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Friday, 31 January 2014

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Windows on the world (278)

London 2013,


Ed Kowalczyk - Heaven.

Evening Service with the UFC Band

On Sunday 2nd February at 6.30pm our worship at St John's Seven Kings will be led by the United For Christ (UFC) Band, a worship band made up of young people from the Ilford Bible Study group (including young people from our own congregation).

The band last led our Evening worship in April 2013 on Arts & Entertainment Sunday and have also performed worship songs at the Tamil Carol Services. We look forward to their return to St John’s and encourage you to come along to support young people in their faith and to be blessed by their ministry to us.


Hillsong Live - Glorious Ruins.

Prayer morning with labyrinth

A prayer morning is being organised at St John's Seven Kings for Saturday 1st February from 10.00am – 1.00pm. The morning will include a variety of prayer reflections and activities with input from different members of St John's. There will be a variety of inputs on prayer, various prayer exercises and styles of prayer plus an opportunity to use a prayer labyrinth. Do come along both to pray for St John's and the world and to grow in your own prayer life.

St John’s has been given a prayer labyrinth for our own use and to loan out to other churches. The labyrinth is on heavy duty canvas and comes in two parts connected by velcro. It can fit into a car boot and comes with a blue ground sheet and 36 glass bowls (for use with candles), plus ideas for use. It is painted in dark blue fabric paint but is not waterproof, so needs care if it is used outside. The pattern is a nine circuit Chartres labyrinth which is best used as a simple walking labyrinth.

Lana Miller, Campus Pastor at the Eastern Mennonite University, suggests that the labyrinth is a model or metaphor for life: "The Christian life is often described as a pilgrimage or journey with God, a journey in which we can grow closer in relationship with God, and in turn, closer to others.

In life, as in the labyrinth, we don’t know where the path will take us. We don’t foresee the twists and turns that the future holds, but we know that the path will eventually arrive at the centre, God. Sometimes the path leads inward toward the ultimate goal, only to lead outward again. We meet others along the path—some we meet face-to-face stepping aside to let them pass; some catch up to us and pass us from behind; others we pass along the way. At the centre we rest, watch others, pray. Sometimes we stay at the centre a long time; other times we leave quickly.

Ways to use the labyrinth:

1. Ask God a question upon entering and then listen for an answer. For example: Ask God what he wants to tell you and listen for an answer.

2. Pray for yourself on the way in, stop to experience God’s love in the center, and pray for others on the way out (or vice versa).

3. Recite the Lord’s Prayer as you walk. (Instead, you may recite some familiar scripture. Repeat it as you walk).

4. As you move toward the centre of the labyrinth, focus on letting go of distractions or worries that keep you from God. In the centre, spend time reflecting on your relationship with God. Be aware of God’s presence. Then, as you leave spend time giving thanks and praising God for all that he has done.

5. As you move toward the centre of the labyrinth, focus on letting go of distractions or worries that keep you from God. In the centre, spend time reflecting on your relationship with God. Be aware of God’s presence. Then, you will sense the need to move out into the world again. As you leave, walk with Jesus back into the places of ordinary life."


Taize - Ubi Caritas.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

New commission: Retirement gift for Fr. Benjamin Rutt-Field

Following his farewell Mass, I presented Fr. Benjamin Rutt-Field of St Paul’s Goodmayes with a painting commissioned from commission4mission as a retirement gift. The painting by Henry Shelton will join several others already in the collection of Fr. Benjamin, including a portrait of the retiring priest. The gift was commissioned by the three Anglican churches (All Saints Goodmayes, St John's Seven Kings and St Peter's Aldborough Hatch) which form a cluster of churches with St Paul’s Goodmayes and was given in recognition of Fr. Benjamin’s collaborative and supportive work within the cluster.

Fr. Benjamin has been a significant supporter of commission4mission. St Paul’s Goodmayes commissioned a series of Stations of the Cross from commission4mission, which were created for them by Henry Shelton. The magnificent collection of artwork in the church is featured in the Barking Art Trail leaflet which commission4mission produced and the church has hosted several art exhibitions including a 2013 exhibition by commission4mission during which our AGM was also hosted by the church.


Lifehouse - Aftermath.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Hearts on Fire reports and photographs

Reports and photographs from ArtServe's Hearts on Fire conference, where Peter Banks and I spoke about The Secret Chord, can be found on ArtServe's website and in the current edition of their magazine.

Other features included in the magazine are a profile of Abby Guinness, the genesis of Jean Lamb's wooden sculpture of Christ the King, Rob Newton's visit to the Church of South India, and the winning entries in the Jack Clemo Poetry Award.

Click here for my posts on the conference.


Abby Guinness  - The Word of the Wives.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A rough guide to Christian Art

Years ago I discussed at some length with a publisher the possibility of an A-Z directory of the Christian contribution to twentieth century Arts; in essence a Rough Guide to modern ‘Christian’ Art.

This was a hugely optimistic suggestion for two reasons. Firstly, there is no consensus as to what constitutes ‘Christian’ Art in the modern and contemporary periods and no consensus on whether there is any value or possibility of defining ‘Christian’ Art. Secondly, the Christian contribution to the Arts of this period is broad and significant but is far from having been comprehensively documented. Dealing with both issues in a directory would have been a challenging undertaking.

The A-Z never happened but this blog has become a place to post some of the material that could have been included in it - particularly with my ‘Airbrushed from art history’ series but also in a number of posts on literature and music. More recently, my co-authored book The Secret Chord has explored aspects of the interplay between faith and music (and the Arts, more broadly).

To explore this contribution is important because the story of modern and contemporary Arts is often told primarily as a secular story. To redress this imbalance has significance in: encouraging support for those who explore aspects of Christianity in and through the Arts; providing role models for emerging artists who are Christians; and enabling appreciation of the nourishment and haunting which can be had by acknowledging the contribution which Christianity has made to the Arts. 

Periodically I have opportunities to speak about this issues and ideas as with my talk about the work of commission4mission given last Saturday to the Friends of Chelmsford Cathedral. In my talk I used commission4mission’s name and aim to explore understandings of art in mission, perspectives on commissioning and debates about definitions of Christian Art. Within this framework I shared the following summary of the Christian contribution to modern and contemporary visual art (which is explored in expanded form in ‘Airbrushed from art history’):

Roman Catholic artists played prominent roles in Post-Impressionism, the Nabis, Fauvism and Cubism. Jacques Maritain’s Art and Scholasticism and the Thomistic Study Circles which met at his home influenced many artists. Expressionist artists frequently painted Biblical narratives while Futurism developed a strong strand of sacred art. Abstraction was viewed by many as the best means available to artists for depicting an unseen realm. Suprematism and Abstract Expressionism were both influenced by the underlying principle of icons. Dominican Friars and Anglican clergy alike called for the great artists and architects of their day to design and decorate their churches. A revival of traditional icon painting occurred with centres in Greece, Russia, Europe and Scandinavia. Visionary artists abounded within Folk Art while many mainstream visionary artists also used Christian themes and imagery. In response to the growth of Christian Art on the Asian continent, the Asian Christian Art Association was founded in 1978 to encourage the visual arts in Asian churches. Australia encouraged contemporary religious art through the establishment of the Blake Prize in 1951. Polish Art in the 1980s was marked by a profound interest in the whole question of the sacrum in art and many exhibitions were held in Roman Catholic churches. There has also been extensive use of Christian imagery by BritArt artists with such iconography and narrative often used as a frame for the artists’ critiques of contemporary life including politics and culture.

In March I will be one of five speakers inputting to the Lent Course at Chelmsford Cathedral on Christianity and music. I am the only one of the five to be speaking about popular music. By focusing specifically on Van Morrison’sSummertime in England,’ I will explore our understandings of movement and stasis in music (themes also explored in The Secret Chord) as well as touching on the spirituality of folk music.

As background and as an equivalent to the visual arts summary above, here is an outline summary of the Christian contribution to rock and pop music:   

Rock ‘n’ Roll merged blues (with its spiritual strand) and Country music (tapping its white gospel) while Soul music adapted much of its sound and content from Black Gospel. For both, their gestures and movements were adopted from Pentecostalism. Some, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Cooke, felt guilt at secularising Gospel while others, like Johnny Cash, arrived at a hard earned integration of faith and music. All experienced opposition from a Church angry at its songs and influence being appropriated for secular ends. This opposition fed a narrative that, on both sides, equated rock and pop with hedonism and rebellion. The born again Cliff Richard was often perceived (both positively and negatively) as the only alternative. Within this context the Biblical language and imagery of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison was largely overlooked, although Dylan spoke eloquently about the influence of scripture within the tradition of American music on which he drew. 

With the majority of Soul stars having begun singing in Church, many of the most effective integrations of faith and music were found there with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and the Gospel-folk of the Staple Singers being among the best and most socially committed examples. Gospel featured directly with Billy Preston, Edwin Hawkins Singers and Aretha Franklin’s gospel albums. Mainstream use of Christian themes or imagery in rock were initially either unsustained (e.g. Blind Faith’s ‘Presence of the Lord’ and Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit in the Sky’) or obscure (e.g. C.O.B.’s Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart and Bill Fay’s Time of the Last Persecution). 

However, this changed in three ways. First, the Church began to appropriate rock and pop to speak explicitly about Christian faith. This led to the emergence of a new genre, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), with interaction between CCM and the mainstream. Mainstream artists such as Philip BaileyDavid Grant, Al Green, Larry Norman and Candi Staton developed CCM careers while artists originally within CCM such as Delirious?, Martyn Joseph, Julie Miller, Leslie (Sam) Phillips, Sixpence None The Richer and Switchfoot achieved varying levels of mainstream exposure and success. Second, the biblical language and imagery of stars like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen began to be understood and appreciated (helped to varying degrees by explicitly ‘Christian’ periods in the work of Dylan and Van the Man). Third, musicians such as After The Fire, The AlarmT. Bone Burnett, The Call, Peter Case, Bruce Cockburn, Extreme, Galactic Cowboys, Innocence Mission, Kings X, Maria McKee, Buddy & Julie Miller, Moby, Over The Rhine, Ricky Ross, 16 Horsepower, U2, The Violent Femmes, Gillian Welch, Jim White, and Victoria Williams rather than singing about the light (of Christ) instead sang about the world which they saw through the light (of Christ). As rock and pop fragmented into a myriad of genres, this approach to the expression of faith continues in the work of Eric Bibb, Blessid Union of SoulsCreed, Brandon Flowers, Good Charlotte, Ben Harper, Michael Kiwanuka, Ed Kowalczyk, Lifehouse, Live, Low, Neal MorseMumford and Sons, Robert Randolph and the Family BandScott StappSocial Distortionand Woven Hand.


The Brothers and Sisters Gospel Choir - All Along The Watchtower.

Sophia Course and Enterprise Club


Lifehouse - Between The Raindrops.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Windows on the world (277)

London, 2013


C.O.B. - Wade In The Water.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Sophia Hub Enterprise Club


Scott Stapp - Break Out.

Courageous: family breakfast and movie

We had an excellent morning at St John's Seven Kings enjoying a cooked breakfast and watching the movie Courageous

Filled with action, police drama Courageous is the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.

Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller are confident and focused. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.

While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they’re quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.

When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a new found urgency help these dads draw closer to God … and to their children? 

These are everyday heroes who long to be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children.

Sherwood Pictures has produced four films: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous. They have been some of the most successful faith-based movies in history. In a partnership with Sony Pictures and Provident Films, the films have been distributed globally and are available in multiple languages. The two most recent, Fireproof and Courageous, opened in the top five in U.S. theaters.
Sherwood Pictures pioneered a unique model, even for Christian filmmakers. The mostly volunteer cast and crew have been one of the great story lines of Sherwood Pictures: “Our people have gone the second mile and beyond with these movies. There is no way we could have done this without hundreds of volunteers who did everything from acting, to bringing food and babysitting. They have been tireless workers because they believed in the vision ... Sherwood Pictures is not the story of individuals, but of a church body operating in unity ..."


Sanctus Real - Lead Me.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Music at Midnight: the Life and Poetry of George Herbert

Music at Midnight: the Life and Poetry of George Herbert by John Drury is a brilliant biography as this review by Diarmaid MacCulloch makes plain:

'Drury triumphantly delivers the goods, artfully weaving the poetry through the life (little of Herbert’s verse can be pinned to particular dates, which Drury turns to his advantage). He opens with what he rightly calls a masterpiece, “Love III”: “Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back”. So much of Herbert is packed into it: a disarmingly domestic scene of a cheerful meal, in which the poet’s sense of unworthiness, doubt and self-loathing is lovingly subverted by a Host – both innkeeper and that which Catholic Christians term the bread of the Eucharist. “So I did sit and eat”: what Reformed Protestant simplicity to cap the verse!' 

'Because he published no English poems during his lifetime, and dating most of them exactly is impossible, writing Herbert's biography is an unusual challenge. In this book John Drury sets the poetry in the whole context of the poet's life and times, so that the reader can understand the frame of mind and kind of society which produced it, and depth can be added to the narrative of Herbert's life. (T.S. Eliot: 'What we can confidently believe is that every poem in the book [The Temple] is in tune to the poet's experience.') His Herbert is not the saintly figure who has come down to us from John Aubrey, but a man torn for much of his life between worldly ambition and the spiritual life shown to us so clearly through his writings. The result is the most satisfying biography of this exceptional English poet yet written.' (Trinity Hall, Cambridge)

Drury is particularly good on Herbert's relationship with John Donne and his influence on poets such as Richard Crashaw and Henry Vaughan. Herbert was himself influenced by Nicholas Ferrar who 'transformed his mercantile family into a religious and educational community, a voluntary society that he hoped would preach to contemporaries by their example. While that hope was at best only partially fulfilled in his lifetime, those who had known him at Little Gidding were able later to form networks that adapted that piety and voluntarism to create societies acceptable within the church. These men led the way to voluntary Anglicanism that characterized a 'Church of England' in transition from a national to an established but essentially voluntary institution.' The memory of the community survived to inspire and influence later undertakings in Christian communal living, and one of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets also called "Little Gidding."

On his deathbed Herbert sent Ferrar the manuscript of The Temple, telling him to publish the poems if he thought they might "turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul" and, if not, to burn them. Ferrar decided to publish them and Herbert's poetry has remained in print ever since.   

Malcolm Guite is particularly illuminating on Herbert's poetry in his excellent Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination. Also worth reading are his post on Herbert's poems about prayer and his sonnet for George Herbert.

Justin Lewis-Anthony and Sam Norton are provocative and relevant on the George Herbert model of ministry as an overwhelmingly impossible task. Lewis-Anthony suggests in If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him: Radically Re-Thinking Priestly Ministry that the memory of Herbert celebrated by the Church is an inaccurate one, and, in its inaccuracy, is unfair on Herbert himself and his successors in the ordained ministry.


Ralph Vaughan Williams - The Call.

Coming soon - the Seven Kings Time Bank

Sophia Hubs is based in Seven Kings as a pilot for a national project to create local hubs that help to build a thriving local economy and a rich community life.   We are running training courses, a weekly enterprise club with local speakers, business mentoring and more.  Our aim is to harness the wide and amazing wisdom, skills, resources, expertise and ideas that are already here in the community.  We are helping to inspire and kick start new social enterprises to meet the needs of Seven Kings/Ilford/Redbridge community.
Our next step is the Seven Kings time bank.  A time bank is a skills exchange network.  It will be a way for local people in Seven Kings and the surrounding areas to help each other, build relationships and be recognised for the help that they give. A time bank is a great way to get the services you need without the need for money plus to increase your confidence in the help you can give others with your own skills. 
Time banks are running all over the country. Individuals join as members and then for every hours help you give to another (e.g. Spanish lesson, guttering mending, web design) you receive one time credit which you can then spend on receiving help from another member (leg waxing, bike fixing, horrible internet connection problem solving).  The exchanges wont have to be a give-take scenario between two people; time banking is a cycle of exchanges that continues on with many time bank members.
Sophia Hubs sees this as an important tool and resource to help our new entrepreneurs try out and develop their business offers and develop their customer base.  It is also a good way of increasing the relationships and networks in a neighbourhood.  The time bank broker (thats me!) will be on hand to help you work out what you need, what you can offer and help to get you started.
The official launch will be announced soon through Redbridge CVS but in the meantime please register your interest at or ring 020 8590 2568.  If you want to find out more about our training courses or enterprise club please ring or email me on
In the meantime there is also an exciting and fast growing time bank for organisations (rather than individuals) in East London which we advise all Redbridge groups and businesses to join.  Find out more at ECHO:  This is an experienced time bank organisation that is helping us with the final plans for the Seven Kings time bank that is coming soon.
Ros Southern
Time bank broker, Sophia Hubs
(based at St John’s Church & Centre, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex IG2 7BB)


Continuing fight for step-free access at Seven Kings and Newbury Park stations

'After learning Crossrail is still searching for ways to fund step-free access at Seven Kings, campaigner Ron Jeffries, 80, said he feared he would never see lifts at the station in his lifetime.

Mr Jeffries, of Aldborough Hatch, said: “Redbridge will miss out on step-free access and I think that is wrong - I do believe that Seven Kings should be step-free.”

Mr Jeffries, chairman of residents’ community group Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, has campaigned tirelessly, with all three political parties, for Crossrail to rethink its plans for Seven Kings.

“I was not put at ease by Matthew White,” added Mr Jeffries. “I am not at all satisfied.
“We will keep the campaign going and we will not be giving up.”

Mark Kennedy, a committee member on the Seven Kings and Newbury Park Residents’ Association, echoed Mr Jeffries’ words and insisted the groups would “fight on”.'

Read the full story in the Ilford Recorder by clicking here.


Over The Rhine - Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ed Kowalczyk and Scott Stapp: Angels on a razor

'Along with Bush, Live was among the earliest adopters of post-Nirvana “bubblegrunge,” which infiltrated rock radio in the mid-’90s and paved the way for the eventual dominance of Creed and Nickelback.' (Grantland)

'Together for more than 15 years, Live's quest for faith and truth is fascinating. Though lead singer and lyricist Ed Kowalczyk apparently grew up in a Christian home, he came to resent the religion in the years leading to the formation of Live. With the band's 1991 debut Mental Jewelry, based on the writings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, Kowalczyk – who had apparently embraced Eastern religion – blasted Christianity in the song, "Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)."

Rejecting Christianity would not prove permanent, however. The band's 1994 breakthrough sophomore effort, Throwing Copper, marked a seemingly reluctant return to Christian imagery, though offering a few mixed messages in the process–the cover art is an indictment of Christians too pious to show love and compassion. Not until Live's fourth album, 1999's The Distance to Here, was there a seemingly dramatic turnaround in Kowalczyk's beliefs. "Where Fishes Go" is a solid illustration of evangelism, "Run to the Water" a powerful testament of grace and renewal, and "Dance with You" is virtually a prayer of thanks and surrender. Such themes continued to a lesser extent into Live's fifth effort, 2001's V, with such faith–based songs as "Hero of Love" and "Call Me a Fool."' (Christianity Today)

'Kowalczyk's first solo album, Alive, ... is as equally dramatic and anthemic as Live but with more of an intimate singer-songwriter feel to it ...

perhaps the biggest change is with the singer's Christian faith coming to the fore. There are songs like Soul Whispers, with the line "My stained-glass heart lay shattered on the floor of the church"; first single Grace is about repentance and moving on ("every saint used to be a sinner ..."); and for Kowalczyk, a song like Rome is not only his tribute to the city's beauty but a homecoming of sorts.

"I have ventured back into the Christian faith of my youth, and I was brought up in a Roman Catholic Christian background, so going to the Vatican and St Peters, the depth of that heritage was really in a way coming home for me because I grew up with it in a such a strong way. It's a very full circle spiritual moment, and very powerful."' (The New Zealand Herald)

'There are many factors contributing to the uplifting feel of “The Flood and the Mercy,” the second solo effort from ex-Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk.

There’s the gently jangling production of Jamie Candiloro; the singer’s spiritual lyrics, rooted in his Christian faith and a synthesis of other beliefs; and the appearance of vocalist Rachael Yamagata and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck on three tracks: “Supernatural Fire,” “All That I Wanted” and “Holy Water Tears.”
But there are bigger, albeit unseen, influences at work here, says Kowalczyk, 42 — his three daughters and baby Paul, born in August.

“With every kid, there has just been a deepening of my humanity, because there’s no more of a feet-on-the-ground moment than having a child,”

Fatherhood has forever changed him as a writer. “There’s the beauty of it, the extraordinary depth of it, and all the challenges of it,” he says. “The fact that you’re taking care of these vulnerable creatures, these new people, is amazing. And when I listen to the music, particularly in my solo career, I can feel that change.”' (SF Examiner)

Scott Stapp, lead singer of Creed, has been on a similar journey. Mark Joseph writes that:

'In Sinner's Creed, Stapp's finally comes clean, offering explanations for his zig-zaggy behavior, revealing himself to be the type of follower whom the good Lord might have had in mind when he remarked of the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears that she loved Him much because she'd been forgiven much.
Even for people like me who call Scott a friend, the book is full of surprises and stunners. Who knew that the lead singer of one of the biggest-selling rock bands in the world grew up listening to Take 6 because his Dad wouldn't allow for non-black forms of Christian rock? Or that as a young boy he was taken to a Benny Hinn crusade whereupon the faith healer prophecied that Stapp's voice would be heard by millions and then lightly touched his head, causing him to fall backwards, slain in the spirit. Or that his stepfather was a twisted fundamentalist who once humiliated Stapp by pulling down his pants and spanking him in front of his siblings and on another occasion spanked his own wife in front of her children.

Stapp's book is brutally honest and pulls no punches. He's no Bono, but he may just be the Johnny Cash of our era, a restless soul who loves both God and rock and roll, but battles his demons in a manner that brings to mind Al Green's admonition to his girl "Belle:" "It's you that I want but it's Him that I need."

And just like Johnny, Stapp has his June, a marketing executive named Jaclyn, a devout Christian woman who has worked hard to keep her husband on the straight and narrow. Stapp recounts their chance meeting with obvious joy, but readily admits that even with her at his side, the road hasn't been easy, and has included a few run-ins with the law.

Sinner's Creed is about many things: the excesses of fundamentalism and the victims that are sometime left in its wake, the nature of sin, the ups and downs of a rock and roll lifestyle and the value of faith in God to keep a person in the spotlight grounded in reality. But at its core it's about one man coming to terms with the incongruity of the vocation he's chosen and the faith he refuses to give up.'

'Scott Stapp’s Proof of Life is a poignant snapshot of the artist, showcasing his journey over the past several years. It doesn’t shy away from encountering the dark places that he’s wandered into, acknowledging those missteps nor does it neglect highlighting the faith-filled elements that have helped to draw the artist back into the light. Proof of Life is an insightful and honest record, capturing Stapp at his best lyrically and musically, proving to be a great listen.' (soul-audio)


Ed Kowalczyk - Angels On A Razor.

Windows on the world (276)

Compton, 2013


Live - Heaven.

Tim Lowly: trying to get a sense of scale

Tim Lowly writes:

"There is a new book on my work available. Titled "trying to get a sense of scale", this book has been published by North Park University in conjunction with my exhibition at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science Visual Arts Center. Like that exhibition this book focuses on work that I've done related to my daughter over the last 28 years. The book includes insightful texts by Karen Halvorsen SchreckRiva LehrerHenry LuttikhuizenSherrie LowlyKelly VanderBrug and project editor Kevin Hamilton.

The 160 page, 10.5"x 9" book is extensively illustrated with over 70 color and 25 black and white illustrations.

You can purchase the book at the following links;
via the Washington Pavilion's online store
via the CIVA on-line store 
Koplin Del Rio Gallery's new on-line store: KDR Atelier [International purchases can be made through this link.]

You can read more about the book on the CIVA blog."


Baby Mountain - Tree Of Love.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Friends of Chelmsford Cathedral and commission4mission

The Friends of Chelmsford Cathedral was founded in 1939, and members come from not only the Diocese of Chelmsford but from all over the country. 
They hold two festivals a year, one in January and one in September. These normally commence in the Cathedral at 3.30pm with a speaker; tea follows in the Chapter House and the Festivals conclude with Choral Evensong. They normally have an annual outing. There is an annual programme of special events, informative, entertaining and devotional. New members are always welcome - contact Jackie Dryhurst via the Cathedral Office (
This year the Friends Winter Festival is on Saturday 18th January, beginning at 3.00pm, and I will be the speaker talking about the work of commission4mission.
commission4mission, which exists to encourage churches to commission contemporary art, has held two exhibitions at the Cathedral; a showcase exhibition in 2009 and an exhibition for One World Week (supported by the Big Lottery Fund) entitled Deconstructing c o n f l i c t. We have also held a study day at the Cathedral exploring perspectives on commissioning Christian Art. 
Brothers and Sisters Choir - The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Baptism: Called by the Father, Empowered by the Spirit

The artist who created this painting, Rosalind Hore, is a sculptor and painter of Christian subjects – Christ figures, nativity sets, Ecce Homo, Stations of the Cross etc. She works in clay, plaster, concrete (figures can also be bronze cast at the foundry). Her paintings are mostly in acrylic of the events in the life of Christ. She has been an art teacher throughout her working life, has taken part in the Cambridge Open Studios (creating a sculpture garden and art gallery at her home) and has led art groups and projects in the parishes where she has lived. She has a sculpture in the Bible Garden at St Mary's Goring-by-Sea and another currently displayed at St Laurence’s Upminster, where her husband is Rector.

Rosalind’s painting of ‘The Baptism of Jesus’ sees water, fish, cross, crown, dove, fire and light – all the signs and symbols of Jesus’ future ministry – swept up together to coalesce around the baptised Jesus. Vigorous movement and vibrant colour combine to depict the glory of the Son who is here commissioned by the Father and empowered by the Spirit.

I would like us to reflect for a while on those two aspects of Jesus’ baptism – the Father’s call and the Spirit’s empowering. Let us pray …

Father God, you fulfilled your promise coming to our world so that every person, including us, can see you through Jesus Christ. Helpless God, as child and crucified, laid in a cradle and cradled on a cross. Help us to see in your submission, not weakness, but your passionate work of love for us here today. May the light and wonder of your living Holy Spirit come on us that we might all hunger and thirst to see your love and justice prevail in our world and in this community. Amen.

The call of God is firstly to explore new areas of ourselves and the world around us. This is the choice that God is always placing before us as a way to extend ourselves and our vision; to get off the old familiar track, break with old habits and experience the excitement of new ground and new vistas. Every now and again our eyes are opened and we see beyond the narrowness of our day to day vision into new spiritual dimensions of awareness and experience. In quite unexpected and even joyful ways showing us a world we never dreamed was there but which was with us all the time! It is not a new world that has been born rather that we have woken from a sleep to behold new things and new opportunities.

The call that God is giving us is also to see the wounds and become aware of the hurt of the people, their despair, their sin, the violent fear. To feel the brittleness, the defeat, the spirit of hopelessness in others. To share frustrations, griefs, and the loneliness of the deprived when surrounded by plenty; the anger, when expected to grin and cope with it, by the wealthy, the powerful, the protected. This is a heavy burden, particularly as we realise too our own ordinariness and the feebleness of our own personal nature to be any influence. We need God’s anointing and authority to respond to this call.

Eddie Askew has stated it very clearly:

"Lord, they're not easy,
the demands you make.
You come into my life
bringing joy and freedom and peace.
And it feels good.
But that's only the beginning.
Because along with that
you ask for commitment.
For loyalty. Discipline.
For all my time and energy.
My abilities, to be used in your work.
I'm no longer my own, but yours ..."

Being fully committed to the Jesus life means for Eddie Askew that he "never knows what will happen next!"

"I never know what will happen next
On the road you've shaped for me.
I only know that you make demands.
For some it's martyrdom. Suffering.
For some it's publicity. Or politics.
Maybe that's a kind of martyrdom
for those who do it honestly.
For most of us
it's just the struggle to keep our balance
as we walk along the footpath of faith."

The earthly situations of our everyday lives, our families, our work, our time should be filled with the Presence, life and power of the Holy Spirit. Not just when we come to a Church service!

The reality is that the abundant life in Jesus means that we do become poor in the eyes of the world around us. Yet, we become spiritually rich in our new found freedom in Christ because, through His Spirit, He shares with us the Presence of God; gives us gifts with which to serve Him; and the power we need. So, His Spirit, through the death, the crucifixion of our worldly nature, allows us to be resurrected and to grow into the stature of an adopted Son or Daughter of God Himself. We do die to ourselves, but in doing that rediscover our true life and identity as followers of Jesus Christ.

So, let us pray: May the Spirit of Jesus come upon us afresh today as His people here. May it be His presence within that makes us fervent for Him, and committed to living out the Good News. Your Spirit, Lord, is like the wind. We are conscious of Your Presence, but equally the Holy Spirit comes and goes where it will in today's world. Thank you Lord, that we do not control your movement or your will. We are not gods. We are, in faith, your adopted children. Help us to discern Your will and seek Your hand for our daily walk.

May we hear Your call. May Your hand clasp ours as we move each day along life's pilgrimage seeking to be close to You, close to Your Holy Spirit's incarnation among the people for whom Christ died. Renew us in Your love, and re-create that vision for people and their neighbours which reflects your longings for justice for the poor. Lord, may Your will be increasingly powerful in our land today.

And as we pray, we thank you for the vision of you which we see in this painting. We pray that it may inspire us to respond to the call of God on our lives and to pray to be filled with the Spirit in order that we live out that call in our daily lives. We thank you for Rosalind Hore and for her response to you which created this painting.

Jesus the Saviour, save us from sin.


David Fitzgerald & Dave Bainbridge - Though The Dawn Breaks.   

Just Love: Personal and Social Transformation in Christ

The Contextual Theology Centre has posted a new item, 'Introducing our new Lent

Centre Director Angus Ritchie blogs on his new Lent book, written with Paul Hackwood (Executive Chair of the Church Urban Fund).

Costing under £10, with significant further discounts for bulk buys for study
groups, Just Love: Personal and Social Transformation in Christ will be
published early next month.

The last year has seen two exciting developments for Christians committed to
social justice.  They make it an excellent time to launch a book on the
personal and social aspects of transformation in Christ.

You may view the latest post at


Ed Kowalczyk - Grace.

Baptism, Agape and chain reactions

Jesus baptism (Matthew 3. 13 end) started a chain reaction. It led directly to his ministry which was to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, set free the oppressed, and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people. To do this he recruited disciples; a core group of 12 and a larger group of 72 or more.

These were themselves baptised and, after Jesus ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they followed Jesus commission to go to all peoples everywhere and make them disciples: baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost he said, Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit. Many believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day.

The chain reaction that was started by the baptism of Jesus still continues and at St John's Seven Kings we have been a part of keeping that chain reaction going. Here is one story which demonstrates that to have been the case. Thirty years ago Judy Acheson was a Sunday School teacher here at St John's. While here, she felt called to serve God in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She went to the Congo in 1980 with the Church Mission Society (CMS) to be a nursery nurse, but, as the children she cared for grew, she carried on caring for them, eventually training and handing over responsibility to local leaders. When I was first simply doing Sunday school work, I trained someone to take over I always felt that we were there in a country to share the experience we had and enable people to carry it on."

The recent history of violence in the DRC is legendary. There is a legacy of  30 years of a both brutal and incompetent dictatorship, followed by one of the worst civil wars in post colonial Africa. Almost every participating force has been guilty of massacres and rapes. And the north-east region, where Judy was originally, was described by Human RightsWatch as "the bloodiest corner of Congo".

Judy could have left the country during the civil war but chose to stay and develop pioneering youth work. She says, it was always my philosophy to empower the young people to do the work. Bisoke Balikenga was one of her original youth team members. You could see his leadership potential. People would listen to him and do what he asked. When we had visitors he looked after them. Seeing his potential, CMS gave him and his wife a scholarship to study at Daystar University in Nairobi, then he took over the diocesan youth work Judy had begun, so she could start youth work nationally. Now that she has retired, he has taken over the national youth work as well.

The Youth Department Judy set for the Diocese of Bunia, called Jeunesse Chrétienne Agape (which means Agape Christian Youth), visited young men who joined the tribal militias during the civil war to persuade them to leave the militias, runs rehabilitation centres for young women raped and traumatised during the civil war, and, now the war is over, runs seminars to reconcile those who fought against each other during the war.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury visited in 2011, a group of about 50 former militia members spoke about how the Church, in the form of Agape, never forgot them. One by one, they gave their testimony. "We were taught to repay bad for bad," one said, "but the people from the church came to visit me." One after another they spoke about how, thanks to Agape's seminars and conferences on peace, they retuned to God and their families, rediscovering the love of Jesus. Many of them were then at college or university, slowly putting their trauma behind them.

Throughout these years Agape was been training young people to think for themselves, to have, give and express their own opinions, and make their own decisions. God began to show Judy, Bisoke and others that he is going to bring mighty changes within the country and has chosen to use children and young people as a means of doing so. This led them to write a manual for young people, Young people, with God let us rebuild our beautiful country! With Government support this book, and others they have written, are being used by thousands of teenagers and young adults in schools and in youth groups with the result that they are learning to make their own decisions and become aware of their role and their responsibility towards their own country.

Judy and Bisoke are examples of people who have put Jesus words into practice and by doing so having a massive impact on their country. Their story is particularly inspiring because they are clearly ordinary people just like us. If they can do it, so can we. Their story is doubly inspiring because it is about a chain reaction happening among young people who have been baptised and become leaders like Jesus; those who come not to be served but to serve, and to give their lives for others.

As an illustration of the continuing need for the work that Bisoke and his colleagues do, here are some stories from his recent prayer letters:  

While the majority of the DRC is peaceful, fighting continues in the East of the country. Bisoke has asked for prayer for people in Gety who have become refugees in Komanda , Nyankunde, Marabo and Bunia because of the insecurity caused by the war between the rebel and the government soldiers. These people have lost everything when they had to run from their homes without food, blankets or clothes in order to save their lives. Now the young people in these places have started providing assistance with clothes, food, and blankets.

Bisoke also wrote about the Venerable Move Karabutege, the first Archdeacon of Gety, and his wife. They stayed in Gety when everyone else ran away but his wife became ill and they couldn't leave because the road was not secure for them to travel. Eventually, their son got them out and brought them to Bunia but after two days the wife of the Archdeacon passed away.

Bisoke is committed to travelling to all dioceses to build capacity in the church for transformation. 'We twice visited the diocese of North Kivu to discover what we could do for the youth there and understand their needs,' Bisoke said. He says he found that many of the youth leaders badly needed training in peace and reconciliation as well as encouragement in their work in such a tough area.

In December Bisoke helped lead a four-day seminar for dozens of youth leaders in North Kivu. 'We truly saw the hand of God upon us,' said Bisoke, adding that a dozen leaders rededicated their lives to Jesus. 'Some of these youth leaders had been affected by the war and by insecurities around North Kivu, which had blocked the development of North Kivu Diocese. However we are building upon the faith of our youth with these much-needed seminars.'

A Prayer for the Democratic Republic of Congo: O God, loving parent of all, comfort your children displaced, wounded or orphaned by conflict in Congo; and give the people of that country courage to seek enduring peace with justice and freedom, that their children might grow up without fear; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. (Adapted by Canon Ian Tarrant from a prayer in the 1998 Congo Swahili Prayer Book, written after the 1996-97 war).


Mavis Staples - Sow Good Seeds.