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Friday, 31 July 2009

MiLE Gospel Reflections

I've just written my latest Gospel Reflection for the MiLE website on Sunday's Gospel reading - John 6. 24 - 35. My reflection can shortly be found by clicking here.

Here is my previous reflection, for Sunday 21 June, on Mark 4. 35-end:

Jesus' reaction to the storm (to sleep) and his response to his disciples after the stilling of the storm ("Why are you frightened? Have you still no faith?") suggest that he had expected the disciples to ride out the storm both by acting as responsible sailors and trusting in God to see them through. Instead, they are panicked by the storm, forget to do the things that sailors should do in a storm and, as a result, come close to going under.

This seems a salutary tale for us in the unanticipated storm of the credit crunch and the recession it has caused. Instead of panicking and looking for a miraculous instant solution to the storm in which we find ourselves, the faithful thing is to act responsibly, securing what can be secured and steering our way through the storm, trusting that we will come through, battered and blown, but alive nevertheless.

Lord Jesus, help us respond to the challenge of your question to the disciples as we face the storm of this recession. May we trust, and in our trust, take the responsible and sensible decisions that will secure our futures and those of others, both those we support and those who depend on us. Amen.


Nanci Griffith with Eric Taylor - Storms.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The eternal breaking in on the temporal

I'm currently reading Home by Marilynne Robinson. Robinson is one of the few contemporary writers that fully deserves the plaudits and prizes she receives, possibly because she crafts her novels slowly as opposed to those who tend to churn them out for profit.

Reading Home sent me back to the previous novel Gilead - understandably, as both books deal with the same events from the perspectives of different characters - where I found that I had marked several passages (something I rarely do with novels) because of the insights they contained.

" A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. It has to be heard in that way. There are three parties to it, of course, but so are there even to the most private thought - the self that yields the thought, the self that acknowledges and in some way responds to the thought, and the Lord. That is a remarkable thing to consider."

"... there is nothing more astonishing than a human face ... It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face has a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any."

"Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. For example, whenever I take a child into my arms to be baptized, I am, so to speak, comprehended in the experience more fully, having seen more of life, knowing better what it means to affirm the sacredness of the human creature. I believe there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect. That's the pulpit speaking, but it's telling the truth."

"When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it."

"Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgemental in the ordinary sense. How well do we understand our role? With how much assurance do we perform it? ... I do like Calvin's image, though, because it suggests how God might actually enjoy us. I believe we think about that far too little. It would be a way into understanding essential things, since presumably the world exists for God's enjoyment, not in any simple sense, of course, but as you enjoy the being of a child even when he is in every way a thorn in your heart."

"I fell to thinking about the passage in the Institutes where it says the image of the Lord in anyone is much more than reason enough to love him, and that the Lord stands waiting to take our enemies' sins upon Himself. So it is a rejection of the reality of grace to hold our enemies at fault. Those things can only be true. It seems to me people tend to forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness, but because God their Father loves them. I have probably preached on that a hundred times."

"There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?

It is worth living long enough to outlast whatever sense of grievance you may acquire. Another reason why you must be careful with your health."


M. Ward - For Beginners.

@ the Park

@ the Park is an exhibition of paintings by Rodney Bailey on the theme of green spaces. It re-visits his earlier Pictures in the Park 04 exhibition in South London, but in retrospect.

Rodney writes of: "Looking back to how events from the past have shaped me, people and places I once visited. The work has matured from wishful thinking to reality. It focuses on much the same views but under different lighting ... [They] take the viewer from viewing and make them the actor in the picture. The pictures have a mystique that on closer viewing reveals a hidden world of fantasy stories from my childhood of witches, fairies and goblins."

The exhibition, which is in the Crypt of St Peter's Walworth (Liverpool Grove, Walworth, London SE17 2HH) runs all through August with a private view on Friday the 7th August. Work will be for sale from £15.00 to £350.00. 20% of all sales will go to SGI-UK and Inspire.


Small Faces - Itchycoo Park.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Stories, poetry and coffee

Outreach activities in Seven Kings together with Redbridge Library Services continue apace.

The Mobile Library continues to establish its newest stop on St John's Road each Friday morning from 11.15 am - 12.15 pm.

The next outreach event is a Children's Storytelling session at St John's Seven Kings on Wednesday 5th August at 2.00pm. In September the next Library Services coffee morning will be held, also at St John's, on Friday 25th September.

The Book group at St Johns met on the 16th July to talk about Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed this and to have a favorite passage.

The group decided that the next book they will read is the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The Amazon description is as follows: "This is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959".

The group will meet to discuss this book on Thursday 8th October 2009 in the Upper Room at St John's.

Redbridge Library Services are currently running a poetry competition for adults, 16 and over. The theme is: 'What London means to You!' Poems must not exceed 40 lines (not including title) and must be submitted in the body of an email to Entry is restricted to Redbridge residents or people working or attending education in Redbridge.


The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset.

Windows on the world (64)


TBWNN - Amazing Grace.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The art of conversation

I have on more than one occasion recently (see here and here) argued that inter-faith dialogue provides an opportunity for the development of a broader understanding of interaction with those who are different from my or ourselves; that it can both provide a basis for a new approach to morality and give an insight into the nature of the Trinity.

The necessity for such understandings have been reinforced for me by the reaction to decisions made recently by the deputies and bishops of The Episcopal Church and the posts regarding CMS and Greenbelt. What passes for debate on such issues is often anything but, primarily because there is no real desire to understand, respect or value the other. So, in the CMS/Greenbelt furore, for example, those who understand themselves to be abused by their opponents as "bigoted, blinkered, homophobic, narrow-minded" etc. respond in the exactly the same vein by posting about gay bishop poster boys with a "sadly amaturish biblical hermeneutic" and equating gay christian organisations with the BNP.

Such positions are taken and abuse meted out because people have already made up their minds on these issues before hearing any argument from their opponents and, therefore, they believe that they have nothing to learn from their opponents. This is the reverse of what has to occur when real and meaningful inter-faith dialogue takes place, as can be seen, for example, in the ten ethical guidelines drawn up by the Christian Muslim Forum which set out how Christians and Muslims can talk about their faith to each other in a way that is just, truthful and compassionate:
1) We bear witness to, and proclaim our faith not only through words but through our
attitudes, actions and lifestyles.
2) We cannot convert people, only God can do that. In our language and methods we
should recognise that people’s choice of faith is primarily a matter between themselves and
3) Sharing our faith should never be coercive; this is especially important when working with
children, young people and vulnerable adults. Everyone should have the choice to accept or
reject the message we proclaim and we will accept people’s choices without resentment.
4) Whilst we might care for people in need or who are facing personal crises, we should
never manipulate these situations in order to gain a convert.
5) An invitation to convert should never be linked with financial, material or other
inducements. It should be a decision of the heart and mind alone.
6) We will speak of our faith without demeaning or ridiculing the faiths of others.
7) We will speak clearly and honestly about our faith, even when that is uncomfortable or
8) We will be honest about our motivations for activities and we will inform people when
events will include the sharing of faith.
9) Whilst recognising that either community will naturally rejoice with and support those who
have chosen to join them, we will be sensitive to the loss that others may feel.
10) Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we
will respect their decision and will not force them to stay or harass them afterwards.

These are guidelines which those on both sides of the current debates in the Anglican Communion would do well to study and apply. If we could begin to debate controversial issues from a similar starting point, our debates could be much more productive.

Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, writes in The Dignity of Difference:

“We must learn the art of conversation, from which truth emerges not, as in Socratic dialogues, by the refutation of falsehood but by the quite different process of letting our world be enlarged by the presence of others who think, act, and interpret reality in ways radically different from our own.”

When we do this, when we “recognize God’s image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideals, are different from mine” then we are allowing God to remake us in his image instead of making God in our own image. And to do so has moral outworkings, as Sacks notes when he writes:

“I believe that we are being summoned by God to see in the human other a trace of the divine Other. The test – so lamentably failed by the great powers of the twentieth century – is to see the divine presence in the face of a stranger; to heed the cry of those who are disempowered in this age of unprecedented powers; who are hungry and poor and ignorant and uneducated, whose human potential is being denied the chance to be expressed. That is the faith of Abraham and Sarah, from whom the great faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, trace their spiritual or actual ancestry. That is the faith of one who, though he called himself but dust and ashes, asked of God himself, ‘Shall the judge of all the earth not do justice?’ We are not gods, but are summoned by God – to do His work of love and justice and compassion and peace.”

Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh make similar points when they write that:

“in this covenantal worldview, all of creation is subjective, all of creation speaks. The task of human knowing, in all of its forms, is to translate that creational glossolalia into human terms … An epistomology intent on listening to our covenantal partners (God and the rest of creation) will decidely not silence the voice of the other … In response to the gift of creation, we are called as stewards to a knowing that opens up the creation in all of its integrity and enhances its disclosure. Rather than engaging the real world as masters, we are invited to be image-bearing rulers. Our knowing does not create or integrate reality. Rather we respond to a created and integrated reality in a way that either honors and promotes that integration or dishonors it. We are called to reciprocate the Creator’s love in our epistomological stewardship of this gift. Wright describes such an epistomology of love beautifully when he says, “The lover affirms the reality and the otherness of the beloved. Love does not seek to collapse the beloved in terms of itself.” In a relational and stewardly epistemology, “ ‘love’ will mean ‘attention’: the readiness to let the other be the other, the willingness to grow and change in relation to the other.””

Like Middleton and Walsh, I have also written (in Living with other faiths) that there is a biblical, theological and philosophical grounding for such dialogue in the Christian tradition. I believe that this grounding begins with the exchange that is at the heart of the Trinity, takes in both the conversations between human beings and God which repeatedly occur in scripture and the dialogical form of scripture itself, and accepts the philosophical perception that human identity is constructed through conversation.

Drawing on the philosophical thought of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, Rowan Williams has written that, “all human identity is constructed through conversations, in one way or another.” First, we have to become aware of someone other than ourselves. Jonathan Sacks says, “we must learn to listen and be prepared to be surprised by others … make ourselves open to their stories, which may profoundly conflict with ours … we must learn the art of conversation, from which truth emerges … by the … process of letting our world be enlarged by the presence of others who think, act, and interpret reality in ways radically different from our own.”

Second, by these conversations we become aware of ourselves. As people, we are not autonomous constructions. Instead, our individual identities are gifted to us by the people, events, stories and histories that we encounter as we go through life. If there was no one and nothing outside of ourselves we would have no reference points in life, no way of knowing what is unique and special about ourselves. In conversations we become aware of how we differ from others and therefore what is unique about ourselves.

Finally, in conversations we also become aware of what we have in common with others. Conversation is something that you can only do with someone else. Therefore, Charles Taylor has argued that, opening a conversation is to inaugurate a common action. A conversation is ‘our’ action, something we are both involved in together. In this way, conversation reminds us of those things that “we can only value or enjoy together” and is, as Rowan Williams has said, “an acknowledgement that someone else’s welfare is actually constitutive of my own.”

Recognising the significant changes which have led to religious plurality in our society, the General Synod as long ago as 1981 endorsed the Four Principles of Inter Faith Dialogue agreed ecumenically by the British Council of Churches:

• Dialogue begins when people meet each other
• Dialogue depends upon mutual understanding and mutual trust
• Dialogue makes it possible to share in service to the community
• Dialogue becomes the medium of authentic witness

Though simple and obvious when set out like this, as are the ten ethical guidelines from the Christian Muslim Forum, they nevertheless are easily and frequently ignored when debate and dialogue is supposedly occurring. These are then guidelines and principles for the art of conversation that we urgently need to re-learn in dealing with differences within the Anglican Communion, and inter-faith dialogue can show us the way.


The Low Anthem - This God Damn House.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Shared Faiths response to the credit crunch

The latest edition of Faith in Business Quarterly is now available and features the text of the 'Shared faiths response to the credit crunch' which was developed and issued by Faiths in London's Economy.

The 'Shared faiths response' has picked up by the Faith Engagement Team in the Department for Communities and Local Government and posted on the G20 London Summit site as part of the Faith Debate section. An article on the document was prepared for the Three Faiths Forum newsletter, it informed a consultation on the issue undertaken by the East of England Faiths Council, and also features on the Practical Development Ideas website of Nick Heap.

In October I shall be speaking about the development of the 'Shared Faiths response' and the issues it tackles at an inter-faith conference in Basildon.


M. Ward - Hold Time.

c4m webpage update (17)

This week I have posted on the commission4mission webpage:


Gravy Train - Evening Of My Life.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Showstoppers! (2)

Geoff Eze leading a quiz

Holiday Club children demonstrating the shakers they had made.

We enjoyed a Bouncy Castle on the final day

Our Daniel photo story on screen

Derek Wright in his magic workshop

Catapult making
Banners from Day 1 & Day 2

Tie Dying in the Courtyard

Making Lion masks

Local children had a week of fun and games with the Showstoppers! holiday club at St Johns Seven Kings. Based on Scripture Union’s Showstoppers! holiday club material the week was full of games, crafts, drama, music, dvd presentations and Bible stories as more than 50 children explored the stories of creation, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion's den, Jesus' birth, and his crucifixion and resurrection.

We had a great time at this year's holiday club. Showstoppers! provided opportunities for children to be creative together - each day featured arts workshops (including dance, magic, music and photography) with those taking part performing at the end of the session.

We believe that God’s image in us means that all people are creative in some way. A creator God has created creative people! Through the creativity shown in this year's Holiday Club we hope we have also lifted the curtain on the greatest show on earth – God’s great plan for salvation!


Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip - Letter From God to Man

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Photo story - Daniel in the Lion's Den

As part of our Showstoppers! Holiday Club at St John's Seven Kings we've been running dance, magic, music and photography workshops. Those in the photography workshop put together this photo story of Daniel in the Lion's Den.
Barrett Band - Your Love.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Taking youth work forward in the DRC

In her latest prayer letter from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Judy Acheson writes:
"I feel so at peace about handing over the [Provincial Youth] department to Bisoke and Jean-Bosco, knowing that the team will take the department on so much further and thankful that I will no longer have this responsibility. But please pray I finish this stage well as there is still much to do.

Bisoke visited Lubumbashi in April. We are so grateful to CMS for financing that because it was a brilliant time of team-building; as a result the staff are determined that the work will go forward as they pull together, each one using his own particular gifts. They discussed all the knotty questions concerning money – ways of bringing in funding in order to become more and more self-reliant – and an agreement was drawn up with the staff to contribute from their salary each month for when any of the team have problems over health, death, marriage, etc.
It was a time when we really praised the Lord for bringing this team together who are all so deeply committed to serving him amongst children and young people.
Bisoke also developed excellent relationships with the diocesan staff here and began to understand the culture here in the South. He visited churches in three different
archdeaconries and made a great impact on the youth."


Eric Bibb - Don't Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Here is a new image, created during a sleepless night, with which I am quite pleased.

Deacon Blue - Only Tender Love.

Monday, 20 July 2009

One rule for you, one rule for me (3)

This is also from Ekklesia:

"Dr Lisa Severine Nolland has written on the conservative Anglican Mainstream website comparing gay Christians to the BNP. Her argument is that the Greenbelt arts festival wouldn't give a platform to the racist party's views, so why is it giving Christians who believe in the inclusion of gay and lesbian people a platform? What kind of message does this send off about the Church's attitude to LGBT people, asks Jonathan Bartley."

Read the full blog by Jonathan Bartley here.


The Specials - Stereotype.

In the Thick of It

This comes from Ekklesia:

"Local churches both in the UK and abroad are key players in international development according to a new report from an aid agency published at the weekend.

'In the Thick of It' describes the role that local churches are taking around the world in meeting local community needs by pulling together a substantial body of evidence highlighting the value of faith-based organisations in addressing development needs."


The Kinks - Days.

Windows on the world (63)

Colchester, 2009


Aretha Franklin - I Say A Little Prayer.

Global recession – praying with purpose

This comes from Tearfund's World Watch Prayer Link:

"The hardships of the recession are being felt from Manchester to Malawi, underlining that this is a truly global problem from which no one is immune.

But for poor communities, those hardships are more painful. The cost is beginning to be counted in lives. Your prayers are needed urgently.

‘This is a disaster waiting to happen – actually it’s begun to happen,’ says Victor Mughogho. ‘Funding is evaporating from poor communities across Malawi.’

Victor is head of Eagles, one of Tearfund’s partners in Malawi, that trains and mobilises local churches to meet the needs around them. He’s working towards our vision – which is to see 50 million people released from material and spiritual poverty, through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.

It’s a vision we are fixed on whether in times of recession or prosperity.

That’s why we’re determined not to cut funds that we’ve promised to those we support, particularly as many are already feeling the pinch with the falling value of the pound.

It’s easy for us all to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, but in a position of prayer we regain the right perspective - when we remember that our hope lies in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Please use the following points to guide your prayers:

• Pray for a swift end to the global recession and the dire effects it is having on people in poverty.
• Pray for God’s blessing on the work of local churches among poor communities, as they share the love of Jesus and fill the material and spiritual gaps in people’s lives.
• Pray for those who are struggling to cope with hunger and are least able to help themselves due to rising food prices.
• Pray God’s provision for those affected by the recession and job losses in the UK, including staff at Tearfund.
• Ask the Lord to bless Tearfund’s ministry despite the recession, that we may remain a beacon of light and hope for millions living in poverty."


CompassionArt - Until The Day.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Praise in the Park

Geoff Eze & Fr. Ben Rutt-Field introduce the event

Bibi Bacchus from St Johns gives her testimony

Michelle Harewood from St Pauls gives her testimony

A selection of those at Praise in the Park

The Salvation Army band

This afternoon Christians from many of the churches in Seven Kings and Goodmayes gathered at the bandstand in Seven Kings Park for an afternoon of Praise in the Park led by the Salvation Army Band (Ilford).
Praise in the Park mixed contemporary worship songs with traditional hymns and featured testimonies from members of St Johns Seven Kings and St Pauls Goodmayes. Bibi Bacchus spoke about coming to Christian faith after growing up in a multi-faith culture in Grenada while Michelle Harewood shared her experience of being strengthened by God in difficulty before finding fulfilment in her current work supporting those who have HIV/Aids.
Revd. Geoff Eze, Curate at St Johns, led the event, which was introduced by Fr. Benjamin Rutt-Field, Vicar of St Pauls Goodmayes. Major Jane Ward read from the Bible and Captain John Smith led the Salvation Army band from the Ilford Corps. The Salvation Army is an international Christian church working in 118 countries worldwide. As a registered charity, The Salvation Army demonstrates its Christian principles through social action and is one of the largest, most diverse providers of social welfare in the world.
The temperamental summer weather did not deter more than 90 local Christians attending Praise in the Park with churches represented including: Seven Kings Methodist Church; Seven Kings United Free Church; St Cedds Goodmayes; St Peters Alborough Hatch; St Teresas Newbury Park, as well as the Salvation Army Ilford Corps, St Johns and St Pauls.
International Staff Songsters - Good Enough for Him.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

c4m webpage update (16)

This week on commission4mission's webpage you can find summaries of the presentations that Rosalind Hore and I gave at last week's Art & Spirituality networking event - click here for Rosalind's presentation and here for mine. My presentation was essentially a summary of the material that I have covered to date and which I intend to cover in future in my 'Airbrushed from Art History' posts. The third presentation from Mark Lewis will be posted shortly.

Also included was a post of the licensing service for commission4mission committee member, Steven Saxby, as priest-in-charge of St Barnabas with St James the Greater, Walthamstow. Steven has been tremendously supportive of commission4mission since its inception. He suggested our name, introduced Henry Shelton's work to the Waltham Forest Deanery, linked us up with St Andrew's Leytonstone, and in September will display Henry's Stations of the Cross in St Barnabas as part of the E17 Art Trail. Henry Shelton was among those community representatives welcoming Steven into his new role and did so on behalf of commission4mission.


Moby - Study War.

One rule for you, one rule for me (2)

This is my response to comments left by Dolgwyn on the original post. There are too many characters, apparently, for them to be posted as a follow on comment so instead I am making them a new post:

Thanks Dolgwyn for your comments. As you might expect, I disagree with much of what you say.

You said, "it may well be worth your checking up on the purpose and mission statement of Anglican Mainstream, before making comments like "This approach makes clear the single issue nature of the Anglican Mainstream agenda". After all, it was established to support/promote/ defend (depending on your POV) traditional orthodox Christian thinking ona variety of issues including, but not exclusively, sexuality."

I am well aware of AM's aim and mission but think that its practice (i.e. its public statements and activities) reveal it to be a group that is primarily concerned with supporting/promoting/defending its views on sexuality (i.e. a single issue organisation).

You wrote, "At the same time,your comment "What she is saying then, is that this one issue, whether a person or organisation is perceived as being 'pro-gay' or supporting those who are 'pro-gay', trumps every other issue and activity including the vital work of mission and relief throughout the world." is, for many, simply a response to what they perceive as the gay agenda's trumping of the very same 'every other issue and vital work' of the church at large.

For several people in society - Christian or not - there is a growing feeling of fear for their safety as government bring in every more legislation that seeks to criminalise any expression of oposition to the shift towards the acdeptance of homosexual relationships."

The legislation that this Government (and previous Governments) have introduced outlaws discrimination and criminal offences motivated by hatred against people on the basis of disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. The only reason someone would have for "fearing for their safety" from such legislation would be if they were discriminating or committing a criminal offence, or intending to do so. I assume that neither are true of you, so have no idea on what evidence your fear is based.

Nevertheless, feeling such fear does not justify discouraging support for the vital work of mission and relief undertaken by organisations like CMS and Tear Fund. On what basis could it ever be right to say that because I feel afraid of changes regarding sexuality I am justified in trying to discourage support for mission and relief?

You wrote, "What is perhaps even more frightening for some - I know of several myself - is the double standards that soem homosexual campaigners seem to hold - using theology, science and/or socio-anthropological material to support their argument, yet referring to those who use the same disciplines to develop a perfectly rational, logical but opposing argument as bigotted, blinkered, homophobic, narrow-minded, etc.

The fact that some of these folk have spent years studying the evidence before coming to the conclusion they have is ignored or, at worst, dismissed as of no importance."

Pots and kettles come to mind. Lisa Nolland's post describes Gene Robinson as "gay bishop poster boy" with a "sadly amaturish biblical hermeneutic." We have to practice what we preach and much of so-called debate on these issues is sadly little more than the flinging of invective instead of there being a real engagement with the views of those we oppose.

"Finally, in case you haven't been following the AM forum over the years, there is a regular and largely well-balanced debate on this and other issues running most of the time."

This is the list of Recent Posts on the AM site as it stands tonight: 'To the Anglican Communion: Pray, Fast and Resist'; 'Canterbury in a Corner'; 'Episcopals’ First Openly Gay Bishop Speaks'; 'Homosexuality to Heterosexuality: Can the Transition Be Made?'; 'ACI: Committing to the Anglican Communion: Some Will, Others Won’t'; 'Roman Catholic marriage agency advocates gay and unmarried parents'; 'US vote ‘not a snub to Archbishop of Canterbury’'; 'Their Separate Ways'; 'GC2009: Clarity Attained at 76th Episcopal General Convention'; 'A Message from Bishop David Anderson'; 'Why FCA UK and Ireland?'; 'GC 2009: Statement from the deputation of the Diocese of South Carolina:'; 'West Texas bishop drafts ‘Anaheim Statement,’ reaffirms moratoria commitment'; 'Signatures on the Anaheim Statement'; 'Anglicans and Their Unwelcome House Guests'.

The overwhelming majority of these posts are to do with the issue of homosexuality. The AM forum may well debate other issues but issues of sexuality are consistently its dominant agenda. It would be an altogether healthier place if mission and relief work were its primary features, instead of its current preoccupation with sexuality.


Athlete - Street Map.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Is society losing touch with morality?

Last night I spoke at the East London Three Faiths Forum on the theme of whether society is losing touch with morality. My dialogue partner was Rabbi Alex Chapper of the Ilford Federation Synagogue, who is also a local magistrate.

My contribution to the evening can be found below. By contrast to my input, Alex argued that a sense of personal responsibility has been lost within society and cited the example of those that he encounters in his work as a magistrate as examples of this phenomenon. Our contributions kickstarted a lively debate exploring the issue further and focusing, in particular, on:

  • whether morality is rules-based or character-based;
  • the interplay between personal and social morality, in particular whether responsibility for obesity lies with those individuals consuming it or the companies that manufacture and promote it, or both; and
  • whether distinctions can be made between universal moral principles - such as the Golden Rule - and changing ethical norms in specific societies and cultures.

Has society lost touch with morality?

Morality simply put is about codes of conduct which are put forward by a society, a group, a religion or are accepted by an individual for his/her own behaviour. All human beings and the groups we form are characterized by a worldview, however poorly articulated, and that view of the world that we hold generates patterns or codes of behaviour that we tend to follow because they are the outworking of our beliefs about the world.

Incidentally, I think that this is as true for those who are atheists or humanists as it is for those who follow a particular religion. Two implications of this are that our different worldviews generate different codes of conduct (different moralities) and that our different worldviews are each based on unprovable assumptions about the world which we believe to be true. Therefore, all worldviews are ultimately based on faith (whether religious or not) and all worldviews generate codes of conduct or morality.

As a result, I think it is a fallacy to ask whether society has lost touch with morality. Morality is always particular to a society or group or religion and therefore rather than suggesting that there is a definitive morality with which we can lose touch, we should instead ask whose morality it is that we are discussing.

For each of our religions there have been periods in our respective histories when the morality of our religion has been the dominant morality in particular countries or among particular racial groups, as well as periods where the morality of our religions has been a minority morality. It seems to me most likely that for each of our religions in contemporary Britain our experience is that of our morality being in the minority.

We may want to debate later whether that is actually the case. If we agree that it is, then we might debate whether that is a good or a bad thing (there are pros and cons to both) and how we might respond either by seeking to gain or regain dominance for ‘our’ morality or some other approach. However, if accepted, what it does not mean is that, as a result, Britain has lost touch with morality. All societies have some form of generally accepted code of conduct which forms their sense of morality, even when that is not predominantly formed by one or the other of our religions.

We should also note that morality or codes of conduct are rarely clear-cut or pure. If it is accurate to say that contemporary British morality is not predominantly being shaped now by our three religions, we should recognize that our religions do nevertheless influence contemporary codes of conduct as can be seen, for example, in the legislation which has been introduced to outlaw discrimination on the basis of religion or belief in the workplace.

It would also seem accurate to suggest that the morality of a particular religion is also influenced and affected by the codes of conduct inherent in the wider society. I want to suggest that the dominant morality in our society is a consumerist morality and that Christianity, the religion I know best, has not been unaffected by this morality.

Having been thinking along these lines in preparing this talk, it was then fascinating to find a feature article in last Saturday’s Times arguing that we live in an age of turbo-consumerism; of instant gratification; of a voracious appetite for ‘stuff’; of living to shop. The article argues that “shopping has become the premier leisure activity” and that we have “gladly boarded the work-to-spend treadmill, the insatiable pursuit of “more”, which resulted in there being, for example, 121 mobile phones for every 100 people in the UK by 2008.”

One of those quoted in the article is Neal Lawson, a political commentator and author of a book called All Consuming. He argues that turbo-consumerism fosters a “new selfishness”:

“For the shopper there are no obligations to others, no responsibilities, just rights. If the consumer is king, the concept ‘because I’m worth it’ translates into a world where we are the centre of our own universe.” He adds, “Personal freedom to shop, to own, to do what you want is the guiding principle of our age.”

One example of this new selfishness that is given in the article is of a woman returning a dress to a fashion chain. Is there something wrong with it, she is asked. “No, I just got it home and changed my mind.” Then she asks if the reporter will use a pseudonym in the article and confides: “I’ve already worn it, actually, but everyone does it.” Does what? “You wear it once then take it back for a refund.”

As the article notes,

“A consumer society can’t allow us to stop shopping and be content because then the whole system would die. “Instead it has to sell us just enough to keep us going but never enough that our wants are satisfied,” [Lawson] says.”

He calls it “the heroin of human happiness” and it doesn’t take the Times’ reporter long to find those who are addicted:

“A young woman rushes by at a semi-trot. On her shoulder is an eco tote bag bearing the slogan: “All You Need is Love.” But she evidently doesn’t subscribe to this ideology; she is laden with branded carrier bags — Mango, Urban Outfitters, New Look. What she really needs, it seems, are more shoes, skirts, scarves, belts. How often do you go clothes shopping, I ask when I catch her up. Most lunch breaks and every weekend ideally, she says. Why? She eyes me dubiously: “Because I love it.””

She speaks to Karen and Abi staggering under the weight of their carrier bags: “Will they go home now and put their feet up? “No, we’re taking these bags home in a taxi,” Abi says. “Then we’re coming back to do another hour before the shops close.””

Lawson says: “The more we consume the less space there is to be anything other than consumers. The space to be citizens and make decisions equally and collectively about the world around us is diminished.” This is a consequent effect of consumerism and generates the new selfishness that he argues we are seeing as our world comes to revolve around the search to satisfy our own desires through consumption and at the expense of those unable to consume.

In these, and other ways, consumerism generates a morality, a code of conduct, for those of us who are consumers but it is a very different morality from that which has traditionally been associated with the major world religions. However, we should not be naïve and assume that we are in someway removed from this or holier than others. I can only speak of the Church culture that I know and am part of, which certainly does uncritically reflect aspects of the consumerist culture around us.

This is the latest issue of Christianity magazine, of which I am a subscriber. It’s lead article is about the cost of living in terms of the recession’s effect on the poor but it is also filled with more than 30 adverts aimed at encouraging me to spend money on the products being promoted together with references to or reviews of another 17 new books or CDs that I could buy. The advertising revenue received by the magazine keeps its cost affordable for me and enables me to read about the effect of the recession on the poor while continuing to consume. We are by no means immune from a consumerist mentality or morality.

How should we respond? What I don’t think will be effective is for each of us to promote the morality of our religion or the strand of our own religion with which we agree most vehemently. To do that would be to accept the morality of the marketplace; competing products and consumer choice. Instead, I want to suggest that there is a different kind of morality that can emerge from the activity that we are all engaged in this evening; inter-faith dialogue.

This is a suggestion that I have drawn, in part, from the writing of Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi. In The Dignity of Difference he writes:

“We must learn the art of conversation, from which truth emerges not, as in Socratic dialogues, by the refutation of falsehood but by the quite different process of letting our world be enlarged by the presence of others who think, act, and interpret reality in ways radically different from our own.”

When we do this, when we “recognize God’s image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideals, are different from mine” then we are allowing God to remake us in his image instead of making God in our own image. And to do so has moral outworkings, as Sacks notes when he writes:

“I believe that we are being summoned by God to see in the human other a trace of the divine Other. The test – so lamentably failed by the great powers of the twentieth century – is to see the divine presence in the face of a stranger; to heed the cry of those who are disempowered in this age of unprecedented powers; who are hungry and poor and ignorant and uneducated, whose human potential is being denied the chance to be expressed. That is the faith of Abraham and Sarah, from whom the great faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, trace their spiritual or actual ancestry. That is the faith of one who, though he called himself but dust and ashes, asked of God himself, ‘Shall the judge of all the earth not do justice?’ We are not gods, but are summoned by God – to do His work of love and justice and compassion and peace.”

We are, I believe, seeing something of this possibility emerging from the development of inter-faith dialogue. For example, the Christian Muslim Forum has recently published ten ethical guidelines intended to enable Christians and Muslims to talk about their faith to each other in ways that are just, truthful and compassionate. Faiths in London’s Economy recently developed a 'Shared faiths response to the credit crunch' which calls for: non-interest bearing transactions; mutual societies; business accountability to a wider range of stakeholders than shareholders alone; transparent and ethical business practices; and recognition of the role that artists and communities play in generating real wealth. The Greater London Presence & Engagement Network is making resources on inter-faith dialogue available free of charge to Christian congregations in order to provide a biblical, theological and philosophical grounding for such dialogue in the Christian tradition.

These are just three of many initiatives – reflecting those that I know best – which are essentially seeking to develop codes of conducts or morality from the experience of inter-faith dialogue. These initiatives, if developed and affirmed, can become part of a search for a morality that we can all share and within which the particularity of our own faith and its morals will be valued and affirmed.


The Waterboys - Old England.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

One rule for you, one rule for me

Once again posts on the Anglican Mainstream site are attacking a mission and relief agency over association with people or groups that are opposed to discrimination against the homosexual community. Last year Tear Fund was attacked because Desmond Tutu was a speaker at a Tear Fund event, now CMS are criticised for being supporters of the Greenbelt Festival. In both cases, those posting quickly suggest letters of protest and threats of the withdrawal of support if their demands are not met.

To my mind there are several issues with their approach. First, people and organisations are being characterised by those who post on Anglican Mainstream's site as 'pro-gay' as though this were their defining characteristic. A festival like Greenbelt is deliberately designed to be eclectic rather than mono-cultural in order to address a wide range of issues from a variety of different perspectives, yet for those who have posted on Anglican Mainstream's site all of that diversity is viewed through one lens and one lens only i.e. that of whether or not gay Christians are invited to contribute to the Festival. This approach makes clear the single issue nature of the Anglican Mainstream agenda. Such designations can also be applied fairly indiscriminately by such posters before some form of retraction. So, for example, in its orginal form this post included headlining bands Athlete and Royksopp in their 'pro-gay' designations but reference to them has now been removed from the post. Additionally, this is laced with unnecessary invective so that, for example, Gene Robinson is described as a gay poster boy.

Second, on the basis of this single issue those posting are essentially seeking to disrupt the flow of support to key mission and relief organisations. Lisa Nolland's post regarding Tear Fund and Tutu was entitled 'Farewell to Tear Fund?' and stated that she has redirected her sponsorship of a child from Tear Fund to another organisation. In her post on CMS and Greenbelt she urges her readers to contact the Chair and General Secretary of CMS with their concerns. What she is saying then, is that this one issue, whether a person or organisation is perceived as being 'pro-gay' or supporting those who are 'pro-gay', trumps every other issue and activity including the vital work of mission and relief throughout the world. In her view it is acceptable, on the basis of this single issue, to argue that funds for vital relief work should be directed away from Tear Fund and that CMS should be discouraged from engaging with those in its support base who attend Greenbelt and from seeking to broaden its support base for mission through the Festival.

Third, those posting call for other organisations to set up debates on the issue of homosexuality in a way that they are not prepared to do themselves. So, the call is for Greenbelt to "allow equal air time for traditional sexual views" but where are the examples of Anglican Mainstream adopting this approach of affording equal air time to those they oppose? As is often the case when a single issue comes to dominate an organisation's agenda, that organisation expects a privileged position for their own views at the same time as denying that privileged place to their opponents. Until Anglican Mainstream itself affords equal air time to those calling for what they view as 'non-traditional' sexual views, this call is a case of one rule for you, one rule for me.


Röyksopp - Remind Me.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


We are getting ready to lift the curtain at this year’s St John’s Holiday Club on the greatest show on earth – God’s great plan for salvation!

Every day at the Showstoppers! Holiday Club, there will be the chance for children aged 5 – 11 to act, dance, sing and paint, as they explore the stories of creation, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den, Jesus’ birth, and his crucifixion and resurrection. These five Bible stories which are used in the holiday club also appear as five of the Must Know stories, voted as those most needing to be passed onto the next generation.

Showstoppers! provides opportunities for children to be creative together. God’s image in us means that all people are creative in some way. A creator God has created creative people! Therefore, whether we’re writing, cooking, painting, composing, acting or taking photographs we can all use our creativity to learn from God and express our worship to him.

We are also created in the image of God to be in relationship. Just as God the Father is in intimate relationship with the Son and Spirit, we are designed to also be in relationship with God and others. When we are being creative, our relationship with and understanding of God will grow, as well as our love for him and ability to relate to him.

God’s image is characterised by great variety, great beauty, exactness and intricacy, order and mystery. Being made in this image gives us permission to communicate the nature of God to all the world. The arts provide a wonderful opportunity to take part in acts of beauty, intricacy and wonder.

There are many ways of getting the Christian message across. The Bible is full of examples of creativity, used for God’s glory or to communicate God’s Word. Each person, made in God’s image is unique and can learn about God and give glory to him through the creative process. We are all responsible for acting as good stewards of our gifts and for recognising and affirming the gifts God has given to each child.


The Felice Brothers - Greatest Show on Earth.

Monday, 13 July 2009

DRC news

Judy Acheson

The work of the Provincial Youth Department for the Anglican Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to develop. Here is news taken from Judy Acheson's latest prayer letter.

Their second book ‘Young people, with God let us rebuild our beautiful country’ has been accepted by the Catholic bishops in DRC to be used in 2010 as their principal outreach to young people in preparation for the General Elections in 2011. The Baptist Church, based in Kinshasa, decided at their General Assembly to use the book amongst their young people and is looking for funding so that they can provide training for them. The book is being translated into English, so prayer is needed for funding to print and then to distribute around Africa.

A third book, ‘Young people, with God let us overcome poverty in RDC’ is being prepared. They are really encouraged by the way this manual is progressing and hope that the first draft will be finished by the end of this month. It is a real challenge to young people to understand the
causes of poverty and then to become involved in its eradication, through changing their own attitudes and way of living, standing up against injustice within the country and becoming actively involved in being agents for change and development.

They have been planning for Provincial Staff and Diocesan Youth Coordinators to meet in Kinshasa in July for the handover to the new team, for meetings with the Archbishop, and to talk about the way forward. This is vital for a smooth handover and for the building up of relationships. On 19 July, the Provincial Youth Team of the Anglican Church of Congo will meet in Kinshasa for a thanksgiving service and for the official handover between Judy Acheson, Bisoke and Jean-Bosco, the new Provincial Youth Workers. Please pray for the logistical arrangements and that this service will bring glory and honour to our Lord, who has so faithfully kept Judy safe in Congo since 1980.

Judy will move to Mahagi for two years to work on the vision for that Centre, build up the library and income generating projects.

Bisoke Balikenga

We look forward to hosting Bisoke Balikenga in the parish in December and to hearing his news on the progress of the new Provincial Youth Department team which he will be heading up.


Lor Mbongo - Nkosi Na Yuda.

Windows on the world (62)

West Ham, 2009

Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers - Run With The Ponies.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

c4m webpage update (15)

This week on the commission4mission webpage we posted a report on the Art & Spirituality networking evening held at St Andrews Leytonstone as part of commission4mission's summer exhibition and the Leytonstone Art Trail.

Also included were details of the programme and booking information for our Study Day in November which will be entitled 'Perspectives on commissioning Christian Art'. Finally, there was an updated profile for textile artist Anne Creasey together with information on and photographs of Peter Webb's latest commission, a contemporary version of St George and the Dragon.


Lifehouse - Sky Is Falling.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Art & spirituality, society & morality

Last night I spoke on the question 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?' at the networking evening organised by commission4mission at St Andrews Leytonstone.

I argued that, despite a reluctance among art critics and tutors to note or engage with religious themes and imagery, there is nevertheless a prevalence of religious themes and imagery to be found in modern and contemporary art. I gave a brief and partial alternative history of modern and contemporary art to illustrate this argument and to suggest that this prevalence of themes and images does suggest that spirituality remains a significant inspiration of art.

A summary of my presentation and those of the other two participants, Rosalind Hore and Mark Lewis, will be posted shortly to the commission4mission webpage.

Next Thursday I am speaking on the question, 'Has society lost sight of morality?' This presentation will be to the East London Three Faiths Forum where my dialogue partner will be Rabbi Alex Chapper of the Ilford Federation Synagogue and a local magistrate. The meeting is on Thursday 16th July at the Ilford Islamic Centre (54-56 Albert Road, Ilford IG1 1HW) at 8.00pm.

At present, I plan to argue firstly that society cannot lose touch with morality as all societies exhibit morality in some form or other. The question is, then, one of the type of morality found within society. I shall argue that the UK has a predominantly consumerist morality and shall seek to contrast this morality with that which characterises effective interfaith dialogue.


Relient K - This Week The Trend.

Keeping up the pressure on the G8

This comes from Tear Fund's World Watch Prayer Link:

"Today is the last day of the G8 summit in Italy and Tearfund’s been there pressing for the needs of the world’s poorest communities.

We’ve been asking representatives from the richest economies - the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Canada and Japan - to remember developing countries in their deliberations.

Tearfund’s working with local church partners on issues such as water and sanitation and climate change, so it’s no surprise they figured prominently in our lobbying at the summit.

With your campaigning support and that of church members far and wide in the weeks running up to the summit, we’ve been urging the UK government to make sure these topics are given proper consideration.

We hope to see G8 leaders commit to help end the scandal that leaves 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation and 900 million people without clean water around the world.

G8 countries are responsible for 62 per cent of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and represent the bulk of the world’s economic activity.

We hope and pray that rich G8 countries seize the opportunity to build momentum towards sealing a strong and fair climate deal in Copenhagen this December.

Please use the following points to guide your prayers:

  • Please pray for the G8 to show political courage and true leadership on these vital issues.
  • Pray for messages about the needs of developing countries to continue to permeate through political leaderships long after the summit is over and for positive action as a result.
  • Give thanks that Tearfund has been able to make the voice of the global church heard at such an important international opinion-forming event.
  • Join us on 15 July by spending 15 minutes in prayer for carbon emission cuts at the 15th annual UN climate talks being held this December in Copenhagen."


Tim Hughes - God Of Justice.

Have your say about local libraries

Libraries are important places in our communities. Through them, residents have access to: books and information; culture and leisure activities for people of all ages; and opportunities to improve their level of basic skills in areas like English and ICT all within a neutral, local setting.

Around 20% of people in Redbridge regularly borrow items from libraries. An improvement plan is being written to establish what else can be done to encourage all residents to use and benefit from library services.

To make sure the ideas in the plan and the services and resources libraries provide are relevant to Redbridge’s diverse communities, Redbridge Council need to hear our ideas on how libraries should be improved. We can highlight the top three things we’d like to see in our local libraries as part of a new consultation to help shape future library improvements.

The consultation runs until 31 August and forms part of the development of a Library Improvement Plan for Redbridge which will outline how libraries in the Borough will develop to ensure people continue to visit and value them in the future.

Cllr Alan Weinberg, Cabinet Member for Leisure, said, “Our libraries are very well used and offer a high quality range of books and other services to residents but it is important for us to make sure we continue to improve our libraries in the future, to ensure they are able to support the borough’s diverse communities. I would encourage people to tell us what they’d like to see improve in their local library.”

Residents are being asked for their top three priorities for libraries as well as any other suggestions or comments which could improve the service. All responses will be considered and fed into the Improvement Plan to be published later this year.

The consultation leaflet will be available in all of the Borough’s libraries from next week and can be completed online now at Redbridge i.

Click here for information on the Take Action for Seven Kings campaign for a static library in Seven Kings.


Athlete - In The Library.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Airbrushed from Art History (10)

The third circle of influence which emerged from the French Catholic Revival was that which developed around the cubist Albert Gleizes.

Bruce Arnold writes in Mainie Jellett and the Modern Movement in Ireland that:

Gleizes was well known as one of the pioneers of Cubism. The paintings of Gleizes, Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and Léger had created a sensation at the Salon des Indépendents in 1911, comparable to the sensation caused by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring performed in Paris two years later. This was before the general public became aware of Picasso and Braque, whose work was only well known to a small circle of private collectors. Although he is often dismissed as a minor follower of Picasso and Braque, Gleizes claimed that it was only in the autumn of 1911, after his own reputation as a Cubist was securely established, that he first saw their work ...

Together with Jean Metzinger ... Gleizes published the first major explanation and defence of Cubism – Du Cubisme – in 1912. He spent most of the war period in New York where he was closely associated with Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia ... It was in New York ... that he discovered the belief in God that was to play such an important part in his subsequent thinking, though it was not until 1942 that he finally became a practising Roman Catholic ... Gleizes returned to Paris in 1919 and in 1920 he attempted a synthesis of the Cubist experience up to that point in his Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre.”

Shortly after, two Irish Protestant artists, Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, asked Gleizes to become their teacher, although he had not to that point had any pupils. Arnold writes that, “Anne Dangar, a later pupil of Gleizes and friend of Mainie’s, ... says that Mainie and Evie had seen Gleizes most recent paintings prior to meeting him, and that ‘they had a construction which reminded them of the Irish books of the seventh century in the University of Dublin’.”

Gleizes “was moving towards a way of dividing the surface of the painting and putting it into movement without organically changing its nature, without creating the illusion of a third dimension. For this to be possible, a system of deriving the forms and colours of the painting from the inherent qualities of the surface itself had to be devised. To begin with, the only shape that was inherent was that of the canvas itself, the rectangle. But by moving the rectangle to the left or right, or up and down, and perhaps more importantly by oscillating it around its own axis, two distinct and basic concepts emerged – translation and rotation.” As he explained this to Jellett and Hone, Gleizes felt that “his two Irish pupils ... exacted from him the most powerful lesson any teacher gives, which is self-knowledge ... and he admitted that this may not have been possible without their calm yet relentless insistence. ”

Gleizes set out these new ideas in the book La Peinture et ses lois where he argued that:

“the new painting is at least in part a return to earlier principles of painting – principles that were widespread before the introduction of the perspective mechanism and which achieved one of their highest realisations in the painting, sculpture and architecture of the Romanesque period ...

Gleizes’ view of history was ... cyclical. He argued that Europe had passed through a cycle when its spiritual life was based on religious principles – the relations between man and God – but that since the thirteenth century a new, materialist, cycle had begun when all our attention and highest endeavours were turned towards the appearances of the external world about us. Painting began to observe the illusion of external space; ‘science’, understood in terms of the observation and analysis of matter, became increasingly important. The new needs felt by the Cubists, Gleizes argued, indicated that man was beginning to return to a religious cycle. The Romanesque period, whose importance Gleizes had already stressed in his essay, 'Le Cubisme et la tradition', published in 1913, was to become very fashionable among French non-representational painters of the 1930s and 1940s, though the paintings of Alfred Manessier, Maurice Estève and Jean Bazaine are still very different from those of Gleizes.”

Jellett and Hone remained pupils and a circle of artists gradually developed around Gleizes – including Robert Pouyaud, and Anne Dangar, among others. Pouyaud expressed the sense that these artists had of full absorption in Gleizes’ pictorial and spiritual system when he wrote in his 1924 memoir:

“As a result of our long discussions, our discoveries, our advances and mistakes, the doctrine of Albert Gleizes was clarified. It implications in the social domain are well-known: decentralization, return to the earth, a healthy life far from the towns, the rediscovery of natural rhythm, the rediscovery of the microcosmic function of humanity. At that time, all of these ideas went unheeded in the world about us, and we knew that we would have to live on the periphery of this society that Albert Gleizes used to condemn so virulently.”

In 1927, Bruce Adams writes in Rustic Cubism: Anne Dangar and the Art Colony at Moly-Sabata, Pouyaud sought Gleizes’ assistance to start a “normal life” on the land. Gleizes was “already considering the need for a spiritually satisfying retreat for his followers” and in October 1927 secured Moly Sabata, a disused old building at Sablons, for which the Pouyauds left Paris on 1st November in order to establish an artists’ commune. Soon, the Pouyauds were joined by the writer François Manevy and his wife, composer and violinist César Geoffrey and his wife, Mido, a pianist, and Anne Dangar, an Australian artist seeking tuition from Gleizes. The commune existed by means of agriculture and art (initially pochoirs – stencil prints – of Gleizes’ paintings and, later, Dangar’s development as a potter) and established a quasi-monastic Rule of Moly-Sabata which determined the daily division of labour among its members.

Communal life at Moly Sabata was, however, far from paradisal and in 1930 both the Pouyauds and Manevys left Moly Sabata making Dangar, by default, the primary source of support – through pochoirs and her pottery – for the commune as a whole. Adams’ book, Rustic Cubism, documents Dangar’s dedication “to the colony’s aims by working in the region’s village potteries, combining their vernacular elements with Gleizes’ design methods to arrive at a type of rustic Cubism.” Adams places Dangar “at the heart of Moly-Sabata’s alternative art movement” and argues that her work there was ultimately rewarded as “her pieces can today be found in the Musée Décoratifs in Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and many other museums.”

Arnold argues that:

“Jellett revolutionized art in Ireland in the twentieth century. She became the central figure of the modern movement in Ireland and dedicated her life to promoting and developing a vital and positive attitude to art during the country’s difficult period of isolation and political instability.
... she became one of the chief exponents of an art concentrating on rhythm and movement, colour and form. Although her art was misunderstood and ridiculed for many years, she regularly exhibited in Dublin, London and Paris years before the work of such artists as [Ben] Nicholson and [Barbara] Hepworth was recognized in London. She was also a founder member of the group of avant-garde artists, Abstraction-Création.”

Arnold writes that with Gleizes “Mainie was able to develop a painting comparable in its intellectual complexity and human, spiritual, depth to the masterpieces of Celtic art.”

Hone, although loyal to and supportive of Jellett, “shunned the public eye and played no significant role in the leadership and education of a public trying to understand what modern art was about.” In 1933 she joined An Túr Gloine, a stained glass workshop set up by Sarah Purser, and later that year produced her first public work, three panels incorporated into a single window for Saint Naithi’s Church in Dundrum, County Durham. This initial commission was followed by many others, including windows at Blackrock College Chapel, King’s Hospital Chapel, Eton College Chapel, and Kingscourt Church, County Cavan. Peter Harbison writes, in The Crucifixion in Irish Art, that she became, with Harry Clarke, “one of the most outstanding Christian artists of her generation in Ireland and, indeed, in Europe.”

“She toured widely in Ireland, sketching a number of old stone carvings that, along with the art of Rouault, were to find echoes in her subsequent work.” Arnold notes her as saying “that stained glass demanded ‘an altogether different approach’ [which] she summarised ... in Matisse’s words: ‘Stained glass is coloured light, it is a luminous orchestra. There is no need of stories. If stained glass becomes again a symphony of colours it can find its place in any architecture’.”

Gleizes, as noted by Peter Brooke in his Afterword to The Aesthetic of Beuron and other writings, came to see his search for values, both in painting and society, as a return to “the spirit of the Benedictine order ‘which filled the greatest of the Christian centuries, from the fifth to the thirteenth’.” Gleizes argued that in the thirteenth century, the Benedictines had given way to the Dominicans and “a different spirit had entered the Church and into Western civilisation as a whole.” Gleizes viewed the Thomism of the Dominicans as representing “the intellectual values of the urban university” in contrast to the order of St Benedict which is “exclusively based on theology and for that reason preserving the order of life, at the scale of the individual, work with the hands as the necessary complement to intellectual work, authority of the agricultural countryside and restoration of monastic schools where culture and technique are clearly defined in the two categories of the trivium and the quadrivium.”

Yet, as has been noted in the ninth post of this series, many intellectuals at this time, “who had some intuitive feeling of the need for religion,” were turning to the teachings of the thirteenth century, to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Arnold notes that, by the 1930s Gleizes “was becoming increasingly aware of a marked tendency to underplay or ignore his contribution to the history of modern art.” Gleizes had remained developing Cubism as a movement when the interest of art critics and historians was in a succession of modern movements rather than the development of any one movement to its fullest potential and was also out of kilter with developments in the French Catholic Revival by emphasising the Benedictine rather than the Dominican tradition. Brooke writes that, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, “the conflict Gleizes saw between this Augustinian spirit and the Thomist spirit took the very acute form of a public quarrel between Gleizes and Fr Pie-Raymond Régamy, a Dominican, director of the journal Art Sacré, and leading champion of the efforts to engage leading modern artists in the service of the Church.”

The Thomism of Régamy draws a sharp distinction between the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural’ which leaves artists free to develop their personal expression of the spiritual to the maximum of their powers and leads Régamy to argue that the Church should commission “the best artists of our time” asking them to “treat those subjects which best correspond to their temperament.” The early Augustinianism of Gleizes, however, stresses the continuity between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ leading to a search for “objective laws that are appropriate to liturgical art.”

Both positions will be explored more fully in subsequent posts in this series although it should be noted that neither of the circles of influence or the ideas around Régamy (together with his colleague Fr Marie-Alan Couturier) and Gleizes have provided a sufficient foundation on which subsequent artists, art critics or theologians could build a substantial body of art commissions, theories or works.


Francis Poulenc: Salve Regina.