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Monday, 29 April 2013

If Statues Could Talk ... a London Adventure

Dr Samuel Johnson's cat Hodge is your guide in the new Step Outside Guide to be published on May 13th and entitled 'If Statues Could Talk... a London Adventure'.

Hodge will escort you on a trail around some of Westminster Abbey's most interesting and important statues, before leading you out and about as you help him complete his A-Z catalogue of London Statues. 

This, the fifth Step Outside Guide is particularly exciting because families using it are able to enter Westminster Abbey absolutely free of charge! The ticket is valid for 1 or 2 adults, plus accompanying child/ren. It is not valid for adults unaccompanied by children, or for tour groups. Normal entry fee is £18 per adult.

The Guide includes all of Step Outside's usual features; illustrated once again by Sam Fenn, there are bus rides, Rest-your-Legs pages, detailed maps and directions. And of course everything is absolutely free-to-see!

All orders received on line before the publication date of May 13th will be signed copies. To order your copy visit


Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Windows on the world (242)

Boulogne, 2012


Mumford and Sons - Whispers In The Dark.

Arts and Entertainment Sunday Service with UFC Band

Our Arts and Entertainment Sunday Service led by the UFC band was an uplifting and encouraging time with young people sharing their musical talents and experience of God as well as prayers for the arts and entertainment professions and thanksgiving for the creative skills God has given us.

We used the following prayer written for Arts and Entertainment Sunday:

Dear Lord, we give thanks that you created us. You filled our world with music, vision, words, movement, colour and expression. You gave us sensitivity to interpret and the ability to communicate. You shared your love with us through a vibrant array of Dance, Drama, Song, & Laughter, and art in the form of sculpture, painting, architecture, publishing & design.

Forgive us when we focus only on the creation, rather than the creator. Help us remember that the beauty, loveliness and gentleness of your character is represented by the world around us and expressed in the skills of those in the arts and entertainment professions.

Lord, we pray for all who have been given artistic talents and ask that you would strengthen them by your Holy Spirit and that they will use their gifts with honesty, integrity and humility. We pray that those in the world of TV, Film, Theatre, Media and creative arts may sense your presence as they release their gifts, and that those who receive these gifts will see your heavenly power at work.

Lord as we bow down before you, we ask you to raise up the Arts & Entertainment professions, that they may declare your true majesty and glory, and that they may represent you as you intended. Amen.


Delirious? - All God's Children.

Transfiguration: beyond sensorial reality

I was at Christchurch Wanstead for the Mothers' Union Deanery Festival Service today, so was able to see the paintings there by Janet McKay.

These include a commissioned work which is an optical illusion design by Janet and her collaborator Martin Jones which from one perspective depicts the sorrow and pain of Good Friday and from another perspective the joy and glory of Easter Day. In addition, her images Transfiguration, Hypercube 1 and Transfiguration, Hypercube 2 also hang in the church on a temporary basis.

The inspiration for the Hypercube paintings came from early abstraction, P.D. Ouspensky, E. Abbot, C. Hinton, C Bragdon and non euclidean geometry. The paintings and associated animation explore the idea that our physical selves are a vehicle for a consciousness that goes beyond sensorial reality, beyond time and beyond space.

Janet's interests include science, psychology/illusion and ideas of consciousness. She often works with oppositional paired themes such as perception and illusion, human and spiritual, conscious and subconscious, science and religion. Zest for life even through adversity, the humour, and the tears of the human condition is key. Her work uses a mix of media and experimentation with materials is a strong theme throughout.


Janet McKay and Martin Jones - Hypercube painting and animation.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Drawing the Line / Days and Rites

commission4mission member Mark Lewis has recently completed the Drawing the Line exhibition at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham. The exhibition represented the current output of an ongoing drawing and mark-making project in the form of a series of weekly visual diaries. These sketchbook journals are a response to the urban and rural landscape observed on Mark’s train journey which is undertaken every week from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill (and vice versa) on the Chiltern Mainline. This attempt to build up a different form of visual intimacy with a continually changing landscape viewed in all directions began over two years ago. The project has challenged the relationship between visual perception and mark-making and encouraged new ways of seeing which are essential when working spontaneously under self-imposed pressure.

The exhibition presented all of the visual diaries in both original and digitised forms. Each sketchbook journal is an unedited response to a section of the urban and rural landscape observed on Mark's journey and attempts to capture a sense of place through immediate felt response, memory and cumulative knowledge. Every journey has prompted a different way of engaging with the surrounding landscape. Some sequences are overlaid with responses from subsequent journeys; others are worked up later from recalled fragments, while more recent series are semi-abstractions generated almost totally from memory. Earlier figurative studies have gradually given way to the use of visual metaphors capturing landscape gestures, hidden structures, energies and patterns.

The sketchbooks embody a series of changing seasonal narratives that attempt to establish a sense of place through immediate felt response, memory and cumulative knowledge. While the earlier books were consistently figurative in character others have given way to the use of visual metaphors capturing landscape gestures, hidden structures, energies and patterns. Mark’s working methods are expressed through an extensive range of graphical media and drawing strategies including the recent use of an iPad.

These unedited visual narratives are representations or ‘visual cues’, which have the potential to tease out the truth of a landscape and may take on a greater reality than the actual perceived surroundings. The later minimalist approaches become a ‘distillation of realness’ suggesting that ‘less’ really is ‘more’. 

Mark is an industrial designer specialising in product design, jewellery and silversmithing. He has taught drawing and design in adult, further and higher education for 30 years. Formerly a principal lecturer in the Sir John Cass Department of Art Media and Design at London Metropolitan university, he is currently lecturing part-time at BIAD, Birmingham and the Goldsmiths Centre in London. Drawing has always been central to his creative practice and he is currently pursuing personal projects which focus on gestural drawing and mark-making.

Mark has also recently become an author as his book entitled Days and Rites: Popular customs of the Church has been published by the Heart of Albion Press:

"People go to church to worship and, as is often quipped, to be 'hatched, matched and dispatched'. Yet these quintessential rites have been adapted in all sorts of ways by parishioners and clergy up and down the country, while a great number of 'blessings' and other services that are quite specific to individual churches are performed annually. Collectively, they create a rich variety of traditions, many of which are only known about locally.

Some of these liturgical traditions have survived unbroken over many centuries, others have been revived after a break during the twentieth century – while yet more continue to be invented. Some of these more recent traditions – such as Harvest Festivals and Christingle – are now so ubiquitous that many churchgoers are unaware of a time when they were not part of the yearly cycle of customs.

By drawing together, for the first time, detailed information about these popular customs of the church, Mark Lewis hopes to stimulate further interest, research and recording of these remarkable events."

Holy Water Stoup designed by Mark and commissioned from commission4mission for St Margaret’s Great Ilford has been awarded a ‘Commended’ certificate in the annual Design Awards of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Diocese of Chelmsford.  The judges commented on 'the simple and elegant design' of the Holy Water Stoup which they said 'has been well crafted.' Mark has explained that the design of the Holy Water Stoup, which is made from oiled oak and polished brass, 'is inspired by a rising and opening hand in a gesture that suggests invitation or something offered and given in love, reflecting the mission of the Church.'


Paul Mealor - A Spotless Rose.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Community Information Event / Plant and Table-top Sale

A Community Information Day which the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident's Association (SKNPRA) is organising will be held on Saturday 18th May between 11.00am and 1.00pm in the community garden at St John's Seven Kings.

This event provides an opportunity for community groups and those organisations providing services in the local community to promote their organisation and meet local people. The event is currently being supported by: Downshall Pre-School Playgroup, local churches, Goodmayes Quranic Study group, Kumon, National Blood Service, Newbury Park & Seven Kings Ward Councillors, Redbridge Voluntary Care, Scouts & Rangers, Seven Kings Park User's Group, Seven Kings Safer Neighbourhood Team, Shine Dance Class, SKNPRA, Sophia Hubs and St Johns Road Neighbourhood Watch.

St John's Church will also be holding a Plant & Table-top Sale in the St Johns Centre at the same time. The combination of these two events on a previous occasion - see - proved very successful.

The hosting of the event by St John's Seven Kings and the input of local churches is our input to The Biggest Birthday Party Ever, part of the Pentecost Festival.

We hope you will be able to join us for what will be an enjoyable and informative community event.

Victoria Williams - Century Plant.

Arts and Entertainment Sunday with UFC Band

In our 6.30pm Evening Service at St John's Seven Kings on Sunday 28th April we will be celebrating Arts & Entertainment Sunday in a service where our worship will be led by the UFC Band, a worship band made up of young people from the Ilford Bible Study group.

Arts & Entertainment Sunday, a new initiative from several Christian arts groups representing performers, artists, and creators within the world of Stage, TV, Film and media is inviting people to pray for their profession.

“We thought Olivier Sunday offered a good opportunity to ask people to pray for the    arts and entertainment professions on the same day as this popular televised event,” explained Chris Gidney, Director of Christians in Entertainment. “As a commercial producer, writer and performer myself, I know just how pressurised working in the business can be, but also how influential it is in our everyday lives.”

Arts Centre Group spokesperson Susanne Scott said, “It’s so important to remember to thank God for the creative skills he has given us. Imagine a world without colour, shape, and sound!”

Fellow artist and Director of Christian group Artisan, Steve Cole added, “It’s an important time to pray for our world and those within it, and the arts, media and entertainment have such a crucial part to play. I know that prayer makes a difference.”


Chris Tomlin - How Great Is Our God.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Fear, fallibility and faith in Mumford and Sons

I’ve been reading ‘The Incredible Rise of Mumford & Sons’ by Chlo√© Govan which is interesting primarily because of the perspective from which she writes about the influence of Christian faith and upbringing on the band.
I’ve posted before about the way in which Biblical references in song lyrics are often either overlooked or misinterpreted because of misunderstandings about Christianity itself (see, for example, here and here). Govan does not fall into the first trap in that she correctly identifies many of the Biblical/Christian references in the songs of Mumford & Sons but she does use commonly held misconceptions of the Christian faith which then affect her interpretations of the faith as it explored or expressed in these songs.
In addition, she also makes the commonly held but naive assumption that first person lyrics are directly autobiographical and confessional. It was this assumption that rightly annoyed Bob Dylan when journalists wrote as though they knew him by means of his songs and I can easily imagine Marcus Mumford, if he had read this biography (which he probably has not), feeling similar annoyance at someone presuming to know his personal spiritual journey through her interpretation of his lyrics.
The key misconception of Christianity as explored and expressed in these songs which Govan holds is that following God involves the surrender of free will and individuality while true freedom involves the full expression of personal choice. She therefore equates belief with submission and non-belief with freedom and, as a result, interprets all references to freedom within these lyrics in terms of this framework. Religion is a set of rules providing a comfort blanket for the immature, while maturity is seen in the assertion of an independent self.
Govan’s use of this equation is particularly evident in her analysis of ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ which she reads as a dialogue between Mumford and God in which Marcus expresses his frustration at God’s control over him. While clearly structured as a conversation, ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ does not actually identify who is being addressed as ‘you’ within the song, so Govan’s suggestion that the ‘you’ being addressed is God is an assumption rather than a statement. The song begins with the protagonist suggesting that both he and his conversation partner lift the lid on their souls, although the protagonist is wary of doing so fearing the demons within. The conversation develops by means of the response that grace is not about the efforts we make but the welcome we receive when we turn to God. On this basis, the protagonist then says that he will give up his desires and mark this moment at which his soul has become passionate for God. Having arrived at this confident assertion of faith backed by the intensity of the musical arrangement, the song then ends on a note of ambiguous prevarication.
There certainly are tensions explored in these songs in relation to the demands and challenges of faith but the polarity around which these revolve is not submission versus freedom so much as fear versus faith. The protagonist in ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ is afraid firstly of the demons within and secondly of the demands which faith may bring. This is the debate that the protagonist seems that have within himself in ‘Little Lion Man’ i.e. the extent to which he does or does not have the courage of his convictions.
All this is set out in the title track and opening song of the first album, which thereby sets both the ground that the album explores and the tone in which it does so. ‘Sigh No More’ begins with confident assertions of faith then moves into acknowledgement of human fallibility and prevarication summed up in the phrase that “Man is giddy thing” before asserting that love (i.e. God’s love) does not enslave but is freeing, enabling those who know it to become the people they were meant to be. The song ends with a prayer to see the beauty which will come when the protagonist’s heart is truly aligned with God’s love. Throughout the album the overriding concern is that personal fallibilities and fears – the darkness within – will prevent grace from having its full effect and the beauty of alignment with love from being fully realised.

Govan's discussion of the Christian faith of Mumford's parents is primarily drawn from press cuttings and her understanding of their story and beliefs is undercut by factual inaccuracies which include Sandy Millar as a female minister and the muddling of the Exodus with Herod's killing of the firstborn at Bethlehem, so that Moses is described as leading people out of the grip of evil people like Herod into glory. 

Among the undeniable flaws of the evangelical sect to which Mumford's parents belong (i.e. the Vineyard Churches) which Govan cites are the response of the Roman Catholic Church to Galileo in the 1600s and Archbishop Ussher's 17th century chronology of the history of the world. While the Vineyard Churches can, no doubt, be criticised on all kinds of levels they had nothing to do with either of these episodes in Church history which have been brought into the picture because they are supposedly conclusive proof that Christianity as a whole is opposed to science. 

Govan's discussion is, therefore, typical of the misunderstandings and misconceptions which plague contemporary discussion of Christianity and which lead many to dismiss the faith without ever actually engaging with its beliefs and practices. Govan's discussion of Christianity has significance as it flags up the size of the task (in part, self-induced) which faces the Church today, while those looking for an accessible and more nuanced review of the actual historical record in relation to the historical incidents cited by Govan could perhaps read 6 Modern Myths about Christianity & Western Civilisation by Philip Sampson.


Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More.

Windows on the world (241)

Boulogne, 2012


John Rutter - Look At The World.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Encountering God: Scriptural Reasoning

Tonight we had the first meeting of our local Scriptural Reasoning group. Scriptural Reasoning is a practice of inter-faith reading. Small groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and sometimes people of other faiths, gather to read and reflect on short passages from their scriptures together.

The texts we used tonight were from a Text Bundle made available by the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme. The theme was Encountering God and the process we used was of a short reflection on each passage by a representative of that faith followed by open discussion among the whole group.

This is what I said in reflecting on the Christian text: 

Encountering God: Christian text - Acts 9:1-9
This is a classic Christian encounter with God, to the extent that the phrase ‘a Damascus Road experience’ meaning an extraordinarily dramatic conversion or a profound life-changing experience has come into common usage.
Saul’s Damascus Road experience literally turned his life upside down as is symbolised by his fall. One moment he was up on his feet - a leader of others with a warrant from the High Priest to arrest heretics – the next, he was flat on his back in the road with God telling him that those he was persecuting were actually God’s own people – the body of Christ. In one moment everything he thought he knew was shown to be false and the entire direction that his life had taken up to that point was reversed so that he goes from this encounter to preach the Christ whom formally he had persecuted. I once was blind, but now I see; as the lyrics to ‘Amazing Grace’ put it. The story seems to suggest that this is the power of God’s presence – encounter with God reveals the inadequacy of all that we have known up to that point and turns us around to receive and know the truth.

This is also symbolised by the light which shines in this story. In the Christian scriptures Jesus is spoken of as ‘the light of the world.’ This light shines in the darkness of error and reveals truth. John 3. 18 – 20 says: “This is how the judgement works: the light has come into the world, but people love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil.  Those who do evil things hate the light and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown up.” Saul comes into the light, sees that his deeds are evil, turns away from them and begins a new way of life signalled by taking a new name.

Through this encounter Saul sees: that Jesus is God; Jesus has been raised from death and is alive; and Jesus is in his people - the Church, which is the Body of Christ. I once was blind, but now I see. Or does he? One of the strange aspects of this story is that in the story Saul does not see. He does not actually see Jesus - instead he hears his voice - and the immediate result of the encounter is that Saul is blinded and cannot physically see.

So what is actually going on here? Is this encounter with God actually as straightforward as my earlier comments suggest? We might want to suggest that Saul’s physical blindness is symbolic of his earlier blindness to the truth about Jesus. His physical blindness lasts for three days and then after prayer he miraculously sees once again. His blindness therefore equates to the three days Jesus spent in the tomb and Saul’s regained sight therefore equates to a resurrection experience. That interpretation would fit well with what I said earlier.

Alternatively, we might want to suggest that sight distracts us from hearing the still, small (perhaps inner) voice of God; that it is only once he has been blinded by the light that Saul can hear what God wishes to say to him. So there may be an element of asceticism in the story – the closing off of physical sight in order to enhance spiritual insight.

Again, we might also suggest that darkness, blindness, lack of sight and lack of knowing is actually essential to true encounter with God. As God cannot be defined or fully comprehended by human beings, it may be essential to true encounter with God to realise our inability to fully ‘know’ God and therefore to accept and rest in the darkness and blindness of our lack of knowing.

All these are possible paths to the further exploration of this passage as we discuss together. In this context, however, we must also acknowledge the way in which this passage has been used and abused in Church history to support anti-Semitism. On a simplistic reading of the story, Saul the Pharisee became Paul the Evangelist, the Jew became a Christian, the persecutor becomes the persecuted and all this on the basis that Jesus is revealed in the story as the resurrected Son of God. Therefore, the Church has, at times, argued and acted on the basis that Christianity is right and Judaism is wrong; a minority faith once it became the majority on many occasions reversed the change which had occurred in Paul so that those who had formerly been persecuted became the persecutors of others.

Clearly that simplistic reading of this encounter with God ignores: the fact that both Jesus and Paul were Jews; the profound influence which his Jewish upbringing, study and experience continued to have on all that Paul did and said subsequent to this encounter with God; and is at odds with Paul’s own teaching about the continuing significance of the Jewish people. How we interpret and understand encounter with God has profound implications for what we then do and say as a result. That is why deciding to do Scriptural Reasoning together in this way is so important and yet also an exercise to be undertaken with great care and sensitivity.


Paul Mealor - Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal

Service of Rejoicing and Thanksgiving for the life of Dorothy Hart

On Saturday 20th April (11.00am) St John's Seven Kings will hold a Service of Rejoicing and Thanksgiving for the life of Dorothy Hart. Dorothy, who had recently celebrated her 90th birthday, died on 8th April 2013.
In her late 40s, while she was herself recovering from cancer, she met the Rev. Peter Hudson and became involved with the creation of Redbridge Community Care, now known as Redbridge Voluntary Care.

Redbridge Voluntary Care was established 40 years ago to provide a ‘good neighbour’ service helping residents when they have no one else to turn to. A broad range of help is available through Redbridge Voluntary Care including transport to hospital, clinics, etc, emergency shopping, light help in the home and visiting those who are housebound. Volunteers are on duty 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to make sure there is always someone on the phone who can help if necessary. This can also include collecting prescriptions, shopping, visiting lonely residents and providing transport. Once a year, they also take 100 elderly house-bound residents on a drive through the Essex countryside.

In 2011 the organisation was presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of outstanding voluntary contributions judged to be of the highest standard. Dorothy, as Vice President of Redbridge Voluntary Care, attended Award ceremonies at Buckingham Palace and James Hawkey Hall. When she accepted the Award on behalf of the organisation Dorothy said, “We are very touched to receive this award. Over the years we’ve worked with some unbelievably kind volunteers who go to great lengths to help people in their time of need. If more people came along to volunteer as result of this it would be wonderful.”
Dorothy was also a long-term member of St John's Seven Kings. She became a Sunday School teacher at the age of 17 and was a member of the Mothers' Union branch, volunteering in the Contact Centre which the branch has run for more that 20 years. She taught in the borough and her two children were involved in Redbridge Music School and Youth Orchestra, going on to become, respectively, professional composer and musician  and a music therapist pioneering music therapy in France.
Music will feature significantly in the service, as Dorothy's home was always filled with music while her children were growing up. The Service will include performances by Dorothy's children and grandchildren of: Etoile Radieuse du Matin; Berceuse from The Dolly Suite by Gabriel Faur√©Roses Are Blooming In PicardyClair de Lune by Claude Debussy; and Sweet Georgia Brown. 
In sharing the eulogy prepared by the family, I will say, "As anyone who knew Dorothy can testify, she offered up her love to every person with whom she crossed paths, somehow managing to make each and every one of them feel special. She was the archetype of a good neighbour. No matter what their creed, colour, age or background, she made a point of letting others know she was there if they needed her. Her example, in turn, inspired goodness in others. If everyone in the world could take just one leaf out of her book, the world would truly be a better place."
During the service I will also be saying that the "most fitting tribute to her memory is to be inspired to follow in her footsteps by living Christ-like lives ourselves whether by volunteering with Redbridge Voluntary Care – and she particularly wanted this service to encourage new recruits – or in some other way of our own choosing."

Anyone interested in volunteering for Redbridge Voluntary Care Service or wanting to request their help, can call 020 8514 0980.


Paul Hart - Cartoon.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Teilhard de Chardin, Paolo Soleri and Bill Fay

I was interested to read the following in the Guardian's obituary for Paolo Soleri:

'Strongly influenced by the Jesuit palaeontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Soleri spoke in a hypnotic language of his own making, dotted with strange cosmic terms such as the "omega seed" and "miniaturisation-complexity-duration". He expounded his vision in a book, The City in the Image of Man (1969), a spellbinding work filled with intricate drawings of fantasy cities – from floating communes to canyon-like structures and teetering towers built on top of dams. It was a thrilling futuristic prophecy for droves of 1970s students, whom the guru Soleri entertained on a packed lecture circuit, but one that quickly became anachronistic in the consumerist 1980s.

With environmental Armageddon back on the agenda once again now, might there be a viable future for Arcosanti and Soleri's principles of arcology after all? "Materialism is, by definition, the antithesis of green," he told the Guardian. "We have this unstoppable, energetic, self-righteous drive that's innate in us, but which has been reoriented by limitless consumption. Per se, it doesn't have anything evil about it. It's a hindrance. But multiply that hindrance by billions, and you've got catastrophe."'

Bill Fay was also profoundly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin:

"Shortly after his debut was released, Fay stumbled across an old biblical commentary and quickly developed a fascination with the books of Daniel and Revelation. With the Vietnam War still escalating and the Kent State massacres in the headlines, the dark, apocalyptic tone of the ancient prophetic literature seemed disturbingly relevant. About this same time, Fay also began reading the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a mid-twentieth century Jesuit, scientist, and philosopher, who believed that all of reality, both human and non-human, is rapidly evolving toward an eternal state of unity and peace. The earth’s present travails (war, poverty, injustice), however overwhelming they may seem, are really the birth pangs of the coming paradise—evidence of both the deficiencies of our current existence and the imminence of the world to come.

Armed with these new intellectual resources, Fay fashioned a second recording that was darker and more desperate but ultimately more hopeful than the first. Time of the Last Persecution is dominated by Fay’s vision of the coming apocalypse, vividly described in songs like “’Til the Christ Come Back,” “Plan D,” and the bleak, bombastic title cut. Fay’s eschatology on the recording is a far cry from the Us-vs.-Them cynicism of religious orthodoxy, in which the chosen people are eternally rewarded while the rest of us are cast into a bottomless lake of fire. For Fay, as for Teilhard before him, deliverance is deliverance for all (hippie and soldier, young and old, human and non-human) from the structures and institutions that oppress and alienate us. And the coming of the messiah signifies that all of reality—however senseless it may now seem—ultimately has value and significance. “The album was a commitment,” Fay recently explained, “albeit a reluctant one at first, to the belief that there will be, and has to be at some point, some spiritual intervention in the world.”' 


Windows and gardens: Chigwell and Capel Manor

I went with my Mum and youngest daughter today to see St Mary's Chigwell, as it is the church where my eldest daughter will be getting married this summer. The church has an engraved window of Christ and the Children by Jennifer Conway, who was a pupil of John Hutton. When Hutton's King Lear and Cordelia panel at the entrance to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Gallery at Stratford upon Avon was damaged, Conway made a copy. Her engraved windows can be found at St Mary Barcombe and St Nicholas Sandhurst, as well as St Mary Chigwell. St Mary's also have a Christ and the Magi window by Frederick Cole. Afterwards we went to see the interesting show gardens at Capel Manor.


Larry Norman - She's A Dancer.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Blackfriars - Mal Grosch

Mal Grosch's latest collection of poems is entitled Blackfriars and derives from his fascination for the area. He writes:

"I go to a church near Blackfriars and I am often in and out the area. It is a sort of village near St Paul’s if you look at it in a romantic way. I did a bit of reading up on the area and took some photos. The idea of an anthology slowly came to fruition. It is hopefully an entertaining read as well as having a bit of gravitas; a mixture of fun and the profound."

"Take one of the turnings off Ludgate Hill near St. Paul’s Cathedral. Have a wander round. Stroll along Carter Lane and notice the faded almost Mediterranean exterior of the YMCA. Say a prayer
in St. Andrews if it is open. Have a beer in the Cockpit. Tell them I sent you."

As the mist

As the mist,
The fag smoke of the morning,
Rises from the river;
A gull flies over Puddle Dock.
So will we rise
In the vaporous dawn
To be with the saints in Heaven.

For who is this devil
This upstart king
Of the raucous
Playing his flimsy role
As lord of the decaying Earth?
Short is the time he vaunts
In his invisible reign.

Mal plays guitar and sings in a small band called Over The Hill. They are a duo or trio playing country gospel, a few old standards and vintage British and American pop songs. He has three solo CDs and also plays guitar in the dance band at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society most Thursday evenings. As a caller, he does evenings of barn dancing which can include English/Scots/Irish/US and line dances with some worship dance.

He will be reading a selection of his poems as part of an evening of music and poetry for the Arts Festival for the Barking Episcopal Area and Heart 4 Harlow Festival. This performance evening will be at Holy Trinity Hatfield Heath, 7.30pm, on Monday 27th May and will also feature, among other items, music from Colin Burns and poetry from Jane Grell and myself.


Mal Grosch - The River.

Windows on the world (240)

Boars Hill, 2012


Bill Fay - Jericho Road.

50th birthday party

I had a great time on Saturday at my 50th birthday party thanks to the kindness of family, friends and folk at St John's Seven Kings. I am very grateful for all those who were able to come, all who helped with the evening (my family especially, the Keenan's - with Bob responsible for the wall display above - and Maria Wright), all who contributed to the wonderful selection of food, and for all the good wishes expressed. Mal Grosch did the calling for the dancing, my daughters did the photo displays, while friends from commission4mission showed their creativity in their gifts (see Peter Webb's painted wood relief portrait of me plus Harvey Bradley's mugs above).


Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Legacy of marketisation, privatisation, economic stratification and social dislocation

In considering the continuing divisive effect of Margaret Thatcher's legacy and funeral, it is worth reminding ourselves of what was said about Britain in the Faith in the City report published by the Church of England during Margaret Thatcher's second term of office.

As is noted on the Church of England's website, the Commission which produced this report met during what was the first half of Margaret Thatcher's second term of office as Prime Minister:

"There had been little explicit policy change during her first term in office regarding urban regeneration. What the report designated as 'Urban Priority Areas' did however feel the harsh impact of other policies as unemployment increased, public spending and taxation were reduced and a change in approach to the welfare state was initiated. The policies which put the market to the fore were beginning to take effect: it was claimed that the 'slump years' were over as inflation was reduced and privatisation caught the public imagination. Many of the problems highlighted stemmed from changes in society which could be associated with the demise of traditional industry. Other factors identified included estate design; institutional racism; poor quality housing; and lack of investment in educational and social services."

What the report says was actually far more damning than the above sounds:

"We have to report that we have been deeply disturbed by what we have seen and heard. We have been confronted with the human consequences of unemployment, which in some urban areas may be over 50 per cent of the labour force, and which occasionally reaches a level as high as 80 per cent - consequences which may be compounded by the effects of racial discrimination. We have seen physical decay, whether of Victorian terraced housing or of inferior system-built blocks of flats, which has in places created an environment so degrading that some people have set fire to their own homes rather than be condemned to living in them indefinitely. Social disintegration has reached a point in some areas that shop windows are boarded up, cars cannot be left on the street, residents are afraid either to go out themselves or to ask others in, and there is a pervading sense of powerlessness and despair ... It is our considered view that the nation is confronted by a grave and fundamental injustice in the UPAs. The facts are officially recognised, but the situation continues to deteriorate and requires urgent action. No adequate response is being made by government, nation or Church. There is barely even widespread public discussion."

As Gary Younge notes in today's Guardian, Margaret Thatcher's "is a living legacy of marketisation, privatisation, economic stratification and social dislocation." Her policies caused "a grave and fundamental injustice" in society at the time and continue to do so today.

My father, Phil Evens, was in ordained ministry during this part of this period setting up The Voice of the People Trust to sponsor Christian ministry in Urban Priority Areas through community work projects linked to parishes and the Aston and Newtown Community Youth Project which was particularly successful in reaching out to young people on the streets and steering them away from criminal and anti-social activities towards further education, training, employment and faith. His third book, Despair and Hope in the City, published in this period explored the relevance of community work to urban ministry. 

What follows is an account of a dream that my father had in the early morning after the 1987 General Election:
After watching the early election results, I went to bed at 3.00 a.m. and had the following dream ...
I dreamt that an elderly but important relative had died. In my dream I found myself outside the house they had lived in. It was quite small. All its furniture and possessions had been brought out lining the nearby streets and overflowing into a large warehouse type building. There was an amazing amount of furniture, bric-a-brac and general family possessions, from such a small house.
Many well dressed, upright looking relatives and, any people who had any conceivable connection with the family, had come from everywhere. They were moving around the furniture, lining the streets, pulling out drawers and taking anything they fancied. When I came near anyone they all looked as though they were politely looking on. As I went around, in my dream, I became increasingly concerned and bewildered at what was happening. No one seemed to be around to control or stop this.
In the warehouse type building the furniture and possessions were stacked on raised walkways. Here, some people, mainly young people, rushed off when they saw me coming and hid. One fell off the edge in the rush and I managed to reach out and draw him back to safety.
As I moved around this enormous collection of family possessions I found thrust into my hands a large glass container, beautifully made, into which had been put a few valuable family treasures - some small pieces of silver and a number of flat packs of what seemed like old one pound notes. I felt an increasing sense of distress at what was happening.
On waking up the dream remained vivid and the following thoughts immediately came to mind ...
The old relative who had died was the nation of Great Britain, and the small house was the United Kingdom. The nation's real wealth and assets, that had been a vital part of this small house and its family life, had been plundered by the well-dressed, polite and, in appearance, respectable people who, inside, had been rapacious and greedy. This wealth had now been dissipated and was no longer available for the home or its family life. I felt a deep sense of sadness and loss.
The interpretation of the dream was concluded by a picture of the Monarchy and the Royal Family. They were the only possession that the patriotic poor, the deprived, the dispossessed, now had that linked them into the life of the nation. Everything else of worth had been taken away from them and now belonged to the rich and powerful.
The final thought that came to me, was that I wouldn't wish to be in the shoes of Margaret Thatcher or her cabinet members for 'all the tea in China'. She, and her Government, had been weighed in the balance and found wanting.


Elvis Costello - Tramp The Dirt Down.

Rock and theology: A matter of time and space

Peter Banks, co-author of The Secret Chord, has an interesting guest post on the Rock and Theology blog where he discusses the liberty we can experience when we allow ourselves to be disarmed by something so transcendent that we abandon our reservations! Peter has also been interviewed for the blog - click here to view.

The Rock and Theology blog explores the relationship between popular music and theology, and related matters of religion, spirituality and culture today. It is part of the Rock and Theology Project, directed by Tom Beaudoin.


Coldplay - Fix You.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Arts Festival for the Barking Episcopal Area

The Barking Episcopal Area Arts Festival for 2013 will be held in Harlow Deanery from 23rd - 27th May in parallel to the Heart 4 Harlow Festival. As in previous years, we have a very exciting programme including the premiere of Korban – a new play on the life of Christ; Art talks (inc. Bishop Stephen on Stanley Spencer); art & photographic exhibitions; Flower Festival (Hatfield Broad Oak); music & poetry evening (Holy Trinity Hatfield Heath); and Big Lunch & Community Praise, among other events.

As part of the Festival commission4mission will be mounting an exhibition using a shop unit in the Harvey Shopping Centre Harlow from Thursday 23rd to Monday 27th May. Also in the Festival will be art talks by Bishop Stephen Cottrell (Stanley Spencer) and Mark Lewis (John Piper) plus a performance evening at Holy Trinity Hatfield Heath which will include a range of local musical contributions plus music from Colin Burns and poetry from Mal Grosch, Jane Grell and myself.


Colin Burns - I Wait For You.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Windows on the world (239)

Dorchester Abbey, 2012


The Moody Blues - Question.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sophia Hubs: wisdom-based incubators for social enterprises

Sophia Hubs are a network of local, wisdom-based incubators for new businesses and social enterprises, harnessing the wisdom and resources of the faith traditions, leading to sustainable social and economic development and change.

Sophia Hubs aim to enable people of all faiths and none to participate in economic and social regeneration, inspired by shared values of justice, collaboration and sustainability.

Funding is being sought to begin a pilot Sophia Hub in Seven Kings and Newbury Park which will aim to deliver:

  • entrepreneurial skills programme, offering a challenging but supportive and safe environment and testing social enterprise ideas, with active training by successful entrepreneurs, wisdom mentors, and faith leaders.
  • connecting investors with new enterprises by setting up “pitch sessions” where new enterprises pitch their needs to prospective investors, or by arranging one-to-one meetings between enterprises and investors.
  • people with specific forms of wisdom useful to the development of social enterprises (often from faith communities) offering their time to ground enterprise ideas in a wider context of social change, work-life balance, and community enhancement.
  • ideas exchange through organising seminars and workshops exploring the connections between wisdom and work: invited speakers will come from various belief systems and a range of entrepreneurial approaches.
  • reflective and applied developmental course exploring wisdom perspectives which help form the conditions for developing new projects.

The Sophia Hub will be embedded in local faith communities by use of faith buildings; entrepreneur and mentor recruitment via faith networks; and creating enterprises which meet the expressed needs of faith communities locally.

Using local business, community, faith and individual networks we will identify local business people from the faith communities in Seven Kings and Newbury Park and train them to act as mentors to new entrepreneurs. Those who train as mentors will be people of different faiths drawn together for their training and, as entrepreneurs using the Sophia Hub will be recruited via local faith communities, when these entrepreneurs are matched with their mentors we will again be bringing people of different faiths together.

We will launch this process later in 2013 with a public event at which identification of potential mentors will begin but which will also involve information about Sophia Hubs, discussion of the wisdom of the different faith traditions as it relates to work, and will enable networking to occur across members of different faiths present. Additionally, the Sophia Hub will on an on-going basis organise further events where dialogue between the wisdom of the different faith traditions can develop in the context of live projects. These events will also bring people of different faiths together for first encounters which through the development of business and networking relationships will become everyday interactions.

To date funding has been committed by Area Committees 5 & 7, the Mission Opportunities Fund in the Diocese of Chelmsford, London Over the Border and Near Neighbours. The aim, as further funding is obtained, is to begin the pilot Sophia Hub during 2013 with the aim of delivering on an annual basis: 3 developmental Sophia courses; delivery of business start-up training and mentoring plus investor connections and incubation space to 8 local people intending to set up a social enterprise/small business; and 4 new social enterprises/businesses set up, sustained and developing.

The initiative will cover Newbury and Seven Kings Wards. It will be based initially at St John’s Seven Kings but will seek to utilise faith and community facilities and networks throughout its catchment area.

A local pilot management group has been set up. Involvement is sought from all the faith and community groups in the area. For more information, contact me on 020 8599 2170 or


Peter Tosh - Fools Die aka Wisdom.