Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Art Competition and Community Festival

Linked to the above festival is a Jubilee/Olympic Art Competition for local schools organised by St Paul's Goodmayes. The participating schools are: Barley Lane; Farnham Green; Mayespark; Goodmayes; and William Torbitt.

The winning entries are being displayed at St Paul's Goodmayes on Sunday 5th August. The presentation ceremony will be from 12 noon to 12:30pm in St Paul's Church with the Mayor of Redbridge presenting the prizes to the winning schools. The competition entries have been judged by commission4mission artists, Henry Shelton and Peter Webb.


Van Morrison - Days Like This.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Two hour turn around

We went from this set up in our worship area at St John's Seven Kings for our Holiday Club this morning to the following set up within two hours for an afternoon wedding. My thanks to all who worked so hard to make this two hour turn around possible.


Bob Dylan - Wedding Song.

On Your Marks Holiday Club (2)

On Your Marks … Get … Set … Go! 50 children, aged 5 to 11, had the opportunity to hear from Olympic and Paralympic athletes (through DVD interviews) and take part in the 'Global Games' at the Holiday Club at St John's Seven Kings this week. As they did they also discovered what it was like for the disciples to follow Jesus and how they can be on his team today.
Based on Scripture Union’s On Your Marks holiday club material, the Holiday Club was full of creative teaching, games, craft, songs, prayers and Bible reading as the children learnt about God’s great plan for salvation. Children competed in basketball, long jump, skipping and quoits competitions and made medals, trophies and laurel wreaths, among many other craft activities. The holiday club ran from Tuesday 24th – Thursday 26th July. All those involved really enjoyed this year’s holiday club. It was great fun, we all learnt a lot and it was fantastic that lots of children come along.

On the final day an Olympic torch was brought along for the children to see and hold. The above photo shows the children with Holiday Club helper, Margaret Amann, holding the Olympic torch.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Steve Scott: Run with the Fire interview

Transpositions has today published an interview with Steve Scott about Run with the Fire. Run With The Fire  is an arts project for the London 2012 Olympics year organized by CANA, commission4mission and Veritasse. Designed to exhibit in churches, Transpositions say that Run with the Fire is an interesting synergistic example of what happens when art, culture, and the church come together. Click here to read the interview.

Steve Scott is a British writer, poet, and musician whose songs have been recorded by artists including the 77s and Larry Norman. His musical and spoken word projects include Love in the Western World, Lost Horizon, Magnificent Obsession, More Than a Dream, The Butterfly Effect, Empty Orchestra, We Dreamed That We Were Strangers, and Crossing the Boundaries, in conjunction with painter Gaylen Stewart. In 2012, his songs became available on MP3 format, coincident with the release of a limited edition CD, Emotional Tourist: A Steve Scott Retrospective. He writes and speaks often on the arts in the UK and US, and is the author of Like a House on Fire: Renewal of the Arts in a Post-modern Culture, The Boundaries, and Crying for a Vision and Other Essays: The Collected Steve Scott Vol. One. He holds an MA in global leadership.


Steve Scott - This Sad Music.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On Your Marks Holiday Club


On Your Marks.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Windows on the world (206)

Parndon Mill, 2012

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Twin track promises for a twin track life

King David lived a double life. Not in the sense that he was duplicitous but in the sense that there were twin tracks of significance running through his life.
David was the fair-haired shepherd boy who defeated a giant named Goliath. He was the wise Jewish ruler who brought the tribes of Israel together as a united nation. He was a powerful warrior, cunning diplomat, and talented musician. He was known as a "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:13 - 15) and yet he was also someone who sinned miserably. How can an adulterer and a murderer be called a man after God's own heart? It would seem to be because when he failed, he repented and then turned back to God (see Psalm 51).
Those are some of the incidents from and the aspects of the life that King David lived. They make him one of the most interesting and significant characters whose stories are told within the pages of scripture. This is all broadly in line with what God is recorded as having promised David in today’s reading (2 Samuel 17. 1 – 14a). In verses 8 – 11 we read:
I took you from looking after sheep in the fields and made you the ruler of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have defeated all your enemies as you advanced. I will make you as famous as the greatest leaders in the world. I have chosen a place for my people Israel and have settled them there, where they will live without being oppressed any more. Ever since they entered this land, they have been attacked by violent people, but this will not happen again. I promise to keep you safe from all your enemies and to give you descendants.”
Yet there is another aspect to the life of King David – the second track running through his life – that eventually comes to mean that more is written in the Bible about him than many other famous Bible characters, including Abraham and Moses. Believe it or not, there is also more in the Bible about King David than there is about Jesus!
The second track to David’s life is that he serves as a paradigm for the coming Messiah. What does that mean? A paradigm is a pattern, frame, template or model within which something broadly similar but not exactly the same can be recognized. David’s life became the template or model for what the future Davidic King – the Messiah – would look like. That future King – the Messiah – wouldn’t David come back to life or an exact copy of David in every respect but key aspects of David’s life and character became reference points enabling people who would live after him to recognize the Messiah when they saw him.  
So we read, at the end of today’s reading, that God said to David:
“I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.”
That promise could apply to David’s immediate descendents – King Solomon, who built the temple in Jerusalem, for example – but it can also be understood as speaking about a future descendent who will also be God’s Son and who will establish an eternal Kingdom. It is a twin track promise from a twin track life. David’s life was both the life that he lived in his own day and time plus the ongoing significance of his life as a pattern, template or paradigm for the future Messiah.
Matthew tells us, in his Gospel, that Jesus was a descendant of David and gives a genealogy to demonstrate this. In Acts 13 we read of Paul preaching that God had testified concerning David: “‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised.” (v. 22 – 23)
Incidents from the life of David that were regarded by the Church Fathers as foreshadowing the life of Christ include; Bethlehem being the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David pointing towards Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath as typical of the five wounds of Christ. The betrayal by David’s trusted counsellor, Achitophel, and his crossing the Cedron (or Kidron) brook are reminders of events from Christ's Passion.
Many of the Psalms David is credited with writing are also typical of the future Messiah. References found in the Psalms that are understood in the New Testament to indicate that Jesus is the Messiah include the following: the Messiah will be God's Son (Psalms 2:7); He will be rejected by many but accepted by God (Psalm 118:22); his close friend will betray him (Psalm 41:9); he will experience agony on the cross (Psalm 22:1-21); he will rise from the dead (Psalm 16:8-10); he will ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18); and will become the eternal priest-king (Psalm 110:4).

This is all very interesting but how is it significant for us? Firstly, this is how Jesus and the Early Church often explained his significance. After all, Jesus was an obscure preacher in an obscure part of the Roman Empire who never did any of the things we normally associate with greatness and who died a criminal’s death. Why should anyone pay attention to what he did and said? On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24. 25 - 27) we read of Jesus explaining to his two disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. In Acts 8. 32 – 35, we read of Philip starting with a passage of scripture from Isaiah and going on to tell the Ethiopian official the Good News about Jesus using the scriptures. That was the usual practice of the Early Church and we can benefit ourselves from understanding Jesus’ significance in the same way.
Secondly, we are also called to live double or twin track lives in a way that is similar to that of David. Our lives, as Christians, are to be patterned or modelled on Jesus – we follow in his footsteps by doing the kinds of things which he did and said to the extent that we can in our contemporary lives. When we act in ways that are similar to Jesus – the pattern or template for our lives as Christians – we reveal for a moment something of the reality of the kingdom of God in contemporary life. Our lives as a whole, and particular actions or initiatives with which we are involved, can therefore be signs of or pointers to the reality and nature of the kingdom of God. Like the life of David, our lives can have significance both for who we are – people loved, accepted and used by God – and for what we can reveal of kingdom of God – our words and actions showing something of the pattern and nature of God’s kingdom.

David’s life speaks to us of Jesus. In what ways do our lives our lives do the same? How does the way we live our daily life speak to others of the Messiah that we love and serve and follow? Let us pattern our lives on what we know of Christ and pray for Christ to be seen in us, even when we are not consciously aware that we imitating him.


Keith Green - Psalm 51.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Roydon, Parndon Mill and the Gibberd Gardens

Essex is celebrating its fourth Summer of Art this year. Artists are exhibiting their work on art trails and open studios in the county's rural, coastal and urban settings, showcasing the county's artistic talent. This weekend it is the Parndon Mill and Roydon Open Studios.

I began by visiting the studios of Alan Burgess and Angela Godfrey at Roydon. Alan Burgess spoke about his increased admiration for trees which has resulted in a recent major painting project "Great British Trees." Angela Godfrey works in an organic style with natural materials and environmental themes and has undertaken numerous significant church commissions. Angela showed me designs, models and photographs from several of these commissions. Her work can also be seen at St Peter-ad-Vincula Roydon where both the altar and a carved memorial are her work and feature in the Barking Episcopal Area Art Trail.

Work by Burgess and Godfrey also features in Structure, the current exhibition in the Gallery at Parndon MillStructure demonstrates how artists can be inspired by structure, how they depict it and how they work with designers, architects and engineers to create constructions. Angela had already spoken of her collaborations with craftspeople as had occurred with the model Dove exhibited here which had been created in stainless steel for Carryduff Catholic church in Belfast. Inspired by natural structures, Godfrey has also displayed a stunning sculpture based on a tiny piece of animal skull.

Among the artists whose work I particularly enjoyed in the Structure and Project Space exhibitions and their open studios were Anthony de Jong Cleyndert and Liz Boast. Churches and crosses feature among the vibrant semi-abstract expressionism of Cleyndert's paintings. Last year he created a new specially commissioned glass panel for the Windhill Churches Centre in Bishops Stortford. Liz Boast showed me work based on confessional boxes which also double as Punch and Judy booths. There is a clear dialectic element to Boast's often surrealistic work - "a dialogue with ... lifes idiosyncracies." She spoke about the sense of evil within each of us that is expressed through Mr Punch and which needs some form of safe expression.

Finally, I visited the Gibberd Garden created by Sir Frederick Gibberd, the planner of Harlow New Town, who designed the garden and filled the grounds with sculptures, ceramic pots and architectural salvage from 1972 till his death in 1984.  In Sir Frederick's own words: 'Garden design is an art of space, like architecture and town design. The space, to be a recognisable design, must be contained and the plants and walls containing it then become parts of adjacent spaces. The garden has thus become a series of rooms, each with its own character, from small intimate spaces to large enclosed prospects.' Unlike the choices made for Harlow New Town where the quality and quantity of work have led to the designation of Sculpture Town, the sculptures in the Gibberd Garden seem predominantly minor work.


Deacon Blue - Your Town.

Caravaggio: Sacred and Profane

Yesterday I heard Andrew Graham-Dixon speak at the Tokarska Gallery about the portrait of Caravaggio that he paints in his biography of the artist Caravaggio - A Life Sacred and Profane. Graham-Dixon gave a fascinating and entertaining two hour presentation of Caravaggio's life and work up until his escape from prison in Malta.

Among the most interesting aspects of the talk was Graham-Dixon's description of the cultural background in Milan from which Caravaggio came; Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, had argued that the High Renaissance art of Raphael and Michelangelo had led the Church astray and that Catholic art needed to engage with the poor masses by means of a popular realism which could grab the attention, through its drama, of those who saw it thereby aiding their meditation and prayer.

Graham-Dixon argued that Caravaggio's paintings invite a profane reading but, for those able to see, the symbolism of the paintings allows a sacred reading meaning that, in a sense, the painting judges you through your response to it. As a example, he discussed Bacchus noting that Bacchus, who is a pre-figuration of Christ, is holding out to us the wine which is his salvific blood and that the rotting fruit symbolises the sinfulness of our lives from which Christ will save us.

Caravaggio became caught in a battle between the realist and baroque styles; a debate over the extent to which the Counter-Reformation should engage with the poor masses as Borromeo had argued. The baroque was essentially based on fear of the masses by emphasising submission to the majesty and authority of the Church. By contrast Caravaggio indicated inclusion of the masses by depicting the poverty of Christ's disciples.

The two styles were set against each other in the Cerasi Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome where Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Paul frames the altarpiece, the Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci. The rear of the horse in the Conversion of St. Paul is positioned to point directly at the Carracci. Yet Caravaggio is, in his time, ultimately the loser in this battle - despite regularly defending his honour with physical acts of violence - as two major commissions he had been awarded (The Madonna of the Palafrenieri and The Death of the Virgin) were both rejected as a result of profane readings of his realism.

The tragedy of Caravaggio's life then accelerated as a direct result of these rejections with the profane aspects of his life dominating although redemption was regularly offered through the protection of the Colonna family, Franciscan spirituality which valued his realism, and the offer of a pardon from the Pope. Although there was insufficient time on the night to complete the story, in the summary of the book on his website, Graham-Dixon concludes: "Caravaggio had lived much of his life surrounded by poor and ordinary people. He painted for them and from their perspective. In the end he died and was buried among them, in an unmarked grave. He was 38 years old."   


Tom Jones - Bad As Me.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Amazing art in Redbridge - more needed

"Mira Calix’s Nothing Is Set In Stone is a musical sculpture made of gneiss stones. The monolithic installation is at Fairlop Waters, a nature reserve in the borough of Redbridge until September 9th 2012. This interactive sculptural song invites the public to contemplate the modulations within nature and the ephemeral quality of music.

Nothing Is Set In Stone is part of Secrets Hidden London, inititated by the Mayor of London, it is a series of extraordinary site-specific collaborations taking place in a range of unusual locations across the capital in summer 2012, led by major artists and leading cultural organisations (for more information visit: Nothing Is Set In Stone is also part of the London 2012 Festival, a UK-wide festival from 21 June to 9 September featuring leading artists from around the world - for more information visit:"

"The visitors’ book reveals an overwhelmingly positive response to the installation. A sole voice says “what a waste of taxpayers’ money” but other comments include “an amazing work of art” and “it needs a permanent location”." The Ilford Recorder quotes Calix as saying that people are asking for more artwork in Redbridge and that Redbridge Vision are keen on the idea. I, for one, certainly hope that that will be the case.


The Harbour Lights - Last Port Of Call.    

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

New forms of interconnectivity?

Great to see that, through The Tanks and the next Turbine Hall installation, Tate Modern is to feature more relational art, much of it also being art which critiques commercialisation. So, Charlotte Higgins writes in the guardian:
'The desire for live encounters, by both artists and audiences, was partly a reaction to the economic and political climate, said Dercon. Artists and audiences were expressing a disillusion with the impersonal systems that dominate modern life, and reaching for the human encounter.

"I'm not going to talk about politicians and banks, but we are completely surrounded by systems that do things to us and at us. Performance proposes a new form of interconnectivity."

The desire to focus work without physical form, that cannot straightforwardly be bought and sold, may also express a wider dissatisfaction among the art world for the vagaries of the art market and the extreme commercialisation of art before the financial crash of 2008.

According to Catherine Wood, Tate's curator of contemporary art and performance, "there is a desire for community among artists, and a desire to get away from the dominant news story about art, which is 'Damien Hirst sells for £50m'".

Serota added: "At a time of austerity, people are rethinking their values and looking at art that doesn't straightforwardly have a market … Artists want to make work that engages directly with audiences and is not so susceptible to commercial development."

Tino Sehgal, whose Turbine Hall commission will be unveiled next week, says in his guardian interview:

"Our culture is hung up on and overemphasises what can be derived from material objects," he says. "I think this is something quite new, over the past 200 or 300 years – that life has become about accumulating material wealth. The 21st century is not about accumulating material wealth like the 20th century. It's already eroding. I'm not against material things – I just don't work with them."

Objects, he suggests, offer false promises of stability and security ..."

Higgins explains that:

"Sehgal did not train as an artist: instead he studied dance and political economy, in tandem, in Berlin and Essen. A peculiar combination, you might think, but for him each unlocks the other. The paradox of economics, he believes, is that "we derive income from transforming the earth into goods, but you can't keep on transforming the earth. I felt I wanted to study that." And dance? "Dance for me was a solution. In the sense that I could solve this paradox at least for myself. It was about how I can derive an income from something that does not involve this material transformation. At the same time, I'm not against the economy or the idea of the product. Art is essentially something that is produced. What I think is overestimated is the power and potential of things. My work is a product, though – not a thing."

Still, Sehgal belongs in the art world rather than in the world of the performing arts: museums rather than theatres provide the best environment for tackling the kinds of questions that interest him. "The museum is a place where we think about how to produce material things. That is my question – not the question of choreography, which is 'How can a body move?', but 'What can we do instead of producing objects?'"

The paradox which doesn't seem to be fully addressed, however, is that it is commercial activity (galleries and sponsors) which funds much of the art which critiques commercialisation. Sehgal may dispense with contracts when he sells his works (that is, the right to perform them) to museums but they sell nevertheless for five-figure sums, something that, as Higgins notes, has prompted his critics to cry emperor's new clothes. Similarly, Tate director Nicholas Serota has praised non-doms who donated money to the Tanks at Tate Modern - saying: 'It's a very visible answer to the criticisms that have come from government and others about non-dom taxpayers not making a contribution to the cultural life of the country' - while using the money they provide to show art which critiques the commercialisation from which, in the main, their money derives. There are unresolved or unacknowledged issues here - having your cake and eating it - particularly where art which has become accepted by the cultural and critical establishment is presented as though it remains defiantly avant-garde.


Mumford and Sons - Whispers in the Dark.

Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights

I was talking today at the midweek Communion Service at St John's Seven Kings about Martin Luther King's story, from his Love your enemies sermon, of driving with his brother when none of the cars travelling in the opposite direction would dim their lights. King applies this story to the history of civilization saying:

"Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn't it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn't have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love."

We were thinking about Isaiah 10. 5 - 16 and the sense there that God was speaking in and through the clash of civilisations at the time. In the passage, God's message is understood in terms of warnings and punishment. I was suggesting, using Martin Luther King's story, that, after Jesus' life, ministry, death and resurrection, God's message and work in and through history is best understood as movement towards love for enemies.

Interestingly a significant practical example of movement in such a direction within the clash of current civilisations can be found in the interview with Emma Sky published in today's Guardian about her role with the US military during the surge in Iraq. Such work, one would expect to be the polar opposite of King's dimming of lights but her explanation of what occurred throws up some interesting synergies.

Sky says:

'"There was a power struggle going on at every level, a communal struggle for power and resources. I knew from my time in Kirkuk that politics drives this kind of instability, and that politics needs to be managed to bring down violence. I believed Iraqis were using violence to achieve political goals. We had to stop stigmatising these people. We had to stop calling these people the enemy. We needed to identify all the different the groups and ask, 'why are they fighting? What are the drivers of instability?"'  

'"It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn't afford to say 'we'll only deal with people as long as they haven't got blood on their hands'. We've all got blood on our hands," Sky says.'

'The campaign was given an Arabic name, Fardh al-Qanoon – imposing the law. As an important first step, US troops began to move out of their bases to live among the local population.

And they had to do two things which were fundamentally counter-intuitive; prioritise protecting the population rather than trying to defeat the enemy; secondly, reach out to the armed groups which were killing civilians and soldiers.

"The general challenged his soldiers to understand the causes of instability, to understand the 'why' not just describe the 'what'." He would tell the soldiers, 'the average Iraqi is just like you and me, they want to have their breakfast, take their kids to school and go to work. They are good people they are not our enemy'. People were using violence to achieve political objectives, so we had to create a process where they could achieve their objectives without violence."'

The interview explains how this campaign was implemented and how it helped in reducing fatalities from 15,960 Iraqi civilians killed in violence during 2007 to 4,859 in 2008, while US casualties went from 904 in 2007 to 314 in 2008.

Sky talks of being driven to find a way of improving the situation in Iraq. She says, "I don't want to live in a world where we see the killing of innocent civilians and don't yearn to stop it. However, the Iraq war should have taught us, if nothing else, about the limitations of our own power."

Clearly what she describes is a complex situation and one to which there continue to be many and varied responses, including viewing Sky as flawed for becoming part of the US military machine for a time. Yet what she describes, seen from her perspective, would seem to be a deliberate attempt to try to dim the lights which then contributed in part to a significant reduction in violence.

If, from a Christian perspective, we suggest that God can be found in initiatives which enable civilizations to dim their lights, then it may be that we should see something of God in the initiative that Sky describes.


Edwin Starr - War.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Heron: Westwood Recreation Ground


The Innocence Mission - The Wonder Of Birds.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Giving thanks to God for people and places

Yesterday the Bishop of Barking visited St John's Seven Kings to commission our Ministry Leadership Team and to lead us in thanksgiving for the refurbishment of our Fellowship Room.
The Ministry Leadership Team is a group of those at St John’s who lead, encourage and build up the work of the whole Body of Christ on behalf of the PCC. The Team members are people whose were suggested by the congregation, who have a developing spiritual life of their own and are seeking to nurture and disciple others. The Ministry Leadership Team is working together with those involved in the five different areas of mission and ministry (Children & Youth; Mission; Pastoral; Peace & Justice; and Worship) to take forward their Area of Responsibility, meets regularly with the Staff Team to plan and pray together, and reports to the PCC on progress.
Before commissioning the Ministry Leadership Team, the Bishop spoke about St Paul's prayer for his ministry team from his letter to the Philippians and the way in which the Holy Spirit work to develop his characteristics (or fruit) in our lives. To illustrate this he distributed fruits to the congregation each labelled with one of the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In commissioning the Ministry Leadership Team, Bishop David used the following prayer: Holy Spirit, guide and strengthen the members of this ministry leadership team that they may do your will in the service of Christ. Make them humble, modest, strong and constant to observe the discipline of Christ. Let their life and witness so reflect your character that through them many will be encouraged to grow in their discipleship. As Jesus came not to be served but to serve, may the members of this Team share in his service to the glory of God. Amen.
Our Fellowship Room was refurbished at the beginning of the year as a result of generous donations from the family of Philippa Page, the London over the Border Council and the AllChurches Trust. The old floor was removed and a new floor laid which now provides level access throughout the entire building, plus the room was completely redecorated. Since its refurbishment, the room is now being used regularly by a Luncheon Club, Asian Women’s Group, and Slimming World group, among other activities and events, enabling valued local services to be provided where they are needed.
As part of the act of thanksgiving, which was attended by the daughters of Philippa Page, Bishop David unveiled a plaque giving thanks to God for the generous donations and grants which enabled the work to be completed. 
Galactic Cowboys - Fear Not.