the 16 core values. I can talk for the UK in the Olympics but always gain massively from those sort of participative exercises."

One of the participants, Zaki Cooper, had a very useful article on Faith and business: a new deal for the modern workplace published recently in The Times while Alison Murdoch, one of the contributors to the seminar, has highlighted an interesting initiative from The Templeton Foundation. "Does the free market corrode moral character?" is the Big Question posed in the latest of the Templeton Foundation's advertorials, which has been running this autumn in newspapers and magazines in the United States and the UK . The advertorials bring together different combinations of the thirteen distinguished commentators and public figures who have written essays responding to the question. The essays are available in their entirety at, where the full texts can be read, printed as PDFs, or requested in a free printed booklet.

I'll post more on the event and its outcomes shortly.


Sam Phillips - Can't Come Down.

Bible Sunday sermon

“Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away,” said Jesus. I was reminded of these words, which come from the Gospel reading for Bible Sunday (Matthew 24. 30-35), as I was reading the book that Maddy Channer has written about her experiences working as a nurse in Peru. The book is called Echoes from the Andes and in it Maddy tells the stories of people that she encountered through her nursing work.

One of those whose story she tells was Jacinto whose wife Pascuala died an untimely death. Maddy writes, “Sad and weary, [Jacinto] felt his strength, especially his spiritual strength, ebbing away. He turned to Quechua hymns and sacred texts for solace. He remembered Christ alone in Gethsemene …

In the course of time, Jacinto found the memory of Pascuala’s suffering and his own pain and loneliness was transformed, so that he was quick to recognize pain and hurt in others, and respond to their need. All suffering was in some way, for him, related to her suffering.

He not only identified with the pain of those he encountered, but in particular, the sufferings of Christ – the corner-stone of his faith: the ultimate symbol of innocent suffering.

He came to understand that love is eternal, and both human and divine love are somehow intertwined and would remain with him for always.”

She also tells the story of Aurelio, who first appears in the book in this way:

“A figure appeared in the doorway of the tiny church in the middle of a scripture lesson.

“Aurelio, come on over, you’re late,” beckoned one of the boys. Aurelio pulled out a chair and joined them. He was just thirteen. His grey trousers were too short, and his red jumper barely covered his waist. Thick black hair stood out from his forehead like the bristles of a new broom. He was reserved and quiet, but soon became deeply immersed in the book given him to read …

Aurelio sold bread on the trains at weekends. He would set off on a Friday evening and catch the train to Sicuani, about a hundred miles away, and return the following day. He earned forty new pence.

“Where do you sleep in Sicuani on Friday nights Aurelio?” I enquired.
“In the street, Seńorita.”
“But it is very cold at this time of year, especially at night!”
“Seńorita, if I can’t endure the cold? Look what Christ suffered!”

Maddy writes that she pondered Aurelio’s words, “In his adversity, his thoughts were of Christ.” And his thoughts were of Christ because of what he had read of Christ in scripture and then experienced of Christ in his life.

Aurelio and Jacinto came to understand their lives and suffering as a part of the big story of salvation that is told in scripture and which can also bring meaning to our lives as we see ourselves living within that story.

What is this big story? Gabriel Josipovici has described it like this:

“It’s a magnificent conception, spread over thousands of pages and encompassing the entire history of the universe. There is both perfect correspondence between Old and New Testaments and a continuous forward drive from Creation to the end of time: ‘It begins where time begins, with the creation of the world; it ends where time ends, with the Apocalypse, and it surveys human history in between, or the aspect of history it is interested in, under the symbolic names of Adam and Israel’. Earlier ages had no difficulty in grasping this design, though our own, more bookish age, obsessed with both history and immediacy, has tended to lose sight of it. Neither theologians nor biblical scholars have stood back enough to see it as a whole. Yet it is a whole and quite unlike any other book.”

Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, has written about this big story as being like a five act play. Act 1 is Creation, Act 2 is the Fall, Act 3 is the story of Israel and Act 4 the story of Jesus. The writing of the New Testament is the first scene in Act 5 and also gives us hints of how the play will end. The church, that is all Christians, including us, are then actors in Act 5 improvising our scenes on the basis of what has gone before and how we know the story will end.

This is what Aurelio and Jacinto did, their thoughts were on Christ and understanding their lives and suffering in the light of his story. Their actions – sleeping on the streets to earn money for the family and recognizing pain and hurt in others and responding – became part of the story of salvation throughout which God is seen in human form and this world drawn into the coming fullness of the kingdom of God. Our lives and actions, like theirs, can also be part of this big story as we immerse ourselves in the story through scripture and act out our part in the unfolding narrative of salvation history.


Beth Rowley - Oh My Life.

Windows on the world (25)

Paris, 2008
Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

How Cuba survived peak oil

Exciting developments tonight in our local discussions of peak oil because a showing of the film How Cuba Survived Peak Oil by Redbridge Green Fair has brought together a significant number of local people and organisations interested in the issue, including the Redbridge Faith Forum, Barkingside Agenda 21, other churches and community groups. This opens up the possibility of working together with others locally on the issue and, most importantly, getting experience, advice and ideas from those such as the Forest Farm Peace Garden who have been working on responses locally for several years.

How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is an interesting short film produced by Community Solutions which is all about how Cuba coped when its oil supply ran out and all the benefits this brought on a community level. Following the film there was a short facilitated conversation afterwards looking at any lessons we can learn for Redbridge, how we can become less oil dependent and bring the power of communities working together in the face of climate change.

One of the areas about which there was common agreement was that the issue has considerable implications for urban planning and reveals the folly of proposals made by Redbridge Council to build on allotments. One of the urgent implications is to get peak oil issues onto the agenda of urban planners and this is something that I will seek to do locally by raising the issue initially with TASK and hopefully through them with the Planning & Regeneration Department in the borough. Interestingly and importantly, Sam Norton spoke on the issue of peak oil at the recent SRNet Conference held in the Diocese meaning that the issue was raised with Regeneration Advisers for Dioceses across the UK.


John Coltrane - My Favorite Things.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Tax competition debate

justshare have sent details on their forthcoming debate: ‘Tax Competition: How does it affect the developing world?’

The debate will take place on Tuesday 25th November at 6pm at St Mary-le-Bow church, Cheapside EC2V 6AU.

The speakers will be Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network & Paul Morton of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Neville White of CCLA will chair.

The formal debate will end at 7pm but informal discussions will be able to continue over a glass of Fairtrade wine.


Evanescence - Bring Me To Life.

Windows on the world (24)

Seven Kings, 2008

Creed - Six Feet From The Edge.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Confirmation Service video

Click here to see a video of the Bishop of Barking demonstrating how wind powers a sailing dinghy at the recent Confirmation Service held at St John's. Photos from the service can also be found here.


Natalie Merchant - Wonder.

TASK Newsletter No. 11

Hello again from TASK.

As autumn sets in and the days get shorter, so do our tempers, following a truly turbulent month which has seen the premature closure of the Ilford pool, local business shut downs, worries about the High Road lorry lorry park project and the submission of our huge 2000 signature library petition.

Lets have a quick round up

Ilford pool: gone but not forgotten - march planned for Saturday October 25 - we offer to develop site as a community development trust

The pool was originally due to close just before Christmas but councillors decided to pull the plug at the end of September, citing emergency health and safety hazards. The closure deprives us not just of two pools but a popular gymnasium and host of leisure and fitness classes, inconveniencing literally hundreds of people who now have to trek miles to use the only other public pool facility in Barkingside, now hideously over stretched. No substantive plans are in place for a replacement and citizens must despair for their leisure futures if Redbridge Council operate at their usual speed and efficiency.

Which is why TASK have made the audacious offer to the Council to sell us the site for a peppercorn sum - we suggested a fiver - so we can develop it as a community development trust committed to opening a replacement pool and leisure facility on the site asap. The benefit of this approach is that it is safeguarded as a leisure site for the future, is taken out of the troubled Council's portfolio and can be worked on in a more focused way, drawing on appropriate local and specialist talent. A development trust can also seek funds from a wide variety of sources, including the lottery and private sector, with many examples of successful achievements using this model. One of the best London examples is at Coin Street on the south bank, whose development trust has transformed the area and now runs scores of profitable community businesses employing hundreds of locals.

Not surprisingly, the Council has failed to respond to the proposal, which local paper the Ilford Recorder - in a front page feature - described as stunning the Cabinet member responsible.

Meanwhile, TASK will be supporting the upcoming march planned for Saturday October 25th to deplore the closure. It is a chance for local swimmers and the wider community to come together and condemn yet another blow for the area and pressure Redbridge to develop a feasible plan for the site. At the very least, it will further embarrass them and the larger the march the greater the impact. Organisers are asking people to meet up outside the Ilford Recorder building on the High Road, Ilford at 1.30pm to walk to the Town Hall where there will be short speeches at a rally. Do please make every effort to attend.

Shops shut in hard times

It has been the toughest economic news month for years and our own small shops are feeling the pinch. Both new coffee outlets- Toscana and Viva la Mocha- have now gone and are empty. TASK fear they make be stalked by yet more fast food operators, with a further chicken outlet recently opened by the station, and will be monitoring the situation closely. Following the controversial re/licensing of the Shannon Centre and the award of a new local alcohol license we have also just been made aware of new powers that allow local councils to set up cumulative impact zones in areas of leisure/alcohol industry saturation, which are basically designed to limit the future stress on such areas, and we think may now be approppriate in Seven Kings. More next time.

Library petition now submitted: thanks to all our trader helpers and signatories- offer of talks now on the table

The huge 2000 strong petition in support of a local library has now been submitted to Council Cabinet, with strong speeches from Jonathan, Ali, local Councillors Bob Littlewood and Gary Staight in support of a new facility. The official line is still that we are reasonably served by mobile and other services and do not need our own static library but the strength of the campaign has opened up a new negotiating flank with the offer of a series of meetings with library officials to explore new outreach services. They begin at the end of October and we hope to offer details of specifcally what is on offer in next month's newsletter.

Meanwhile, huge thanks to everyone who helped gather signatures, especially local traders, almost all of whom enthusiastically signed up. Amongst these, Station Superfoods , PG Creed, Costcutter, Taqwa Carpets, Brothers Fish and Chip shop deserve special mention for their sterling efforts. In addition special thanks to the Headmasters of Downshall Primary School and Canon Palmer School for the hundreds of signatures they helped obtain.

TASK public meeting- make it a date for 21 November

The date is now set for our autumn TASK supporters meeting, which will happen on Friday November 21 from 7,30pm at St. John the Evangelist Church, at the junction of Aldborough Road South and St. John's Road. It is a brilliant opportunity to meet other local residents, make new friends and find out what is going on in other parts of the area. As well as a chance to bring your ideas for making the area a better place.

If you did not come along to our spring gathering, please make an effort to join us this time. We aim to be welcoming and informal- and want to assure you that its definitely not just another boring meeting. If you did come in the Spring, we hope to see you again.

High Road Lorry park development: is continuing silence golden?

It may be a sign of building business meltdown but it has all gone ominously silent on the lorry park site, where developers Swan Housing were due to consult locals over the summer on their service preferences for this major new build development before submitting plans in the early autumn. We have heard nothing thus far and are trying to re/establish links with Swan following the departure of our contact there in June.

Seven Kings Station: yet more improvements

The planting is still in place and the station is looking even better following the resurfacing of the stairs, making acces and exit quicker, easier and safer. Well done again, station operator national express, which is rapidly becoming our favourite local agency.

Area 5 Meeting

The next opportunity to raise issues to the local Councillors is the Area meeting on 10 November starting at 7.15pm at Barley Lane Primary School. Alternatively they have a weekly surgery at the United Free Church on the corner of Norfolk Road and Meads Lane every Friday between 6pm and 7pm.

That is enough for now

See you in November

Chris, Take Action for Seven Kings ("TASK")


Nanci Griffith - It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Celebration concert

The Acocks Green Singers

The Acocks Green Singers with Three Men and a Lady

Jeremy Ballard

Andi Thomas

At the weekend I was at a concert held in memory of my Dad, Phil Evens, which raised money for Rejuvenate Worldwide, a charity that Dad was involved in founding. The concert was hosted by St Cyprian’s Hay Mills and the performers were Jeremy Ballard, the Acocks Green Singers and Three Men and a Lady.

Jeremy Ballard is a violinist and studied in London with Sasha Lasserson. He joined the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as leader of the second violins and also in 1971 formed the Arioso Quartet. He played a charity concert following the death of my brother Nick and was impressed by the things my Dad said in accepting the cheque. As a result, he was very willing to again perform for charity in this concert.

At the end of the evening I said the following:

"It is, of course, entirely appropriate that this evening has been raising money for Rejuvenate Worldwide and we are particularly grateful to Andi Thomas for speaking about Dad and the work of Rejuvenate. Following Nick’s death, founding Rejuvenate (then known as Faith in Action) with Andi was one of the key ways in which Dad was able to continue the work that Nick had begun and the inspiration that he had provided to many. Dad had, of course, given Nick the opportunity to begin that work by setting up the Aston Community Youth Project along with all those who played a part in its work and development. Andi was one of those who benefited from the project and who has gone on to put into practice, through his youth work in Birmingham and through his leadership of Rejuvenate, the vision that Dad and Nick both shared.

Dad influenced many people throughout his life and it was wonderful for us as a family to hear and read many tributes to Dad from those whose lives he had influenced for good in some way around the time of his funeral. One element in coping with the loss of someone who was, for me, probably the biggest influence on my life and what I have made of it, has been the sense that there are people who continue to be influenced by Dad in the way that they live out their lives. Some of you will know that over that period I posted a number of pieces about Dad’s life on my blog and also wrote a series of poems about my response to his illness and death. I’d like to end by reading the last poem in that series. In it, I list in brief those who were influenced by Dad to serve others as church workers, social workers and youth workers. That is the legacy that he leaves behind. Some of us here tonight and others in other places around the country are that legacy. In and through the way we live our lives, his memory and inspiration live on.

Our world contracted

Our world has contracted
to a room,
a bed,
a man.
Yet the world continues to spin,
traffic flows,
people sleep, work and eat,
the world and ward continue
their nightly rounds
unaffected by his passing
Progenitor of people
and projects,
of church workers,
social workers,
youth workers.
As he lay
and breathing
we have remembered
and celebrated
this man
that the world
does not know
but who loved,
and challenged
our lives
into being
and becoming.
He lies still,
his life gone.
His memory
and inspiration
live on."


Mahler 2nd - Finale End - Simon Rattle/CBSO

Review of 'Memoria Roubada'

Bookended by bookcase and cupboard, Ana Maria Pacheco’s two Memória Roubada sculptures face each other across a pavement of slate slabs forming a space for the contemplation of suffering.

In this space we come and go throughout the private view blithely speaking of Pacheco, the power and perfection of her art and, in one conversation, offering a jar of 19th century hand-made nails for the artist to drive into future creations of mutilated heads.

And yet I speak with a man who, claiming no artistic sensitivity, feels “got in the gut” by Pacheco’s severed head of John the Baptist which, gashed by chain saw, charred by flame and pierced by nails, rests on a large wooden platter placed on the font of All Hallows on the Wall, the church which houses the gallery in which this exhibition is displayed. In Pacheco’s hands, this church has been released from the safeness of a thousand crucifixes into a real reflection on the reality of torture and its instruments that in turn revives awareness of the suffering which is at the very heart of our faith.

This man is joined at the private view by a National Gallery custodian who having, like myself, walked among the disturbing and unsettling figures forming Pacheco’s Dark Night of the Soul tableau, first exhibited at the National in 1999, had been irresistibly drawn to view more of Pacheco’s work tonight. Such response is the true power of her art.

In Memória Roubada I six heads seem to burst from a cupboard whose doors have been flung wide open. In Pacheco’s Brazilian culture such cupboards are oratories housing statues of saints or the Holy Family and used as private chapels for prayer. Pacheco’s oratory is far more disturbing containing disembodied heads - screaming, still, fearful and anxious – deriving from ballads which immortalised the deeds of Brazilian bandits who were decapitated when caught. Memories of the violence both of their actions and of the vengeance enacted on them by the colonial power bursts from Pacheco’s oratory, each head retaining the emotion of their final moments in the features of their faces.

Memória Roubada II is a calmer work containing fifteen smaller heads and pierced torsos placed symmetrically on the shelves of a bookcase. Here are grieving heads displayed as owned objects, domestic trophies or statuettes, and referring, as is made clear in the quotation carved into the slate slabs, to the state of slavery that was the experience of many in colonial Brazil. With this new work the sense of initial shock is muted in contrast with the first and yet the sense of outrage grows the more these trophy heads are contemplated.

Placed on the slate slabs, one in front of each sculpture, are two images with Christian resonances that offer hope despite the horrors we have faced. In the first, a heart is pierced by seven gold swords. Pacheco has spoken of “the need for all of us to find our way, with our hearts, not just with our heads” but, in this church context, we are also reminded of Simeon’s words to Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart, with its promise of redemption through suffering. In the second, a silver shell sits on the slate, a symbol familiar to pilgrims journeying to Santiago de Compostela and, for Pacheco, a sign that “as with the Santiago pilgrims, there is a way to find yourself.”


Bruce Cockburn - Soul Of A Man.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Climate Change Victory!

Good news received via Tear Fund:

The government have raised the target in the Climate Change Bill, from 60 to 80 per cent emissions cuts by 2050. This is what Tearfund, along with the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, have been campaigning for.

Over the past two years, the local church has been raising its voice as thousands of Tearfund supporters have prayed and written to MPs and Ministers, raising their concerns that the UK was not doing enough about the impact climate change is having on the world's poorest people.
Do take a moment to thank God that our voice has been heard, and pray that it will encourage other high emitting countries to follow in the UK's footprints.

Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, made the announcement yesterday. Tearfund Advocacy Director Paul Cook said: "We are pleased the government has announced a target that matches the science and gives the UK integrity on the international stage. This signals justice for people in the poorest countries who contribute least to carbon emissions, but are bearing the brunt of climate change."

There is still work to do on the Climate Change Bill, but for now it is time to celebrate. Click here for the full announcement.


Counting Crows - Big Yellow Taxi.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Images from tonight's Confirmation

Bishop of Barking with Confirmation candidates

Bishop of Barking with the Advent Art Installation

Delirious? - Inside Outside.

Instability in the DRC

This information about the current instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been received from Bishop Isingoma:

The 13th Synod had been held as scheduled by God’s grace. It is 2 days later after the opening that a new war started at Bukiringi which is a sub location situated at 17 km away of Boga. The members of the Synod did not panic; trauma was not seen on the face of any participant to the meeting.

At the end of the Synod members of the Synod that came from Aveba, Gety and Bunia had to travel in convoy with us using an unusual routing which is in the Equatorial forest. This is because the usual road from Boga to Bunia is still impassable to militia forces that apparently seem to gain strength at the moment. We spent 2 days along the journey in the forest before we could reach Bunia town. After we left the forest, we had to rest at Eringeti, a small town in the Northern Kivu Province located at the border with the Eastern Province. This for getting some food stuffs. In all we were forty (40) people going to Bunia after the rest of participants to the Synod had stayed at their homes at Tchabi and Bwakadi.

At the same time some friends as well some administrative leaders from Bunia advised us to leave Eringeti as soon as we received their phone calls because the National Armed Forces were deployed on the road that we were travelling on ( Marabo – Bunia pathway). The Armed Forces were brought at this specific place so that they could fight against the Militia troops that had already occupied a neighbouring location called Songolo. That reason forced us to leave Eringeti without rest despite our fatigue due to long journey in the forest so that we could get to Bunia before getting dark.

A few hours after our arrival to Bunia yesterday evening, the road was closed and fighting was going on today at Kombokabo, situated at 16km from Bunia. But Bunia is still calm up to now.

Commodities prices are getting higher because there is no connexion of transport from the rural areas to the town. There is an increase of fear that the fighting groups may loot peoples goods. We are told that yesterday some trucks carrying goods were shot and looted as they were coming from the rural villages. Now we have the task of catering for the delegates of the Synod whose areas are affected by hostilities and as well other people that are displaced due to armed conflicts. We have numbered 48 families that are under the responsibility of the Anglican Church.

There are 7,000 people around Bunia Town at a place called Kotonu and many other are still coming. Those that are coming to look for safety do not have anything with them. They need assistance in feeding, medical care, blankets and plastic sheeting ( canvas )because of the rainy season at the moment. Some NGOs such as LWF are trying to provide some food, but they are overwhelmed by the size of the beneficiaries.

Why again the war this time? Here are some reasons to explain it:

  • Rebels are accusing the government of being unjust and corrupt; again the lords of wars among the rebels got arrested in Kinshasa and others at The Hague.
  • They need to drive out Ugandan rebels that are operating on the Congolese soil causing suffering to Congolese citizens on their own soil.
  • The Congolese Armed Forces that are supposed to protect their land and citizens are not paid by the government, it is only their higher commanders that are well paid. This makes it hard to a common soldier to survive on the small wage from the state. They become a burden to civilians.
  • The government failed in his program of demobilising armed militia troops and integrating them in a society of civilians. Though the World Bank had given some financial support, the progress has ever remained slow. These young people are flexible and can join militia movements easily due to their idleness. The recent war is not of tribal colour, but it is about unhappiness of some people that feel forgotten and are looking for justice.

We are grateful for your support in prayer and it sustained us during hard times of risks. We are also making an appeal of assistance to vulnerable in this crisis. We will be happy with your support of any kind. In a spirit of prayer with our Lord.

The Rt. Bishop Henri Isingoma K. K

Echoes from the Andes

Madeleine Channer, a member of St John's Seven Kings, has recently had a book published based on her experiences of working as a nurse in a small hospital set in the haunting loveliness of the Peruvian Andes.

Echoes from the Andes tells the story of a journey to Peru which was a response to the plight of human need, yet it led to a spiritually rich experience and new dimensions of understand and awareness.
These stories have been written in honour of an obscure community, a remarkable people; the poor crushed beneath life's load whose resilience and fortitude has left a sacred memory.
Echoes from the Andes is published by Four O'Clock Press and costs £7.99. Copies will shortly be available from St John's.
Cesar Paucar & Saywa - Palomita Vanidosa.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Tell Tale Signs

I'm loving listening to Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs, which is Volume 8 of the wonderful Bootleg Series. One effect has been to send me back to Dylan's Modern Times, an album that is drenched in the imagery of journeying: "Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down/Some sweet day I'll stand beside my king".

Dylan as journeyman, as traveller, is the key insight of the liner notes for Tell Tale Signs where Larry Sloman signs off with a paragraph quoting a myriad of Dylan's lyrics:

"He ain't talking, but he's still walking, heart burning, still yearning. He's trampling through the mud, through the blistering sun, getting damp from the misty rain. He's got his top hat on, ambling along with his cane, stopping to watch all the young men and young women in their bright-coloured clothes cavorting in the park. Despite all the grief and devastation he's seen on his odyssey, his heart isn't weary, it's light and free, bursting all over with affection for all those who sailed with him. Deep down he knows that his loyal and much-loved companions approve of him and share his code. And it's dawn now, the sun beginning to shine down on him and his heart is still in the Highlands, over those hills, far away. But there's a way to get there and if anyone can, he'll figure it out. And in the meantime, he's already there in his mind. That mind decidedly out of time. And we're all that much richer for his journey."

Sometime ago I had a go at setting my sense of how we're all that much richer for his journey. It goes like this. 2, 3, 4 ...

"How many roads must a man walk down/Before you call him a man?" was the first of the questions that Dylan posed in Blowin' in the Wind. He didn't know the answer then - it was blowin' in the wind - and he doesn't now - because in the opening track of Time Out Of Mind, his end of millennium offering, he's still walkin':

"I'm walkin', through streets that are dead
Walkin', walkin' with you in my head
My feet are so tired,
My brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping." (Love Sick).

Dylan comes from the tradition of hobo singers (Woody Guthrie) and beat poets (Jack Kerouac) for whom the journey and the documenting of their experience is life itself. When we first meet him singing in his original voice, on Bob Dylan, he's "ramblin' outa the wild West,/Leavin' the towns I love the best ... ''Til I come into New York town" (Talkin' New York). At this stage the ramblin', gamblin' hobo is a conscious image worn in homage to Woody Guthrie:

"I'm out here a thousand miles from my home,
Walkin' a road other men have gone down.
I'm seeing your world of people and things,
Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings.

Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song ...". (Song to Woody)

Though he starts out on his journey in imitation of others what he sees on his journey is original, surreal and unjust:

"I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it,
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin' ..."
(A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall)

Ahead of him he sees a gathering apocalyptic storm and he resolves to go back out and walk in the shadow of the storm:

"... 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where the souls are forgotten,
Where black is the colour, where none is the number.
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect from the mountain so that all souls can see it ...".

He travels the paths of political protest, urban surrealism, country contentment, gospel conversion and world weary blues. On his journey he: sees "seven breezes a-blowin'" all around the cabin door where victims despair (Ballad of Hollis Brown); sees lightning flashing "For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse" (Chimes of Freedom); surveys Desolation Road; talks truth with a thief as the wind begins to howl (All Along the Watchtower); takes shelter from a woman "With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair" (Shelter from the Storm); feels the Idiot Wind blowing through the buttons on his coat, recognises himself as an idiot and feels so sorry (Idiot Wind); finds a pathway to the stars and can't believe he's survived and is still alive (Where Are You Tonight? Journey Through Deep Heat); rides the slow train up around the bend (Slow Train); is driven out of town into the driving rain because of belief (I Believe in You); hears the ancient footsteps join him on his path (Every Grain of Sand); feels the Caribbean Winds, fanning desire, bringing him nearer to the fire (Caribbean Wind); betrays his commitment, feels the breath of the storm and goes searching for his first love (Tight Connection to My Heart); then at the final moment, it's not quite dark yet but:

"The air is getting hotter, there's a rumbling in the skies
I've been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat rising in my eyes.
Everyday your memory grows dimmer.
It don't haunt me, like it did before.
I been walking through the middle of nowhere
Tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door." (Tryin' To Get To Heaven).

What we have in the best of Dylan is a contemporary Pilgrim, Dante or Rimbaud on a compassionate journey, undertaken in the eye of the Apocalypse, to stand with the damned at the heart of the darkness that is twentieth century culture. Oh, and the answer to that question, however many roads he has travelled in the songs he has become a man, an Everyman.


Bob Dylan - Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Deep Heat).

Gallery info

Here are a couple of interesting items from arts newsletters:

Wallspace will be holding an evening with Ana Maria Pacheco on Thursday 23rd October from 7.00pm. Ana Maria will take participants around the Memória Roubada exhibition and talk about her work, its background and inspiration. RSVP to Pacheco is featured artist in Melvyn Bragg's Faith in The Frame ITV 1 series broadcast on 2 November 2008.

Veritasse are featured on the Brits at their Best website. Sculptor and writer Shawn Williamson put the site in touch with Veritasse and their entry includes the news that St. Andrew's bookshop in Maidenhead has teamed up with Veritasse to create a new gallery in a refurbished area of the bookshop bringing Christian art onto the high street.


Nu Colours - Yes, I Will.

Modern day Donatism

Just a quick post to say that I share Tim Goodbody's frustration with the people at Anglican Mainstream who seem to be encouraging others to move donations from Tear Fund because Desmond Tutu spoke at a recent conference and because long-term Tear Fund supporter Cliff Richard has spoken publicly recently in favour of same-sex relationships.

Tim has a very good post on the topic which can be found here. As he says there, "it's just modern day Donatism - not wanting to be "tainted" by association." Further comment on the Fulcrum website can be found here.


Carly Simon - You're So Vain.

Peak oil

The other big issue that we addressed at the PCC Away Day for St John's Seven Kings at Peterhouse was that of peak oil and its effect on the current economic turmoil. For this, we made use of Sam Norton's Let Us Be Human materials and the session 'Peak Oil revisited' in particular.

In this session, which was prepared in 2006, Sam suggests that the economic impacts of peak oil that will work through include the following:
  • Transport will become extremely expensive. To begin with we will respond by forming car pools to keep the system ticking over, people will share cars much more. And the electric rail will continue.
  • Food is going to start becoming very expensive unless we set up local food sources. I think it is one of the most important things that we need to do. We need to ask ourselves the question, “Where is our food going to come from?” Talking to one of the Mersea farmers the other day, and talking about the possibility of shifting to organic production of food on Mersea Island, he said, “Well the thing is, if you take away fossil fuel fertiliser, to get an indication of what the result will be, look at what was farmed a hundred years ago.” And basically Mersea Island had sheep. The soil isn’t good enough to grow crops on without the input of fossil fuels. So Mersea Island is not going to be independent in terms of it’s food supply.
  • Heating is going to be expensive. You have already noticed this in your bills because the gas peak is also imminent, and whereas oil declines gradually in a safe world, gas falls off a cliff. So much more house sharing, grannies will live with parents.
  • Electricity will become very expensive. All these labour saving devices are only possible when energy is cheaper than human labour. That ratio will reverse. Human labour will be cheaper than electricity.
  • Following that through, lots of businesses will fail, airlines are the canaries in the coal mine. Four out of six American airlines are now in chapter eleven bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Unemployment will rise initially as all the businesses fail but then there will be a great demand to go back to the land.
  • The stock markets will contract so think about pensions, think about stipends, what’s going to happen to the housing market – I haven’t got a clue. Is there going to be inflation? Is there going to be deflation? Who knows?
  • We are looking at minimum at a re-run of the 1930’s in terms of the scale of what’s being faced.
People were impressed with the extent to which Sam had been accurate in predicting what is now beginning to unfold in our economy and showed interest in exploring the idea of transition initiatives further possibly by a visit to Mersea Island to see what Sam and others are involved in there.


Bob Dylan - Not Dark Yet.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Windows on the world (23)

Westminster, 2008

River City People - Say Something Good.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Spiritual Life & Advent Art

The following reflection on the Advent Art Installation appeared in the Ilford Recorder this week as my contribution to the Spiritual Life column:

An Art Installation created by local churches for display in six of the borough’s churches throughout Advent was exhibited for the first time over the weekend at St John’s Seven Kings.

The installation features an abstract design painted on three panels of mirrored perspex and explores ideas of darkness and light. The sombre colours and rectangular voids of this abstract artwork may recall works by Mark Rothko which hang in Tate Modern. Rothko’s later paintings have often been understood as depictions of the absence of God and the darkness of the world; an impression reinforced by Rothko’s suicide on the day that the Tate received those paintings.

Similarly, St Paul wrote that our experience in life is that of seeing in a mirror dimly; we do not see clearly and our understanding of life is clouded, he seemed to say. That may also be our experience in this installation, where the abstract colour has been applied to mirrored perspex, clouding our ability to see clearly in the mirrored panels of the installation. Yet the poet, Martin Wroe, has written that God can be seen as “the abstract art of paint and poem when our propaganda makes everything clear.”

As the viewer looks into the darkness of the abstract design, it is still possible to see reflected candles, lit within the space where the artwork stands, and picked out on the panels, forming a star, lines of clear reflection. The light beaming from the star on the right panel is linked by a line to the repeated word ‘Peace’ on the left.

What do we see as we look into the blurred and clear mirrored spaces of this installation? Essentially we see ourselves, both blurred and distinct. Are we defined by the darkness or are we one of the many points of light reflected in the darkness of this design? Is the reflection of our light blurred or distinct as we shine in the world? In what ways could we become light bringers and peace makers? After all, as a Chinese proverb says, ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’
The proposed dates for the Advent Art Installation as it tours Redbridge Churches during Advent are:
St Luke’s, Baxter Rd, Ilford - Dec 1-4
St Alban’s, Albert Rd, Ilford - Dec 5-8
St John’s, St John’s Rd, Ilford - Dec 9-12
St Andrew’s, The Drive, Ilford - Dec 13-16
St Margaret’s, Perth Rd, Ilford - Dec 17-20
The Vine URC, Riches Rd, Ilford - Dec 21-24


Sixpence None The Richer - Melody of You.

TASK on facebook


TASK's profile continues to rise with major stories in this week's Ilford Recorder. Not only have we secured the front page, but the Seven Kings library petition story was on page 2.

The TASK Facebook site has been updated with all the latest news and links to newspaper and BBC coverage of the various campaigns, so go and have a look. Joining the Facebook site will allow you to get regular updates on:


You can also raise issues and discuss what is happening IN YOUR COMMUNITY. Click here or go to and search for TAKE ACTION FOR SEVEN KINGS.


U2 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

TASK & Library developments

Here is a short note from Ali Hai of TASK to inform you that a number of Seven Kings residents and councillors presented arguments to the Council leadership on Monday evening together with the library petition consisting of 2000 names.

The council repeated that they did not have any resource this year for funding a new library however they have instructed their library officers to speak to some of the residents (from TASK) and see what can be done with existing resources to improve the library services in Seven Kings. Although this is not what we wanted nonetheless it is a start of a dialogue with the Council leadership and may lead to short term improvements in the library service.
We will give this pilot study offered by the Council a chance and reserve the right to present our petition and request again should this fall short of a comprehensive library service. Many thanks for your support.
The TASK campaign featured again in this week's Ilford Recorder and on the BBC London website.
Social Distortion - Don't Take Me for Granted.

commission4mission: contemporary christian art

“I think there is a big need to re-engage with the Arts. The Church has had a lengthy and happy marriage with the Arts in the past but needs more artists. I agree with Rowan Williams that ‘artists are special people and every person is a special kind of artist’.”

“The purpose of co-mission is to promote modern Christian Art in all its forms and by doing so raise money for charity. I want us to be offering quality work and craftsmanship, rather than mass-produced work, to continue the legacy of the Church as a great commissioner of art.”
Henry Shelton, Founding member of co-mission

commission4mission (co-mission) exists to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches, as a means of fundraising for charities and as a mission opportunity for churches.

co-mission promotes the purchase of artworks by churches through donations given in memory of loved ones, with these people being commemorated in plaques placed (wherever possible) on or near the artwork itself.

Membership of co-mission is open to any Christian artist (of any discipline) or supporter of Christian Art. co-mission members pay an annual subscription and for this receive: a vote in organising committee elections; places on co-mission events/ conferences; and promotion of their work to churches through co-mission’s activities.

The fees for all artwork (of whatever type and media) sold to churches through co-mission are determined using the following:

  • a charge for materials/expenses claimed by the artist in creation of the work;
  • an optional fee to the artist for the creation of the work;
  • a contribution towards the work of co-mission; and
  • a donation to a charity or charities.

co-mission’s objectives are to:

  • provide opportunities for churches to obtain and commission contemporary Christian Art for church buildings;
  • provide information, ideas and examples of contemporary Christian Art and its use/display within church settings; and
  • raise funds for charities through commissions and sales of contemporary Christian Art.

As a result we are involved in:

1. Creating a database of members able to create artworks for churches.
2. Promoting an approach to the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches as a means of fundraising for charities.
3. Organising conferences, exhibitions, meetings, seminars, visits etc. to provide information, ideas and examples of contemporary Christian Art and its use/display within church settings.
4. Displaying member’s work through brochures, exhibitions, leaflets, websites etc.

For more details write to: co-mission, c/o St John’s Seven Kings, St John’s Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex IG2 7BB or email:


Maria McKee - Life Is Sweet.

Windows on the world (22)

Villamartin, 2008

Noah and The Whale - Shape Of My Heart.

GAFCON & the Lambeth Conference: Where do we go from here?

At our PCC Away Day today we thought about the outcomes from the GAFCON and Lambeth Conferences in order to begin discussion about the effect that these conferences should have on us at St John's Seven Kings. The material we used was as follows:

The issues

GAFCON: "The ... acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel ... The ... declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel ... The ... manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy."

Lambeth: "The whole issue of homosexual relations is also highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions, ranging from legal provision for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue. The issue of homosexuality has challenged us and our Churches on what it might mean to be a Communion. We are still learning how to be the Communion that God has called and gifted us to be."

1. Approach to homosexuality
2. Approach to scripture
3. Approach to structures of the Anglican Communion

Lambeth: "There is confusion about what "the issue" really means. There are three aspects that would help to clarify discussions: How the church evangelizes, disciples and provides pastoral care for homosexual people; How and on what basis the church admits people to Sacred Orders; How the church deals with the first two locally and globally."

Approach to homosexuality

GAFCON: "This false gospel … promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship."

Lambeth: "The issue of homosexual relations is as sensitive as it is because it conflicts with the long tradition of Christian moral teaching. For some, the new teaching cannot be acceptable on biblical grounds as they consider all homosexual activity as intrinsically sinful. Tension has arisen when those who hold the traditional teaching are faced with changes in the Church’s life or teaching without being able to understand or engage with a clear presentation of how people have come to a new understanding of scripture and pastoral theology."

Approach to scripture

GAFCON: "We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading."

Lambeth: "We acknowledge the full reliability of the texts of the canonical Scriptures given to us by God … From this strong sense of biblical reliability the Church derives norms of moral and ethical life that are to be honoured by the whole Body of Christ; at the same time we discover biblically faithful means to respond pastorally to those who are unable to observe such norms. When serious disagreements arise among us about moral and ethical norms we are called to intensify our efforts to discover God’s Word through continuing scriptural discernment … Biblical scholars have a variety of exegetical tools for their use and employ many different methods of biblical exposition and interpretation. When used discerningly and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these tools and methods can assist us in breaking open the Holy Scriptures and enrich our understanding of God’s Word."

Approach to structures of the Anglican Communion

GAFCON: "Sadly, this crisis has torn the fabric of the Communion in such a way that it cannot simply be patched back together … We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans … Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion."

Lambeth: "There is a willingness to continue exploring a Covenant together … The ‘Instruments of Communion’ are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. There is a need to clarify the role and function of each of these ... and their relationship one to another … There is clear majority support for a Pastoral Forum … There is widespread support for moratoria, building on those that are already being honoured … The moratoria cover ...: ordinations of persons living in a same gender union to the episcopate; the blessing of same-sex unions; cross-border incursions by bishops."


1. Approach to structures of the Anglican Communion: GAFCON is forming a new Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans led by a Council of Archbishops and Bishops while Lambeth wants to review the four Instruments of Communion, establish a Pastoral Council, introduce an Anglican Covenant and maintain moratoria. Which do you think is the better approach and why?

2. Approach to scripture: GAFCON believes that "the Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense" while Lambeth argues that "Biblical scholars have a variety of exegetical tools for their use and employ many different methods of biblical exposition and interpretation. When used discerningly and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these tools and methods can assist us in breaking open the Holy Scriptures and enrich our understanding of God’s Word." Which do you think is the better approach to understanding scripture and why?

3. Approach to homosexuality: A false gospel or a new understanding of scripture and pastoral theology? Which do you think is the case when it comes to different approaches to homosexuality taken by Christians and why? How should we deal with the tensions that arise when those who hold the traditional teaching are faced with people who have come to a new understanding of scripture and pastoral theology?

4. Where do we go from here? What effect do you think these issues have or ought to have on St John’s and why?


Keane - Everybody's Changing.

Memória Roubada

Last Tuesday I was at the private view for Memória Roubada, the latest in a series of major exhibitions to be held at the Wallspace Gallery by significant contemporary artists utilising Christian imagery within the works exhibited. The work of Ana Maria Pacheco exhibits a compelling yet disturbing merging of Brazilian folklore, classical myth, mystical Catholicism and political satire.

Memoria Roubada I, exhibited here for the first time in the UK, was originally completed in 2001 for Fråvær/Absences, a touring exhibition in Norway while Memoria Roubada II is a new work produced specifically in response to the space used by Wallspace at All Hallows on the Wall.
Bookended by bookcase and cupboard, the two Memória Roubada sculptures face each other at Wallspace across a pavement of slate slabs forming a space for the contemplation of suffering.

One of the most interesting aspects of being at the private view was seeing the response of others to these works. I spoke with one man who, though he claimed to have no artistic sensitivity, felt “got in the gut” by Pacheco’s severed head of John the Baptist which, gashed by chain saw, charred by flame and pierced by nails, rests on a large wooden platter placed on the font of All Hallows on the Wall. This man is joined at the private view by a National Gallery custodian who having, like myself, walked among the disturbing and unsettling figures forming Pacheco’s Dark Night of the Soul tableau, first exhibited at the National in 1999, had been irresistibly drawn to view more of Pacheco’s work tonight. Such response is the true power of her art.


John Lennon - Isolation.

Five influences

As tagged by Sam, I need "to list five people, living or dead, who influenced my spiritual path in a positive way."

The five are:

1. My Dad, through his commitment to community in all of its senses and his determination to infuse his work life with his faith.

2. Phil (a youth leader at Street Baptist Church) who shared his perceptions of Romans 5. 6-8 with me, giving an insecure teenager an awareness of the overwhelming love of God for him. This led directly to my baptism and confirmation and a sense of God's love in my life that has never deserted me.

3. Tim Hull (then tutor at NTMTC) for his friendship and support during ordination training but most of all for the way in which he opened up so many new avenues for exploration.

4. Diana Crook, with whom I shared the journey through selection and training into ordination and beyond. Most especially for support and sharing in response to grief.

5. The group of friends that I gained through NTMTC who continue to be a support and challenge to me in ministry and with whom I meet regularly to share experiences, interests and ministry.

I tag Judith, Huw and Richard.


Mark Heard - Lonely Moon.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Meme on 'Why clergy blog'

Judith Schultz is currently taking a degree in Pastoral Care & Psychology and one of her assignments for the next module is to conduct a small research paper on a chosen topic. She has decided to look at why clergy, in particular, blog.

These are my answers to her questions in relation to her research paper entitled ‘WHY DO YOU BLOG?’:

1. Why do you blog?

To get my thoughts, ideas and writings out 'there' (wherever 'there' is on the web!). To inform others of activities I'm involved in.

2. What do you blog?

Mainly I blog on art, church, faith, inter-faith and social action themes. My blogs often include articles, meditations, newletters, photos, poems, publicity for events, sermons.

3. When do you blog? (Is it every day, once a month etc)

I often blog daily (but not religiously!).

4. Where do you blog? (From home, office, anywhere)

Mainly from home.

5. Who are you blogging for? (Your intended audience)

In reality, mainly friends, family, Church members and others in my wider networks.

6. Do you publicise your blogs?

There are links on a Church webpage and on my facebook page but that is all.

7. Do you check your blogs for comments? if yes - do you find the comments helpful?

Yes. Comments are always interesting and I try to reply to them all.

Having sent these answers to Judith, she came back with a supplementary question:

By blogging Sermons etc - do you feel that this makes the time spent in preparation more worthwhile by being able to reproduce it and hopefully to wider audience?

Yes, and it is interesting to get comments from outside the congregation too. Having said that, one fellow blogger thinks that sermons are too specific to a particular congregation to be suitable blogging material. I pick and choose those which I post.

I tag Philip, Paul, Sam and Tim with this meme.


Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - My Bag.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Abstract Art workshop

In the Art workshop held at St John's for the Barking Programme on Saturday we discussed the reality that Christian Art has, as a result of the Incarnation, been predominantly a representational art focused on the divine revealed in and through human form. With that understanding we saw what a break abstract art represents for the tradition of Christian Art and how, theologically, it is saying something very different to us.

Theologically, abstract art can say that God cannot be definitively captured in any representational image. God is beyond representation and is always more than the images that are used to describe aspects of God’s reality. In this sense, abstract art has affinities with the ‘via negativa’ which constantly reminds us that God is not as we have experienced or perceived him to be. As a result, abstract can also be equated with absence - the absence of representation equalling the absence of God – making abstract art the art ‘par excellence’ of a modernity which declared the ‘death of God.
The roots of abstract art lie in attempts to better express the essence of the spiritual in art and by exploring those roots in the workshop we found much that abstract art can reveal about the nature of God whilst also retaining its fundamental perception that God cannot be contained within our perceptions of his nature.


The Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies).

Patronal Festival sermon

The traditional image for our Patron Saint at St John's Seven Kings, St John the Evangelist, is the eagle and that is, of course, why images of eagles can be seen in different parts of our church. This image for John and the writings we traditionally attribute to him wasn’t chosen at random but was selected because it expresses something of what John’s writing do for us.

Richard Burridge, in his important book Four Gospels, One Jesus? (which we have begun to look at in our evening Going Deeper services), tells us that the eagle was used to represent the Evangelist because he gives us the high-flying, far-seeing perspective of the eagle when he writes about Jesus. These writings give us the big picture about Jesus and his significance.

We can see this in our readings tonight. In 1 John 1, we read that Jesus, the Word of life, has existed from the very beginning and in John’s Gospel we read of Jesus speaking of his coming again at the end of time. This is the big picture into which John sets the stories and theology that John gives us about Jesus. When John writes about Jesus, he is not simply saying that these are interesting stories about a great human being. Instead he is saying that this is God himself, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, walking, talking and acting in the flesh.

In 1 John 1 there are two key features of God that John wants us to grasp in our to understand the significance of the big picture. The first is that God is someone that we can see and the second that God is someone who enables us to see.

John uses the image of the Word made visible to tell us that God is someone that we can see. The heart of the Christian faith, he is saying, is the incarnation; the reality that God, in Jesus, became a human being and lived in a particular culture and time. John was able to say of this Word; “we have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it and our hands have touched it.” God is no longer detached from us and unknowable to us, instead he has chosen to come close to us, to move into our neighbourhood, to become one of us.

The incarnation is at the heart of Christianity because it is a sign of the love that God has for us. God loves us so much that he is prepared to become one of us, even though this means huge constraints – like me becoming blobs of paint on canvas in one of my paintings – and ultimately leads to his death. As a result, he understands us and understands human life. Now whatever we go through, God has been there before because he has experienced life in all its wonder and heartache.

However, God is not simply someone who can be seen by us. He is also the one by whom we can see. John gives us the image of God as light to help us grasp this facet of God’s being. Light is not something we can see directly but something that enables us to see ourselves and our world. This is what Jesus does for us through the incarnation; he shows what humanity was originally intended to become. For the very first time in the history of the world a human being lives a fully human life.

As a result when we see ourselves and our world in the light of the life of Jesus, what we see are our failure and inability to be the people that we were created to become. In the light of the way that Jesus lived his life, we see our lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. As this letter says, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But when we live in the light, seeing ourselves as we really are, then we become honest with ourselves and with God. By coming into that honesty we confess our sins and are purified of them.

Both these understandings of Jesus are necessary for us to become fully human. If God was just light that exposed our failures then we would be condemned by God. If God was just alongside us as the Word made flesh then there would be no prospect of change for us. But because God, in Jesus, is both the light revealing our failings and the Word made flesh understanding our failings, we can receive forgiveness and change to become more fully human.

John gives us many paradoxes and parallels in his writings. Jesus is both this and that; both Word and flesh; both flesh and light; both message and image; both human and divine. As a result, his writings can see difficult and dense; yet it is only because Jesus is both/and that we can know what real humanity looks like and have some real prospect of moving towards that reality in our lives.

To repeat, it is only because God, in Jesus, is both the light revealing our failings and the Word made flesh understanding our failings that we can receive forgiveness and change to become more fully human. So this Patronal Festival, let us be thankful for the big picture that John paints for us and thank God for the salvation that comes to us because he is Word and flesh; flesh and light; message and image; human and divine.


Larry Norman - The Outlaw.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

'Visual Dialogue 2' - the opening night reception

We had a great opening to Visual Dialogue 2 at St John's Seven Kings last night. The photos above show the range of work on show and there was an excellent turnout to see the show and to hear two of the artists featured, Henry Shelton and Rodney Bailey, speak about their work.
The show can only be seen today and tomorrow between 10.00am and 4.00pm, so if you are able to come we would love to see you.

Curtis Mayfield - It's All Right.

'Body & Soul' review

Here is a link to my review of Juginder Lamba's Body & Soul exhibition at Birmingham's Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art, which has been published this week in the Church Times.

On Tuesday I will be at the private view of Ana Maria Pacheco's Memória Roubada, the new exhibition at the wallspace gallery which I will also be reviewing. In my previous blog on this exhibition I mentioned that Melvyn Bragg's Faith in the Frame series on ITV will feature Pacheco. Malcolm Doney, from wallspace, informs me that this programme can be seen on 2nd November.


Violent Femmes - It's Gonna Rain.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bishop David exhibits in Visual Dialogue 2

Bishop David, the Bishop of Barking, has agreed to exhibit a painting in the Visual Dialogue 2 exhibition at St John's Seven Kings.
Bishop David says of his work:

"I am inspired by landscape. Most of what I paint has its inspiration in landscape. I can’t help but be influenced by landscapes and townscapes. As early as I can remember I have enjoyed walking in the countryside. I also enjoy mountain climbing and grasp any opportunities to get out into wide open spaces. My ministry has mainly been urban and time in the countryside is a counterpoint to where I’ve tended to live in my ministry. But I’m also inspired by colourful, busy townscapes and the quirkiness of that as well."

The painting which Bishop David is exhibiting in Visual Dialogue 2 is a landscape of Burnsall Fell in the Yorkshire Dales.


Show of Hands - Country Life.

Visual Dialogue 2 - The initial hang


John Tavener - Eternal Sunrise.