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Friday, 28 February 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum guided tour to Jerusalem and the Holy Land

The fifth guided tour to Jerusalem and the Holy Land organised by the East London Three Faiths Forum will be from Wednesday 22nd October – Wednesday 29th October 2014 and will be led by Imam Dr. Mohammed Fahim, Rabbi David Hulbert and myself.

Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit places in the Holy Land (both Israel and Palestine) sacred to our three faiths:

  • Jerusalem: Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock (including Friday prayers on the Muslim New Year 1436); Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus’ tomb); Western Wall; Via Dolorosa; and Yad Vashem (Memorial to Holocaust victims).
  • Dead Sea: Masada; swim in the Sea.
  • Bethlehem: Jesus’ birthplace.
  • Hebron: Tombs of Abraham, Sarah and other Patriarchs.
  • Nazareth: Jesus’ home-town; site of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary.
  • Jaffa: 16th-century al-Bahr Mosque; St. Peter’s Church
  • Golan Heights
  • Caesarea
  • Boat-trip across the Sea of Galilee
And many more!

COST - £1,200 per person, sharing twin room. £320 single room supplement. Fantastic value for money – price includes:

  • Return coach from Woodford to Luton Airport
  • Return flights
  • Half-board in top-quality, modern hotels
  • Travel in comfortable air-conditioned tour coach
  • Qualified tour guide, with us for the whole week
  • All entrance fees
If you are interested in joining us for the spiritual experience of a lifetime, please send your name, telephone number and full postal address to, and you will be sent the full details, itinerary and booking form, with the full terms and conditions.


Matisyahu - Jerusalem (Out Darkness Comes Light).

Enterprise Club


Linda Perhacs - Freely.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Three bishops, one Imam: change and spirituality

Yesterday the Bishop of Barking spoke on 'The Art of Leadership in Transition' at Redbridge Deanery Synod which was hosted by St John's Seven Kings. Today the Bishop of Chelmsford (together with Bishop Trevor Mwamba, Team Rector of Barking) spoke about 'Drawing close to God' at a meeting of the East London Three Faiths Forum hosted by the Al-Madina Mosque in Barking and to which the Imam from the Mosque also made a contribution.

Bishop David took the Exodus for the theme of his talk to the Redbridge Deanery Synod. Grumbling and blaming the management are natural parts of our human response to change but we need to view change as natural and positive if we are to travel well. Change brings us back to our primal needs for security, food and relationship. It throws us back on God to meet our needs, including that of spiritual food which is met through God's word and the sacraments. Communion has been instutionalised but was originally, as Passover and Last Supper, a meal prior to transition taken in transit. So, we gathered in a crowd around the altar at St John's dressed ready to leave but lingering long enough to share bread and wine together (made more poignant still by Bishop David's imminent retirement).

The context of change about which Bishop David spoke also featured in the presentations made at the East London Three Faiths Forum meeting. Concern was expressed about the secularisation of society but it was also noted that many people have a thirst for God to  which the faith communities do not always make an adequate response. Bishop Stephen told stories of adult education classes on Zen Buddhist meditation and on Christian meditation which were full of those who didn't identify with institutional religion but did want to draw close to God. The desire to draw close to God is prayer in its most basic expression. The desert fathers taught that one should stay in your cell because your cell will teach you everything. We also draw closer to God through love of neighbour.

Imam Mohammed Afzal spoke about human beings as the crown of creation but impacted by dual desires and motivations; the real (selfish actions in the here and now) and prospective (compassion generated by awareness of eternity). Drawing closer to God involves allowing the prospective to rule the real. Bishop Trevor contrasted the awe and reverence for God found in African Christianity with the loss of awe in favour of a familiarity with God that he observed as part of the European response to secularism.


John Tavener - Fragments Of A Prayer.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lent Exhibition: Stations of the Cross

Art Below presents an exhibition of 20 artists representations of the Passion of Christ in London's St. Marylebone's Parish Church for 40 days, in support of the Missing Tom Fund. Among those exhibiting will be commission4mission member Christopher Clack.

Opening on the 6th March, the exhibition will run for 40 days to coincide with Lent. The exhibition will be open to the public whilst the works are also intended for prayer and meditation within the parish congregation.

To coincide with the exhibition, public arts enterprise Art Below will showcase all 14 works on
billboard space throughout the London Underground at stations that have a symbolic link with the theme, including King’s Cross, Marylebone, Marble Arch, St. Paul’s, Angel, Temple and Tower Hill.

‘Stations of the Cross’ is the second exhibition to be curated by Art Below founder Ben Moore to raise proceeds for the Missing Tom Fund. With the support of his family and the Missing People Charity, Moore set up the Missing Tom Fund in 2013 to raise money for the search for his older brother Tom who has been missing for 10 years. 

The first exhibition highlighting the Missing Tom Fund was the hugely acclaimed ‘Art Wars’, which was held at the Saatchi Gallery in October 2013 and featured artists including Damien Hirst, David Bailey, Yinka Shonibare and Jake and Dinos Chapman.


Good Charlotte - The River.

Exhibition and gig: Bishop and Superhero

commission4mission's Patron, The Rt. Revd. David Hawkins will be exhibiting his paintings at St Peter's Harold Wood from 11th – 21st March, prior to his retirement as Bishop of Barking. +David is a landscape artist who works with acrylics, watercolour, mixed media and installations. He is fascinated by the organic structure of landscape and its transitory appearance as weather and light pass over it. Bishop David has exhibited previously in Stafford, Leeds, Merseyside, London, Nigeria and Capetown. Earthairwaterfire can be viewed weekdays from 9.00am – 5.00pm. Saturday 15th March, 9.00am – 12.30pm. Wednesday and Friday evenings from 6.00 – 9.30pm.

Superherouk will be visiting St Laurence Barkingside as part of their rescheduled Battle For Your Soul Tour in March. Check out their Facebook page, or visit their reverbnation page by clicking here


Superhero - Cool Police.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Polish émigré artists and a neglected chapter in the story of British art

What nearly all of Polish émigré artists, who feature in Pole Position: Polish Art in Britain 1939 - 1989 at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield, had in common 'is that they practised Expressionism of one kind or another.'

There is frequently in their work 'a violence of colour': 'The specifically religious paintings, such as [Henryk] Gotlib's Christ in Warsaw, [Janina] Baranowska's Crucifixion, and [Marian] Bohusz-Szyszko's Christ Crowned with Thorns are all on the anguished side of Christian art; the last two agonise in brilliant, almost hellish colour, though the Gotlib, significantly dated 1940, uses his characteristic more muted range of colours to express complex emotions about the occupied city.'

My earlier posts about this group of artists can be found herehere and here.

Baranowska was a member of the Catholic and Christian Artists group. She designs stained glass windows and has been awarded  several prizes for painting and stained glass. The latter can be seen in St Andrzej Bobola’s Church in London and in Holy Trinity Church in Wolverhampton.

One of the greatest and most prolific Polish émigré artists who was commissioned by the Catholic Church in the UK is not featured in this exhibition:

'For the Catholic church, the most significant postwar ceramicist was Adam Kossowski (1905-86), a Polish artist and refugee from the Russian labour camps, who came to Britain in 1942. He was soon invited to join the Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen, which had been founded in 1929 as part of the centenary celebrations of Catholic emancipation; it is now known as the Society of Catholic Artists. Although firstly a mural painter, he showed some ceramic figures at the Guild’s 1947 exhibition, and through the Guild was introduced to the Carmelite Priory - now the Friars - at Aylesford in Kent. 

He was initially commissioned to produce a series of paintings depicting the history of the Carmelite order, and then asked to make a Rosary Way (1950) in ceramics. At that time Kossowski was relatively inexperienced in ceramics, and had only a small kiln in his studio, but after some hesitation he accepted the commission, and worked with the Fulham Pottery which could fire the large pieces that comprised the final Scapular Vision shrine (1951) ...

He was a prolific artist, and Aylesford was only a part of his huge ceramic and other output over the period 1955-71, which included seven ceramic sets of Stations of the Cross and the 1958 tympanum of St Thomas Becket at Rainham in Kent ...

One of his greatest works is the gigantic Last Judgement tympanum of 1963 at St Mary’s Church in

Leyland, Lancashire; Christ the Judge is depicted in the centre, with the saved to his right and the devils and the condemned to his left ...

He also worked on a large scale in sgraffito, the best example being in London at St Benedict’s Chapel, Queen Mary College (1964) ...

Kossowski’s is a magnificent body of work, but it is hard to say how influential his ceramics were; they were generally figurative when abstract art had become popular, they were located throughout Britain and thus hard to find and received little publicity, they were seen perhaps as being relevant only to the Catholic church, religiously inspired and not gallery art or high art.'

Polish émigré artists continue to paint with 'a violence of colour.' Maciej Hoffman, for example, paints huge expressionist canvases depicting scenes of trauma. His paintings depict the distress caused through conflict and he seeks to use his art to generate discussion among people of all faiths and none about the causes of conflict.


Henryk Górecki: Totus Tuus.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Windows on the world (282)

Barcelona, 2013


Freddie Mercury - Barcelona.

We were meant to live for so much more

Ever since God created the world his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen, they are perceived in the things God has made. (Romans 1. 20)

That is the claim which St Paul makes in the first chapter of Romans and that understanding forms the basis of the teaching about worry that Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 - 34).

The teaching Jesus gives us is based on lessons drawn from his understanding of nature and creation. Firstly, he looks at the cycle of existence the circle of life - which enables all creatures to live and flourish in their way and time.

Birds provide his specific example, possibly because they would have been prolific and yet are not reliant on human beings for their survival. The birds dont do any of the things that human beings do to provide food for themselves they do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns yet, in the circle of life there is a sufficiency of the food that they need in order to survive.

In this way, Jesus says, we see that God the Father is taking care of them. Jesus is saying in effect what is repeated in Genesis 1 that Gods creation is good and provides all that is needed by the creatures which live in it. In Genesis 1 we specifically read that God has provided in creation the food which the birds need in order to increase in number (Genesis 1. 22 and 30).

For Jesus, Gods provision for the birds is a sign of the worth that he sees in his creation as a whole and in each specific part. Just as the creation as a whole is good, so are the birds which are found within it. If that is true of birds, then is it not also true of human beings? Arent you worth much more than birds? Jesus asks.

In Eucharistic Prayer G we read that in the fullness of time God made us in his image, the crown of all creation. Genesis 1 tells us that God made us to be like him, to resemble him and be made in his image. That gives us incredible worth and value, in and of ourselves and regardless of how we feel about ourselves. Jesus is saying that the power we have over creation and our unique position in creation - being conscious creators speaks clearly to us of this incredible privilege of having been made in the image of God.

To what extent do we appreciate this reality? Often we can be so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we do not stop to reflect on the wonder of existence and our existence. Stop for a moment to think about the incredible complexity of our physical bodies and of our conscious existence.

Stop for a moment and think about the incredible achievements of the human race the great art we have created, amazing technological developments and inventions, the cities we have built, the scientific and medical advancements we have seen, the depths of compassion and sacrifice which have been plumbed by the great saints in our history. While we are also well aware of the darker forces at work in human beings, our positive abilities and achievements reveal the reality of our creation as beings that resemble God in his creative power and energy. We can and should celebrate this reality realising the worth that God sees in us at the same time as giving thanks to our God for creating us in this way.               

Isnt life worth more than food and isnt the body worth more than clothes, Jesus asks us. Often we can be so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we do not realise the wonder of our existence and do not realise all that we could achieve if we were to use our abilities and creativity more fully in his service. “We were meant to livefor so much more” is how the rock band Switchfoot put it. Jesus challenges us to be concerned with more than the worries of daily life, to be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he [God] requires of you.

Stop for a moment and think of the unique way in which you have been created by God the unique combination of personality and talents with which you have been blessed and ask yourself how these things could more fully be used for the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth, as in heaven.

Stop for a moment and think about the Kingdom of God as described in the Beatitudes with which Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount. The Kingdom of God is a place of happiness for those who know they are spiritually poor, a place of comfort for those who mourn, a place of receptivity for those who are humble, a place of satisfaction for those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires, a place of mercy for those who are merciful, a place in which God is seen by the pure in heart, a place in which those who work for peace are called Gods children, and a place which belongs to those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. What might God be calling us to do for him to bring the Kingdom of God to others?

Jesus argues that the goodness and worth of all created things can be seen in the way that creation provides all that is needed for creatures and plants to live and thrive. Our worth is greater still because we are made in the very image of God having power over creation and innate creative abilities ourselves. It is incumbent on us then to use the power we possess for the good of others and for the good of creation itself. We are, as God says, in Genesis to cultivate, tend and guard creation. Bringing happiness, satisfaction and belonging by giving comfort, practising humility, sharing mercy and working for peace are all powerful ways of tending and guarding creation and building the Kingdom of God on earth, as in heaven.

Stop for a moment to recognise the something more for which we are meant to live. Dedicate your life to be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what God requires of you.   


Switchfoot - Meant To Live. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Enterprise Club

This is to let you know about this week's enterprise club at the Seven Kings Sophia Hub.  We are here (St John's Church & Centre, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex IG2 7BB) from 1pm until 5pm on Tuesdays, but if that is too long, please do just drop by.  This is an increasingly useful networking event and there are local people with business experience who are keen to offer you informal support.

This week Pankajni Trivedi is leading a workshop to discuss pitching your business between 2pm and 3pm.  Come along to learn how to:

*  Present your powerpoint/flipchart
*  Pitch your presentation delivery

During the workshop Pankajni will cover:

*  the do's and don'ts of the content
*  how you deliver it
*  How to engage with your audience

Pankajni lives locally and has a professional background in human resources, learning and development and 10 years experience in leading and managing large departments in the  public sector.  She set up her HR consultancy last year.  Pankajni is enthused by the Enterprise Club and what it can offer the community and is wanting to use her business experience to help you! Here is a link to her Linked In profile

1pm - 1.45pm refreshments and networking
1.45pm introductions
2pm - 3pm workshop
3pm - 4pm small groups, support, networking
4pm - 5pm networking.

I have included a photo from last week when we looked at the elements of a business and covering all posts.  Support was given in small groups to four local start-ups and 14 people attended.


Live - Run To The Water.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The wonder in a child's eyes

I recently published a post on Ed Kowalczyk and Scott Stapp. Having listened to more of their music since that point, I've been impressed with the extent to which their songs celebrate parenthood in a genre not known for that particular focus. Creed's 'With Arms Wide Open' is a reflection on the imminent prospect of parenthood. On Live's 'Heaven,' Kowalczyk sings 'I don't need no one to tell me about heaven / I look at my daughter and I believe,' while in 'In Your Light' he reflects that he can't dream of being good enough to deserve even half of the gifts some magnificent power gave him in the form of his two kids. Finally, Scott Stapp, in 'Dying To Live' from the wonderful Proof of Life, lists the wonder in his child's eyes as one of the songs the world forever sings which are the things always right in front of us.


Scott Stapp - Dying To Live.

Love lost in translation

My retreat reading has been Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible by the Quaker scholar Renato Lings:

'For decades, a painful controversy about same-sex relationships has rocked Christian churches, and no solution is in sight. Frequently the Bible is quoted. In response to this crisis, this exciting new book systematically examines the biblical stories and passages that are generally assumed to deal with, or comment on, homoerotic relationships: Noah and Ham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Deuteronomy 23:17–18, Judges 19, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, and the letter of Jude.

Love Lost in Translation documents how mistranslations of these texts into Greek, Latin and other languages occurred early, and how serious errors are committed by translators today. Biased translations make biased theology. The book proposes a fresh approach to translating the Bible by means of linguistic and literary criteria. The method enables readers to discover the amazing literary sophistication, psychological insights and spiritual depth of the Bible. The final chapter of Love Lost in Translation provides a detailed discussion of biblical texts with life-affirming visions of same-sex love.'

This wonderfully well written, fascinating, detailed, apposite and illuminating book was particularly relevant reading, given the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage issued at the weekend.


Jesus and Mary Chain - God Help Me.

Oxford Retreat House

I've had a wonderful couple of days on the retreat that my cell group share annually. There has been so much that we have shared over the years as we journey together, with the continued sense that God is walking with us.

This was the second occasion that our retreat has been at the Oxford Retreat House run by the Disclaced Carmelite Friars. 52 years ago, the Carmelite Order purchased Chilswell House, former home of Poet Laureate Robert Bridges. Since then, a community of Carmelite friars has followed a life of prayer and ministry in the spirit of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. Their life revolves around the times of liturgical and personal silent prayer each day.

All guests are invited to join in this prayer. The Retreat Centre has recently been
extensively refurbished and welcomes a wide variety of groups. Set in 17 acres of woodland, and overlooking the ‘city of dreaming spires’, the Centre has 27 rooms, 13 of which are twin. The Centre offers preached and guided retreats, as well as weekends on various Carmelite-related themes. The Retreat House is also available for private groups and retreats. We couldn't wish for a better setting for our group retreat.


Loreena McKennitt - The Dark Night Of The Soul.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Patrick Scott: Image Space Light

I was first introduced to the work of Patrick Scott, who died on Friday one day before the opening of his retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, by Gesa E. Thiessen's Theology and Modern Irish Art, a study of the work and life of ten leading modern Irish painters from a theological perspective: Mainie Jellett, Jack Yeats, Louis le Brocquy, Gerard Dillon, Colin Middleton, Patrick Collins, Tony O’Malley, Patrick Scott, Patrick Graham and Patrick Hall.

Reviewing this book Cyril Barrett accurately states: 'All artists had a religious upbringing, the majority a Catholic one and all, with two exceptions, gave up the practice of their faith for more or less the same reasons at a fairly early age. The exceptions were Yeats and Jellet, both Church of Ireland, who continued to go to church. Post Tridentine Catholicism does not seem to appeal to artists. Art took its place.

On the other hand, though almost all rejected institutional religion and much of Christian doctrine, they were never antagonistic (except, perhaps, to the clergy) and retained many Christian beliefs.
Interestingly, most of them developed a naturalistic religion, seeing God in nature and feeling that reality is not limited to our field of vision or our sensory experiences. Besides the residue of Christian
belief, many of these artists were interested in pagan and Celtic religions and Zen Buddhism.'

Patrick Scott has been a defining figure of Irish art for over 70 years and the retrospective exhibition now open is testament to his extraordinary career, life and achievements as an artist. Barrett notes that 'Paganism is suggested in Patrick Scott's work in the form of pre-Celtic and Celtic sun worship, an optimistic pursuit in the Irish climate but probably all the more devoutly pursued as a consequence.' He also says that 'Thiessen ... is right to see a religious, if pagan, significance in Scott's 'Gold paintings'.' The early Gold Paintings from 1964 onwards, are arguably Scott’s best known expression.


Van Morrison - In The Garden.

Beyond Airbrushed from Art History (11)

In Figuring Faith Anitra Nettleton highlights South African artists creating work with Christian subjects:

Most of Father Frans Claerhout’s artworks depict biblical themes but he uses the people and ordinary lives of those who surround him to depict his spiritual vision. The Christ and the Other series perhaps most clearly expresses his belief that Christ must be experienced by each individual, in their own way. The loose brush strokes, bright arbitrary colours and the heavy black outlines used in his paintings show the influences of the Expressionists and Fauvists.

'In a review of an exhibition of [Pranas] Domsaitis’ paintings in September 1962, Graham Watson wrote, his work possesses something of Chagall’s enchanting visions, the guileless piety of Rouault, the resonant colour of the Expressionists and the intuitive wisdom of the peasant (Verloren van Themaat, 1976). Mykolas Drunga writes of Domsaitis’ work: Although the artist never formally allied himself with any specific school, he moved from the romantic realism and what the well-known art critic Karl Scheffler called the ‘spiritual impressionism’ of his youth towards an ever more personal Expressionism ... According to Berman (1996), he is unique among South African painters in that much of his subject matter was devotional in spirit, and even his interpretation of the vast South African landscape was infused with a spiritual intensity." "His painting took on a melancholy stillness and transcendental premonitions. His landscapes, common human figures are filled with deep symbolism. Especially important is the deeply experienced archetypes of his work – the journey and the themes of travelling – expressed realistically as well as expressions of Biblical studies.'

Judith Mason, '“an agnostic humanist possessed of religious curiosity,” as she puts it, once commented that “… the bulk of Judeo-Christian thought is part of our culture, even if … the Russian
Revolution has superceded it and will in time assume its own mythical proportions. The Judeo-Christian myths are instinct with drama, and time has eroded them into skeletons which can be
clothed in a richer fabric than orthodoxy. The painter of religious themes, whether he does so as a
reflection of his faith or as an exploration of his doubts, makes icons." ... Mason’s “trajectory
suite of religious iconography,” ... includes paintings such as The Plague (1980), Pièta (2003)
and Judas (1996).'

Understanding the sacred within the commonplace, and presenting these images was a hallmark of Peter Schütz' work, as in Durban Icon, in the permanent collection of the Durban Art Gallery, which honours the rickshaw man – the work of a common labourer, with a halo and flames of light.
'A feature of this work was to create an inviting tension between images of spiritually and lightheartedness. He found peace and profundity in nature wherever he was and organic life forms were constantly emerging from his work.'

Azaria Mbatha 'is on record as saying that he wished to ‘Africanise’ the whole Bible, and an appreciation of his work must also take into account the concurrent rise of a black theology in southern Africa. Mbatha claims that he wants to reconcile Christian values with the myths and realities of his African, specifically Zulu, heritage. However, it should not necessarily be assumed that his use of black figures is consistent with this aim. Mbatha has also used black and white faces in his religious prints for aesthetic reasons, where the colour was chosen purely for artistic reasons and as a pattern maker par excellence he would have been acutely sensitive to these design needs. Inextricably linked with the legacy of the Evangelical Lutheran Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift, Mbatha’s impressive body of work over the years justifies his place as one of the most important printmakers in South Africa.'

Religious subjects feature prominently in the work of John Muafangejo, reflecting his strong religious background. 'But, even here, Muafangejo also commented on the political and social role of the Church in resisting and opposing an inhumane and unjust regime. Many of his prints are of an autobiographical nature and refer to dramatic or humorous incidents in his life. But the references to his personal life are mediated by a gentle humour and an objectivity which transcends the merely anecdotal.'

'The iconography of [Johannes] Segogela’s work is essentially religious. Like [Jackson] Hlungwani (qv.) he regards his work as ‘a means of proselytising the public into the Christian faith’. However, many of these themes are adapted – and the modern world intrudes in the most engaging and witty ways. In one work, for example, angels record on video camera an epic battle ensuing between the devil and another angel. And Nelson Mandela, astride a leopard, tops a walking stick in a contemporary reworking of traditional walking sticks from the region.'

Making, fabricating, reproducing was central to Colin Richards' sense of purpose as a creative person: "So are the large and messy questions of meaning. Art is a relational affair, and it seems to me that the increasingly seamless semiotic packaging of the worlds in which we live sets limits on our horizons of ways of being and doing. In my creative work I am energised by puzzles of power and powerlessness. My preferred mode of expression has always involved strong pictorial illusionism (which is still magical to me, as it is to all children), and also in reproduction and repetition. In matters of power my focus tends to be on formal religion and its iconographies, on family, especially fatherhood and boy childhood, and on the cultivation of 'nature' (rocks, trees, animals, insects... mothers, fathers)."


Paul Buchanan - Mid Air.

Windows on the world (281)

 Barcelona, 2013


The Waterboys - How Long Will I Love You.

The love we give away is the love we keep

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3. 16)

“God so loved that he gave ...”

There is a saying that: “Love grows by giving. The love we give away is the only love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.” (Elbert Hubbard)

“God so loved that he gave his one and only Son ....”

There is another saying that, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.”

In terms of romantic, parental and community love, this is saying that love isn’t owned and cannot be taken - it can only be given. So if we love someone, we have to give that person the freedom to choose for his or herself. That means letting go of our control over them. At times, this means that those we love leave us and ultimately, of course, it means we have to let those we love go into death.

We see love involving letting go and setting free most obviously in parents giving their children space and time in which to grow and make their own decisions. It is a risky business; parents don’t know how the choices their children make will turn out in the long run and so they have to battle against the tendency to control, in order that they can genuinely love their children by letting them go and grow into independence.

Sacrificial love is deeper still. God gave his one and only Son - not in order that his Son would benefit personally from this act of giving but that, through the loving sacrifice of his Son’s life, all peoples everywhere can be saved. This is the ultimate in giving love away.

Yet, through this sacrificial giving away by God the Father, all things are returned to him. Jesus’ death brings all people back to God and his resurrection returns Jesus himself to God. The Christian story therefore promises that, “The love we give away is the love we keep.”


Bob Dylan - Is Your Love In Vain?

Love fulfils the Law

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Deep Magic “was a set of laws placed into Narnia by the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea at the time of its creation. It was written on the Stone Table, the firestones on the Secret Hill, and the sceptre of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea.

This law stated that the White Witch, Jadis, was entitled to kill every traitor, and if someone denied her this right then all of Narnia would be overturned and perish in fire and water.

However, unknown to Jadis, a deeper magic from before the dawn of Time existed, which said that if a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Stone Table would crack, and Death would start working backwards.”

So in this story, there is a Law which is about actions and consequences and there is a deeper Law which is about love.

C. S. Lewis, who wrote the Narnia stories, was a Christian who drew on his understanding of Christian faith in writing his stories. It may be that he had passages like these in mind when he wrote about the deeper magic from before the dawn of Time.

Jesus is saying in his teaching from Matthew 5. 21 - 37 about the Law that it is not enough simply to keep the Law. He wants us to go deeper than simple obedience of the Law and the deeper place into which he wants us to go is Love.

Most of us actually keep the laws of this land most of the time. On the whole, because the laws are prohibitions – do not’s, like do not murder or do not steal – and because we live in a time of relative wealth, our laws are not that difficult to keep.

But prohibitions simply keep us from doing harm to others. They don’t enable us to love others. Simply refraining from murdering others or stealing from others is enough to keep the Law (we call it keeping the peace) but doing these things doesn’t mean that I am actively loving anyone at all.

To love means that I have to do something more that simply keep the Law. That is what Jesus is teaching and illustrating here and it is what C. S. Lewis shows us in Narnia through his imaginative story.

Let’s think briefly about the way laws and love work together. Parents teach their children the rules of the road. To begin with, when children are very young, the rules of the road are very restrictive i.e. the child must never cross a road without a parent and must always cross at a crossing with the parent and while holding the parents hand. As the child grows, they are taught new rules for crossing the road; for me, that was the Green Cross Code - stop, look and listen. Now, the aim is that the child learns to judge for him or herself when it is safe to cross the road.

Eventually, the rules with which we began – don’t cross on your own, don’t cross unless you are at a crossing – are left behind because the child has learnt how to cross the road safely using their own initiative. Elbert Hubbard has said, “Initiative is doing the right things without being told.” We are able to use initiative because we have not only learnt the rules but have learnt to apply in our lives and situations. At this point, we are no longer restricted just to crossing the road at specific crossing places but can cross wherever we judge it to be safe to do so.

So, we have gone beyond the rules by learning and applying the rules. In other words, we have found the true purpose of those rules which our parents enforced when we were young; which is that we learn to cross the road safely by ourselves wherever we are.

Jesus is saying the same thing. The Law starts by keeping us safe – do not murder, do not steal. If we all abide by the Law then we do not harm each other. That is good, but it is not enough. We also need to learn to love one another. That means doing more than the Law requires but to do that is also the fulfilling of the Law. If the Law is about maintaining good relations between us, then love is the fulfilment of the Law’s intent.

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Matthew 5. 17) and he commended, as being the heart or summary of the Law, these words: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” As Paul writes, “Love is the fulfilment of the law.” (Romans 13. 10)

So, in order to fulfil the Law and these teachings we are to love as Jesus loved: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13. 4 – 7).


Ben Harper - Don't Give Up On Me Now.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Enterprise Club

There were 15 of us last Tuesday at the Sophia Hub Enterprise Club and as numbers pick up we are able to build up our expertise in running a vibrant and useful support network for small and emerging businesses and community connections.

Please feel free to come along this coming Tuesday between 1 and 5.  This is the schedule:

1-1.45 refreshments and networking
1.45-2.00 Introductions
2.00-3.00 Speaker and group discussions:  This week the speaker is Aidan Ward and the topic is 'balancing the needs of your business'
3.00-4.00 more discussion and support
4.00-5.00 Networking

More info is on the St John's Church website and we hope that our website may be running by next week:


Ed Kowalczyk - Grace.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Brutalist churches

Several churches feature in the A - Z of Brutalism by Jonathan Meades in yesterday's Guardian. Meades writes:

"Vatican II was a godsend to architects. The Roman Catholic church was a generous, adventurous patron, and its buildings were to be advertisements for the church's newfound modernity. With few functional demands to take into consideration, architects enjoyed carte blanche. God can, apparently, live anywhere – and in the 1960s, he shared the widespread taste for open-plan spaces and theatre-in-the-round."


Scott Stapp - Jesus Was A Rockstar.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Why there's no faith without doubt

The Lent Course organised by the Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches is featured in the current edition of the Ilford Recorder.

Our Lent Course this year is entitled Build on the Rock: Faith, doubt - and Jesus! Based around Matthew 7.24 (Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock), the course starts by looking at faith and doubt. Is it wrong – or is it normal and healthy – for a Christian to have doubts? Is there any evidence for a God who loves us? We will hear from many witnesses. At the heart of a Christian answer stands Jesus himself. We consider his ‘strange and beautiful story’ and reflect upon his teaching, his death, his resurrection and his continuing significance.

The Course has five sessions: (1) Believing and doubting; (2) Jesus - our teacher; (3) Jesus - our saviour; (4) Jesus - conqueror of death; and (5) Jesus - Lord and brother. Produced by York Courses, the course comes with a good choice of wide-ranging questions designed to involve all members in lively discussion and also brings the thoughts of prominent Christian leaders into our own discussion group.

The Course Booklet has been written by best-selling author, Canon John Young. The Course CD contains five 14-minute radio-style starters for group discussion, with former BBC broadcaster Canon Simon Stanley putting questions to the participants: Bishop Richard Chartres (Bishop of London), Dr Paula Gooder and Revd Joel Edwards. Each session closes with a Reflection by Methodist minister David Gamble. Former Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, introduces the course.

Why do a York Course? Tens of thousands of people study a York Course each year:

"I like the format. Listening to the speakers on the CD helped to clarify my own thoughts as well as inspiring me with new ideas… The questions were challenging and well thought out. Altogether a very enjoyable course."

"York Courses are by far and away the best thought-out house-group material that I have come across. Excellent notes, a really useful range of questions, and stimulating audio contributions."

"Along with thousands of other Christians I have benefited greatly from participation in York Courses over the past few years, mainly as a group leader."

The Lent courses are organised by the Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches (SKFC) and will run at:

· 2.00pm on Tuesday’s at St John’s Seven Kings (11 March, 18 March, 25, March. 1 April, 8 April)
· 11.15am on Wednesday’s at St Peter’s Aldborough Hatch (12 March, 19 March, 26 March, 2 April, 9 April)
· 8.00pm on Wednesday at St John’s Seven Kings (12 March, 19 March, 26 March, 2 April, 9 April)

Our SKFC Lent Service will be at 8.00pm on Monday 14th April at Seven Kings United Free Church.


The Call - I Still Believe.

Mentoring Matters

I've just finished an excellent mentoring course delivered by CPAS for the Diocese of Chelmsford. This was an exemplary course with clear, relevant material delivered using a range of styles in a well weighted programme. James Lawrence was an excellent trainer.

CPAS has a new resource designed to enable the setting up of church-based mentoring networks, including identifying, equipping and resourcing mentors.

Many in our churches are looking for help as they grapple with how to be a disciple and leader in such a fast moving, rapidly changing world.

Those young in the faith seeking to lay good foundations; those who've been Christians a while, wanting to deepen their ongoing service of Christ; and people of every generation looking to grow as leaders.

A mentoring relationship provides an intentional way of engaging with God's agenda. Be it formal or informal, short or long term, the mentor offers encouragement, perspective and challenge.


The Staple Singers - Touch A Hand, Make A Friend.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Seven Kings Sophia Hub

There is lots of activity and engagement occurring currently through the Sophia Hub at Seven Kings as the numbers attending our Enterprise Club are growing and as we work with a new group of participants on the Sophia Course.


Arcade Fire - We Exist.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lent: Music that inspires Christian faith

I've been invited to contribute to the Lent Course at Chelmsford Cathedral this year. On Monday evenings in Lent five different speakers will be talking about different pieces of music that inspire them in their Christian faith. The five meetings all begin at 7.30pm in the North Transept of the Cathedral, and will last around 90 minutes, ending with Compline. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book in advance.

Dates and details of the speakers and their pieces of music are as follows:


Van Morrison - Haunts Of Ancient Peace.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Church engagement with the Arts: Good practice

The William Morris Gallery currently has a small display of work by George JackJack (1855-1931) architect, furniture-designer, wood carver, stained glass artist, and teacher, was an important contributor to the Arts and Crafts Movement. He trained as an architect in Scotland, and became a full-time assistant to Philip Webb in 1882. Through Webb, Jack was introduced to William Morris and from 1885 began to design furniture for Morris & Co. Subsequently he took up wood carving and plaster moulding.

From 1929-1936, the architect Charles Canning Winmill involved Jack in the repair and renovation of St Margaret’s Barking. By the time he worked on St Margaret’s, Jack was in his 70s and was quite ill. Despite this fact, his work for the church was admirable and included: the memorial window to the Hewitt family in the Lady Chapel, a pair of tall candelabra, decoration of the Chancel roof, a carved memorial tablet, eight carved figures on the Youth Chapel screen (Captain Cook, Elisabeth Fry, St Ethelburga, two Barking fishermen, Saint James, Saint John and Saint Nicholas), and the Fisherman’s window in the Youth Chapel.

Jack also enlisted the help of his daughter Jessie in painting the font cover at St Margaret’s. Jessie painted the existing wooden cover to a design by her father. The lettering around the rim says, ‘God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his son’. Each segment is painted with a bird or butterfly on a mid-blue ground with gilding. This is the only known example of Jack’s daughter helping him with his decorative schemes. Sadly, his work at St Margaret’s was one of Jack’s last commissions, he died in December 1931.

From 29th April to 29th July 2006, the William Morris Gallery held the first exhibition solely devoted to George Jack. His name is familiar to many who are interested in Morris but most are not fully aware of the extent of his output. The exhibition aimed to bring this important artist to greater prominence and explored all aspects of his work. Exhibits were drawn from the archive held at the Gallery, which contains designs for work in plaster, furniture, woodcarvings, embroidery, letters and photographs, and from other collections. It is also brought to light the contribution of his wife and daughters.

St Margaret’s loaned three key works for the exhibition – two of the carved wooden figures from the Youth Chapel screen (Captain Cook and Elizabeth Fry) and the Font cover. As curate at St Margaret’s at that time, I liaised with the William Morris Gallery over these loans and said that:

“George Jack’s work at St Margaret’s has been much loved since Charles Winmill’s renovation at the turn of the last century which introduced many artefacts from the Arts and Crafts movement into the church. Jack’s work here demonstrates his versatility and skill as a craftsman and has great local significance as memorials to Barking’s fishing industry and links with Captain Cook and Elizabeth Fry. This exhibition will highlight an under-appreciated aspect of the significant history that can be found at St Margaret’s.”

I also arranged that, during the Barking Festival, Amy Clarke (Curator, William Morris Gallery) gave a short illustrated talk on George Jack and tour of the church showing Jack’s work at St Margaret’s. 

2005/06 was a year at St Margaret's where there was a particular focus on the arts. Here is a press release which we issued at the time summarising the different projects which provide an example of good practice in church engagement with the Arts: 

'St Margaret’s Barking has had a year of involvement in the Arts which began with a Christmas gift from a local artist.

For some years George Emmerson had been painting the church, churchyard and the ruins of Barking Abbey and, as he left the borough, presented the church with a book of these paintings. The book is filled with watercolours set in intricately painted borders and complemented by historical information and personal reflections. It is a beautiful reminder of the history of the Abbey Green site in which St Margaret’s is located and a record of one person’s response to that history.

During the year the Church has worked together with the Arts services department of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Led by Tracey McNulty and Catherine Miller, this team has been responsible for the A13 Artscape project, one of the most ambitious public arts projects in the UK.

St Margaret’s first collaboration with them was Love& Light in which VJs and digital artists from plugfish filmed and digitally animated both members of the congregation and the surrounding flora and wildlife, setting them within delicate moving imagery before projecting them onto the windows, walls, roof and tower of the church. Projected onto the clear windows of the church were moving images of the local body of Christ at St Margaret's - dancing mums, waving ladies, an eight piece dance group, the verger and curate racing each other up the Church Tower, an imaginary teenage rock band, and a number of other spinning, walking, waving, smiling members of the congregation. This piece, rightly entitled Abbey Happy, was the church at play.

Studding this celebration of the congregation were reminders of Barking's past which drew on memorials contained within the church. Captain Cook's ship, The Endeavour, sailed again next to the stained glass window commemorating Barking's fishing heritage. This window then provided motifs of sea horses, shells and water that featured in several other projections. The whole was a joyful celebration, not just of St Margaret's special history, but also of its lively and diverse present. In it the church was truly seen as a place of love, light and laughter.

Over the course of the year St Margaret’s has also collaborated with Arts Services on two concerts for Refugee Week and the Molten Festival featuring concert pianist Manuel Villet, world music star Jide Chord and the children’s choirs from St Margaret’s School and Watoto Childcare. Music also featured in a taster workshop at the St Margaret’s Centre for the Sonic Spin course which provides training in Music Technology. Through a printmaking and design workshop we arranged for young people from local churches to contribute designs to the Making Barking Brilliant project which will see these and other designs turned by the artist Dale Devereux Barker into enamel panels and etched slabs located on walls and streets in Barking.

Finally, in January 2006 we will provide a venue for RE:Generation, a film and photographic project by Michael Cousin which explores local people’s memories of Barking’s past, their feelings about its present and their hopes and fears for the future. People from St Margaret’s feature in the film and have contributed their photographs and memories to the project. Community involvement has therefore been a major feature of these projects which attempt to contribute to the regeneration of the Town Centre and the well-being of its people.

Anthony Shapland has said of Michael Cousin that, “He successfully combines the naivety of a child, seeing the world afresh with a grown-up, stubborn belief that things could be different. He … [creates] a space for contemplation … He is … willing the viewer to look at something with new eyes, to experience reality refreshed.” This could well have been a manifesto for St Margaret’s year in the Arts and for the Lent course which explored images of salvation from conceptual art, figurative paintings, and feature films. Discovering spirituality in works such as Tracy Emin’s Bed, AndresSerrano’s Piss Christ, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and uncovering models of salvation in paintings from different periods of Art history was certainly eye-opening for many.

The Lent course culminated with the unveiling of an original painting commissioned for the Youth Chapel at St Margaret’s. Early in the morning was unveiled by the artist Alan Stewart and dedicated by the Bishop of Barking. The painting depicts Christ cooking breakfast for his disciples by Lake Galilee after his resurrection, as told in John's Gospel chapter 21. Stewart has painted a black Christ surrounded by disciples of every ethnic origin to reflect the diverse congregation that currently worships at St Margaret's. Through its lakeside setting the pastel painting also links to the stained glass window in the Youth Chapel commemorating the fishing industry in Barking. 

Early in the morning has been joined in the Youth Chapel by the second artistic gift St Margaret’s received this year. During a study visit to their link parish of Kristinehamn in Sweden the Church was presented with an icon of Christ blessing the children by the Norwegian painter Kjellaug Nordsjö, who is widely considered the best contemporary icon painter in Scandinavia. This icon is a window into Christ’s inclusivity and gentleness and a sign of the welcome that the Church seeks to give to all who come to St Margaret’s.

Revd. Jonathan Evens, Curate at St Margaret’s, says:

“Our year in the Arts has refreshed our memory of our history, celebrated the present diversity of our congregation and community, contributed towards the future regeneration of our town centre, and created spaces for seeing the world, reality and our faith afresh. The value of the Arts for us and our community therefore speak for themselves.”'


Arvo Pärt- Spiegel im Spiegel.