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Friday, 30 November 2012

Artists valued by theologians

I've recently been reading and re-reading several theologians who write about theological aesthetics. It's interesting to note those artists that they view as having synergies with their own work. I've posted previously about Paul Tillich and Expressionism and John Dillenberger and Abstract Expressionism but these theologians - Hans Urs von Balthasar, Calvin Seerveld and Cecilia González-Andrieu - are rather more eclectic, often valuing the work of artists without significant mainstream reputations.

Aidan Nichols writes that "Balthasar's beau idéal of a Church artist was the Swiss Hans Stocker" who he claimed "as representative of a 'new Catholic art in German Switzerland'." For Balthasar, "Stocker represented a pleasing contrast to the many artists claiming to serve the Church yet producing 'kitsch' ... Stocker would do full justice to the Kingdom of the Son in its redemptive economy; to the communion of saints; to the Church, her sacraments, her functions. Balthasar sees as paradigmatic Stocker's Sankt Gallen fresco of the open Heart of Christ with, arranged around it, scenes of the Old and New Covenants, the Angels, and the 'weeping Key-bearer, Peter'. This extended image testifies to an experience of the Heilskosmos, the 'world of salvation', that is central, not peripheral, and the will and capacity to represent it in an original way."

Calvin Seerveld has said of Gerald Folkerts that he "has the wisdom to let his Christian faith subtly percolate in the spirit of his painterly art by showing compassion for the problematic figures he treats": "Self-portrait shows Folkerts himself startled by the viewer's gaze, pounding a nail into the wrist of Christ on the cross lying on the ground. Curled lip, furtive eyes, aggressive hammer, tensed body, all under churning nest of vipers - it is a well-drawn almost melodramatic drawing of the guilt that lodges in the best of us."

"The engravings and paintings of Georges Rouault reinvest the Byzantine tradition with a sombre, stained-glass seriousness that is definitely biblical in its horror of modern dehumanising atrocities, and is truly compassionate in composition, colour, and gritty style that bespeaks Christian art, whether the topic be kings, prostitutes, or Jesus Christ's passion. The Nobel Prize winner for poetry in 1945, Gabriela Mistral of Chile, updates a Franciscan holiness and gives it a poignant, singing voice that casts haloes of comfort around girlish hopes, forgotten prisoners, and even the nest of birds. Canadian painter William Kurelek weds a love for the Bruegel world of low life with a Roman Catholic slant on the poverty of success gained without the presence of the cross; his mark of pristine folk happiness is normally touched by an existential sense of nuclear war apocalypse, so the careful observer can never rest easy. Significant about such varied Christian art born out of Catholic sensitivities today is its unchurchy, world-wide, sorrow-sensitive aura.

A more hidden, 'autonomous', or even tangential expression of biblical faith in art of the twentieth century deserves mention: the sculpture of German Ernst Barlach articulates with rough austerity a forceful cry in wood and metal for reconciliation with God and neighbour that so incurred the anger of the Nazi government it destroyed much of the work. The New York Jew Abraham Rattner not only conceived an enormous stained-glass wall of apocalyptic emblems for a major Chicago synagogue but also grappled time and again in painting with the crucifixion of Christ, trying to exorcise both Golgotha and Auschwitz, as it were, from Jewish experience. Gabriel García Márquez of Colombia, 1982 Nobel prize winner for fiction, exposes small-town political corruption in South America with fantastic horizons that juxtapose real angels, supernatural forces, and the comic foibles of weak people.

The black spiritual song of American Civil War days takes on new evangelical fervour in the melodies and lyrics of Mahalia Jackson, whose simple Baptist roots act prophetically through the cascades of rhythmic beat and glorious sound. The paintings, prints and constructions of Henk Krijger body forth reminiscences of both Bauhaus and German expressionism muted and melded into strong, restfully honed shapes and expertly chosen colours that reveal artistry integrated by the Reformation perspective that ordinary life is a vocation to be lived directly before God and to be redeemed while sharing sadness, humour, and hope." (In The Fields of the Lord)

In Bridge to Wonder Cecilia González-Andrieu holds up as exemplars of the approaches she articulates the founder of modern Chicano theatre and film Luiz Valdés, the poet-playwright Federico García Lorca and the artists John August Swanson and Sergio Gomez.

La Pastorela, which González-Andrieu describes in the book, is performed biannually by El Teatro Campesino during the Christmas holidays, alternating with La Virgen del Tepeyac, in the historic Mission of San Juan Bautista, established in 1797. Pastorelas, or Shepherds Plays, originated in medieval Europe as religious dramas and were later brought to the new world and Alta California by the Spanish missionaries. La Pastorela recreates the long trek of those first pastores to the holy site of the Nativity.

González-Andrieu argues in Bridge to Wonder that the: "possibility of a religious reading of Mariana Pineda has been generally disallowed by Lorca scholars precisely because of political ideologies bent on bifurcating her self-sacrifice from her religious faith. Such an evasion of the complexity of Lorca's work continues even in the face of the playwright's own emphasis of the heroine's Christian identity."

"Even though his works are part of art collections from the Vatican to the Smithsonian, John August Swanson (American, b. 1938) routinely admits to feeling like an amateur, even after four decades as an artist. In one of his early works, the beautifully rendered visual story Inventor, he summarizes the work of the artist and the humility he feels every time he works. The eight panels present an artist, as the newspaper headline announces, who claims to have invented a machine that transforms junk into beauty. Juxtaposed between this claim and the last panel, Swanson presents the young inventor working and draws the beauty that emerges as swirling colors, spheres, concentric circles, and stars. The last panel reports, this time through an old radio, that “an amateur is someone who doesn’t know something can’t be done, so he does it.” ... In Inventor ... Swanson calls into question the image of artists as geniuses and of art as an elite pursuit." (Bridge to Wonder)

González-Andrieu has written that "Gomez's works also act like modern icons opening windows and doors into the depths of Spirit, where death never has the last word and the sacred beckons. In his passionate and passion-making art Sergio Gomez tells a community's story, raises a cry of pain, mediates a vision of hope, and points with care and reverence toward that eternal Other whose love the very beauty of these works brings into relationship with a thankful world."


Mahalia Jackson - How I Got Over.

Olivier Messiaen: Favourite pieces of 20th-century music

Works by Olivier Messiaen feature twice in a 'What's your favourite piece of 20th-century music?' article in today's Guardian. Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy chose the Quartet for the End of Time but describes the piece solely in terms of science: 

"Our concept of time and space were totally disrupted by Einstein's breakthroughs at the beginning of the 20th century. No longer was there a single timeline, or a fixed frame of reference. Time could go at different speeds. Space could contract. For me, the Quartet for the End of Time captures some of the spirit of that scientific revolution. The story of its composition reflects one of the major historical events of the century: the second world war. But it is the music that resonates with this new view of the universe. The opening movement exploits the mathematics of two prime numbers to create a sense of destabilised time. The piano part plays a 17-note rhythmic sequence against a 29-note harmonic sequence. The two different primes create a sense of two different timeframes that never quite get in sync."

While this captures an important aspect of the piece, it completely overlooks the Christian belief which infuses the piece and without which the Quartet for the End of Time could not have been written.

By contrast Rufus Wainwright, who chose Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise, although stating clearly that he is not a religious person, responds to the "incredible spirituality at its base which gives it a timeless quality" and says that he can "certainly appreciate it when music strives for the heavens."


Olivier Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time.

Peter Nevland: Spoken Groove

Peter Nevland never planned to be a writer. Some words popped into his head freshman year at the University of Texas and he made the wonderful mistake of writing them down. Eight years and a couple hundred “writings” later he left his engineering salary at Motorola to become a full-time writer and performer.

In his spoken groove lyrics Nevland unleashes his life with candour, hilarious wit and heart-changing passion. His wild and untamed performance style has been said to leave people glued to their seats, jaws hanging loosely, wondering how one man can remember so many words.

Nevland has collaborated with commission4mission artist Colin Burns on two tracks for Colin's debut cd Emerald&Gold. One of these tracks ‘For The King’ is included on a new music sampler from Resound Media which can be downloaded for free here:


Peter Nevland - In Love With Your Sound.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The non-possessive life of God

Have you bought your Christmas presents yet? Are you someone who buys throughout the year or someone who buys at the last minute? Have you also made your list of gifts you would like to receive? Christmas is a time for giving and receiving. As Lewis Hyde writes in his book entitled ‘The Gift’, “The spirit of a gift is kept alive by its constant donation”: “a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept. Or, if it is kept, something of similar value should move on in its stead … You may keep your Christmas present, but it ceases to be a gift in the true sense unless you have given something else away.”

The greatest gifts though are those where no return is expected by the giver. The shoebox presents prepared as part of Operation Christmas Child are like that. Gifts are chosen, placed in a shoebox which is wrapped and then sent to needy children in Africa and Eastern Europe. Operation Christmas Child gives those who grow up in relative wealth the opportunity to participate in selfless giving and show compassion to others - irrespective of creed, colour, religion, sex or ethnicity of either the giver or the receiver.

The man who pioneered mass production of motor vehicles, Henry Ford, said that the most successful person would be the one who would fill the greatest need the best. On this basis Jesus Christ remains the greatest person who ever lived because He made the greatest sacrifice to fill the greatest need for the greatest number of people. The sheer thought that God would send His Son to die for mankind, is amazing: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 
David Runcorn writes that “the life of God is non-possessive, non-competitive, humbly attentive to the interests of the other, united in love and vision.” It is this that we see at Christmas as we celebrate the arrival of the greatest gift of all and it is also what we see at Easter as God’s greatest gift gives his own life for the sake of us all. Christmas is a time for giving and receiving gifts. May we, this Christmas, receive the greatest gift of all.

Here are the service/activities at St John's Seven Kings for Advent and Christmas:
December 2012
  • Saturday 1st Dec, 6.00pm, Tamil Carol Service
  • Sunday 2nd Dec, 10.00am, Advent Reflections Service poems, readings and songs
  • Sunday 2nd Dec, 6.30pm, Advent Service at St Peter’s Aldborough Hatch - Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches
  • Sunday 16th Dec, 10.00am, All-age Christingle Service - a colourful service of music & light (collection for The Children’s Society)
  • Sunday 16th Dec, 6.30pm, Service of Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight - traditional carols and readings
  • Tuesday 18th Dec, 7.00pm, Carol singing around the Parish - wrap up warm. Collecting for Haven House Hospice
  • Sunday 23rd Dec, 6.30pm, Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Peter’s Aldborough Hatch
  • Monday 24th Dec (Christmas Eve), 5.00pm, All-age Nativity Service - dressing up & tree lighting - fun for all. Bring a present to leave under the tree for children helped by Barnados. Collection to Haven House Hospice.
  • Monday 24th Dec (Christmas Eve), 11.30pm, First Holy Communion of Christmas
  • Tuesday 25th Dec (Christmas Day), 8.00am, Holy Communion - Book of Common Prayer
  • Tuesday 25th Dec (Christmas Day), 10.00am, Christmas All-age Holy Communion - children, bring a gift you have received to show others
  • Monday 31st Dec (New Years Eve), 11.30pm, Watchnight Service - welcoming the New Year in prayer and reflection
Bruce Cockburn - Cry Of A Tiny Baby.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Incarnation: Private View and Exhibition

I will be speaking about commission4mission at the launch of the organisation in South London during the Private View for our Christmas exhibition entitled 'Incarnation' on Monday 3rd December from 6.30 - 9.30pm at Wimbledon Library Gallery, 1st floor, Wimbledon Library, Wimbledon Hill Road, London SW19 7NB.

“Incarnation” features work by Harvey Bradley, Colin Burns, Christopher Clack, Ally Clarke, Valerie Dean, Elizabeth Duncan-Meyer, Jonathan Evens, Ken James, Mark Lewis, Sarah Ollerenshaw, Caroline Phillips, Caroline Richardson, Janet Roberts, Francesca Ross, Henry Shelton, Sergiy Shkanov, Joy Rousell Stone and Peter Webb.

The exhibition provides the first opportunity to see work by our newest member Caroline Phillips, as well as linking us up with Sarah Ollerenshaw who has exhibited with us previously.

The exhibition opening times are 4 - 8 December, 9.30am-7.00pm (2pm on Saturday) with access through the Library. A Second Private View will be held on Tuesday 4 December from 6.30 - 9.30pm. On Monday and Tuesday evenings from 7pm, the Gallery can be reached via a side entrance in Compton Road.


The Call - Scene Beyond Dreams.

How music makes us feel

Last night's imagine on BBC1 explored 'How Music Makes Us Feel.' The BBC's publicity for this documentary said:

"Many people turn to music when words are not enough, at funerals and weddings, at times of heartbreak and euphoria. It seems to hold more emotion and go deeper than words.

Musicians as varied as Emeli Sande, who enthralled the world when she sang at the Olympics, opera diva Jessye Norman, dubstep artist Mala and modern classical composer George Benjamin explain how music makes them feel. Alan Yentob also talks to a vicar, a psychologist, a Hollywood composer, an adman and even the people who choose the music played in shopping malls. He sees babies dance to a rhythm, and old people brought forth out of silence by the power of music."

The vicar interviewed for the programme is the Revd. Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, who has published an interesting book called Our sound is our wound in which she explores how we listen for the voice of God within the soundscapes of our lives and how we find our own voice? Our lives are lived, she suggests,  against the backdrop of an internal and external soundscape. The sounds, noises and music with which we are surrounded in modern life have spiritual implications. There is also a soundtrack within us that plays constantly through memory, dreams, anxiety or thought.

The sense of music providing a soundscape throughout our lives also featured in the programme framed as it was by film of babies responding to music at its beginning and dementia sufferers helped through music therapy at its close.

Many of the issues raised by the programme are also explored by Peter Banks and I in The Secret Chord. For example, in Chapter 3 'Play vs Plan' we think about music in relation to play theory in child development, while in Chapter 6 'Head vs Heart' we discuss the expressive impact of music including assessing a quote from Stravinsky, also used in the programme, that "music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all."

Clips from the documentary can be viewed here and the whole programme can be seen on i-player by clicking here.


Emili Sande - Abide With Me.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Windows on the world (221)

Roydon, 2012


Athlete - In The Library.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Please join a week of prayer for DR Congo

'Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world have been invited to join Archbishop Isingoma Kahwa of the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo, and the Congo Church Association in a week of special prayer for peace in DR Congo.

Since April there has been a new upsurge of violence and displacement in eastern DR Congo (320,000 people as of late Sept according to the UN including 60,000 into Uganda and Rwanda) following the emergence of a new rebel group called M23 as well as other groups becoming more active across a wide area.

Situations change when God’s people pray, sometimes in ways we are aware of, but not necessarily. In regular news from friends in DRC we hear of many encouragements and blessings as the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in word and deed, BUT there is the constant plea too for ongoing, persistent prayer for lasting peace because the stark reality is that tens of thousands in Congo are living with fear and insecurity, violence and displacement, hunger, sickness and poverty while longing for peace and the opportunity to return home.

The Congo Church Association, with the support of Archbishop Isingoma Kahwa of the Anglican Church of Congo, invites you to join with us in a week of special prayer for peace in DR Congo from Monday 26th November through to Advent Sunday 2nd December. We hope individuals, groups and churches will commit to pray afresh for a resolution and definitive end to the conflict, violence and atrocities, and for a new era of peace, as well as for the needs of all those affected. Prayer resources will be available on the CCA and CMS web sites from 19th November. See and

Please encourage friends and others in your networks to participate and make this prayer initiative widely known. Thank you.'


Esther Akawa - Nguluma Nkosi.

Government's proposed relaxation of planning laws

The Ilford Recorder reports that councillors from all parties in the London Borough of Redbridge have united to oppose the government’s proposed relaxation of planning laws:

'Members at Thursday’s meeting of the full council in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, voted unanimously to resist the proposed changes.

Cllr Shoaib Patel, cabinet member for planning, said: “Planning permission is not in place to reduce workers, it is in place to protect people from unwanted development.

“It’s a myth to think that planning laws hold back development or the economy.”

In September, the coalition government announced plans to allow people to build larger house extensions and make shop and office expansions and housing developments easier.

A consultation is now underway and several local authorities, including the Greater London Authority, have already voiced their opposition to relaxing planning regulations.'

If you share the significant concerns held by members of the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident’s Association at the Government’s proposal for a three-year relaxation of planning rules on extending homes and business premises, we encourage you to register your views as part of the current Government consultation. Click here to register your views before 24 December 2012.


The Clash - I Fought The Law.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Treating the Bible like some vast jigsaw puzzle

Tom Wright wrote an article for the Times in the wake on the Synod decision on Women Bishops which was also posted on the Fulcrum website and aimed to nail the lie that 'people who “believe in the Bible” or who “take it literally” will oppose women’s ordination.' He wrote:

"All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.

The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going. Unlike the ambiguous “progress” of the Enlightenment, it is full of promise — especially the promise of transformed gender roles."

Among the comments made on the Fulcrum website about Wright's article is this: "The meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is clear - the only question is whether we choose to obey the instruction of the apostle who was appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ to open the eyes of the nations and turn them from darkness to light (Acts 26: 17-18), a teacher of the nations in faith and truth (he speaks the truth in Christ and lies not) (1 Timothy 2: 7)."

Giles Fraser comments in The Guardian today that: 'Conservative religious people are generally locked in a self-referencing worldview where truth is about strict internal coherence rather than any reaching out to reality. That's why they treat the Bible like some vast jigsaw – its truth residing in a complex process of making the pieces fit together and not with the picture it creates.'

So, St Paul sent greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia and entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe.  He clearly accepted women in his ministry teams and among the leadership of the churches with which he worked. Yet on other occasions and in different circumstances and contexts he made statements such as that in 1 Timothy 2. 11-12. 

To take the Bible seriously surely means to live with the tension of the different and sometimes contradictory statements and actions found within the Bible, both taken as a whole and in relation to its key protagonists instead of trying to 'treat the Bible like some vast jigsaw – its truth residing in a complex process of making the pieces fit together and not with the picture it creates.' To my mind that also includes taking context, both then and now, into account in seeking to understand what God was saying and doing, both then and now, and not simply insisting that particular statements originally made for particular contexts and times necessarily have literal validity for all times and contexts.


Lone Justice - Don't Toss Us Away.

Christmas Bazaar @ St John's

Despite inclement weather, we enjoyed an excellent Christmas Bazaar today at St John's Seven Kings thanks to the hard work of many from our congregation and the support of the wider community. Those who came shopped at a variety of stalls, queued to see Santa in his magical grotto, had their faces painted, played a number of different games and enjoyed good food in our restaurant. The result; a great community event and an increased amount raised for St John's.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Breaking Down the Barriers

This Sunday at the 10.00am service at St John's Seven Kings we will be hearing from Rosie Venner, Christian Aid's Regional Coordinator, about the Breaking Down the Barriers: Working for Peace in a Holy Land initiative.

This is because we plan to take part in Christian Aid's Middle East Partnership Scheme which will directly benefit 30,000 people in Lebanon and the West Bank and its wider impact will improve the prospects for many thousands more.

Christian Aid has recently launched an emergency appeal to help partners in Gaza and across the Middle East respond to the political instability and violence affecting the region. You can give online via, by calling 08080 004 004 or by sending a cheque made payable to Christian Aid to: Christian Aid, Freepost, London, SE1 7YY.

There is also a prayer which you may wish to use over the coming weeks:


The Style Council - Walls Come Tumbling Down.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not shoot thy self in thy foot

Allison Pearson's satire in this comment piece from The Telegraph is acute and deserved after Tuesday's Synod debate and vote:

"Like most woolly Anglicans, I assumed that, after an interminable period of reflection, the C of E would muddle its way to the right decision. For heaven’s sake, if Swaziland has a woman bishop, surely Suffolk should be allowed one? A great religion should not be in the business of causing disbelief. But that’s precisely what the Church of England did on Tuesday."

As a complete contrast, in that it is non-satirical and straight out sincere, try this post from 'The Year':

"I know it is not my responsibility to defend the Church of England and actually that’s pretty difficult right now anyway, but please don’t judge those within it by the decisions being made at the moment.

Be assured that those who are not looking forward, are in a minority in the church. Be assured that there are good, faithful, Priests out there who love their communities and their parishioners. Be assured that whilst it may seem otherwise, God is completely relevant in our society today. Perhaps more so now than ever before. Be assured that the church is full of people who love not hate. Be assured."


Victoria Williams and Dave Pirner - My Ally.

The Secret Chord: You might have an epiphany!

There is some interesting debate about 'The Secret Chord' underway on After The Fire's Forum including this great quote: 

"For someone who treats music as art, as something to be understood as an art form within a particular context etc etc, or someone who is themselves creatively active, then it's certainly interesting and worthwhile reading. You might have an epiphany!"


After The Fire - Der Kommissar.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Van Dams: Rock Against Violence

Rock Against Violence was a night of live music featuring the Fundertones, Meisha, Rough Justice, the Van Dams and Bassline. In addition to spectacular sounds, amazing prizes, and fabulous friends, all proceeds from the night went directly to Solace Women's Aid and therefore helped celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence

We went to see The Van Dams, who are a London based Punk band and have been rocking out for over a year now, combining an energetic mix of punk rock, pop melodies and even Irish folk with heart, soul and enthusiasm. From beautiful fishmongers to Mexican wrestling, from Dutch beers to bubblegum and from ohs to ahs, there is almost no limit to the lyrical imagination of the band and something for everyone to enjoy. The band are independently releasing their first demo single, "Rudo", while plans are in the making for a first E.P. as well. The band consists of Luc Bulles (Bass) Alex Buchan (Drums) Liam Tegart (Guitar) Paul Loftus (Guitar) and Arran Murphy (Vocals). 


The Van Dams - Miss Molly Malone.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Articles, reviews and a sample chapter

Here are links to articles and reviews I have written which are available online:



Windows on the world (220)

Roydon, 2012


Bryan McLean - Barber John.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bryan MacLean: If you believe in

Los Angeles group Love were, in the words of David Fricke, 'the bi-racial folk-rock pirates who made Love and Da Capo in 1966, then the silken psychedelia of Forever Changes in 1967.'

'Although Arthur Lee was the main writer, [Bryan] MacLean contributed some fine songs, including Orange Skies, Old Man and the haunting Alone Again Or, with its flamenco-style guitar and dramatic trumpet flourishes.' ifyoubelievein is a collection of MacLean's music  written when he was in the band and written with Love in mind.

'After an aborted attempt at a solo career ... [MacLean] hit a real low point and shortly afterwards became a Christian, "I was alone in a hotel room in New York and I had lost practically everything. It occurred to me that I was in a tail-spin so I thought 'well, why don't I pray?' So I did and nothing happened for about two or three weeks. At the end of that time, I was sitting in a drug store on 3rd Avenue having a drink, and suddenly the drink turned to sand in my mouth and I left the bar. And when I reached the pavement and daylight I knew something had changed. And from that point on my life has been totally different".

[MacLean] joined a Christian Fellowship Church called the Vineyard ... During Friday night Bible stints [MacLean] took the concert part of the session and was so amazed at the reaction he gradually assembled a catalogue of his Christian songs.'

Taken from the Latin and literally meaning 'within the walls', Intra Muros is the album of "spooky" Christian music MacLean was completing at the time of his death. Due to 'the great strength of songs like the amazing Love Grows In Me and My Eyes Are Open', Intra Muros 'stands as fine testament to the ability of a great songwriter.'


Bryan MacLean - Alone Again Or.

Start looking: an odd sort of beauty

Photography: a Guardian masterclass features a great article by Eamonn McCabe:

'Rather than travel the world in search of perfection and prettiness, simply step out of your front door and start looking. Some days are diamonds and you'll come across something special – something that also resonates with other people.'

'The photographer Raymond Moore knew all about this ... Moore used to wander around Britain and Ireland, leaning over people's fences and photographing the most mundane things, from caravans to telephone lines. He once published a book called Every So Often, because every so often you turn a corner and find something beautiful.

No matter where you are, there's something to photograph if you work at it. People sometimes tell me,: "Oh, I live in Croydon (or wherever) – there's nothing around here." But even in Croydon you can go round the old factories, the football pitches, or the tram lines and find an odd sort of beauty.'


Over The Rhine - Jesus In New Orleans.

The Lion King: Aslan and Jesus

Aslan is the great lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace says to Edmund “Do you know him – who is Aslan”?
“Well, he knows me” said Edmund.  “He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor over sea, who saved me and saved Narnia”. 
There’s a key scene in both the book and the film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about the great lion Aslan. In it, Mr Beaver says, “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion”. Mrs Beaver adds, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly”.
“Then he isn’t safe”?  said Lucy.
“Safe”, said Mr Beaver, “who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you”.
He is King, he is good but he is not safe. These are three keys concepts about Aslan, the great lion. Goodness is a powerful concept and a powerful way to live but it can also be dangerous.  Not letting wrong or evil win can take you to dangerous places, in life and in relationships, at work, with friends and we’ll come onto that in a moment. But we begin with a different kind of power, the creative power of Aslan which brings the land of Narnia itself into existence.
In The Magician’s Nephew C. S. Lewis tells us how Aslan sings Narnia into existence using only his voice to create and then makes creatures and gives them a commission of stewardship telling them, “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers…The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also”. Aslan, therefore, has immense creative power and authority over all he has made.
Despite this great power and authority Aslan sacrifices himself for the sake of those he has created. He saves Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy plus all of Narnia by allowing himself to be captured, humiliated and killed.  Aslan agrees to let himself be sacrificed in Edmund's place, the Witch binds him to the Stone Table and kills him there. He puts himself in dangers’ way for a reason as he later explains: "[…] when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead […] Death itself would start working backwards."
This is the amazing thing about Aslan's sacrifice: by taking Edmund's place, Aslan is able to save Edmund, but also to save himself and everyone else. There's a special power he can access by being a willing and innocent victim.
Through Aslan’s sacrifice we see that goodness is a powerful concept and a powerful way to live but that it can also be dangerous because not letting wrong or evil win can take you to dangerous places. You only find out if you are courageous like a lion when life gets difficult – when a decision has to be made, and the right thing to do is the most difficult. 
Another reason why goodness may be dangerous is that to meet Aslan is "to meet someone who, because he has freely created you and wants for you nothing but your good, your flourishing, is free to see you as you are and to reflect that seeing back to you".
In other words, to see yourself as others see you might be discomforting but it will also always be skewed by the distorting lens of their self-interest. To be unmasked as God sees you is painful because purgative, but is also a path to true liberation. It is merciful because without it we are left in a citadel of self-deception, life's energies being sapped and wasted on bolstering self-regard.
We see this most clearly through one of the most vivid scenes in the whole series which comes in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace – the spoiled child of non-smoking teetotal vegetarians: never a good sign in Lewis – is turned into a dragon. He tries to peel off his skin but finds only another set of scales. It takes Aslan to cut his claws in deep and rip it off – a “feeling worse than anything I’ve ever felt”, as Eustace says – for him to be reborn. Aslan can dig deep enough into Eustace’s life - to his very heart - to make him a completely new creation.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan tells the children that he is also in their world, but he goes by a different name and once, when a young boy could not figure out what Aslan’s name was in this world, Lewis wrote in response:
“I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas (2) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor (3) Gave himself up for someone else's fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people (4) Came to life again (5) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb... Don't you really know His name in this world?”
Revelation 5:5 pictures Jesus as a lion king when it says: Stop weeping, behold the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He can open the scroll…”
Like Aslan, Jesus is a creative force. In Colossians we are told that “God created the whole universe through him and for him.Like Aslan, Jesus sacrifices himself for others. He has the courage of a lion. In Gethsemane, knowing he is soon to die, he prays, “Father let this cup pass from me” but then his courage says, “But not my will but yours be done”. Finally, like Aslan with Eustace, Jesus is the light which has come into the world to show up our evil deeds enabling us to repent and be transformed.
The things Aslan does and says in the Narnia stories are, as Lewis said, simply the things Jesus really did and said but the comparison of Jesus with Aslan brings out the sense “that something really quite fierce [or strong and powerful] has taken hold of people” when they turn to God.” As Hebrews 10. 31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” As Mr Beaver said of Aslan, Jesus isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.
This sermon uses material from:;;; and Stroud, ‘Chronicles of Narnia’.


Switchfoot - This Is Home.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Boulogne sur mer: contemporary and historic art

Today I've been on our annual parish day trip to France. This year, after going to Cité Europe, we visited Boulogne-sur-mer.

On the way up the hill from the port to the Old Town I saw an excellent exhibition at the Galerie Premières Toiles. Pierre LeBlanc's 'A Broken/Damaged History …' is a series made up of 38 diptychs through which he maps a society where motionless men and women seem prisoners of their own picturing. LeBlanc says he is looking to expose the shortcomings/failures of our ways of life. Monch disfigures driftwood and selfportraits to create photographs and digital art of anguish and angst. Dadave creates sculptures - towers, flags etc - from recycled electrical materials.

The Old Town nestles inside mighty ramparts built at the beginning of the 13th century by the Count of Boulogne on the foundations of the Gallo-Roman walls. A pathway round the ramparts makes a delightful walk affording lovely views over the whole town and a glimpse of the flower gardens at the foot of the walls.

The Basilica of Notre Dame was erected between 1827 and 1866 by Father Haffreingue on the ruins of the ancient cathedral which has been destroyed after the French revolution. The design of this colossal edifice with its 101 meter high dome was inspired by St Paul's cathedral, St Peter's in Rome, as well as the Pantheon and Les Invalides in Paris.

Outside the Town Hall is a sculpture garden which seems to have work from or linked to the Pompidou Centre, possibly related to the earlier visit of the Mobile Pompidou Centre and an associated Sculpture Trail.


Madeleine Peyroux - The Things I've Seen Today.