Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Maciej Hoffman at SPACE

Maciej Hoffman is exhibiting at SPACE in February 2013. The exhibition opens on Saturday 2nd February.

SPACE art gallery is a not-for-profit collaboration between Fionn Wilson (artist) and Gosia Stasiewicz (photographer). Located a few minutes’ walk from Southgate tube (Piccadilly line), SPACE is particularly interested in exhibiting local emerging artists and welcomes exciting modern art from across London and beyond:

"SPACE aims to forge links with the local community and to encourage creativity. We see art, in all its guises, as a way to transcend the mundane. We have a particular interest in street art and outsider art. The gallery itself is a raw, exciting and extensive space, which is in a state of constant flux."


Karen Peris - Procession.

Debate: Has fiction lost its faith?

There is a very interesting debate currently under way about how and if belief figures into contemporary fiction. The debate to date has been summarised well by David Griffith who explains how the debate began with Paul Elie’s New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?”:

"Elie reveals something I had never known about Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, one of the first works of literature I read on my own: In a 1973 lecture (over a decade after the book’s publication), Burgess “describes his best seller as a work about free will written from a Catholic perspective.” Elie goes on to write:

This, in short, is how Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time: as something between a dead language and a hangover. Forgive me if I exaggerate. But if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature.

Less than a month later, Image’s Gregory Wolfe, writing in the Wall Street Journal, rebuts Elie’s exaggeration. Citing over two decades of experience publishing a who’s who of what he calls “believing writers” (Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robinson, Elie Wiesel, Mark Helprin, and Mary Karr (a Catholic convert), Wolfe asserts:

The myth of secularism triumphant in the literary arts is just that—a myth. Yet making lists of counterexamples does not get at a deeper matter. It has to do with the way that faith takes on different tones and dimensions depending on the culture surrounding it.

I see it both ways.

I agree with Elie that these days, when writers reference scripture and theology, or evoke explicitly religious imagery and symbols, it often falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. I also agree that we’ll never again see a confluence of writers like O’Connor, Merton, and Percy having such a broad cultural impact.

I’ve found sustenance in the community of writers and readers of Image and enjoy acceptance among a group of writers my age who are not religious.

That renaissance of Catholic writing I once hoped for may not have happened, but however secularized our culture has become, issues surrounding faith have not been, and will never be banished from literature.

Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English at Liberty University, writing in response to Elie’s article, is excellent on this point. Prior, whose scholarly work centers on the novel, reminds us that as a form, the novel has always been about unbelief.

She writes that the novel “was the outgrowth of the passing of the age of belief into the age of unbelief…. It is the form of an unbelieving epoch, even if it took a few centuries for that latent feature to surface.”

In other words, the kind of search for meaning that the novel offers has, over time, naturally and understandably drifted away from religious ways of understanding who were are and why we are here, just as the culture has.

Perhaps this is why I, a writer with an MFA in fiction, have turned almost exclusively to the personal essay and memoir. My first publication appeared in the “Confessions” section of Image, a section that is set apart from the “Essays” section. While I never asked about that distinction, it seems clear to me that it is a nod to spiritual autobiography, the genre started by St. Augustine.

My sense is that confessional nonfiction helps the writer (and the reader) to examine his conscience."

One thing to note about the limitations of this debate to date is that it is primarily US-centric; where is the mention of writers such as Rhidian BrookP.D. JamesDavid LodgeSara MaitlandNicholas MosleyJames RobertsonSalley VickersNiall Williams and Tim Winton, for example? This same focus is found in the 'golden age' of Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy to which some of this debate looks back without much by way of reference to the European Modern Catholic Novelists, the InklingsShusaku Endo and William Golding, among others. 

Second, its focus is predominantly about 'literary' fiction and therefore it also misses much that is viewed as 'popular' fiction e.g. John GrishamSusan HowatchMary Doria RussellPiers Paul Read, Ann Rice and Morris West, among others.

Third, there is limited mention of the extent to which theological themes and practices of faith continue to be explored in contemporary fiction. The work of Douglas Coupland or novels such as Patrick Gale's A Perfectly Good Man and Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry being a few examples.

Fourth, there is the extent to which novelists have been re-examining the life of Christ and his followers through novels such as: Jim Crace's QuarantineNorman Mailer's The Gospel According to the Son, Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Ann Rice's Christ the Lord seriesColm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary, and Niall Williams' John, among others. Jesus remains a figure of fascination for many contemporary novelists.

I would also want to add that in my view some of these novelists - such as Nicholas Mosley, Marilynne Robinson and Tim Winton - stand shoulder to shoulder with past greats such as O'Connor, Greene, Endo, Golding and others. We are not therefore entirely bereft of great novelists dealing consistently with issues of faith.

As a result, I line up with Greg Wolfe in this debate when he states that "the myth of secularism triumphant in the literary arts is just that — a myth."


Michael McDermott - Great American Novel.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Faith-based service providers - the ‘social glue’ that holds Britain together

The following comes from FaithAction:

"The public policy think tank Demos published a report entitled ‘Faithful Providers’, as part of the Demos Inquiry into Faith, Community and Society. The report finds that local authorities can benefit greatly from including faith-based groups in service delivery, and that there is little evidence to justify commonly-held fears of religious discrimination or proselytization. The report highlights the ‘holistic’ approach which is characteristic of faith-based organisations and the added social value that charitable and faith providers bring to service delivery.

In an accompanying statement, the author of the report said that “faith-based service providers are often long-standing pillars in their communities and the ‘social glue’ that holds Britain together”, and urges local authorities to support the commissioning of services to religious providers."


Flying Burrito Brothers - Dark End Of The Street.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Homegroup inspiration

This morning I interviewed four people, one from each of our four homegroups at St John's Seven Kings, in the sermon slot at our 10.00am service. This was to try to ensure that our congregation understood what the homegroups are about and felt as able as possible to join should they wish to do so.

I found it an inspiring session as people described the benefit they gained both from studying the Bible with others but also from being in a 'safe' space where questions could be posed and where debate and discussion could occur. It was also inspiring as the groups are self-managed, and therefore each is very different from the other, but each is providing a 'safe' space (again) in which group members are able to try out and develop skills in leading meetings, study and discussion.


Gungor - You Are The Beauty.

Windows on the world (229)

Fréjus, 2012


Om - Sinai.

Congratulations - Mayor's Award winners

Many congratulations to the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre and Danny O'Brien who won awards in the Mayor’s Awards in Redbridge yesterday:

'The group award went to The Salvation Army Ilford Corps and Church Without Walls for their contribution to the cold weather shelter at the Salvation Army church in Clements Road, Ilford ...

Danny O’Brien, who runs the Anti-Knife UK group from Seven Kings, was the individual winner of the Safer Redbridge award.

Danny, who warns young people about the dangers of carrying a knife through a poster campaign, said: “I’m quite shocked. There’s no funding for myself but if I can help anyone, I would do.

“A knife is a tool until used by a fool and then it becomes a weapon. Don’t let it be one of our kids.”'


Matthew E White - Will You Love Me.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vocation and qualification for religious leadership

Tonight we hosted a meeting of the East London Three Faiths Forum at St John's Seven Kings. The topic under discussion was vocation and qualification for religious leadership and we heard from Revd Ernie Guest - St Laurence's Church, Barkingside (and Warden of Ordinands for Redbridge); Rabbi David Hulbert - Bet Tikvah Synagogue, Barkingside; and Hajj Mahmoud Attiya - South Woodford Mosque, PhD student.

Rabbi David briefly outlined the development within Judaism from priests and prophets to rabbis. He highlighted Hassidism, the Enlightenment, and gender equality as key developments in understanding of the roles and responsibilities of rabbis. Rabbinic training is five years and the training institutions select those offering to train as rabbis. Rabbis have an employment contract with their synagogue.

Hajj Mahmoud Attiya spoke about the importance of gentle teaching within Islam and respect for People of the Book. He discussed his research exploring ways of transforming those who are radical preachers including the distinction between unchanging laws regarding morality and changing reflecting cultural practices. How these are defined plays a key role in whether a radical or reformist position is taken.

Ernie Guest outlined the criteria used by the Church of England for assessing the calling and vocation of those offering to train as ordinands and the process by which this discernment and selection takes place.

In the discussion which followed we explored ways in which our religious leaders are appointed, our differing approaches to the removal of leaders from post and approaches to gender issues in leadership. In relation to the latter, Dr Mohammed Essam El’Din Fahim argued that the practice of gender separation in Islam was cultural and did not reflect the practice in the time of the Prophet when men and women prayed together.


Youssou N´dour- Li Ma Weesu.

The Secret Chord: Wider availability and offers

The Secret Chord is now available from a wide range of online booksites, such as Barnes & Noble among others, as well as being available to order from your local book store.

The book is also on sale at the ATF WebShop where this month and throughout February they are running a special free delivery promotion (1st item free, 50p per item thereafter) on the book and all their other products, delivery in the UK only. If you use Amazon, then you'll find a reduction in the book's price there.


After The Fire - Joy.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Enough Food for Everyone IF

Today Tearfund and more than 100 other groups launch the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign:
"Why IF?

Because we believe it's wrong that today 870 million people will go to bed hungry in a world with enough food for everyone.

We believe it's time to speak out against the injustice of hunger.

We believe this year David Cameron has a special opportunity to take action.

And we believe God can use the church to speak to our nation.

Will you click and join our biggest campaign since Make Poverty History?"
Philip Bailey - Children Of The Ghetto.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Windows on the world (228)

Fréjus, 2012


Cat Stevens - O Caritas.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

'Life of Pi' and 'Les Miserables'

What can you say about Life of Pi that hasn't already been said? Just to reiterate that it is a beautifully shot and beautifully paced movie. The special effects are stunning and, unlike many films in which 3D seems to be a gimmicky add-on, I imagine here would add to the sense of magical realism. All this is, of course, essential if the point being made about the kind of stories we value is to carry imaginative force. That Ang Lee manages this is the supreme achievement of this marvellous movie.

Les Miserables, based as it is on a very different style of novel, is therefore a very different proposition as a movie. Victor Hugo's writing has the breadth of Dickens, without the emphasis on grotesque caricature, but what both do on a grand scale is to reveal the plight of those at bottom of the pile in society. While Dickens engages through satire and sentiment, Hugo utilises a depth of emotion which is what has been tapped in making the musical and film of the musical so successful.

Cameron Mackintosh has written of how the show elevated both the audience and the cast "to a state of powerful emotion rarely seen in the theatre." Tom Hooper utilises close-ups of his characters combined with live singing to ratchet up the emotional content of story and song. Hugo's story, with its themes of repentance and redemption, has sufficient depth and seriousness of content and character to sustain this approach. With the comic relief of the Thénardiers, Hooper's approach changes focussing on the comedy of their thieving which then has the effect of dissipating the comic bombast of their singing. With this aside, the emotive flow continues to a climax which both returns us to the story's redemptive beginning and releases the central characters and ourselves, as audience, from its relatively unrelentingly grip.


Anne Hathaway - I Dreamed A Dream.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

St John's Seven Kings website

Over the past month the website for St John's Seven Kings has been redesigned and its content updated. There are new pages covering Art, Christian Faith, Events, Halls, PeopleProjects, and Sermons and Articles. Other pages have been revised and new images added. It would be great if you could take a look and tell us what you think.


Philip Bailey - God Is Love.

Spiritual Life column

Here is my Spiritual Life column from today's Ilford Recorder:

'Bill Fay sings that “There are miracles / Everywhere you go.” What we might not then expect is for the song to continue, “I see fathers / Hold a little child's hand.” What Bill Fay celebrates in this song entitled ‘Cosmic Concerto (Life Is People)’ is the wonder of everyday life if we can but see it - seeds being sown by the wind to grow into trees; grandmas and grandpas blowing kisses into a pram; the infinite variation in the space of a human face.

Each moment we are alive is unique and unrepeatable. As another songwriter, Victoria Williams, puts it: “This moment will never come again / I know it because it has never been before.”

Simon Small has written that “Our minds find paying full attention to now very difficult. This is because our minds live in time. Our thoughts are preoccupied with past and future, and the present moment is missed.”

Jean Pierre de Caussade spoke about the Sacrament of the Present Moment. He meant by this God present in what is ordinary and mundane; there in life's daily routine. Simon Small has also written that “to pay profound attention to reality is prayer because to enter the depths of this moment is to encounter God.”

Regardless of whether we see God in the miracle of human existence, we can perhaps agree that, even though life also contains great suffering, there is real wonder, beauty and mystery to be found in everyday life.'


Iona - Today.

OPEN again

Photos from last Sunday's OPEN session at St George's Barkingside which included some magical music making by Simon and Edna plus projected meditations. The next session will be in four weeks time - Sunday 10th February, 4.00 - 5.30pm.


Paul Johnson - Every Kind Of People.

Uncovering Sin: A gateway to healing and calling

This Lent, be encouraged to explore sin as a gateway to healing and renewal with Rosy Fairhurst’s new book, Uncovering Sin.

Uncovering Sin: A gateway to healing and calling is an approachable Lent course which invites us to view sin as something to be understood, rather than condemned. It argues that our darker traits must be coaxed into the light in order to manage them and work towards healing and renewal.

Click here to listen to Rosy chatting about the book on Premier Radio where she shares her faith journey and why she penned a work on this increasingly unmentionable topic!


Moral Support - Sin.

Faith in the Public Space

In December 2012 the Office for National Statistics released data for religious populations from the 2011 Census. These statistics will be adjusted for parish boundaries over the next two months but you will be able to gain a basic impression of your local area from the numbers for your local authority - more stats details.

The Director of the Contextual Theology Centre posted a comment and Andy Mathews, an intern at St Peter's Bethnal Green, offered an example of how this information can be put to good Presence and Engagement use. All of which points towards a seminar afternoon, Making Sense of the Census, which the Greater London Presence & Engagement Network is arranging for Monday February 18th, 1.30 for 2pm - 4.30pm, at Trinity House, Chapel Court, Borough High Street, SE1 1HW.

Later that same day, The Very Revd Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, will give this year’s PEN lecture Guardian or Gatekeeper? Faith in the Public Space and the role of the Church. He will be reflecting on his recent sabbatical research on Christian-Muslim relations. The lecture will be at 6.30 for 7pm on Monday, 18th February at St George the Martyr, Borough High Street, SE1 1JA.


The Innocence Mission - Brotherhood Of Man.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Column of Light - St Pancras Church

The installation "Column of Light" by Bob Aldous at St Pancras Church sounds fascinating as it has many of the elements - light, water, reflection, the 'beyond' - which feature in my 'Windows on the world' series and which I find attractive and of interest in the work of other artists:

"The installation "Column of Light" by Bob Aldous will be shown at St Pancras Church from the 4th to the 27th January 2013. It is a monumental work, which combines the use of light and water with dramatic effect.

The art of Bob Aldous often uses site-specific interiors, to create artworks that intrigue and draw in the viewer. St Pancras Church is well known for its exhibition space in its Crypt. The design of the church being inspired by the temple of Erectheum on the Acropolis with the caryatid porch and its marble interior. 

"Column of light" uses a symbolic language that makes full use of the interior surroundings.

A column of light rises from the church floor towards the apex of the church. Beneath it a pool of water acts as a mirror. Sometimes still, other times moving, The water reflecting the architecture, the light column and shadows of the viewer that appear to penetrate the stone floor.

The Art Installation is mesmerising and meditative: an illusion that draws us into the still water revealing a presence that appears to emanate from another space or a different time.

Bob Aldous is an artist who often uses narrative to communicate abstract and metaphysical ideas with his audience. His work has an intensity and directness that is both poetic and profound. Details can be seen at"


Sam Phillips - Reflecting Light.

Steve Chalke, the Bible, Conversation and Homosexuality

Christianity columnist Steve Chalke has made a significant call for "a new Christian understanding of homosexual relationships" which, in this context, means a revision to Evangelical thinking on the issue. A recent Independent article highlighted Evangelicals who have moved from what has been the traditional position on the issue and Chalke now becomes the most high profile member of this group.

He writes that he felt both compelled and afraid to write his article: "Compelled because, in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message. Afraid because I recognise the Bible is understood by many to teach that the practice of homosexuality, in any circumstance, is ‘a grotesque and sinful subversion’, an ‘objective disorder’ or, perhaps slightly more liberally, ‘less than God’s best’."

Chalke describes the Bible, as I would too, as "the account of an ancient and ongoing conversation where various, sometimes harmonious and sometimes discordant, voices contribute to the gradually growing picture of the character of Yahweh; fully revealed only in Jesus." 

For more insight on this, he recommends reading Having Words with God: The Bible as Conversation by Karl Allan Kuhn, endorsed by Walter Brueggemann. Chalke describes Kuhn’s work as introducing "an approach that regards Scripture as a sacred dialogue between God and humanity. Together, he explains, the task of the Church is then to discern and express the character of God, God's will, and what it means to be God's people."

Having Words with God isn't a book that I had come across previously but having looked at its contents online, it seems to be a book that has significant synergy with my own thinking on the topic of the Bible as conversation as set out in a number of posts on this blog including:
Chalke, in my view, rightly concludes on the issue of Biblical interpretation that:

"The Bible does not always speak with one voice. It is a very diverse collection of books, written in many different times and cultures, containing an array of perspectives, not a few tensions, and even some apparent contradictions. Instead of pretending that this diversity does not exist, our task is to do justice to all these components as well as holding them together with a coherent theological approach ...

The process of understanding the character and will of Yahweh – as revealed through Jesus – is the continuing task for every generation. Therefore, biblical interpretation is not finished, but is the endless, open-ended project of all those who take its text seriously and authoritatively."

Kuhn explains, Chalke says, that Scripture is best understood "as a ‘sacred dialogue’ between God and humanity, as well as among humanity about God, his creation and our role as his image partners; an on-going conversation which God initiates, inspires and participates in among humanity, as his people struggle to discern and express the character of God, God’s will and what it means to be God’s people now and in the future."

As a result, he sees that the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message and it is on this basis that he asks: "Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and wellbeing can be talked about; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?"


Julie Miller - River Where Mercy Flows.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Windows on the world (227)

Fréjus, 2012


Kings X - Fade.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Living in the Christian story

At the Eucharist in St Margaret’s Barking for the Diocesan Day of Prayer for the Mission and Unity of God’s Church, Bishop Stephen told his favourite Christmas story. As it is his story, I won't repeat it here. Suffice to say for what follows that it involves a two year old called Miriam climbing into a crib scene.

What she did was essentially an acted parable to the congregation because she became part of the story. That is what happens – it is what we are doing – when we become Christians. In other words for many of us, it is what is going on when we are baptised.

Baptism is our immersion in the Christian story; a story which begins with God’s creation of the universe and life on earth. It continues with our rebellion as human beings. Our saying to God that we know who we are and what we need to do and, therefore, will go ahead and do our own thing. We all live with the consequences of that right now.

But in the story which the Bible tells God does not leave us simply to do our own thing. First, he chooses the people of Israel and through his special relationship with them seeks to call all people back to their true identity and purpose and then he sends his own Son, Jesus, to reach out in rescue and return us to him. He does this so that each one of us can find our identity and purpose in God and play our part in bringing the kingdom of God in full on earth as it is in heaven.

When Jesus was baptised he was saying that he would immerse himself in this story and play his special, unique part within it. As he made that commitment, God the Father affirmed him in his identity and purpose by saying, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.”
As we do what Miriam did and enter the story, then we are also affirmed by God in just the same way. St Paul writes in Romans 8. 14 – 17 that:

“Those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” God's Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God's children. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ's suffering, we will also share his glory.”

What he is saying is that as we enter the story we are adopted by God as his children and become brothers and sisters of Jesus, co-heirs with him of all he possesses.

You may remember the wonderful words of Philippians 2. 6 – 11 which say that Jesus gave up the equality he had with God the Father in heaven in order to be born as a human being, living and dying as our servant in order to save us:

“For this reason God raised him to the highest place above
    and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
    all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
    will fall on their knees,
and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.”

That same glory, St Paul says, is shared with us as we enter the story, join the family of God and play our part with the story. The incredible message of Christianity is that our rightful identity as human beings is that of being God’s own dear children with whom he is greatly pleased.

How do we play our part? That all depends on our coming to know the story and what happens within it. The former Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright has described Holy Scripture as being like a five act play containing the first four acts in full (i.e. 1. Creation, 2. Fall, 3. Israel, 4. Jesus).

“The writing of the New Testament,” he says, “would then form the first scene in the fifth act, and would simultaneously give hints (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15, parts of the Apocalypse) of how the play is supposed to end ... The church would then live under the 'authority' of the extant story, being required to offer an improvisatory performance of the final act as it leads up to and anticipates the intended conclusion ... the task of Act 5 ... is to reflect on, draw out, and implement the significance of the first four Acts, more specifically, of Act 4 in the light of Acts 1-3 ... Faithful improvisation in the present time requires patient and careful puzzling over what has gone before, including the attempt to understand what the nature of the claims made in, and for, the fourth Act really amount to.”

So, we start by looking at what we know of the story to date – the things God has done in and through Israel, Jesus and the Church – and we also look at the hints we have about the way the story will end with the coming in full of the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. Then we say to ourselves, ‘What is it that people do in this story? How do they act and behave? And then we start to do and say similar things as we have the opportunity. As Christians we are never given a script which has all our lines and actions printed on it. Instead, we have to improvise our part on the basis of what we know of the story so far, on the basis of the example provided by those who have lived in the story before, and on the basis of the opportunities provided in the places where we are and among the people that we know.

Living in the Christian story, therefore, is a challenge – something we should know anyway from looking at the life and death of Jesus – but it comes with the affirmation that we are part of God’s family; his dearly loved children, brothers and sisters of and co-heirs with Jesus himself. When we know this we can relax because whatever happens to us we are accepted, forgiven, loved and gifted by the God who created all things and who will bring all things to their rightful end.

When we do that we are like Miriam climbing in under the altar to become part of the crib scene. When we do that we become part of God’s story which makes us his children and gives us identity, purpose and meaning.


Evanescence - Going Under.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Mexico and Australia: Revolution and Land

I'm looking forward to two exhibitions at the Royal Academy in the Autumn. The first is Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 – 1940, (The Sackler Wing of Galleries, 6 July – 29 September 2013) which "will examine the intense thirty year period of artistic creativity that took place in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. The turmoil of the revolution between 1910 and 1920 ushered in a period of profound political change in which the arts were placed centre stage. Often referred to as a cultural renaissance, artists were employed by the Ministry of Public Education on ambitious public arts projects designed to promote the principles of the revolution.

The exhibition will explore this period both in terms of national and international artists. Work by
significant Mexican artists, such as Diego RiveraJosé Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros,
will be placed alongside that of individuals who were affected by their experiences in Mexico. These
include Josef Albers, Edward Burra, Philip Guston, Marsden Hartley, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-
Bresson, Henrietta Shore, Leon Underwood, Tina Modotti and Edward Weston. Mexico: A Revolution
in Art, 1910 – 1940 will reveal a dynamic and often turbulent cultural environment that included some
seminal figures of the twentieth century reflecting on their interaction with each other and their
differing responses to the same subject: Mexico."

The San Bernadino County Museum describes the Mexican Mural Movement as follows: "The Mexican Mural Movement began about 1913 when Mexican President Victoriano Huerta appointed Alfredo Martinez as director of the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas. Gerardo Murillo (who called himself Dr. Alt) of Guadalajara painted the first modern mural in Mexico, and pioneered the idea that Mexican art should reflect Mexican life. After the revolution, the new government commissioned works of public art that supported and affirmed the values of the revolution and the Mexican identity: a broader knowledge of revolutionary history and the Mexican people’s pre-Columbian past.

Three muralists—“los tres grandes,” José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—became the internationally-known leaders of the mural movement. All believed that art, the highest form of human expression, was a key force in social revolution. Together, they created the Labor Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors and devoted themselves to large-scale murals illustrating the history of Mexico, its people, its society, and the revolution. Their work was not always received positively. All spent some time in the United States creating works of art."

Rivera "did not represent religious images unless they were useful as social observations ... The most that he came close to portray religious messages was at the murals in Chapingo, where his images functioned as a catechism exhorting a new generation of Mexican farm workers and agricultural planners to uphold a modern nationally, constructive, self-respecting way of life, based on the credo "exploitation of the land, not of man."" Nevertheless, it has been noted that his Detroit Industry Murals "are rife with Christian themes and utopian symbolism."

Orozco "painted the theme, Cristo destruye su cruz, three times in his life, twice as murals — one of which still survives at Dartmouth College — and once on a 4’ x 3’ canvas." The image has been understood both as saying “It is finished!” to the violence that destroys and oppresses and as a denial of "the sacrificial destiny meant for him."

"Siqueiros painted some fifteen portraits of Christ ... on August 2, 1963, he inscribed the following quote from the most devout of Italian painters, Fra Angelico, in the back of his painting Cristo del Pueblo: "May only he who believes in Christ paint Christ." And in another occasion, during his imprisonment, he declared: "Was Jesus Christ not, like me, a victim of social dissolution, a persecuted man?" On August 9, 1963, from his cell at a crime prevention facility, Siqueiros inscribed the following words regarding the Via Crucis on the back of his painting, Mutilated Christ: "First, his enemies crucified him 2000 years ago. Then, they mutilated him from the Middle Ages on, and today, their new and true friends restore him under the political pressure of communism post-Ecumenical Council. This small work is dedicated to the latter."

The second exhibition is Australia (Main Galleries, 21 September – 8 December 2013), "the first survey of Australian art in the UK in over 50 years. The exhibition will reveal the development of Australian art through over 180 paintings, prints and drawings, watercolours, photographs and multimedia works, incorporating
settlers’ images of the land from the beginning of the nineteenth century to today, together with art by
Aboriginal Australians. The exhibition will consider the tensions both real and imagined between the
landscape as a source of production, enjoyment, relaxation and inspiration, and conversely as a
place loaded with mystery and danger.

The exhibition will include works by Aboriginal artists such as Albert Namatjira, Rover Thomas, Emily
Kame Kngwarreye and Fiona Foley. Nineteenth century European immigrants such as John Glover
and Eugene von Guerard will also feature, as well as the Australian Impressionists whose paintings
relied heavily on the mythology of the Australian bush: Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts (a student of
the Royal Academy Schools), Charles Conder and Frederick McCubbin. Early Modernists such as
Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith and Roy de Maistre will hang alongside the leading
twentieth century painters: Arthur Boyd, Rosalie Gascoigne, Fred Williams, Brett Whiteley and
Sidney Nolan RA, with the exhibition ending in the twenty-first century with internationally recognised
artists such as Shaun Gladwell, Bill Henson and Tracey Moffatt."

Margaret M. Manion has written that "for a surprisingly large number of gifted Australian artists, the relationship between art and religion has continued to provide a creative challenge." Robert Hughes suggested in The Art of Australia that Justin O'Brien "was the first Australian painter to concentrate on religious imagery" but that religious painting in Australia was "quickened" by Eric Smith and Leonard French. Rosemary Crumlin writes in Images of Religion in Australian Art that with "the founding of the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1950, many artists turned to the Scriptures for subject matter in their paintings, some of them for the first time":

"Roy de Maistre, reconverted to Catholicism in London, worked often from the Bible and became associated with the Sacred Art Renewal Movement in England. In Melbourne, Russian immigrant Danila Vassilieff used religious subjects, often ironically, sometimes humourously and with zest. In Melbourne also, the Boyd family, always deeply religious, provided its younger generation, including Arthur Boyd and his brother-in-law John Perceval, with an easy familiarity with the Scriptures as texts of faith and guidance for living."

In The Blake Book: Art, religion and spirituality in Australia, Crumlin continues the story providing "a fascinating visual social history of Australia and an astute, well-documented history of The Blake Prize from 1951 - 2011. The book traces many significant changes in art and art movements, both within and beyond Australia. Through their work and words, the artists have room to speak of what has influenced them and found expression in their Blake entries. The influences they name range widely. Choices often surprise.
Among the winning artists presented in the book are Donald Friend, John Coburn, Stanislaus Rapotec, Roger Kemp, Ken Whisson, Maryanne Coutts, George Gittoes and Euan Macleod. Space is given to indigenous art and the many exhibited artists other than the winners."


Midnight Oil - My Country.

Christian Art – fallacy or fusion?

The Lent & Eastertide Schools are a collection of education, training and skills events across the Diocese of Chelmsford during Lent and Eastertide each year. A series of short courses running across the diocese between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost with a wide variety of themes and costing £15 per course.

This year, as part of the Eastertide School, I will be running 'Christian Art – fallacy or fusion?' which aims to explore approaches to and understanding of the relationship between art and faith. In this course participants will explore approaches to engaging with and looking attentively at art in addition to exploring the history of art and faith plus definitions of Christian Art. As we do so, we will also look at contemporary art exhibitions, public art and church commissions.

The course will take place on five Tuesday evenings beginning 9th April, then from 23rd April - 14th May at St John's Seven Kings (St Johns Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex IG2 7BB). For brochures and booking forms please contact: Liz Watson. Diocesan Office, 53 New Street, Chelmsford, Essex. CM1 1AT. Tel: 01245 294449, email:

I have been thinking about books to suggest to participants for further reading as, while many books have been written on the arts and faith, a relative paucity exists of books giving reasonably accurate, comprehensive and unbiased summaries or surveys of the modern period. The resources I am likely to commend include:

Rosemary Crumlin's Beyond Belief: Modern Art and the Religious Imagination, the catalogue from a 1998 exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. While not being "a survey of religious and spiritual images of the century," the works included and the accompanying essays do nevertheless span the twentieth century. The earliest, Maurice Denis' The Catholic Mystery and James Ensor's Christ calming the storm "hover at the edges of a century of revolutions, wars and new beginnings" while "at the other end of the century, and of the exhibition, are Francesco Clemente's meditations on his journey up Mount Abu in India and Audrey Flack's huge head of the goddess Daphne, with fruit and branches for hair and, on her forehead, a skull, a reminder and warning of the destruction of war."

The foreword by Timothy Potts contains a particularly focussed summary of religious and spiritual influences on twentieth century art: "The pervasiveness of broadly religious and spiritual themes in twentieth-century Western art may at first seem to stand in contradiction to the secularization of so many aspects of life and culture during our times. The religious underpinnings of so much Western art before this century - from its subject matter to its sources of patronage and its devotional purposes - are obvious and uncontentious. With the art of our own century, however, the religious dimension is altogether more subtle, often more abstract and inevitably more personal. From images created with a clear message and usage in mind, we move into a world of individual spiritual discovery, personal visual languages and images which seek to explore and evoke rather than to define and prescribe. Some artists employ familiar religious iconography as convenient signifiers of an earlier culture and mind set - artefacts to be used in a quintessentially modern image-making of juxtaposition, anomaly and incongruity. Others eschew icons altogether to explore more mystical spiritual concerns in images of diffuse abstraction. The visual languages, the spiritual purposes and the artistic results are infinitely varied, but all are united by an absorption in the confrontation between art and religious experience. In this exhibition, these pervasive currents of religious experience and thinking can be traced running through the work of many of the twentieth-century's most important artists and schools."

Art, Modernity and Faith: Restoring the Image

Rowena Loverance’s Christian Art is both an accessible introduction to Christian Art and a stimulating exploration of the way in which art from the Christian tradition can speak to our condition today. To achieve both within the pages of one book is a considerable achievement. Loverance’s scope is broad, covering Christian Art from its inception to the contemporary in a way that is genuinely global and which takes in the decorative as well as the fine arts. She begins with a brief chronological survey in which she notes the way in which different aspects of Christian Art emerge from the different periods and cultures of Church history. The majority of the book, however, explores Christian Art thematically, noting the way in which the visual arts have engaged with the themes and imagery of Christian scripture and tradition. While necessarily concise through covering a lot of ground, Loverance writes with the sensitivity to art that one should expect of an art historian and with a similar appreciation of theology that comes from one writing, as a Quaker, out of her own faith tradition. Loverance has written an engaging, accessible survey of the diversity of Christian Art in which she clearly identifies the relevance of such art to our contemporary condition and identifies fruitful new avenues in the Christian tradition for possible exploration by contemporary artists. Well illustrated and designed, this is a book to inspire both the creation of new Christian art and appreciation of the wonderful heritage that we already possess.

Finally, I am also likely to commend the series of lectures given by The Rt Revd Lord Harries at the Museum of London on Christian Faith and Modern Art. The last century saw changes in artistic style that were both rapid and radical. This presented a particular problem to artists who wished to express Christian themes and these illustrated lectures looked at how different artists responded to this challenge whilst retaining their artistic integrity. The lectures in the series are: The Explosion of ModernismDistinctive Individual VisionsCatholic Elegance and JoyPost World War II OptimismSearching for new ways; and Contemporary Christian Art.


James MacMillan - Credo.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Diocesan Day of Prayer for the Mission and Unity of God's Church

For our two hours of prayer over lunchtime at St John's Seven Kings, as part of the Diocesan Day of Prayer for the Mission and Unity of God's Church, we had prayer stations, projected meditations, and short liturgies for mission and unity:

Lord God
Renew your Church
and begin with me,
Heal our land
tend our wounds
And make us one,
And use us in your service;
For Jesus Christ’s sake
Lord of the Church
Make us the Church of the Lord. Amen.
(Diocese of Natal: Southern Africa)

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace:
give us grace seriously to lay to heart
the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.
Take away all hatred and prejudice,
and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord;
that, as there is but one body and one Spirit,
one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all,
so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul,
united in one holy bond of peace, of faith and charity,
and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Karen Peris - Song For A New Day.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Windows on the world (226)

Monte Carlo, 2012

Michael McDermott - Ever After.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The importance of how we travel

Think about this question. What is the most important part of a journey? The beginning, middle or end? Why we travel, where we travel or how we travel?

At Epiphany we focus on the journey made by the Magi in order to be able to kneel and worship the baby king Jesus. In the ancient world, Jupiter was the ‘king star’, and at the time of the birth of Jesus, Jupiter appeared in the night sky very close to Saturn, which represented Israel. If you were reading the sky you’d see ‘new king in Israel’.

That was the starting point for their journey but it didn’t give them exact directions. They didn’t know exactly where they were going on their journey. They knew they were going to find the new king in Israel but they had to trust as they travelled that they would be guided and led to find him. They clearly travelled a great distance and, obviously, didn’t have cars, trains or planes, so they would have probably travelled on camels. But the distance and effort didn’t stop them because meeting the child was so important.

When they arrived, they gave extravagantly to welcome Jesus with gifts, time, effort, the risk of danger, and humility. But their gifts pale next to Jesus coming to earth to show God’s love for us; Jesus came from heaven, eternity and majesty to earth, time and humanity. He went on an even more incredible journey to show us God’s love. After they had found Jesus the journey of the Magi began again as they were guided by God to return home by another route and, as T. S. Eliot makes clear at the end of his great poem about their journey, their lives were forever changed by the experience.

So, their starting point was important but it didn’t tell them how to find their way and when they did finally arrive, their arrival actually meant the beginning of a new journey. All of which means that how we travel may be as important as why or where we travel. That at least is what our Text for 2013 at St John's Seven Kings, taken from Matthew 6. 34, seems to say:
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Simon Small writes in ‘From the Bottom of the Pond’ that: “Our minds find paying full attention to now very difficult. This is because our minds live in time. Our thoughts are preoccupied with past and future, and the present moment is missed.”

But, he says, “Contemplative prayer is the art of paying attention to what is”: “To pay profound attention to reality is prayer, because to enter the depths of this moment is to encounter God. There is always only now. It is the only place that God can be found.”

This is very much what Jesus seems to be saying to us in Matthew 6. 34 and in his teaching on worry and anxiety found in Matthew 6. 24 – 34. 

When we are preoccupied with what might happen in the future, we are not living fully in the present and may well misunderstand or misinterpret what is actually going on. Jesus encourages us to live fully in the present because, as Simon Small says, that is where we encounter God.

When we genuinely encounter God in the here and now we know that his love and forgiveness surround us and that his Spirit fills us. As Jesus prayed in John 17, he is in us and we are in him. When we know this in our hearts in the here and now, we can relax because whatever happens to us we are accepted, forgiven, loved and gifted by the God who created all things and who will bring all things to their rightful end. We are held in the palm of his hands and, as Julian of Norwich put it, all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.

Even in the difficult times, we can still know that this is true because, as our Text for 2013 puts it, God will help us deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Jesus is saying that the more we live in the present and the more we encounter God’s love in the here and now, the less we will be anxious or worried. Prayer is able to help us do both things and therefore helps us to reduce our sense of anxiety or worry. Not because we have listed all our worries to God and believe that he will solve them all for us, but instead because, through prayer, we have encountered more of God’s love and, as a result, trust that he will be with us whatever comes our way. 
This is important because so much of our sense of dissatisfaction with our lives and the complaining we do about other people stems from our own worries and anxieties rather than what may or may not have happened or what others may or may not have done. Instead of focusing on other people and what we think they should or should not do or have done, we need to begin with ourselves and our relationship with God by giving our entire attention to what God is doing right now, and not getting worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Then God is able to help us deal with whatever comes up, whether hard things or blessings, when the time comes.

We don’t know what 2013 will bring. Some predict an upturn in the economy, others a worsening. We can’t be sure and, of course, the future will be different for each of us. But, as Brian Davison reminds us in the current edition of the ‘Ilford Recorder’, “if the prospect of what lies ahead seems dark or threatening, remember the words with which King George VI reflected on the closing year in his 1939 Christmas broadcast. “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” (Minnie Louise Haskins).

Like the Magi, we can only travel in hope that we will be guided by God. So, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”


Julie Miller - By Way Of Sorrow.