Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Morality in football?

In yesterday's Guardian and on Comment is Free, Peter Singer asked the question Why is cheating OK in football?

The nub of Singer's excellent piece was that after the England Germany match, the German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer gave this account of his actions:

"I tried not to react to the referee and just concentrate on what was happening. I realised it was over the line and I think the way I carried on so quickly fooled the referee into thinking it was not over."

To put it bluntly: Neuer cheated, and then boasted about it.

By any normal ethical standards, what Neuer did was wrong. But does the fact that Neuer was playing football mean that the only ethical rule is "win at all costs"? ...

Neuer missed a rare opportunity to do something noble in front of millions of people. He could have set a positive ethical example to people watching all over the world, including the many millions who are young and impressionable. Who knows what difference that example might have made to the lives of many of those watching. Neuer could have been a hero, standing up for what is right. Instead he is just another very skillful, cheating footballer."


Good Charlotte - Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

New PEN team & resources

The Greater London Presence & Engagement Network (PEN) has recently established a team of folk (including myself) who will help promote PEN; tutor some short courses or day training events; give presentations to Deanery Synods, Chapters etc; and help those of us in the Network reflect on our work as we go along.

The team gathered together for the first time last week. We were able to pilot a power point that can be used to present PEN to a variety of audiences and comes with a second power point of additional slides and notes to add in and customise the presentation to a particular context. If you would like a presentation in your area for your Chapter, Synod, PCC .... do please get in touch with Susanne Mitchell, PEN's Co-ordinator.

We also had some resource providers present their wares. Among them were PEN's sister organisations Bradford Churches in Dialogue and Diversity BCDD and St Philip’s Leicester who offered to customise some of their training and or bring it to London so check out their websites.
The Awareness Foundation also talked about their latest module ( and their offer of free materials to two pilot parishes per diocese.


Robert Randolph & The Family Band - Going In The Right Direction.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Windows on the world (109)

St Albans, 2010

Mumford and Sons - Roll Away Your Stone.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Seaside Rock

Fancy a trip to the seaside? Then check out our brilliant Seaside Rock Holiday Club at St John's Seven Kings and enjoy all the excitement of the beach. Four fun-filled days of songs, games, drama, crafts, fun and laughter and - most important of all - hear how Peter took up the challenge to follow Jesus.

The Bible stories covered are:

• Jesus calls Peter
• Peter walks on water
• Peter and the cross
• Peter meets Jesus on the beach for breakfast

... and the story of the wise and foolish builders runs throughout.

Peter was originally called Simon – a very common New Testament Jewish name. He was the son of Jonah and he had a younger brother called Andrew, who was the one who first introduced him to Jesus (John 1: 40-42). He originally came from Bethsaida, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he was a fisherman. Simon would have been taught the Jewish Scriptures as a boy. He was a Galilean – Galilean’s had a reputation for an independence and energy that often got them into trouble. They were frank and open people. Simon was blunt, impetuous and straightforward. He would have spoken in a clear Galilean dialect and accent throughout his life. It even betrayed him as a follower of Christ when he stood around the fire according to Mark 14: 70. Simon was married before he became an apostle, and his wife’s mother was healed by Jesus (Matthew 8: 14). By the time of Jesus’ ministry, Simon had settled at Capernaum. His house was large enough to give a home to his brother Andrew, his wife’s mother, and also to Jesus, who may well have lived with him.

Peter was an amazing man and the New Testament is full of stories about him, as well as containing some of his writings. He was kind-hearted, quick, forceful, hopeful, impulsive and a man of extremes. Peter wore his heart on his sleeve – it got him into trouble at times, but it also brought the praise of Jesus. He was the first of the disciples to pronounce that Jesus was the Messiah, yet, when Peter challenged his path to the cross, Jesus had to say to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’

Peter was one of the three closest disciples to Jesus. By Pentecost, Jesus had moulded Peter into a new man. He was no longer the unreliable, self-confident man, swaying between rash courage and weak timidity, but the steadfast, trusted guide and leader of the early believers, a bold feature for Christ in Jerusalem and abroad. He now lived up to his name of Cephas – the Rock! Church tradition states that he was crucified in Rome, possibly upside down, about AD 65.

During the Holiday Club we’ll follow the highs and lows of Peter’s friendship with Jesus. Each story points to Jesus as the Saviour and the source of Peter’s hope and joy. The programme will challenge us to follow Jesus, just as Peter did two thousand years ago.


Shawn McDonald - All I Need.

c4m webpage update (44)

The commission4mission webpage has been updated with details of our forthcoming networking event and dedication of our latest commission. Also included are reviews of exhibitions by members, photographs from our West Ham Festival exhibition and a tribute to Peter Shorer.


King's X - Over My Head.

Praise in the Park (2)

All are welcome to 'Praise in the Park'; join local Christians for hymn singing with a Salvation Army band at the bandstand in Seven Kings Park. Come at 2.00pm with a picnic (and children's games) and at 3.00pm for the hymn singing.


Phil Keaggy - Salvation Army Band.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Collecting modern & contemporary art

Fascinating contrasts in collecting were on show tonight during the Artist's evening held at the Wallspace Gallery.
The current gallery exhibition shows highlights from the Methodist Collection of modern and cotemporary art. This collection was established in the early 1960s by John Gibbs, an art collector and Methodist layman, who found the artistic quality of much 'religious art' and church furnishings very poor. He created a touring collection of work by contemporary artists exploring themes from the life of Christ to encourage a more imaginative approach to the commissioning and buying of paintings, sculpture and church furnishings. Gibbs invited the Rev. Douglas Wollen to create the Collection and gave him a largely free hand to decide the nature of the Collection and the artists and works to be included.
Similar freedom was given to Stuart Evans, who spoke during the evening on 'Obsessive Collecting', by the law firm Simmons & Simmons, of which he was a partner, in building up their collection of contemporary art primarily focussed on the YBA's. At the time, for a company to collect art by seeking out work early in the careers of contemporary artists was to break new ground and led to Evans building friendships with many of the artists whose work he collected, both corporately and privately. Simmons & Simmons differentiated themselves in their market by collecting contemporary art and their collection brought potential clients to the company. Evans emphasised that, although art collecting is not necessarily a great investment strategy, he is not embarrassed by the commercial side of the collections including his most recent work, together with a club of 12 members each investing in the venture, the Lodeveans Collection which is focussed on modern and contemporary Latin American art.
Although the Methodist Collection has returned in more recent years to a practice of buying and commissioning new work, it has remained primarily within the parameters of figurative work relating to the life of Christ. Therefore, there is little connection between the artists and the styles of work in the Methodist Collection and the collections which Stuart Evans has built. While there is undoubtedly room for and value in both, the contrast raises the question as to whether Church commissions of artworks are genuinely contemporary or actually reflect the tastes and styles of earlier generations.
This question may be answered by the autumn exhibition at Wallspace which will examine contemporary Church commissions.
Television - Guiding Light.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Word 4 Weapons knife bin launch

This evening saw the launch of the Word 4 Weapons knife bin located at Seven Kings Methodist Church and made available through the sponsorship of the Lions Club Seven Kings. The launch featured speeches from the President of the Lions Club Seven Kings, the Deputy Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Mrs Ruth Clark, Rev. Ken Nicholls, Minister of Seven Kings Methodist Church, and a Word 4 Weapons volunteer.
Word 4 Weapons is a Christian based organisation started by Michael Smith in 2007, after several years of seeing too many young lives being lost to gun and knife crime. There are several strands to their programme: providing guidance to young people, their parents and guardians; working in partnership with organisations who share their aim; and providing secure bins where weapons can be deposited.
Knives can be deposited anonymously but can also be exchanged for an "All I Need" pack. These come in blue, red or black and can contain: a Bible; comic; book of help; and specially selected gifts such as dvds or PC games. To exchange a knife for a bag; it has to take place face-to-face but no questions are asked when the knife is handed over to be put into the knife bin and those giving out the "All I Need" bags are available to answer questions.

M. Ward - Fuel For Fire.

At the heart of our society

"Stories about vicars are always being told because they're at the heart of our society. Vicars touch all parts of the community and see life in all its extremity. They meet everyone from people grieving for lost loved ones to those approaching imminent death to the homeless to youngsters eager learn about life. They cover all the bases. As a vicar, you're the one person who can't say no – your door is always open ...

The church is still one of the pillars of our society. Christian morality is in our daily lives whether we recognise it as Christian or not. When we get christened or married or die, we drift naturally in the direction of the church. And in moments of crisis, when our spiritual Tom-Tom is no longer telling us what to do, we find ourselves scrabbling at the vicarage door ...

The church has always been a useful litmus test for society. We're entering a phase now where people are becoming more interested in religion and that which lies beyond. It's a strange and frightening time – everything is changing so much. Nature is altering so dramatically, and science appears to have let us down. That's why people are turning to religion." Tom Hollander


Nick Cave - Into My Arms.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Windows on the world (108)

St Albans, 2010
After The Fire - Take Me Higher.

TASK Newsletter No. 18

Here's the latest from Chris Connelly of TASK:

England world cup football may be totally dire but there are some welcome distractions for angst- ridden fans and non footballing audiences as TASK looks towards:
  • the next community walkabout on Friday 25 June from 0900 until 1200, starting from Seven Kings station. It is our regular opportunity to pick up on all local streetscape concerns, from dumping through graffiti through untidy front gardens and it can make an immediate difference to where you live, so please sign up to join in and/or let us know your hotspots. Together we can begin to turn things around.

  • the first of our regular TASK supporter meetings on Monday 28 June from 7-8 in St. John's Church at the junction of St. John's Road and Aldborough Road South. All are welcome as we start a new phase in our journey to improve the area, designed to focus on new areas of interest and concern, and to involve new supporters. Come along. Meet the team. Have your say and be part of our future.


Show of Hands - Roots.

Review of SKNPRA's year

It has been another active and engaged year for the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident’s Association.

We held two successful walkabouts this year. The first was in Newbury Park and resulted in a number of immediate repairs followed by a fuller inspection of the roads covered by the Council. The second walkabout was a community audit of Aldborough Road South carried out with the Fitter for Walking project run by Living Streets. This has resulted in a report which has been sent to Council officials and which will be discussed by the Area 5 & 7 Committees and Downshall Primary School. Some of the initiatives which are supported by or beginning as a result of this report include: St John’s community garden project; SKNPRA’s offer of a new bench at both the Aldborough Road South shops and Seven Kings Park; and the creation of an Art Trail involving the local churches.

Issues we have specifically raised this year have included: the path from Seven Kings Park to the Eastern Avenue (which is now complete); opening of the park toilets on Sundays; a range of streetscape issues (including graffiti, road signs, and potholes); the reopening of Downshall Avenue (which was unsuccessful); together with issues and ideas relating to the Crossrail Corridor Area Action Plan.

We have supported the establishment of the Friends of Seven Kings Park group and the St John’s Neighbourhood Watch through the active involvement of Resident’s Association members in these groups.

We have also supported community campaigns led by the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, Oaks Lane residents, Seven Kings & Goodmayes Allotment Society, Take Action for Seven Kings and Vicarage Lane Play Park. The campaign for a new library in Seven Kings has been successful. It is hoped that the new library on the High Road will open in July and SKNPRA has contributed to the community group with which the Council has consulted in planning for the new library.

We have actively publicised SKNPRA through the production of new flyers and posters, leaflet drops, and a stall at the Our Community Festival. As a result, we have seen our membership grow.

Our thanks go to: Mark Kennedy, our Membership Secretary, for overseeing this expansion of the Association; Audrey Shorer, our Secretary, for ably recording our meetings and taking forward much of our work; and all committee members for their continuing support and input to the Association.

Our thoughts are particularly with Audrey at this time when the funeral of her husband Peter, who was Vice-Chair of the Association, is to be held here at St John’s tomorrow. We record now our appreciation of and thanks for the contribution that Peter made to the Association, for the engaged and unfailingly polite manner in which Peter’s contribution was made, and, perhaps most of all, for the friendship that we enjoyed with Peter. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with Audrey and her family in their loss.


Runrig - Protect And Survive.

Self-harm & self-worth

Mandy Stone is a friend of mine from St Margaret’s in Barking. When she was 14 years old, Mandy began to self-harm and continued to do so for 14 years only stopping about 6-7 years ago after she had become a Christian.

Mandy identifies with the man that Jesus healed in Luke 8. 26 - 39 because, in addition to all the other things he is described as doing, when the story is told in Mark’s gospel he is described as wandering among the tombs and through the hills screaming and cutting himself with stones. So, this man appears to be the only reference in the Bible to someone who self-harmed and his situation both before and after his healing has similarities with Mandy’s experience.

Mandy’s foster brother encouraged her to come to Church and to go on an Alpha Course. She did but describes herself as rebelling against Christianity and the Church for about nine months after she had begun to go. Eventually, one night, she felt she had reached rock bottom and, on her own, asked Jesus to come into her life and take over. Since that night she has not self-harmed again, although she has felt the temptation to do so on many occasions, and has set up and run support groups for others who were self-harming that have helped some to stop their self-abuse. In 2007 I had the privilege and joy of taking Mandy’s wedding back at St Margaret’s and she has since been blessed with three children and another on the way.

The man that Jesus healed, who called himself ‘Mob’, had strong, violent urges and would walk in lonely, isolated places linked to death, shouting and screaming and cutting himself. This description of his behaviour and torment has much in common with the way Mandy has described her experience of self-harming. She says:

“When I think back to my self-harming and the way that I would be feeling, it’s like the anxiety of my inner battle was becoming unbearable and I wanted to let something out. The anxiety I felt would have been so easy to give in to but then I would have lost all awareness of my surroundings and myself.

I would cry and look desperately into my eyes, reflected in the mirror, wanting to know the answers to the way out of my mental prison. I began to cut myself in anger and to hate my own body. I was sure that I had feelings but they didn't seem to show. I became very violent towards myself. The world around me was becoming as unforgiving and intolerant as I was to myself. I would lay down after a violent outburst and fall asleep, very drunk.

Sometimes I would wake up in another part of the room, hiding from something in the room which only my sleeping mind had seen. I would get up, have more drink and drugs and cut again to stop the feelings. Then I would lie there in silence until it was light. There was so much silence in my head and everything else seemed a thousand miles away. My energy was gone, I would stare at the ceiling of my bedroom. The silence inside my head was so loud.”

The torment inside the person needs some physical, external expression which for the person who self-harms is achieved by cutting their body. Doing so, actually releases a chemical called Seratonin which, when released, leaves the body feeling calm. As a result, self-harmers like ‘Mob’ and Mandy enter a vicious cycle in which cutting themselves becomes the way to release their pent-up emotions and return to a measure of calm and control.

For both ‘Mob’ and Mandy there was a sudden moment of encounter with Jesus that changed their lives. For ‘Mob’ it may be that, just as he had needed a physical, external release for his anguish through cutting, he needed to see something that symbolised his full and final release in order to believe that he was finally free and that that is what the episode with the pigs provided for him.

Life after that encounter was very different for them. Jesus told ‘Mob’, although he would no longer have called himself that, to go back to his home and tell people there what God had done for him.” Mandy, too, through her support groups and by giving her testimony to a number of different groups has shared her experience of being healed by Jesus with others.

Both, however, carried with them visible reminders of their self-harming. Mandy’s arms are badly scarred and Mob’s would have been too. While change began suddenly for them the rest of lives involved living with the implications both of what they had done to themselves and of the changes that encounter with Jesus had brought into their lives. None of that is easy, particularly as people relive experiences from their past when they talk about them to others. Mandy has been helped by the knowledge that, like her body, Jesus also bears scars on his body. In his case, the scars from the nailprints on his hands and feet and from the spear wound in his side. For her, this means that Jesus understands the pain and emotions that she continues to feel and is an assurance that he is alongside her in those times. Because Jesus’ scars remain on his resurrected body, she knows that she is accepted as she is; scars and memories and all.

As Mandy says:

“Having Jesus in my life now has made me look at things in a very different light. You see, to be an anybody, anywhere is to look into the eyes of someone who matters to you and know that they don't care what or who you are, where you have been or what you have achieved. To be an anybody, anywhere is to look into those eyes and know that if you see love there, then you have earned it. Not for being a walking achievement or an interesting case or a social inspiration or a charity case, but just for being you. That is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ; A loving and understanding heart. Not someone that is looking at what you did instead he looks at what you will become. I have now found the best friendship and a sense of belonging and the love that I have always longed for. The mask that I had hidden behind for so long has now gone and I am no longer a label but a child of God.”

Many of us will also have experienced trauma and difficulty in our lives, although, for us, that pain may not have been expressed through self-harm. Where those experiences exercise control in some way over our lives today, Jesus wants to bring release and healing as he did for ‘Mob’ and Mandy. Where that release has already come he promises to be alongside us as we cope with the implications of the changes he has brought. In both situations, we need to continually come to him in prayer asking for his healing touch and his words of life.

God of grace, in my rejection I remember the cruel words which all too easily undermine my confidence, the harsh actions which make me feel worthless, the petty complaints which make me feel useless, and the scornful looks which make me feel unloved and unloveable. Help me to know that I am your child, of infinite worth, both loved and lovable. Help me to hear your voice, to accept your forgiveness and love and to forgive and love myself. Amen.


The Call - You Run.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Church vision

Yesterday we held an information session for our current PCC which ended by outlining the current vision for St John's Seven Kings.

It is our vision to grow together as a community of God's people, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus Christ's example and teaching.
We believe God has called us to be a:
  • Worshipping Community - committed to prayer, study of the Bible, sharing of Holy Communion, praising God and listening to God as central to our lives and life together.
  • Loving Community - committed to welcoming, accepting and caring for one another and all whom God brings to us.
  • Inclusive Community - of many races and cultures, committed to learning together and growing together in unity and love.
  • Growing Community - committed to seeking God's grace to grow in understanding, maturity of faith and love, and in numbers.
  • Serving Community - committed to the people of the Seven Kings area, to use our God-given resources to meet needs as and when possible.
  • Witnessing Community - committed joyfully and humbly to sharing the wonderful good news of God's love for all people.
  • Healing Community - committed to seeking to grow in wholeness through care and prayer for one another and for those who seek God's healing in their lives.
  • Prophetic Community - committed to seeking and speaking out for justice and peace in our community, nation and world.

Initially in my time at St John's we have focused on the renewal of the community/outward facing aspects of this vision – serving /prophetic/witnessing leading to growing. We have worked with the kingdom model of mission - God>World>Church - which starts with action and partnerships in the community, for the sake of the kingdom. Church is then for those who respond to the call to share in God’s transforming mission. Our texts for the year also reflected this approach - “Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already - you can see it now!” (Isaiah 43:19a) and “All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children” (Romans 8.19).

Among the action we have taken as a result have been:

  • Promoting and developing the St John’s Centre as a centre for the community: 20+ community groups/activities and 100s of users;
  • Community engagement – Take Action for Seven Kings / Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident's Association / Living Streets campaigns for improved community facilities;
  • Community Garden – a visible sign that we are here and we are for the community.

Next is to be renewal of the internal Church focus: worshipping/loving/ inclusive/healing leading to growing. Our text for 2010 reflects this focus: "Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong. Do all your work in love." (1 Corinthians 16 v 13-14). Among the actions which we expect to develop as a result of this focus are: planning our future deployment for ministry; holding a Vocations Day; and exploring the possibility of a Ministry Leadership Team.

Our prayer is: Lord, we are communities in communion with you, our rainbow-loving, promise-keeping Creating Father God. Bring us together in trust and hope, remembering the marginalised we must represent, the needy for whom we can speak, the poor with whom we are included. Amen.


Van Morrison - In The Garden.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Rejuvenate Worldwide Uganda Team 2010

The latest Rejuvenate Worldwide team of young people fly out to Uganda this Tuesday.

It is going to be an amazing experience for all going, life changing to say the least. The team will be spending their time working with local Ugandans building a classroom, working with street kids and at the orphanage providing sports and other outdoor activities, teaching English and working with the local community on eco friendly & self sustaining projects, planting trees and living off the land.

The team have all worked extremely hard getting to this point, as they go to serve and learn with colleagues in Uganda, and Rejuvenate are asking that supporters pray for them.

• The team leave on Tuesday the 22nd June and return on the 8th July – pray for their safety travelling there and back as well as while in the country.
• Pray that they will have a life changing experience and learn from our hosts while they serve.
• Pray for our protection from the various diseases, injuries and dangers during our stay.
• That the team working with our partners will leave a lasting mark on the village and community we will be staying and working in.
• Pray for our leaders who will be leading the programme; that they will have wisdom and strength.

Rejuvenate look forward to sharing their journey with us so keep a look out for their posts on the website.

Betty Namaganda - Yesu Anateera Okudda.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Steve Scott dialogues 5: Art & Evangelism

These extracts come from a dialogue on art and evangelism as part of the scoping of an arts project:

SS: I'm guessing `evangelism' in its most comprehensive (and appropriate) sense. An arts event that models/demonstrates core values (both on the canvas and in the community), international/multicultural alongside local expressions ... all rooted in the singularity and supremacy of Christ and his work. Artists can talk about what they do and why they do it. An event that attracts people to and (therefore is supportive of) the local church(es) .... those tasked and commissioned and empowered to be ongoing salt and light in the community long after `we' are gone. Churches proclaim, demonstrate and live out the gospel in the local context. An event (and conversations up to/and around) that `evangelizes' the artists/participants i.e. deepens their own thinking and faith in regard to their callings and practice. We learn more about the love of God `Together with all the saints.'

JE: I don't think the Arts are essentially evangelistic. I think the Arts can be used to communicate explicit messages, as occurs in advertising for example, but that doing this narrows their impact to the specific message being communicated and thereby screens out of the artwork the nuances and depth of meaning which characterise truly great art. In other words, evangelism uses the Arts for its own purposes instead of allowing the Arts to communicate on their own terms. I would, therefore, prefer that, in working together, we create something that allows the art created to speak on its own terms rather than packaging it in a box marked evangelism.

SS: I heartily agree, especially in the light of Jonathan's insights and concerns about`art' as an evangelical tool being on a par with advertising. Here's why. In my experience this approach actually reduces the person and work of Jesus, and then tries to sell this on.

I think the role(s) art can play in the evangelistic efforts of the local church are more `roadclearing' (John the Baptist) and seed planting. I also think it is legitimate and appropriate for an artist to have strong convictions about why they make art, and to make wise use of any afforded opportunity to speak out about those convictions ..... especially in a multifaith and multicultural context.

Because it's my conviction that an artist in the spirit will have one eye on the opportunity to speak (and listen) one eye on the humanity of the listeners and one eye on the long term implications of the relationships being built that moment. So one aspect of our inquiry becomes: how can artists of faith engage in practices conducive to honouring Christ and supporting the best efforts of those organisations (churches?) mandated/anointed to both proclaim and live out the gospel faithfully in a multifaith and multicultural society? The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians (some of `Paul', some of `Peter' or `Appollos' .... each exercising different teaching styles and foci) that God appointed (and anointed) those that planted seeds, those that watered, and those that brought in the harvest all equally. I would never deny an artist (so led) any role in any phase of that process, but by the same token I would be wary of suggesting that art is only valid as a platform or a pulpit. The New Testament has many suggestive images and metaphors for the different phases of God's church building process, and it is among those I see both hospitality and opportunity for the arts.

Another inquiry: (so) what role can we play in helping artists of faith towards best practice? Discussions like this one are sorely needed as a way of encouraging `one another to (genuinely) good works, even more as we see the day approaching' as the author of Hebrews puts it. My favorite piece of `evangelical art' is the Gospel of John. My current, second favorite (constantly changing) is the song `Ambulance' by a music group called Eisley (its a video on youtube) breathtakingly clear, simple, and yet it's a beautiful, haunting song.

JE: One person has said that art simply by being has the ability to speak to people about God and wants to provoke thought about spiritual issues by presenting Biblical truths in a visual format and Christianity as a living and relevant faith using culturally relevant delivery methods. Steve has written of an arts event that models/ demonstrates core values (both on the canvas and in the community), international/multicultural alongside local expressions ... all rooted in the singularity and supremacy of Christ and his work. Artists talking about what they do and why they do it. An event that attracts people to and (therefore is supportive of) the local church(es) .... those tasked and commissioned and empowered to be ongoing salt and light in the community long after `we' are gone. An event (and conversations up to/and around) that deepens the thinking and faith of artists and participants alike in regard to their callings and practice.

I think these are actually very similar visions and one's which I can endorse. However, they are evangelistic in the very broadest sense and not in the sense of an evangelistic event where every aspect of the event is designed to bring people to a point of decision and commitment during that event. Steve calls what we are talking about seed planting, Francis Schaeffer would have spoken of it as pre-evangelism. Drawing on the writings of Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy I would prefer to talk in terms of creating epiphanies for people of the reality of life and their lives. Whatever we call it, I think we need to acknowledge that whatever Arts event we organise, while it would clearly point to Jesus, it will not be explicitly and specifically designed to bring those that come to the event to faith there and then but instead will stimulate thought and reflection opening up faith as a possibility for exploration. I don't think arts events can and should do more than that in terms of evangelism.

SS: What I sense going on here in our work at listening to the vision that is emerging, is something that I believe would constitute a teaching and empowering moment for all the artists and others that became involved in such an enterprise. As we clarify the role(s) of art, both in planting seeds in local cultures, but also in the concerns of communicating faith and value across cultures, I sense the emergence of a conversation thatcould have long term implications for what artists/artisans do in the future. There WAS a `position paper' that came out of Lausanne 04 on the arts ... and it was all worthy, well argued and comprehensive etc ... but I'm wondering if part of our brief might be to nudge the conversation a little further along ...


Athlete - Chances.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Ethical & Equity based finance

Today I went to an event organised by Ethos HumanCapital at the Cass Business School, as part of a series on ‘Ethical Business & Finance’, entitled Ethical & Equity based finance - Socially Responsible Investment, Islamic Finance & Private Equity: Contradiction or Common Ground?

The event brought together speakers (Vincent Neate, Head of KPMG UK's Sustainability practice; Farmida Bi, Partner in Islamic Finance at Norton Rose; and Chris Mills, Ethical Policy Manager, The Co-operative Bank) from the three core areas of Private Equity, Islamic Finance and Socially Responsible Investment to examine the theoretical commonalities and practical contradictions. The aim was to challenge current thinking and create debate leading to a better model.

Talking with another delegate before the session began brought back to mind statements made last week in my session on Transforming the Workplace by North Thames ordinands with experience of the Finance Sector. Each were emphasizing the difficulty of taking genuinely ethical stances within the sector.

As a result, it was then encouraging to hear the perspectives of these speakers who, although realistic about the challenges, were also more positive about the opportunities that exist and developments within the sector. Vincent Neate commented that, from his perspective as a consultant to major firms on issues of Climate Change, Ethics and Sustainability, there were two extremes when it came to the weight give to ethics in the sector; where people care about ethics they care deeply but where they don't, they don't care at all. Where ethics was taken seriously, the lead came from the top. Chris Mills gave an example of the business benefits that the Co-operative Bank has derived from its ethical policies as it is bucking current trends by expanding its market share at the expense of other banks with the overwhelming majority of its customers citing ethical policies as a significant reason for choosing to bank with the Co-op.

Mills argued that belief in unfettered capitalism has gone and Neate supported this view by stating that, not only is it currently not possible for the worst examples of asset-stripping to occur because there is insufficient liquidity in the markets, but he believed that private equity firms had seen the error of such actions. Bi was less optimistic, however, thinking that the sector is seeking to return to past unethical practices as soon as possible because the bottom line for many is delivering immediate profits. By contrast Ethos HumanCapital proposed a triple bottom line of people, planet and responsible profit.

Bi spoke about the specifics of Islamic Finance emphasising that it was more than simply a prohibition on interest. Other factors including prohibitions: on speculation; investment in specific goods/services such as gambling, pork, banks, arms etc.; and failures to understand the contract on either side. Such an approaches aligned well with non-Islamic approaches to ethical investment and financial services. More universal principles derived from Islamic Finance included, among others, working hard for a profit and using money earnt for social good. She felt that, despite initial optimism that Islamic Finance would emerge from the recession as a standard bearer for ethical practices, this was not occurring because Islamic Finance was a small segment of the sector which had been as affected by liquidity as other parts of the sector and because of a reluctance to go further in developing alternative models to existing financial practices. As a result, the opportunity to develop beyond the current stage achieved by Islamic Finance in the sector is being lost.

Ethos HumanCapital is a social enterprise business specialising in human capital consulting, including search & selection, as well as training & development and research with a focus on ethical finance, Charities/NGOs, Responsible media, Green & Responsible business spaces.


Duke Special - No Cover Up.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Dr. Husna Ahmad OBE

It is great to see that my friend, Dr. Husna Ahmad, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honour's List. Earlier in the year Husna received an Ambassador for Peace award from the Universal Peace Federation.

Husna is CEO of Faith Regen Foundation. She has a strong background in research, is a Board member of SPH Housing Association, sits on the Black and Minority Ethnic Review Forum (BMERF) of the Government Office for London (GOL) and is a Trustee of the Muslim think tank, the Centre for Muslim Affairs.
With a PhD in Environmental Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, she has held the role of Deputy Chief Executive of the Forum against Islamophobia and Racism and was a Principal Officer in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She sits on the Department for Works and Pensions' Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG) and is also on the Community Development Forum of the London Health Commission. Dr. Ahmad has been appointed co-chair of the National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education, a national independent inter-faith charity working with the learning and skills sector, faith and local communities and national and local faith/belief based groups. She was also a member of a Ministerial Working Group on Child Poverty in London in 2008. She is a national and international speaker on faith and regeneration, peace building and women's issues. Most recently she has spoken at a Peace Conference in Sri Lanka, been part of a delegation invited by the Kuwaiti government and a member of an FCO delegation to Iran.
The press statement from Faith Regen Foundation on the award says:

“The Board and staff of the Foundation are overjoyed to note that their Chief Executive’s work has been recognised in the award of an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Husna has led our organisation with skill and energy through difficult times and was always motivated in wanting to overcome poverty and to do whatever was necessary to help people take a decent place in the world.

Her skill and determination was first recognised in the award of a Doctorate but alongside her successful career she has contributed to her husband Saif’s equally distinguished attainments and being mother to their six talented children.

On behalf of the Board and staff we congratulate Husna and believe that this is not a concluding award but a signal for even greater achievements to come.”
Eurythmics (with Aretha Franklin) - Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves.

Mixing Church & Politics

The Bishop of Barking (with Anglican and Ecumenical partners) is to host a seminar for church leaders on encouraging vocations to public life and political office entitled Mixing Church and Politics at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, SW1H 9NH on Tuesday 20th July from 10am to 2pm. The details of this free seminar are as follows:

10am-10.30am – Registration (entrance free)

10.30am-10.45am - Opening address by Rt Revd David Hawkins, Bishop of Barking
10.45am-11am - "Traditions of Christian engagement with politics", Revd Dr John Perumbalath

11am-11.30am - Bible Study with group work - Dave Landrum, Bible Society Parliamentary Officer
11.30am-Noon - “Seeing Politics as a Christian Vocation”, Revd Dr Margaret Joachim

Noon-12.30pm - informal reflection over lunch (provided)
12.30pm-1.10pm – Questions to a panel including representatives from the main three political parties (inc Jon Cruddas) plus Jonathan Bartley (of Ekklesia), Caroline Alabi (of Hope not Hate) and Sister Josephine Canny (of London Citizens)

1.10pm - Group discussion and plenary on identifying actions for the future
1.40pm - Closing reflections and devotions led by Bishop David
2pm - Close

To register or for more information, contact: Father Steven Saxby, St Barnabas Vicarage, St Barnabas Rd, E17 8JZ;; Tel: 020 8520 5323.

"After the past eighteen months confidence in political life in our country has reached an all time
low. The Christian community needs to take responsibility in calling out vocations to public life and supporting politicians in this high Christian calling." Rt Revd David Hawkins, Bishop of Barking.


Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation.

Windows on the world (107)

Birmingham, 2010

Sabrina Johnston - Peace.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

St Albans Festival exhibition & procession

Yesterday I visited the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban before leading a session on transforming the workplace for students of St Mellitus College. The Cathedral was preparing for the Festival Pilgrimage with its giant, spectacular puppet procession to the Cathedral to witness the re-enactment of the events leading up to the death of Britain's first martyr.
Also part of the St Albans Festival was the Magna Carta Showcase in the North Transept with the opportunity to view a replica of the Magna Carta, one of the most iconic and revolutionary documents in English history. Alongside this display was an interesting selection of art pieces created by Foundation art students from Oaklands College from the creative brief to design something in line with the essence of Magna Carta. The students were asked to produce original artwork celebrating the rights and freedom of human beings and those works judged most inspirational and imagiative have been displayed.


Pierce Pettis - Loves Gonna Carry Me Home.

c4m webpage update (43)

The commission4mission webpage has been updated with documents relating to c4m's upcoming AGM, including a paper reviewing its strategic direction and proposing its future direction. In addition, there are posts: containing a tribute to Peter Shorer; information regarding a new commission; and an update of members activities.


McIntosh Ross - Sunshine on Leith.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Windows on the world (106)

Compton Verney, 2010


Martyn Joseph - This Fragile World.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Trinitarian aesthetics

In Has Moderism Failed? Suzi Gablik poses the question, ‘Art for Art’s Sake, or Art for Society’s Sake?’ Her question neatly juxtaposes the two key opposed aesthetic arguments of late modern and contemporary art.

On one side has been ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ which, in its purest form as articulated by the art critic Clement Greenberg, “rejected the notion that there is any higher purpose to art, or any “spiritual” point to its production”:

“Art only does what it does: its effect is limited and small. It is there to be aesthetically “good.” Only the “dictates of the medium” – pure paint and the flatness of the picture plane – were held to be worthwhile concerns for painting. The very idea of content was taken to be a hindrance and a nuisance, and looking for meaning was a form of philistinism. The work is a painted surface, nothing more, and its meaning is entirely an aesthetic one.”

On the other side (‘Art for Society’s Sake’), developing a direction signposted by Gablik, has been Nicolas Bourriaud, whose Relational Aesthetics is equally prescriptive. So, Bourriaud argues that relational art takes “as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space” and that a work of art, if it is to be successful, “will invariably set its sights beyond its mere presence in space” by being “open to dialogue, discussion, and that form of inter-human negotiation that Marcel Duchamp called “the coefficient of art”.”

Both sides of the argument are presented in terms which exclude the possibility of the other’s existence or validity. Gablik, in addressing the opposed positions of Socialist Art and aesthetic formalism, suggested that what “is required is some sort of reconciliation – not a fixture at either pole”; in other words, to “find a position of equilibrium between the two extremes.” I want to suggest in this article that one such ‘position of equilibrium’ can be found by applying a Trinitarian aesthetics to Art.

This should not come as a surprise as conceptions of the Trinity have often been expressed in artistic terms and Trinitarian conceptions have been helpfully applied to the Arts and other aspects of society. Both C. S. Lewis and Stephen Verney, for example, have written of the inter-relations within the Trinity as being a kind of dance. Dorothy L. Sayers, within The Mind of the Maker (1941), described the creative act itself in the Trinitarian terms of Idea (Father), Energy (Son), and Power (Spirit). A similar approach - in terms of Plan (Father), Do (Son), and Evaluate (Spirit) - was later adopted by Christian Schumacher for his creative consultancy work of restructuring workplaces.

A different approach to understanding and applying the concept of inter-relations within the Trinity was developed by Colin Gunton in The One, the Three and the Many (1993). Gunton used his theology of creation to identify three concepts that he called (drawing on the thinking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge) ‘open transcendentals’. That is, “possibilities for thought which are universal in scope yet open in their application.” Gunton’s three open transcendentals are: relationality (“all things are what they are by being particulars constituted by many and various forms of relation”); perichoresis (“all things are what they are in relations of mutual constitutiveness with all other things”); and substantiality (all things are “substantial beings, having their own distinct and particular existence, by virtue of and not in the face of their relationality to the other”).

Gunton argues that the transcendentals “qualify people and things, too, in a way appropriate to what they are.” In sum, he suggests, “the transcendentals are functions of the finitely free relations of persons and of the contingent relations of things.” These are, therefore, notions which are “predicated of all being by virtue of the fact that God is creator and the world is creation.” As such “they dynamically open up new possibilities for thought” enabling Christian theology to make “a genuine contribution ... to the understanding and shaping of the modern world.” If this is so, then art criticism would be one arena in which the concept of open transcendentals could be explored.

Exploring the substantiality of an artwork would involve describing and assessing its distinct and particular existence; what it is as, for example, pure paint and a flat picture plane. We could talk, for example, in terms of ‘truth to materials’, a phrase that emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement through its rejection of design work (often Victorian) which disguised by ornamentation the natural properties of the materials used. The phrase has been associated particularly with sculptors and architects, as both are able to reveal, in their way of working and in the finished article, the quality and personality of their materials; wood showing its grain, metal its tensile strength, and stone its texture.

Henry Moore, for example, wrote in Unit One that, “each material has its own individual qualities … Stone, for example, is hard and concentrated and should not be falsified to look like soft flesh … It should keep its hard tense stoniness.” Juginder Lamba is one example of a contemporary sculptor for whom ‘truth to materials’ is significant. Many of his works began with the artist searching through piles of joists and rafters looking for salvaged timber that would speak to him of its creative potentialities. His sculptures retain the personality and characteristics of the salvaged wood even at the same time as they are transformed into characters and forms of myth and metaphor.

Exploring the substantiality of an artwork is to recognise that an artwork is an object in its own right once created and, as such, has a life beyond that which its maker consciously intended. Artists sometimes express this sense themselves when they talk about seeing more in the work as they live with it than they were aware of intending during its creation. For some, this is an indication of some sort of spiritual dimension or dynamic at play in the work.

Exploring the relationality of an artwork would involve describing and assessing the many and various forms of relation by which the work was constituted. Among these could be the relationship of the artwork to: the artist who created it; other artworks formed of similar materials or with similar content; the space in which it is being exhibited (both the physical and social space); and those who come to view it.

Artists have their own intentions when creating and are aware of and use (play with) the associations and emotions evoked by the materials and images used in the making. These associations and emotions are as much a part of the work of art as the materials and images (this is particularly so in conceptual and symbolist art, as both begin with the idea or concept) and are present whether the viewer or critic responds to them or not; in the same way that Biblical allusions exist in Shakespeare's plays whether contemporary students recognise them or not. Just as Andrew Motion has argued regarding Shakespeare that our understanding and appreciation of the plays is reduced if we don't recognise the allusions, so our understanding of visual art that uses or plays with associations, emotions and ideas is diminished if we fail to respond.

The reality of the art work as an object in its own right once created and, as such, with a life beyond that which its maker consciously intended also hands a creative role to those who view it. Accordingly, Alan Stewart has written:

"An artist will of course set out to say something particular, but once their work becomes public, it assumes its own life. Therefore each fresh encounter will produce a new conversation between the art and the viewer, resulting in a whole host of possible interpretations, none less valid than the other. Appropriating our own personal meaning from another person’s work doesn’t diminish it, if anything it enlarges it. We might even want to say that in re-imagining and re-investing something with new meaning, we may in fact in some cases redeem it or re-birth it."

Interpretation, to have validity however, has to fit with and follow the shape, texture, feel, colour, images, content, associations and emotions of the work itself. Richard Davey has a marvellous phrase for the network of relationships which form around any artwork; “respect for the work of art as an object itself made by an embodied human being for embodied human beings."

Exploring the perichoresis of an artwork is to recognise what the artwork is in its relations of mutual constitutiveness with all other things. Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics is particularly helpful here in suggesting that “Art is a state of encounter” and that the role of artworks is that we learn “to inhabit the world in a better way” through participating in “arenas of encounter”, created by the artworks themselves, in which momentary micro-communities are formed:

“Today’s art, and I’m thinking of [artists such as Gonzalez-Torres, ... Angela Bulloch, Carsten Höller, Gabriel Orozco and Pierre Huyghe] as well as Lincoln Tobier, Ben Kinmont, and Andrea Zittel, to name just three more, encompasses in the working process the presence of the micro-community which will accommodate it. A work thus creates, within its method of production and then at the moment of its exhibition, a momentary grouping of participating viewers.”

What such artists produce, Bourriaud argues, “are relational space-time elements, inter-human experiences ... of the places where alternative forms of sociability, critical models and moments of constructed conviviality are worked out.” In other words, such artworks create “relations outside the field of art”: “relations between individuals and groups, between the artist and the world, and, by way of transitivity, between the beholder and the world.”

Critiquing artworks in terms of substantiality, relationality and perichoresis could create a unique means of reconciling formalist and relational aesthetics and could form a fascinating and distinctively Trinitarian approach to art criticism.


Flyleaf - Beautiful Bride.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Telling our story: testimony & witness

In Galatians 1. 11-24, the Apostle Paul gives his testimony. Testimony is the telling our story; the story of how we came to faith and have grown in our faith.

Often we think that to be effective testimonies must be dramatic as was the testimony of Paul. The story of how the persecutor of the faith became the Apostle to Gentiles, including his Damascus Road experience, was and is a story full of drama and one which had huge impact in its day and has had since.

However, we should not, as a result, despise other less dramatic and more gradual testimonies of faith. My own story is one of growing up in a Christian family and of coming to faith as a child after hearing an account of the crucifixion at a Holiday Bible Club. That night I knelt by my bed and asked Jesus into my life. As a shy teenager very aware of my own shortcomings I later doubted whether I was good enough for God but in my late teens was shown Romans 5. 8, which says “while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” by a youth group leader and, as a result, recommitted my life to Christ. Over the course of my life I have felt God leading me to develop the particular mix of community action, workplace ministry, artistic activities and relationship building that characterises my ministry today.

That simple, undramatic testimony will I hope be an encouragement to those of you here today who, like me, don’t have dramatic testimonies to tell but who nevertheless have real encounters with God and real growth in faith to share as part of our testimonies. When we do so, we are witnesses to Jesus and to the impact and effect that he has had on our lives.

To be witnesses to him is what Jesus calls us to do and to be. As we were reminded a couple of weeks ago at Pentecost, before he left his disciples Jesus said to them (Acts 1. 7-8), “... when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of all the earth.”

Witnesses are those who have seen or experienced a particular event or sign or happening and who then tell the story of what they have seen or heard as testimony to others. That is what Jesus called us to do before he ascended to the Father; to tell our stories of encountering him to others. No more, no less. We don’t have to understand or be able to explain the key doctrines of the Christian faith. We don’t have to be able to tell people the two ways to live or to have memorized the sinner’s prayer or to have tracts to be able to hand out in order to be witnesses to Jesus. All we need to do is to tell our story; to say this is how Jesus made himself real to me and this is the difference that it has made.

I want to encourage us today that this is something which each of us can do. The best description I have heard of it is to gossip the Gospel. Just simply in everyday conversation with others to talk about the difference that knowing Jesus has on our lives.

Now the reality is that when we do that it is in a context of being to some extent on trial. Witnesses are usually called to give their testimony in a trial and that is so because the truth of what happened or what has been experienced is not self-evident and has to be established through reliable testimony.

The missiologist, Lesslie Newbigin puts it like this:

“Testimony, or witness, is a kind of utterance different from the statement of a fact that is self-evident or can be demonstrated from self-evident premises. It is not a logically inescapable “truth of reason”. A witness makes his or her statement as part of a trial in which the truth is at stake, in which the question: “What is the truth?” is being argued; it is not, while the trial proceeds, presumed to be common knowledge ... The witness stakes his or her being and life on a statement which can be contradicted ... The final proof of the statement will not be available until the trial is over and the judge has pronounced the verdict ...

What is the content of this testimony? Essentially it is a witness to the living God traces of whose presence and actions have been granted in the events which are recounted ...

The testimony which the Church has to give is of a revelation which is not an alien invasion threatening the freedom of the human spirit, but the appeal of a love which alone can set the human spirit free.”

We know that we cannot prove the existence and love of God in any way that is self-evident to all people, just as atheists are unable to prove that God does not exist. Therefore, we are in a debate or trial in which the only evidence available is that of testimony and where we are called to be witnesses of all that we have experienced of God’s love and presence.

We are not called to prove anything or to be erudite or experienced public speakers, or to have answers to every question that we might be asked. All we are asked to be are witnesses who give testimony by telling our story of how we have encountered Jesus.

That is what Paul did and we can be like him, not because we have an equally dramatic testimony to share, but simply because we have a testimony and we share it with others.


Sam Phillips - River Of Love.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Windows on the world (105)


TASK Newsletter No. 17

Hello everyone, as usual, here's our TASK weekly round up

Community walkabouts

Its pretty normal now for different parts of the borough to have their own community clean up and walkabout campaigns, and its worth remembering that this popular movement was started by TASK here in Seven Kings nearly 3 years ago. When we asked local officials to get out of the office and join us to witness the truly shocking state of our streets, scarred as they then were by dumping, graffiti, unkempt gardens, public drinking and an out of control takeout economy. To their credit, they took up the challenge - usually with good grace - and have helped us start to tackle many of these issues, often taking immediate action on the spot.

This is a reminder that the next Seven Kings walkabout is coming up soon, on Friday June 25 starting from 0900 outside the railway station. To make it work, we desparately need some new volunteers to walk the neighbourhood with local councillors, council officers and police team reps, highlighting current issues and helping them to pick up on best long- term solutions.

The walkabouts normally last around two hours- you don't have to commit for the whole time though- and offer a great opportunity to meet other supporters and get things done. Fast. Which is always rewarding.

To sign up for the walkabout on the 25th, or just to find out more, please contact Chris on

Library update

A lot of people are asking when - and sometimes if - the new Seven Kings library will be opening, the passage of works having taken a lot longer than we first imagined as sourcing a shop the borough could afford and sorting lease issues with their eventual choice have taken their toll on more optimistic May/June opening dates. The last we heard was that the new library- due to occupy a prime spot on the High Road next to Costcutter- would be open for the school summer holidays, offering local children access to the borough's summer reading scheme and other holiday activities.We hope that this has not slipped further and meet again with councillors and library officials next week to get an update, and to push hard for rapid progress to meet this fast approaching deadline.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that a July opening is still feasible, and hope to issue a specific opening date in our next TASK update. We also welcome all your ideas on launching the library and possible activities it could help support.

TASK monthly meetings

A couple of issues ago we mentioned our plan to hold regular monthly drop in meetings for supporters interested in getting more involved in TASK work. This allows time for us to agree, plan and work on new issues and campaigns, after the success of our major library petition, whilst also offering time for feedback on what is going on in the different parts of our area.

We are currently talking to our good friends at St. John's Church, who have good, accessible meeting space on a public transport route, and will be finalising dates for a launch session towards the end of the month over the next few days. Once again, keep watching this space.

Ilford Waterstone's reading group starts June 7

Good news from Ilford's leading bookseller, which is setting up a new local reading group. Allowing a group of book lovers to come together and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings about a title they have all read.

Reading groups have become massive across the UK over the last decade and this is a unique opportunity to be part of a brand new set up which will be meeting for the first time on Monday 7 June, from 6pm, at the new Costa coffee outlet opposite Ilford Station

This first gathering will set the scene about how it all works, and will agree the first book to be discussed, so it is a totally top time to be part of the conversation.

The arts bring happiness and offer inspiration to everyone, whatever their age and background, so do please support this new initiative in an area that craves many more creative outlets. All are surely guaranteed a warm welcome

Enough for now. Enjoy the summer sun.

Chris Connelley for TASK


Kendall Payne - On My Bones.