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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Windows on the world (100)

Bletchley Park, 2009
This is the 100th Windows on the world post, so here's a reminder of what the series is all about (view the whole series by clicking on one of the labels below - icons, images or photographs):

As each of us view life from our own perspective, each photograph in this series features a foreground object providing a frame for what can be viewed beyond. As there is always something beyond our immediate frame of reference, each photograph in this series features something that can be glimpsed beyond the foreground image. By framing what is beyond, the photograph acts as a window on a part of our world and at the same time signals the presence of the beyond, thereby also acting as a window onto the divine in a way the way similar to that achieved by icons.
My camera shutters
a window
on the world.
The lens
a foreground
which is itself
a frame
for something
This is how
we humans see;
bounded by our own
yet able
still to see
That something
is the hint
and glimpse
of possibility,
the something
the excess
which Ricoeur
as our being,
our human being,
as constant change,
as constantly
who we are.
free imaginative
Husserl suggested
we can
vary the
form, colour,
material and uses
of an object
in our mind
and by
what is common
to these
its essence.
utilised this
when naming
the animals
in Eden;
the essence
of each animal
in naming
he knew
that none
could be
his soulmate
so knew
he needed

new ways of
we know
to be
of creative


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Art & Music workshop

St John's Seven Kings is organising an Art & Music workshop on Saturday 29th May from 2.00 - 5.00pm. This workshop has been organised with local churches in preparation for this year's Our Community Festival and is open to all.

The art workshop will be led by Mark Lewis and Peter Webb of commission4mission ( and will involve portrait and landscape drawing on the theme of local people and places. These will then be collaged into larger displays to be exhibited at St Paul's Goodmayes in the week of, and on the day of, the Our Community Festival.

The music workshop will gather together and rehearse a singing group able to perform at the Our Community Festival. This workshop is being organised by Rev. Geoff Eze, curate at St John's Seven Kings.

The art workshop is on a drop-in basis while, for the music workshop, we need participants to come at 2.00pm and remain for the whole session.

Other community events happening at St John's Seven Kings in the near future include:

  • Interational Crime Writer's Panel on Wednesday 12th May from 7.15 - 9.00pm. Organised by Redbridge Library Services, this is an evening spent with Crime Authors Michael Stanley, Barbara Nadel and Matt Lynn as they discuss Crime Fiction worldwide! Free tickets are available from the Parish Office, by phone from 020 8708 2737 or by email to

  • Plant & Table-top Sale on Saturday 22nd May, 11.00am - 1.00pm. Refreshments and light lunches also available, as well as a range of items for sale.

  • Storytelling sessions by Redbridge Library Services for children on Wednesday 12th May (2:00pm – 2.30pm), Friday 4th June (11:30am – 12:00pm), Wednesday 23rd June (2:00pm – 2.30pm) and Friday 16th July (11:30am – 12:00pm).

Delirious? - Everything.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Old Ideas, New Meme, 1,2,3

Sam tagged me with this:

1. Name one idea that used to be seen as a key Christian theme, but is nowadays regarded as either irrelevant or outdated, although you think it still has a lot to offer.

2. In two sentences say something about why you selected this, and why it should be recovered or renewed.

3. Tag three people.

I thought Sam's response was great and is well worth repeating:

1. Spiritual warfare (ie the spiritual reality of the demonic); and

2. I like what CS Lewis said about the devil, that there are two equal and opposite errors, of taking it too seriously, and not taking it seriously enough. I believe the impact of Modernist rationality has, in large part, meant that the church generally, and the CofE in particular, has fallen into the latter error, and that this has had serious consequences.

For my answer I would like to promote:

1. The conviction of Daniel Siedell (as developed in God in the Gallery) "that Christian thought and practice as it is embodied in the seven ecumenical councils can nourish a deeper and more expansive understanding of contemporary artistic practice."

2. An excellent review of the book summarises Siedell's thinking well: "The most lucid distinction Siedell states near the end of the book is particularly helpful in considering art: "the ultimate distinction, then, is not between Christian art and autonomous modern art but between art that in its union of form and content can bring forth or testify to an embodied transcendence, revealing our `amphibious existence' [C.S. Lewis], and art that denies such transcendence" ... It is a matter of seeing and being incarnationally in the world ... The engagement of the church with contemporary art practices, then, is to expand the vision of the incarnational reign of Christ; it is to deepen the ability for contemplation, for communion with God; it is to live in such a way that embodies the kingdom "not of this world;" it is to affirm that another world is, in fact, possible, and to participate in that reconciliation."

3. I tag Philip, Paul, and Peter.

On the subject of the Art & Christianity meme that I started a while back, I'm now getting around to following up some of the recommendations made by those who responded to the meme. So, I've got copies now of Magnolia (recommended by Sam) and Babette's Feast (recommended by Philip) either of which I had seen previously (clearly a major gap in my cultural education!). I've still got to watch Babette's Feast but found Magnolia very moving. Like Abel Ferrar's Bad Lieutenant, the film involves a sustained immersion in, as Sam put it, a "warts'n'all portrayal of modern life" before reaching a memorable and spiritual dénouement consistent with the characters and narratives depicted.


Paramore - We Are Broken.

Faiths together for hope not hate (3)

The Rt Reverend David Hawkins, The Bishop of Barking pictured with Hope not Hate staff, Sam Tarry, Campaign Organiser, and Caroline Alabi, Faith Communities Organiser

The Rt Reverend David Hawkins, The Bishop of Barking, Sam Tarry and Caroline Alabi, with a group of passing students, who asked to join in the photo shoot when they discovered it was to promote considered and informed voting!

The Rt Reverend David Hawkins, The Bishop of Barking, urges all registered voters to get out and vote on 6 May.

Bishop David’s Episcopal Area covers the London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, together with Epping Forest, Ongar and Harlow in Essex. Parties of the far-right are fielding candidates in nine of the fourteen parliamentary constituencies and this part of east London and Essex is a key target of the extreme parties hoping to get a foothold in Parliament.

Bishop David says: “Racist ideologies, seeking to divide people on the grounds of ethnicity have no place in mainstream British politics and I encourage people to vote in such a way as to prevent racist political parties making any electoral gains.”

The Bishop adds: “This election is arguably the most important General Election in a generation. I urge all those who are registered and ready to vote to think carefully about where they place their cross on 6 May. The result we wake up to on 7 May will influence and shape life in our country for the next four or five years and I emphasise the need to carefully examine consider party policies before voting.”

The Contextual Theology Centre writes that:

"David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to attend a 2500-person Citizens UK assembly at Methodist Central Hall on Monday 3rd May at 2.45pm (Gordon Brown is still to confirm).

The Contextual Theology Centre (CTC) is sponsoring this event, and has a limited number of tickets for church leaders who are considering joining the Citizens movement.

The candidates will be responding to an agenda determined by Citizens UK's member institutions, including: The Living Wage; A cap on interest rates; Community land trusts; Ending child detention for sanctuary seekers; and Earned citizenship for long-term migrants.

In advance of the election, CTC has launched two books on Christian teaching and community organising - more information is online at
Crunch Time: A Call to Action is a collection of essays by John Milbank (Nottingham) and CTC Fellows Luke Bretherton (King’s College, London) and Vincent Rougeau (Notre Dame) on a Christian response to the credit crunch. This is also available as a free PDF. Faithful Citizens is a book on community organising and Catholic social teaching by organiser, journalist and CTC Fellow Austen Ivereigh.

To keep up to date with the increasing impact of citizen organising on the election campaign, you can follow CTC's Jellicoe Blog at

Thousand Foot Krutch - Phenomenon.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

c4m webpage update (40)

There has been lots of activity on the commission4mission webpage this week. We began with the text of my 'Spiritual Life' column for the current edition of the Ilford Recorder, which discussed the place of art within the Church. Then came photos and information of the charitable donation that c4m has made to the Haven House Children's Hospice from its commissions income for 2009/10. Finally, there is a post giving details of The Spiritual Power of Drawing, an illustrated talk by Mark Lewis for the Faith & Image group which meets at St Mary's Woodford.


Eric Bibb - With My Maker I Am One.

Faiths together for hope not hate (2)

Please think about joining the HOPE not hate FINAL campaign day before the elections on 6 May to ensure the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham is kept safe from negative politics.

Help HOPE not hate deliver their new leaflet to residents in Barking and Dagenham.

Time: 10:30am
Place: HOPE not Hate HQ 3rd Floor, Transport House, 50-52 New Road, Dagenham RM9 6YS.


At 1pm all faith communities are invited to sign a ‘Faiths United’ pledge to vote on 6 May for HOPE not hate. The signing of the giant pledge board will take place at Barking Town Hall. This will be followed by the HOPE not Hate summer party where foods from many nations will be
available for people to sample at St Patrick’s Church, Blake Avenue, Barking, IG11 9SQ starting at 1:30pm.


Robert Randolph & the Family Band - Aint Nothin' Wrong With That.

Friday, 23 April 2010

International Crime Writers' Panel

St John's Seven Kings is to host an Interational Crime Writer's Panel on Wednesday 12th May from 7.15 - 9.00pm. Organised by Redbridge Library Services, this is an evening spent with Crime Authors Michael Stanley, Barbara Nadel and Matt Lynn as they discuss Crime Fiction worldwide!

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both are retired professors who have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa. They have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. They have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having their plane’s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering navigation maps over the desert. These trips have fed their love both for the bush, and for Botswana. It was on one of these trips that the idea surfaced for a novel set in Botswana. A Carrion Death was their first novel.

Trained as an actress, Barbara Nadel is now a full time writer. She has worked as a public relations officer for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship’s Good Companions Project and a mental health advocate in a psychiatric hospital. She has also worked with sexually abused teenagers and taught psychology in both schools and colleges. Although no longer working in mental health, she is still passionate about the rights of those with mental health problems and is the patron of a mental health charity in Shrewsbury. Born in the East End of London, she has been a regular visitor to Turkey for over twenty years.

Matt Lynn writes, "For the last few years, I've been ghost-writing military thrillers. You might well have read one: they sell by the truck load. I wanted to create my own series of books, making use of some of the experience I had in writing military stories. Every SAS guy you meet these days is off fighting in Iraq for one of the Private Military Corporations. And it struck me that as small PMC unit would make a great theme for a series of books tracking a group of hardened fighters as they make their way around the world." As a journalist, Matt Lynn has worked for the Sunday Times for many years and now writes a column for Bloomberg in the US and is a regular contributor to the Spectator.

Free tickets are available from the Parish Office, by phone from 020 8708 2737 or by email to


Elvis Costello - Watching The Detectives.

Faiths together for hope not hate

This is my Vicar's letter for the May edition of the Church magazine at St John's Seven Kings:

"This month brings local and national elections and in Redbridge, the British National Party (BNP) is actively seeking the Christian vote by issuing leaflets from supporters which argue that the BNP, although a secular party, supports Christian values because its policies fit with the concerns of some Christians.

These policies are mainly about being opposed to particular groups and legislation; being anti equality, anti immigration, anti-Muslim and anti homosexual. Do we, as Christians want to be known as the 'anti people' associated in the minds of others with bigotry, fundamentalism, and narrow moral agendas or do we want to be known as “good news” people associated with positive action and agendas?

Jesus broke down barriers. He treated all people with respect. As a Jew he talked to the shunned Samaritans. Through the cross he reconciled people to God and to each other. “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3. 28). Christians assert that all human beings are created equally in the image of God. The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their ethnic group or religion. It is a positive vision of hope not a negative agenda of hate.

The BNP, however it presents itself, is rooted in racist and fascist thinking; its message is one of hate. The BNP believes that white people are genetically superior to black people. The BNP believes that black and Asian people can never be British, even if they were born here. The BNP is a racist party and as such does not share the true Christian values. Therefore I endorse the following statement made by the Bishop of Barking and other church leaders:

” … we call upon all people of goodwill to reject racist politics in the forthcoming General Election and local elections.

We encourage people to vote in the forthcoming elections to prevent racist political parties making any more electoral gains, indeed to out-vote such parties where they have already been elected.

In particular, we urge people to reject the BNP, English Defence League (EDL), National Front (NF) and similar political organisations for the reason that there is no place in mainstream British politics for dividing people on the grounds of ethnicity. The racist ideology of parties like the BNP, who speak of a "traditional British genotype", is not only inaccurate and misguided but is also contrary to the Christian belief that "all people are created as one race, the human race".

As church leaders we do not endorse any particular political party and recognise that there are many social issues today which require much closer attention from elected politicians, not least those of housing, immigration, unemployment and the sheer speed of social change in some of our communities. But we call on everyone to reject the BNP and like-parties as providing solutions to these issues. We all have a responsibility to work for a more just society. This will never be achieved by those who seek to divide our society based on a racist politics.”

I am involved in a "Faiths Together in Barking and Dagenham" initiative in the run up to the 2010 General and Local Council Elections. This project is being taken forward in partnership with the campaign HOPE not hate. The overall project involves a Faiths worker building support among faith communities in Barking and Dagenham to resist the BNP's attempts to divide communities on faith and ethnic lines. This work involves: faith community visits, presentations and voter registration drives; a range of literature targeted at faith communities; and a Gospel concert including literature dissemination and voter registration.

Click on this link to see a short film of the Gospel concert that was held as part of this initiative. The concert encouraged church members to join the Day of Action held on 17th April which saw 541 volunteers deliver 91,000 Hope Not Hate newspapers across Barking and Dagenham. Organisers say the event was the biggest political mobilisation of the campaign.

Ekklesia report that the head of political reform campaign Unlock Democracy has said that a vote for the British National Party is "a vote for the abolition of democracy." Peter Facey's verdict comes in the wake of a new report assessing and 'marking' the pledges for democratic change made by a range of the most prominent political parties - not just 'the big three'.


The Ruts - In A Rut.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Windows on the world (99)

Marle Place, 2010
Deacon Blue - Only Tender Love.

New websites: Neighbourhood Love & British Religion in Numbers

Details of two interesting new websites have been released today:

Neighbourhood Love is based on the premise that Christian churches are doing good things that are relevant to where you live. You can share your story, be inspired by others, join in the discussion, submit your photos, download and use their logo and email attachment, lend a hand ….
Neighbourhood Love is promoted by Chelmsford Diocese in the Church of England but it doesn’t champion any particular church community or place. Its role is in caring and helping, not preaching - and it’s definitely not a substitute for conversation!

British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) is an online religious data resource. Numbers aren't just for statisticians. People want to visualise and understand data for work, for study, for general interest, or to settle a debate. Many debates over religion rest on questions of how large? how many? how typical?

Religious data sources tend to be difficult to find, or need a good deal of interpretation. For example, is Britain 72% Christian, as the 2001 Census reported, or 50% Christian, as found by the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey? The site wants to draw religious data sources together, explain how data can be used, and present some examples intuitively to a wide audience. BRIN is based at the University of Manchester and supported by the Religion and Society research programme.
Mumford & Sons - The Cave.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Re-inhabiting the past

The Singing Detective is a TV drama serial by Dennis Potter that was first shown in the 1980s. The story is about Philip Marlow, a writer of detective novelettes in the style of Raymond Chandler including one called ‘The Singing Detective’. At the beginning of the series Marlow is confined to a hospital bed because of the psoriasis which has affected every part of his body.

Marlow’s situation is that his childhood beliefs and commitments to God and to his parents have been betrayed through key incidents such as his seeing his mother’s adultery and his allowing another schoolboy, Mark Binney, to be punished for something that Marlow himself had done. His inability to face these betrayals has led him into a lifestyle where he abused and betrayed those he loved and it is only as he is stripped by his illness that he can begin to face these memories, come to accept who he is and move beyond these abusive relationships and The Singing Detective shows us how this happens.

The story is about the way in which Marlow faces up to the key events in his past. He has to re-inhabit his past, almost re-live it, in order that he comes to feel sorrow for the way in which he betrayed Mark Binney. It is only at the point that he re-lives that experience and feels sorrow for what he did that he is able to get up from his bed and walk again.

I mention this, because what Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective is very similar to what Peter experiences in our Gospel reading. Peter betrayed Jesus by denying him three times. Since the crucifixion Peter would have been in agony in his conscience over the way in which he failed Jesus at Jesus’ moment of need. The agonies that Philip Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective help us to flesh out this story in the Bible and to understand a little of what Peter would have felt.

When Peter meets Jesus by Lake Tiberias, Jesus forces Peter to re-live that experience of betrayal. That is why Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ These three questions mirror Peter’s three denials and take him back into that experience. Like Marlow, Peter has to re-inhabit his past in order to move on from it. As Jesus questions Peter, his sense of remorse for what he had done would have been immense.

Peter denied Jesus three times and so Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ When they have finished re-living the experience of his denial, Peter finds that he has three affirmations that counter-balance his three denials. By taking him back into the experience of denial Jesus turns Peter’s denials into affirmations and he turns Peter’s memory of the denial from a negative memory into a positive one. The denial happened, Peter would never have forgotten that but then he was given the opportunity to turn it into a positive affirmation of his love for Jesus and that would have been the memory that he carried forward with him.

Like Peter and like Philip Marlow we can carry around with us the memory of bad events that have happened to us – things that we did to others or things that others did to us. If we are not careful the memory of these events from the past will twist and harm our life now, in the present. The way to be released from the harm and hurt of these memories is, with the help of others, to go back into those memories, to re-live them, feeling sorrow what the wrong that we did and finding positive ways in which we can show that sorrow and repair the hurt that we have done or which has been done to us.

If that is your situation then put yourself in Peter’s place now as you read a meditation written by Revd. Alan Stewart based on this passage:

I am the one who ran away when I said I never would
I didn’t believe you when you said
‘the sheep will scatter’

I am the one who sat in the shadows avoiding eyes
I never believed I’d disown you like this
Not once, but three times

I am the one who wasn’t there while you died that death
I couldn’t believe that this was how
The story ends

‘do you love me?’ he later asked

‘I love you’ I replied
‘feed my lambs’

I am the one who hid in an upstairs room
I wanted to run but there was no longer
anywhere to go

I am the one who could find no solace nowhere
I wanted to open my eyes and see him there

I am the one who wept my heart raw with regret
I wanted to tell him ‘I’m sorry…
I do love you..’

‘do you love me?’ he asked again

‘I do love you’ I replied
‘take care of my sheep’

I am the one who woke to the sound of women’s voices
I longed to believe they’d seen you, but hope
Was still on its knees

I am the one who ran to where they lay your body down
I longed to destroy the rumours
Before they destroyed me

I am the one who saw you arrive like a ghost
I longed to reach out and touch you, but I couldn’t
even look at you

‘do you love me?’ he asked for a third time
looking into my eyes
and my heart tore within me

‘you know that I love you’ I replied
‘then feed my sheep’

(Revd. Alan Stewart)

Let us pray,

Gracious God, how can I begin to forgive myself? Your promise is to forgive all who truly repent. I regret what has happened and confess my part in it, yet every day, I wake remembering – and my guilt is a heavy weight. Others may forgive me, and assure me that you forgive me too, but the dark cloud of my guilt blocks out the light of your love. How can I begin to forgive myself? When Jesus came face to face with Peter at the lakeside, he asked, ‘Do you love me?’ I long to hear that question and to answer ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,’ but my guilt is a barrier between us. Help me to hear the voice of the risen Lord, to accept your forgiveness and to forgive myself. Amen.


Gordon Gano and The Ryans - Gone To Pray.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

c4m webpage update (39)

There are a number of interesting new posts on the commission4mission webpage beginning with photos of the first exhibition to be hosted in our ongoing exhibition space at All Saints West Ham. Sergiy Shkanov is our newest member to join and be profiled. He has also added worked to the West Ham exhibition. Two posts (here and here) highlight forthcoming exhibitions which will feature work by c4m members - Colin Burns, Valerie Dean, Sarah Ollerenshaw and Peter Webb - together with the Northwood & Northwood Hill Art stns which featured my meditations. Finally, the latest post features our response to the recent Arts Council England consultation.


Ben Harper and Relentless7 - Shimmer & Shine.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Prayers for voters ahead of next month's election

The Church of England has published prayers to help voters as they consider their options in the forthcoming General Election. The prayers remind voters that they can make a difference, ask that the concerns of all may be heard and seek protection from despair and cynicism. The prayers, for personal use or during church services are published on the web alongside details of relevant debates in the General Synod over the last five years.


McIntosh Ross - All My Trust I Place In You.

Crunch Time - A Call to Action

The Contextual Theology Centre has just launched Crunch Time: A Call to Action - a collection of essays by John Milbank, Luke Bretherton, Maurice Glasman and Vincent Rougeau. The essays are available as a free pdf, or copies can be ordered for £6.99.

It outlines a community organising agenda to which all the major parties have been responding - with significant commitments on economic policy and on the renewal of civil society. You will see from their recent blog posts that the Centre's partner churches, officers and interns have been playing a key role in this process. They hope that these successes will increase Christian engagement in the work of London Citizens, the capital's community organising alliance.

Also on the their blog you will find coverage of the 75th anniversary of Fr Basil Jellicoe's death. The Jellicoe Community will be involved in a service of thanksgiving in July at which the Bishop of London will preach - and last Friday's Church Times contained anniversary essays by Prof Diarmaid MacCulloch and Simon Cuff (one of the first Jellicoe interns).


Luxury - The Luxury Theme.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Lee Bozeman: Orient is His Name

Joel Hartse writes on the Good Letters blog:

"Lee Bozeman is a criminally unrecognized musician. With the rock band Luxury, he made four albums of sensual, nervous rock in the vein of the Smiths and Radiohead, then made an astonishing masterpiece of guilt and spiritual longing, Love and Affection, under the name All Things Bright and Beautiful. He is now in training to be an Orthodox priest and has released this haunting EP of stripped-down ballads [Orient is His NameMea Culpa]. As he has throughout his career, Bozeman has married sadness and hope in a woundingly beautiful collection of songs."


All Things Bright and Beautiful - Third Trumpet, Fourth Trumpet Sounding.

Saturday 17th April: A Day of Action

This Saturday will be a major Day of Action in East London. A protest march aiming to save King George Hospital will leave Little Heath Green on Barley Lane in Redbridge at 1.15pm to arrive at Ilford Town Centre at 2.15 for an open air rally outside the Town Hall for speakers to explain why the proposals to close King George Hospital A&E and over 400 beds should not go ahead.

Also, the Hope not Hate campaign day happening on Saturday 17th April is their final campaign day aiming at stopping the BNP in Barking and Dagenham. The election is a mere 3 weeks away and as many volunteers as possible are needed to help deliver the latest Hope not Hate newspaper to every household in the Borough. With 400 volunteers they may be able to get a newspaper to every household in the borough on Saturday. This campaign day follows last Sunday's Gospel Concert which encouraged church members to take part in the campaign day.

The campaign day starts from 10:30am at; Hope not Hate HQ, 3rd Floor, Transport House, 50-52 New Road, Dagenham RM9 6YS. Lunch will be provided as well as entertainment. The nearest station is Dagenham Heathway, take bus 173/174/175 toward Ford Works and alight at 'nutbrowne road' bus stop. They are two mins walk from there.

If you do not live in the borough please sign up to the Hope not Hate campaign online and find out where your nearest free Hope not Hate coach meeting point is for pick up and drop off -


Extreme - Oh Father/Peacemaker Die.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Shared Faiths response to the credit crunch

Last year Faiths in London's Economy (FiLE) published 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 document was 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. The full text of our ‘Shared Faiths response’ was published in the ‘Faith in Business Quarterly,’ an article on the document was prepared for the Three Faiths Forum newsletter, the document informed a consultation on the issue undertaken by the East of England Faiths Council, and a Faiths Conference organised by the Basildon Faiths Forum.

Stephen Timms responded to the shared faiths response to the credit crunch in a speech to the East of England Faiths Council. In this speech, he focused on two aspects of the Shared Faiths response:

Firstly, he said that the paper is right to highlight how the faiths value work – how: “The work ethic is seen as a noble endeavour in many faiths.” Secondly, he focused on what we describe as the ‘breakdown in the relational aspects of the economy’. "You say ‘many faiths reflect on transparency and the hidden (often in terms of the imagery of light and dark’) suggesting that where actions can be hidden, injustice and wrongdoing often occur’. Rowan Williams said earlier this year: “our faith depends on the action of a God who is to be trusted; God keeps promises.” I think you’re right. Hiddenness, and a lack of transparency, has been one of the causes of this crisis."


Gillian Welch - Everything Is Free.

Windows on the world (98)

Marle Place, 2010

Paramore - Brick By Boring Brick.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

HOPE not Hate Gospel concert

DLD dance group

RCCG International Christian Centre Choir

Forward in Faith Ministries Choir



Alexander Jackman


Sonnie Badu
I had the privilege today, together with Roger Gayler Area Dean of Barking & Dagenham, of compering part of a wonderful Gospel concert held at St Alban's Becontree as part of the HOPE not hate campaign.
The concert featured: the DLD dance group (from New Wine Church); the RCCG Internatioal Christian Centre Choir; the Forward in Faith Ministries Choir; Esther (from UKCG); DLT; Alexander Jackman (author of I Am); Jocelyn and Gloria (from CCBC); and Sonnie Badu.
I spoke about the real threat that the BNP, as a deeply racist organisation, poses, particularly in Barking and Dagenham, and the need to vote on 6th May to stop them. The BNP, although it claims to defend our 'Christian heritage', is actually opposed by all the main Christian denominations because its message is one of hate, not hope.
The United Reformed Church and the Church of England have both said that support for the BNP and parties offering racist policies "is incompatible with Christian discipleship." The Catholic Bishops have said that "Racism is intrinsically evil ... All people share with Christians an obligation not to support [racist] organisations." The Baptists and Methodists "urge people not to vote for candidates who promote racist policies." Pastor Thomas Aderounmu from RCCG has said, "From my own experience the BNP in Barking and Dagenham is a serious issue of concern for all well meaning citizens of the borough, with the BNP on the increase we have a serious problem on our hands. The only way we can solve this problem is for us all to come out in our thousands and elect those we want to represent us both and the national and local level."
Jesus broke down barriers. He treated all people with respect. As a Jew he talked to the shunned Samaritans. Through the cross he reconciled people to God and to each other. “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3. 28). Christians assert that all human beings are created equally in the image of God. The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their ethnic group or religion. It is a postive vision of hope not a negative agenda of hate.
The HOPE not hate campaign has been set up to stop the BNP. We believe that racism and division have no place in our community. Our Christian faith tells us that we are all equal and that we must love our neighbour. If we go out and vote on 6th May to stop the BNP, then hope can triumph over hate.
Sonnie Badu - The Worshipper's Cry.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Resurrection: Christian Arts exhibition

Ceramics by Jane Quail

Works by Anna Payne

'Death thou shalt die' by Brian Ayling

Photographs of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona by Brian Ayling

View of the exhibition

'Resurrection' by Linda Scott

View of the exhibition

Works by Michael Day and Phyllis Hall

Works by Phyllis Hall and Maggie Ayling

Works by Carol Ann Pennington, Helen Armstrong and Brian Ayling

Christian Arts are holding an exhibition at St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds until 22nd April. The exhibition theme of Resurrection, was chosen by members at St. Mary's to follow on from the Easter weekend and further supporting events are planned at the Church during the exhibition. 24 Christian Arts members have work in the exhibition.
St.Mary's claims to be the third largest parish church in England. It is part of the Benedictine Abbey site in the Historic Centre of Bury St. Edmunds. There are many visitors to the Church, which houses the tomb of Mary Tudor, Queen of France, Duchess of Suffolk and favourite sister of Henry VIII along with over a hundred more tombs and monuments, carved angels in the roof and a wealth of 15C woodcarving and outstanding examples of stained glass.
Christian Arts is an ecumenical society of Christian artists in Britain formed over forty years ago, and affiliated to the Société Internationale des Artistes Chrétiens (SIAC) which supports Christian arts events in many countries. They are a sister society to the Society of Catholic Artists (SCA). Christian Arts' diverse membership is drawn from painters, sculptors, ceramicists, book and textile artists and craftspeople from all over the country and is for all involved in the arts who are committed Christians and wish to explore and deepen the relationship between their faith and the arts.
River City People - Say Something Good.

Thank you for Van Gogh

A very big thank you to an unknown RA member who offered to take me from the back of the queue straight into the Van Gogh exhibition as her guest. She is absolutely right that if membership entitles you to take a guest with you, why not, in an act of random kindness, make that someone that you don't know except that they have sufficient interest to have joined what remain lengthy queues. I'm certainly very grateful both to have seen the exhibition ad to have been the recipient of an act of random kindness.

The exhibition was, of course, fabulous, although I was surprised that it did not include more of the really well known works. What was great was to see many of the early works which to my mind show what a strong artist Van Gogh was almost from day one (although this went almost completely unappreciated at the time). The key move it seemed to me from seeing both early and late works together was in translating the marks that he made in pen and ink drawings to his oil paintings where, combined with the vividness of his colour, they provide the vigourous force and movement across the entire canvas that gives the greatest of his works their intense power.


Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Norman Adams @ Marle Place Gardens & Gallery

In Brenchley, near Tonbridge in Kent, Marle Place is a peaceful, privately owned Wealden garden, ten acres of formal planting and many more acres of woodland and orchard. It is a plantman and artist's garden, featuring a Victorian gazebo, Edwardian rockery and walled fragrant garden. A restored 19th century greenhouse with orchid collection, a mosaic terrace and ornamental ponds. The 17th century house with a massive chimney is of architectural interest, but not open.

The Gallery houses varied exhibitions throughout the season by contemporary painters, sculptors, potters and makers, on show and for sale. The current exhibition is Norman Adams RA: Spirit in the Garden. The exhibition consists of nine large watercolours all painted in the last 15 years of Adams' life. The exhibition examines the symbolism of Adams' abstract works and the origin of these forms in the emotional intensity of these religious and spiritual paintings. Adams' vast watercolours are alive, saturated, even baptised, with colour and passion.

This exhibition is part of a larger group of exhibitions called Cross Purposes and instigated by Mascalls Gallery, which includes Santiago Bell, Susan Shaw, Maggie Hambling and Craigie Aitchison. Centering on Chagall's drawings for the windows of nearby Tudeley which are coming to the UK for the first time, this exhibition explores the uses of the crucifixion by a broad range of artists featuring the work of many artists including Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, and Eric Gill. The exhibition addresses both meditative religious works as well as more horrific secular works. The exhibition tours to Ben Uri Gallery, London's Jewish Museum of Art. To listen to a review of this on Radio 3's Night Waves click here to go to

Brian Kennedy - Hollow.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Rochester: Art Gallery & Cathedral

Detail of Lucy Brown's 'Limbo' Installation in 'Thread Bare'

Detail of Lucy Brown's 'Limbo' installation in 'Thread Bare'

Rochester Cathedral (exterior)

Sergei Fyodorov's fresco

Madonna and Child with Bobbie Cox's 'Meetings' tapestry

One of Jacqui Frost's 'Rites of Passage' series

Rochester Cathedral

Textiles were the primary media on offer on a visit today to Rochester's Art Gallery and Cathedral.
Thread Bare at the Rochester Art Gallery brings together the work of Craig Fisher, Lucy Brown, Joanne Haywood and Judith Dwyer, who use textiles to explore the human condition, gender-related concerns, relationships between past and present and narratives constructed around personal and cultural identity. Contradictions and ambiguities abound in each artist's work. Craig Fisher's soft, sculptural installations question representations of violence and macho stereotypes whilst Lucy Brown explores the complex issue of female identity, reworking vintage garments into abstracted, figurative forms.
The Craft Case at the Gallery presents a diverse programme of small to medium-scale, high-quality, contemporary applied arts in two bespoke showcases. During Thread Bare the Craft Case features Judith Dwyer's unsettling 'Dangerous Dolls and Dogs' created from luxury fabric and recycled objects, and Joanne Haywood's eclectic jewellery, which draws on the conflict of opposites for dramatic effect.
Rites of Passage by Jacqui Frost at Rochester Cathedral is part of a series of Cathedral Exhibitions which aims to provide exhibitions in textiles that will enhance the experience of everyone who sees them. The art work tells a story which may be in picture, word or sound format. Each of the exhibitions is put together using a Bible theme and aims to be contemporary and accessible to all. The challenge is to tell each person a little bit more about God and also by way of a Christian Enquiry Agency freepost reply card to invite a response, particularly from those who do not know Christ as their Saviour. Each theme is put on a series of up to 10 screens, the whole work is commissioned by the Deo Gloria Trust and then loaned to the various partner Cathedrals for a given period. The finished screens are hung on specially designed stands that fit into and with the architecture and style of the Cathedral.
Also at Rochester Cathedral to mark the new millennium and to celebrate the 1,400 years of Christian worship, pilgrimage and prayer on the site, the Russian iconographer, Sergei Fyodorov, completed the painting of the first real fresco in an English cathedral for 800 years in 2004 and this is now on view to the public.

Windows on the world (97)

Southwark, 2010

Aztec Camera - Good Morning Britain.

Cross is a challenge to the world

The Anglican Communion News Service writes that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has used his Easter sermon to urge Christians to keep a proper sense of proportion when they feel they are experiencing opposition to their faith and remember both the physical suffering of Christian minorities in other countries and call to mind what exactly the Cross stands for in their faith.

In their summary of his Easter sermon delivered at Canterbury Cathedral they report him saying that ‘bureaucratic silliness’ over displaying religious symbols should not be mistaken for physical persecution:

‘It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice.”

“Remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in Iraq, the Christian communities of southern Sudan … the Christian minorities in the Holy Land … or our own Anglican friends in Zimbabwe; … we need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support.”

He says that the climate of intellectual opposition to Christianity – what he called ‘the strange mixture of contempt and fear towards the Christian faith’, regarding it as both irrelevant and a threat – is largely unjustified:

“… on many of the major moral questions of the day, the Christian Church still speaks for a substantial percentage of the country – not to mention speaking with the same concerns as people of other faiths. On burning questions like the rightness of assisted suicide, it is far from the case that the Christian view is only that of a tiny religious minority; and the debate is still very much alive.”

He challenges intellectual critics of religion and Christianity to come and see the difference that Christians are making in their communities

“… at local level, the Church’s continuing contribution to tackling the human problems no-one else is prepared to take on is one of the great untold stories of our time. I think of the work of a parish I visited in Cleethorpes a few weeks ago and the work they sponsor and organize with teenagers excluded from school in an area of high deprivation. I should be more impressed with secularist assaults if there were more sign of grass roots volunteer work of this intensity done by non-religious or anti-religious groups.”

“There are things to be properly afraid of in religious history, Christian and non-Christian; there are contemporary religious philosophies of the Taleban variety which we rightly want to resist as firmly as we can. But we do need to say to some of our critics that a visit to projects like the one I have mentioned ought to make it plain enough that the last thing in view is some kind of religious tyranny. And if any of the Church’s vocal critics would care to accompany me on such a visit, I should be delighted to oblige.”

But he says the Cross is an object that ought to be feared as well as respected because what it stands for is nothing less than the uncomfortable reality about ourselves and the world we live in:

… we must acknowledge our own share in what the cross is and represents; we must learn to see ourselves as caught up in a world where the innocent are scapegoated and killed and where we are all unwilling, to a greater or lesser degree, to face unwelcome truths about ourselves. We must learn to see that we cannot by our own wisdom and strength cut ourselves loose from the tangle of injustice, resentment, fear and prejudice that traps the human family in conflict and misery.”

And the hope that it represents is no less challenging, he says;

“If you want it to be invisible because it’s too upsetting to people’s security, I can well understand that; but let’s have it out in the open. Is the God we see in the cross, the God who lives through and beyond terrible dereliction and death and still promises mercy, renewal, life – is that God too much of a menace to be mentioned or shown in the public life and the human interactions of society?”


Paramore - Hallelujah.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The only way is up

The last session of our Lent Course at St John's Seven Kings provided us with an interesting and moving illustration of one of the many meanings that Jesus’ death has for us. This illustration was taken from the experience of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Siberian labour camps to which the Soviet government consigned those they deemed enemies of the state.

In his great book The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn writes of the way those camps robbed him of everything that makes life meaningful:

“He is robbed of his name – he is known only by a number. He is robbed of books and pen and paper – a dreadful deprivation for a writer of his stature. He is robbed of work he can do with dignity. Instead he must labour as a slave. He is deprived of sufficient food and sleep. He gets no letters. He hears no news of his family or of the outside world. He is stripped of his own clothes and dressed in verminous rags. He is robbed of his health – he succumbs to cancer.

Solzhenitsyn, robbed of everything, sinks as it were to the bottom, to the very base of being. And then he says something extraordinary. He writes of the day, ‘when I deliberately let myself sink to the bottom and felt it firm under my feet – the hard rocky bottom which is the same for all.’

On the Friday that we call ‘good’, Jesus too descends to rock bottom. He is betrayed by a friend, arrested, deserted and denied by his friends, falsely accused, wrongly condemned, beaten and mocked, before being killed by extreme torture. More than this even, scripture implies that in death Jesus descends to hell and, if hell is separation of God and the absence of all that is good, then, because Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” we can understand that he enters hell.

As a result, we can say that however low you go Jesus has already been there and that it is Jesus that we find when we, like Solzhenitsyn, reach rock bottom. He is the rock that we find when we have lost everything that is ours or have reached the outer limits of who we understand ourselves to be. He is the firm foundation on which a different way of life can then be built because when you do reach rock bottom and find there a firm foundation on which to stand, then the only way to go is up.

Some of you will remember these lines from Yazz’s No. 1 song:

“We've been broken down
To the lowest turn
Being on the bottom line
Sure ain't no fun ...
I wanna thank you
For loving me this way
Things may be a little hard now
But we'll find a brighter day

Hold on, hold on
Hold on, Won't be long

The only way is up, baby
For you and me now
The only way is up, baby
For you and me now”

That is what we celebrate today and that is why this is an Easter Day sermon and not the Good Friday sermon that it has appeared to be so far. Jesus reached rock bottom on Good Friday but that was not where the story ends. For Jesus, the resurrection meant that the only way for him, following Good Friday, was up. And because Jesus dies and is resurrected as the forerunner for each one of us, this can be our experience too. Jesus went into the depths of human sin and suffering to save us, to bring us up and out from our depths of sin and suffering into new life together with him; a life in which resurrection has begun to be our experience and will become our eternal experience.

This change was brilliantly captured in a sermon that the American preacher and sociologist, Tony Campolo has made famous. A sermon based on the repeated line; “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming”:

“It was Friday, and my Jesus is dead on a tree. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s coming.
Friday, Mary’s crying her eyes out, the disciples are running in every direction like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s coming.

Friday, some are looking at the world and saying, “As things have been, so they shall be. You can’t change nothing in this world! You can’t change nothing in this world!” But they didn’t know that it was only Friday, and Sunday’s coming.

Friday, them forces that oppress the poor and keep people down, them forces that destroy people, the forces in control now, them forces that are gonna rule, they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Friday, people are saying, “Darkness is gonna rule the world, sadness is gonna be everywhere,” but they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Even though this world is rotten, as it is right now, we know it’s only Friday. But Sunday’s coming!”

St John in his Revelation prophesies:

“I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new.” (Revelation 21. 1-5, The Message)

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Ain’t no valley low enough to keep us from Jesus, even the valley of the shadow of death. A change is gonna come. The times, they are a’changin’. We can move on up to our destination. We will rise from the ruins. The only way is up. The songs and the clichés find their truth in Jesus and his resurrection which is the promise of our own personal resurrection and the resurrection of our world itself.

The rock band U2 put these ideas into a song that quotes Psalm 40. 2: God “brought me up … out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock.” That is resurrection, and, as a result, we sing a new song, a song of praise to God. They end with the question and the prayer, how long before the whole world experiences resurrection and sings that same song. Let us make that our prayer:

I waited patiently for the Lord.
He inclined and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay.

I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song.
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song?

You set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
Many will see, many will see and hear.

I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?


U2 - 40.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday Children's Activity morning

We had our Good Friday Children's Activity morning at St John's Seven Kings today, thanks to our great team of volunteers. Lots of Easter craft activities, an Easter egg hunt, and a reflection from me on the crucifixion and resurrection.
We thought about some of the bad things which happened to Jesus as part of his passion seeing that many of them (mockery, desertion, betrayal etc.) were things that might happen to us too. All the really bad things we can think of happened to Jesus which means that God knows what it is like when bad things happen to us. God understands and we can tell God about the bad things that happen and know that he understands and loves us.
The Easter story tells us that, although terrible things happen, they’re not the end of the story. Like an egg which looks dead as a stone but one day might break open to let a new chick be born, Jesus was dead and buried but came back to life, breaking out of the grave just as the chick breaks out of the egg. So, after all the sadness and pain there came a bigger joy than anyone could possibly have imagined.
This was followed by an excellent Devotional Service prepared and led by our curate, Geoff Eze, which ended with the playing of the song below during which we placed stones symbolising our burdens at the foot of the cross.
Kathryn Cross - At The Foot Of The Cross.