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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

St Mark's College Retreat Day

I enjoyed a Retreat Day at St Mark's College on Monday organised by the Diocesan Youth Advisers. The Centre is available to youth, school and adult groups for residential stays, day conferences and retreats. A range of facilities and activities are available on and around the site.

The foundations of the chapel, the oldest part of the buildings, were laid in 1258 as the infirmary (hospital) for the Benedictine monks of Walden Abbey which was on the present site of Audley End House.

After the monastery was dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII the property was rebuilt and completed by 1611 as almshouses (a place for the poor to live) by the Earl of Suffolk who built the present Audley End House. Since then it has been a farm and in fact where you will be sleeping, if you stay with us, was the home for the pigs.

In 1949 it changed use again and was given to the Dioceses of Chelmsford by Lord Braybrook to become a home for retired clergy. In 1993 it underwent a major refurbishment to be set up as a youth and conference centre.


The Frames - Revelate.

Arts Festival for the Barking Episcopal Area

The Barking Episcopal Area Arts Festival began in 2011 and involves quality events from a variety of Arts genre as a way of embracing and celebrating performing/visual arts & engaging with local communities, their people and arts culture. The Festival is organised annually but in a different part of the Episcopal Area each year and in parallel with already established community arts festivals. This fourth Festival is called the H’Art Festival & runs parallel to the Hornchurch Festival of Arts & Heritage.

H’Art Festival Programme

  • Library underpass, Romford Market - 1st - 15th June, all day: Graffiti Art in the Underpass. Prepare to be amazed by the work of local graffiti artists. Inspired by Stephen Poch of Every Second Counts
  • St Edward’s Church - 1st – 15th June: Art Exhibition. Salvation Army, Romford - 1st – 15th June: Photographic Exhibition. 
  • Sennen Cottage, Upminster – Sunday 1st June, 3pm-5pm: Take some time on your Sunday to chill out with an innovative mix of recycled sculpture & music. Afternoon Tea & Cake sale. Free entry. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Sunday 1st June: Yarnbombing of All Saints Church porch. Members of the Knit & Natter group at Hornchurch Library knitting flowers to display on the outside of the main porch of the church! 
  • St Peter’s Harold Wood - Sunday 1st June, 6.30pm: Summer Praise – combined service for local churches, followed by refreshments 
  • Romford Central Library - 2nd – 13th June: Photographic Exhibition. 
  • Deeper Lounge, 40 High Street, Romford - Mon 2nd – Fri 6th June, 10am-5pm: Photographic Exhibition. Enjoy a cup of coffee & view contemporary photography by skilled Havering photo-artists. Free entry. 
  • Hornchurch, Romford & Rainham Libraries - Mon 2nd - Fri 13th June, usual Library opening hours: Art Exhibition. See painting & pottery by guest (George Hogg) & commission4mission artists including Hayley Bowen, Harvey Bradley, Jonathan Evens, Mark Lewis, Caroline Richardson, Janet Roberts, Henry Shelton, Joy Rousell Stone, Andrew Vessey and Peter Webb
  • St Peter’s, Harold Wood - Mon 2nd – Fri 6th June, 10am-4pm & Mon 9th – Fri 14th June, 10am-4pm: Recent Building Development combines an uplifting new church centre with a homely parish church celebrating its 75th anniversary. Spot the Bible texts that adorn the church inside & out. 
  • The Source Coffee Shop, Stubbers Adventure Centre, Upminster - Mon 2nd June, 7.30-9.30pm: Film Buffs Night. Love film & want to unpack more? A showing of Richard Curtis film, ‘About Time’ plus a short post-film discussion of the plot & themes. Free. Coffee shop open for refreshment sales. 
  • Deeper Network Church, Romford - Thurs 5th June, 5.30pm – 8pm: Final Fantasy X (the film of the game) - Gaming at a Higher Level – What’s it all About? A Youth special - chance to watch the film of the game & talk about it with like-minded gamers of your age. Refreshments supplied. Free entry.
  • Salvation Army, Romford - Fri 6th June, 5.30pm – 8pm: Final Fantasy X (the film of the game) - Gaming at a Higher Level – What’s it all About? As above. 
  • St Nicholas Church, Elm Park - Sat 7th June, 10am – 3pm: Your Very Good Health. Church & centre open all day hosting & running different activities and stalls around the theme of health for all age groups. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Sat 7th June, 10am – 5pm: Flower festival celebrating the centenary of the Diocese of Chelmsford & Fayre. 
  • Nelmes United Reformed Church - Sat 7th June, 10am – 4pm: Exhibition of Arts & Crafts including knitted Bible stories. Refreshments available. 
  • Upminster Park - Sat 7th June, 11am-2pm: Local Art & Messy Church. View amazing works by our talented local artists & photographers & take part in the innovative new “Messy Church” for the 21st Century. 
  • St Edward’s, Romford - Sat 7th June, 3pm – 5pm (in the grounds): ECHO – Motown influenced band with a great sound. Beautiful soul songs, with a little modification, become wonderful songs of worship. ECHO sing these songs to the Lord with a worshipful heart & lead others in worship. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Sun 8th June, 10am – 5pm: Flower festival celebrating the centenary of the Diocese of Chelmsford. Entry free. 
  • Messy Church - Sun 8th June, 1.30-3.30pm: Messy Church in the Market (South Street end). A drop in event for all the family offering crafts, activities & story sessions to explore how we encounter God in our lives. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Sun 8th June, 6.30pm: Songs of Praise – singing the top ten hymns as suggested by those attending the Flower Festival. 
  • St Andrew’s Church, Hornchurch - Sun 8th June, 6.30pm – 9.00pm: Combined Choirs of St Andrew’s, Hornchurch & St Edward the Confessor, Romford. Festal Choral Evensong at 6.30pm followed by: Recital of Sacred & Secular Part Songs at 8.00pm (including well known Folk Songs from the British Isles, Spirituals and motets by Stanford & Rutter). Evensong & recital are approx. 1 hour each. Recital admission by programme £10 including refreshments. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Mon 9th – Fri 13th June, 10am – 4pm: Church open. Display of arts & crafts by residents of Havering. Light refreshments available. Entry free. 
  • United Reformed Church, Western Road, Romford - Wed 11th June, 8pm-9.30pm: Concert of brass band music by the Romford Salvation Army Band. 
  • Overflow Cafe, St Luke’s Church, Cranham - Fri 13th June, 8-10pm: Final Fantasy X (the film of the game) - Gaming at a Higher Level – What’s it all About? Watch the film of the game & talk about it with like-minded gamers of your age. Ages 14-19 years. 
  • Redden Court School, Harold Hill - Sat 14th June, 10am–4pm: St Peter’s Car Show – now in its third year. 
  • Trinity Methodist Church - Sat 14th June, 7.30pm -9.30pm: Relaxed evening of classical music with something for everybody including Mozart, Schubert, Chopin as well as Bach's concerto for 2 violins. Donations invited. 
  • All Saints, Ardleigh Green - Sat 14th June, 7pm – 9.30pm: New Dimension Choir. A local community choir will be singing “Songs from the East End” – with lots of opportunity for audience participation! St Luke’s Centre, Cranham - Sat 14th June, 1pm – 7pm: Church open with art displays available for viewing. 
  • St Luke’s Centre, Cranham - Sat 14th June, 7.30-10pm: Andrew Linham Jazz Orchestra – led by extraordinary young local saxophonist who studied at top British Conservatoires & has performed internationally. Now performing regularly around London & the UK including Ronnie Scotts. A fabulous professional jazz band with local roots - tickets on the door £5. Enjoy a free glass of wine, while viewing a photography & art exhibition by local talent. 
  • St Luke’s Church, Cranham - Sunday 15th June, 6.30-8.30pm: H’Art Closing Celebrations & Exhibition. Hear Helen Yousaf & band in concert with inspiring life stories as she shares songs from her new album. Closing reflections by Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. Exhibition by local artists & photographers. Refreshments provided.

Contact Jan Stainer on or 01708745626 to check details.


Andrew Linham Quartet - Wednesday Afternoons.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Windows on the world (291)

Barcelona, 2013


Leigh Nash - Never Finish.

Resurrection: First fruits of the kingdom of God

“They entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe - and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here – he has been raised! Look, here is the place where they put him. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’” So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” (Mark 15. 5 - 8)

To us, the resurrection is a wonderful event. One that we have been celebrating since Easter Sunday in hymns such as Jesus lives! and Thine be the glory risen, conquering Son. But to the women who first encountered the resurrection it was anything but wonderful. Instead, it was a shocking, unexpected, fearful experience.

We are often surprised to read that that was their reaction because we are so familiar with the resurrection stories and the idea of resurrection itself. And we wonder why they weren’t instantly grateful to know that their teacher and Lord was alive again. But those people who were there at the time were on unfamiliar and disturbing ground and they were unable initially to see the wonder and glory of what had occurred.

And many people today who are not Christians would react in ways that are similar to the reactions of those women. Many would struggle with the whole idea that someone can rise again from the dead and would view this central Christian belief as a reason for rejecting, rather than accepting, Christianity.

So, what I would like to share with you this evening then are two things from this passage that suggest that Jesus did rise from the dead and two things that suggest why his rising is important for us today.

First, the reaction of the women suggests to us that there was nothing in the Judaism of their day that had prepared them for the idea that one person could rise from the dead. They were distressed and fearful, in part, because they had no way of understanding or comprehending what had happened. It was totally outside of any frame of reference that they had.

Most Palestinian Jews at the time believed that God would resurrect the bodies of the dead at the end of the age. When Jesus had spoken to the disciples about his own resurrection, it is probable that they would have understood him to have been meaning that he would rise again as part of this general resurrection at the end of the age. This belief in a general resurrection was not accepted by all Jews. The Sadducees, in particular, argued that there was no resurrection at all. But even where this belief in a general resurrection was held, there was never any thought that one person would rise ahead of everyone else.

The reaction of these women - bewilderment and fear – is entirely consistent with situations where we are confronted by things that are totally outside our way of understanding the world and life itself and which radically challenge beliefs which we had thought were unchallengeable. The idea that one person could rise from the dead was so far outside their understanding of life, death and God that they could not have invented it. And, if they had, then they would not have responded with astonishment and fear because they would have known where the idea had come from and would have wanted to have appeared confident in their claim. You don’t convince anyone by being confused and in hiding.

So, instead the reaction of these women suggests that something significant had occurred and that that significant something could only have been the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

The second factor in this story which suggests that Jesus did rise from the dead is the idea that it was women who first discovered his resurrection. The Judaism of their day, like most cultures at that time, was patriarchal. The testimony of women, particularly in a court of law, was either inadmissible or regarded as of lesser value than the testimony of men. If the disciples had wanted to make up a story about Jesus rising from the dead then they certainly wouldn’t have said that it was the women in their group that had discovered his resurrection.

It is interesting, in this context, that the first known pagan written critique of Christianity builds on the Gospels’ report of women as the first witnesses and proclaimers of Jesus’ resurrection. It is called The True Word and was written by the middle Platonist Celsus in A.D. 175. Celsus claims that a ‘hysterical’ female was the witness to Jesus’ resurrection. To Celcus’ patriarchal mind all women were unreliable witnesses because they were hysterical and as a result, he then discounts the claims of the Gospels about the resurrection.

Both these factors then can give us confidence that the resurrection stories are telling us about actual events because if they weren’t then the Gospel writers would not have written them as they have. If the stories about the resurrection had been made up, then in order to be convincing they would have had men as the first people to discover that the resurrection had occurred and those people discovering the resurrection would be portrayed as entirely confident and clear about what they had seen and heard instead of the portrayal that we actually have, one of confusion and fear.

These are not the only factors which give us confidence that these stories have the ring of truth but they are two that emerge clearly from this account of the resurrection in Mark’s Gospel. What of the meaning of the resurrection though? Why is it so important and how can it affect us today if we believe that it occurred?

Again, two ideas drawn from this account. First, the message of the young man to the women (verse 7) – “He is going … ahead of you”. Literally, this means that Jesus had gone to Galilee where he would show himself to the disciples when they followed him there. But, at another level, it indicates what Jesus’ resurrection means. We read in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus has been raised from death as the guarantee that we will also be raised from death. He is described as being the first fruits of those who have died. In rising from the dead, he has gone ahead of us into the new risen body and existence that we shall experience in future when Jesus returns to this earth to fully bring God’s Kingdom into existence here.

When Jesus walked the earth he looked ahead to that future time when the Kingdom of God will be made perfect, and all suffering will come to an end. But he also announced that, because of him, there is a sense in which that Kingdom has already begun. When he healed sick people and brought good news to the poor it was a sign that the Kingdom had come. In the same way, when he overcame death by rising from the dead he became the first fruits of the Kingdom, an example of what we will all become in future.

Jesus wants us to be signs of God’s Kingdom in the same way that he was. He commanded us, his followers, to love in the way that he did. He wanted people to see us practically demonstrating love, so that we will clearly be recognised as men and women who belong to God. When Christians take action on behalf of the world’s poorest communities, as we will be doing shortly by collecting for Christian Aid, we not only put into practice the values of the Kingdom of God here and now but also become signs of what the Kingdom will be like when it is made perfect in eternity. That is what it means to pray, ‘Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.’          

So, by the resurrection, Jesus has gone ahead of us in signing and establishing the Kingdom of God and calls us to follow where he leads. In this way, as the theologian Jurgen Moltmann says, the “resurrection of Christ does not mean a new possibility within the world and its history, but a new possibility altogether for the world, for existence, and for history.” That’s the first indication of what resurrection means in this passage.

The second, takes us back to the women and their position in a patriarchal society. God deliberately chooses women to discover Jesus' resurrection because the Kingdom of God, of which the resurrection is the first fruits, is to be a place of equality and inclusion. In his ministry, Jesus consistently included in God’s Kingdom those people in Jewish society that were excluded – he included women in his followers, he brought lepers and possessed people back into the community by healing them, he ate and drank with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

Therefore, it is significant that it is people who were thought of as being second class in the society of his day who become the first witnesses to his resurrection. In the Kingdom of God which Jesus’ resurrection inaugurates, no one is second class and this is why the Apostle Paul writes in his letters, “there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Just as we are called to be signs of God’s Kingdom in the way that we love, so we are also called to be signs of God’s Kingdom by the way in which we include those who are excluded in our day. In our churches we need to be able to demonstrate that we are all one in Christ Jesus by there being no difference in the way that we accept men and women, white and black, rich and poor, straight and gay, non-disabled and disabled, the settled and the migrant, people of faith and people of no faith. We are called to be a people of liberation who cross the divides erected by our society. Who, as Jurgen Moltmann has said, in solidarity enter “the brotherhood of those who, in their society, are visibly living in the shadow of the cross: the poor, the handicapped, the people society has rejected, the prisoners and the persecuted.”

Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruits of a new way of being human – a way of being human that ultimately knows no death, no grief, no crying, no pain, no inequality and no exclusion. Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruits of the healing and renewal of human beings, human society and the entire world. This is the meaning of the resurrection. This is where we, and our world, can be heading, if we get on board with God.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

ArtWay meditation: Emmaus mosaic by John Piper

My latest meditation for ArtWay has been published today. It concerns the Emmaus mosaic by John Piper at St Paul's Harlow.

Here is some brief context to the production of the mosaic:

Visitors to British Design 1948 - 2012, an exhibition in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, were confronted by one third of John Piper’s huge mural created for the Festival of Britain and depicting varying forms of British architecture. Home and Land were key themes of the Festival of British where the English Neo-Romantic sensibility exemplified by Piper was prominently featured. Often viewed as nostalgic for its recognition of indigenous tradition and landscape, Neo-Romanticism actually aimed, as art critic Peter Fuller argued, to redeem the threatened and injured land.

Piper’s mural was selected by Frederick Gibberd, masterplanner of Harlow New Town, to be gifted to Harlow at the end of the Festival of Britain. The mural was installed on the wall of Harlow Technical College's main assembly room, where it remained until the college re-located in 1992. The design of Harlow New Town reflected the Festival of Britain style; light structures, picturesque layout and incorporation of works of art. So it was appropriate that the huge collection of public art Gibberd assembled for Harlow (to the extent that the Town is now known as a sculpture town) also included a mosaic by Piper for St Paul’s Harlow.


Mark Lewis: Drawing the Line 2

Drawing the Line 2 is an exhibition of new work by artist and Jeweller and Silversmith Mark Lewis.
This exhibition, which follows a first Drawing the Line at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design represents the current output of an ongoing drawing and mark-making project by Mark Lewis in the form of a series of weekly visual diaries. These sketchbook journals are a response to the urban and rural landscape observed on a train journey which is undertaken every week from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill (and vice versa) on the Chiltern Mainline. This attempt to build up a different form of visual intimacy with a continually changing landscape viewed in all directions began over two years ago. The project has challenged the relationship between visual perception and mark-making and encouraged new ways of seeing which are essential when working spontaneously under self-imposed pressure. 

The sketchbooks embody a series of changing seasonal narratives that attempt to establish a sense of place through immediate felt response, memory and cumulative knowledge. Each journey has prompted a different engagement with the surrounding landscape and some drawing sequences are overlaid with responses from subsequent journeys; others are worked up later from recalled fragments, while more recent series are semi-abstractions generated almost totally from memory. While the earlier books were consistently figurative in character others have given way to the use of visual metaphors capturing landscape gestures, hidden structures, energies and patterns. Mark uses a wide range of graphical media and working methods while travelling, including an iPad.

The resulting visual sequences are unedited and contain ‘visual cues’ that point to the truth of a landscape and may take on a greater reality than the actual perceived surroundings. The later minimalist approaches become a ‘distillation of realness’ suggesting that ‘less’ really is ‘more’.

Mark Lewis is a jeweller and silversmith living and working in London. He also has a longstanding interest in contemporary approaches to landscape drawing and painting. Mark was a principal lecturer at the The Cass until 2009 and presently teaches part-time at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London. Drawing has always been central to his practice and recent work has focused on gestural and mark-making approaches to create forms of visual shorthand. Mark promotes these techniques in a variety of educational contexts as methods of capturing the essence of form and structure and as a stimulus to creative thinking.

Drawing the Line 2 is at the Parker Gallery, 41/71 Commercial Road, London E1 1LA from 21st May to 6th June and opens with a Private View on the 20th May, 6pm-8pm.


Half-Handed Cloud - Tongues That Possess The Earth Instead.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Enterprise Club

Here is the latest on the Sophia Hub and its Enterprise Club. Ros Southern writes:

"Jeffery Nkrumah is our speaker on Tuesday 29th April from 2-3.15.  He has recently set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) called 'Inspired by Sports' working with young people in the area.  There is more information on the blog - please copy and paste this link:  It's worth the read!  It is best to arrive by 1.45 but please just come when you can.  Jeffery has to dash off to the Cricklefields stadium at 3.15 but we can continue to work on your business planning after he goes.

Last week we looked at a business canvas model that can work better for start-ups that the traditional business plan model. Thanks to Aidan Ward and all those that helped us work it out in a practical example.  It was great that Ash Ahmed was able to bring some young people from I Am Young and we hope to see you again this week.

Please put this date in your diaries - Sunday 25th May.  Sophia Hubs is going to run the first 'enterprise zone' at the Redbridge Green Fair and we think this will be a very good opportunity for all new start-ups and local businesses to get very practical and good marketing and promotion experience.  The Green Fair (of which I am chair!) is  I have written in the blog with a bit more information about what we will be doing.  Copy and paste this link to read more:"


Villagers - Ship Of Promises.

Spiritual Life: Resurrection

Here is my Spiritual Life column for this week's Ilford Recorder:

Death AND resurrection. Suffering AND salvation. This is the journey which Christians make, following in the footsteps of Jesus, as we travel through Lent and Easter.

While it is a journey which in no way minimises the reality and pain of suffering and bereavement, it is ultimately a journey of hope. One which leads to new life, where we proclaim that Jesus is alive and death is no longer the end.

As a result, to go on this journey, builds resilience and endurance in those who travel this way. As we look at our lives, the difficulties and challenges we might face, our Christian faith tells us that this is not the end instead change and new life are possible; indeed, that they will come.

The story of Christ’s death and resurrection takes us forward into a new life. The reality of his presence with us on the way helps us endure and persevere. The combination of the two brings hope for the future. Whatever we may experience in the here and now, ultimately Love wins.   


The Danielson Famile - Lord's Rest.

Art talks and meetings

On Sunday I will be hosting a meeting of Arts+UK at St John's Seven KingsBeat Rink, who heads up Arts+Switzerland will be guest speaker and will share how Arts+Switzerland has been established, giving insights and ideas for Arts+UK. Beat also heads up Crescendo International, an organisation for Christian musicians aiming at a professional career in the arts.

On Wednesday the Friends of Valence House will be visiting St John's to see our artworks including work by Louis B. Davis, Derek Hunt, Viki Isherwood-Metzler and Sergiy Shkanov as well as stained glass from the Kempe and Whitefriars Studios. The group are in the process of visiting each of the churches on the Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area.

This Art Trail was created for the Barking Episcopal Area by commission4mission and on Thursday 8th May I will be speaking about the work of commission4mission at the Spring Gathering of the Arts Centre Group7 – 9.30pm, Café Eterno, 34 Neal Street , Covent Garden. commission4mission encourages churches to commission contemporary art while the Arts Centre Group brings together Christians who are working professionally in the field of the arts.


Ike Sturm - Stillness.

An Artist and the Saint: Manzù and Roncalli

Angelo Roncalli turned 'his four and a half year pontificate into one of the most important of the 20th century and earned legions of admirers as the down-to-earth "Good Pope John".'

The Guardian reports that, 'On Sunday, before a crowd of hundreds of thousands in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis is to canonise this popular Italian pontiff alongside John Paul II, recognising them both as saints.'

'Often described simply as Il Papa Buona, the friendly pontiff who went walking around Rome and endeared himself to ordinary people in much the same way as Francis today, John XXIII is regarded by his admirers as one of the most courageous and important popes in history. Roncalli, who had spent much of his career as a Vatican diplomat in countries including Bulgaria, Turkey and France, called the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1962 and died less than a year later. But the process of change he set in motion outlived him, proving key to the church's ability to retain a degree of relevance in the modern age.'

In a piece of serendipity I am currently reading An Artist and the Pope by Curtis Bill Pepper. The artist and Pope in question 'both came from Bergamo in Italy but there the affinity seemed to halt, for one was the beloved Pope John XXIII and the other was a Communist bereft of his religious faith was the famous sculptor Giacomo Manzù. Yet Pope John, discerning the man beyond the atheist, commissioned Manzù to make his portrait bust, and despite all the artist's misgivings, there developed between them a warm and deeply significant friendship which drove Manzù to achieve the remarkable bronze Doors of Death for St. Peter's in Rome - the first new doors for the cathedral for 500 years.'

The door 'has large modelled panels that depict the deaths of Mary and Christ, as well as lesser panels that show the deaths of saints and ordinary people.  Vatican officials were wary of Manzù’s communist politics and criticized his refusal to temper his unflinching depiction of death and human suffering with a more spiritual theme. Particularly shocking was his depiction of a cardinal looking at a man being crucified up side-down, a reference to the execution of fascists after WWII.'

Commissioning Manzù is an example of the policy advocated in France by Marie-Alain Couturier and Pie-Raymond Régamey and in Austria by Otto Mauer of seeking to revive Christian art by appealing to the independent masters of the time. The book is a fascinating expose of the difficulties encountered, even at the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church and despite the significant support of Pope John, Don Giuseppe de Luca and Monsignor Loris Capovilla, in pursuing this policy.


Sixpence None The Richer - Amazing Grace.

Josep Maria Subirachs RIP

The sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, who has died aged 87, is mainly associated with his controversial sculptures for the Passion Facade of Antoni Gaudí's famous Sagrada Família cathedral in Barcelona.

The Guardian's obituary states that he "recovered the human figure in the mid-1960s and developed his mature expressionist style of rough-surfaced, sharp-angled and anguished figures, such as can be seen in the Passion Facade" of the Sagrada Familia.

"Not counting the Passion Facade, he has an extraordinary 70 sculptures in Barcelona's public spaces." I saw some of these works last year, including the Monument to Macià (1991) in Barcelona's central square, the Plaça de Catalunya: "The truncated, upside-down staircase suggests the unfinished construction of Catalonia, while the solid chunks of travertine stone express the solidity of the stateless nation's foundations. Tiny writing on the history of Catalonia and on the life of Francesc Macià, the region's first modern president, covers the blocks of stone."


Barcelona - Please Don't Go.

Christian Aid Week - coming soon!

For a growing number of people across the world, the horror of war is part of daily life. War tears lives apart. You can help put them back together. Christian Aid Week 2014 is an opportunity to give people a future without fear.
Tales of people from Colombia, South Sudan and Iraq feature in this year's appeal and bring to life some of the fantastic work we are supporting through Christian Aid.

The good news is that individuals, communities and churches like St John’s can make a real difference this Christian Aid Week. Last year, a magnificent 20,000 churches across the country helped raise £12m for Christian Aid Week. Thanks to our efforts and those of the other 19,999 churches involved, many more people can look forward to a future free from poverty.

You can make a real difference. That is the message when it comes to so much of church life. God says, ‘I made you with gifts and talents and what to empower you by my Spirit to use them to make a real difference.’ The Church says, ‘We need a new flowering of lay ministry in order to be a Transforming Presence in our parishes.’ Christian Aid says we can make a real difference to the lives of those in poverty around our world. In our Sophia Hub we train people to develop ideas and skills that will make a real difference in our local community. Many of you have for many years been making a real difference locally through your work (paid and voluntary) in particular through care for the elderly or homeless.

At our APCM I highlighted the fact that people who have joined St John’s in the last seven years are getting actively involved in our mission and ministry: on the PCC; among our Sunday School and Youth Group leaders; in our Mission Weekend planning group; on our All-Age Service planning group; assisting with our finances; servers and sidespeople; and assisting in the office.

This is a real encouragement. My sabbatical provides a further opportunity to see this in practice as (in addition to those clergy who will come and lead services) many of you will play your part in continuing the mission and ministry of St John’s during the time when I am away.

Sabbaticals, like interregnums, can be an opportunity for all to see that the Church is actually the whole people of God actively working together. As Christian Aid emphasise during Christian Aid, you can make a real difference.


The Cars - Drive.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sacred Steel: African-American Holiness-Pentecostal churches

In the House of God churches, members of the congregation began playing sacred music on the electric steel guitar in the late 1930s. Today, the tradition flourishes and its premier figures include Robert Randolph, Chuck and Darick Campbell, Willie Eason, Sonny Treadway, Aubrey Ghent, Calvin Cooke, The Lee Boys, Glenn Lee, Elton Noble, Ted Beard, Josh Taylor, Footie Covington, and Henry Nelson.

In his book, Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar TraditionRobert L. Stone follows the sound of steel guitar into the music-driven Pentecostal worship of two related churches: the House of God and the Church of the Living God. A rare outsider who has gained the trust of members and musicians inside the church, Stone uses nearly two decades of research, interviews, and fieldwork to tell the story of a vibrant musical tradition that straddles sacred and secular contexts.
Most often identified with country and western bands, steel guitar is almost unheard of in African American churches - except for the House of God and the Church of the Living God, where it has been part of worship since the 1930s. Sacred Steel traces the tradition through four generations of musicians and in some two hundred churches extending across the country from Florida to California, Michigan to Alabama. Presenting detailed portraits of musical pioneers such as brothers Troman and Willie Eason and contemporary masters such as Chuck Campbell, Glenn Lee, and Robert Randolph, Stone expertly outlines the fundamental tensions between sacred steel musicians and church hierarchy.
In this thorough analysis of the tradition, Stone explores the function of the music in church meetings and its effect on the congregations. He also examines recent developments such as the growing number of female performers, the commercial appeal of the music, and younger musicians' controversial move of the music from the church to secular contexts.


The Campbell Brothers - Morning Train.

Orthodoxy and music

Orthodoxy, Music , Politics and Art in Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe was a conference and festival organized by the Centre for Russian Music and the Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Department of Orthodox Theology, University of Eastern Finland in the Great Hall, Goldsmiths, University of London during March 2013.

The abstracts from the conference programme give an indication of the range of engagements which exist between Orthodoxy and modern or contemporary music.

Elena Artamonova spoke about the relationship between Sergei Vasilenko and the Old Believers:

‘Vasilenko has been perceived as a conformist and inconsequential Soviet composer in post-Soviet Russia. The recent discoveries of unpublished documents reveal Vasilenko to be a talented musician whose search for a niche within the culture of Soviet music forced him to keep his true musical writings secret from the public in the drawer of his desk.

Chant as an element of musical vocabulary and as a symbolic depiction of faith played an important role in his artistic expression. Vasilenko undertook a diligent practical and scholarly research on the Old Believers’ chant, znamennyi raspev, studied the kriuki notation and attended the Old Believers’ liturgies in Moscow, which were forbidden for outsiders and kept in strict confidence in spite of severe persecution. Vasilenko’s first major composition, a cantata the Legend of the Great City of Kitezh and the Quiet Lake Svetoyar op. 5 written in 1902, was composed using the authentic tunes of the Old Believers and schismatic legends from the Volga region. This work anticipated Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov’s opera on the same subject.

Vasilenko strongly linked the ascetic simplicity and plainness of the monodic tunes of the Old Believers with the ancient icons and the paintings of a devout Russian Orthodox artist, Mikhail Nesterov. The visual and narrative aspects of his work depicted an irrational mystic world that was in harmony with Vasilenko’s musical aspirations.’

Boris Belge highlighted religious expression in the work of Sofia Gubaidulina:

‘Sofia Gubaidulina (*1932) is widely considered one of the most "religious" composers of the former Soviet Union. In fact, she believed in God since her youth. Due to this religiosity, she could not but include religious material and ideas in to her musical work. Socialized in the days of Khrushchev’s antireligious campaigns and a widespread disinterest in religion in Soviet society, her religious conviction seems to be something exceptional.’

Belge discussed Gubaidulina’s musical spirituality by analysing some of her works written in Soviet times (Offertorium, Seven Words) and by discussing questions of continuity or discontinuity in Gubaidulina’s spirituality in the Brezhnev era, as well as Perestroika, and postcommunist times.

Predrag Djokovic explored Sacred Music In The Musical Life Of Serbia In The Time Of Communism:

‘In order to understand the status of sacred music in communist Serbia, it is necessary to explain the attitude of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia towards religion between 1945 and 1990. This country treated religion as "the opium for the people" and had a negative approach to the different Christian denominations, especially to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Since the religious communities were, as well as all their activities in that period, on the margins of social, and particularly public life, sacred music was very little, if at all, present in the concert halls. Although this attitude was common throughout the communist Yugoslavia, in predominantly Roman Catholic Croatia and Slovenia situation was different to some extent. In the Orthodox Serbia, the communists completely abandoned traditional cultural values. In the course of almost 50 years, spiritual, a cappella choir music, which was a significant part of the cultural identity of the Orthodox Serbs, could not be heard publicly at all. Many pre-WW2 church choirs transformed under the influence of the militant atheism, while new, city choirs performed partisan songs glorifying the communist sacrifices and their struggle in creating the new society. However, contrary to the lack of the Orthodox Church music, in the same period in Serbia, the Catholic and Protestant church music was performed from time to time. This deliberate neglect of the Orthodox music in the musical life of Serbia lasted until 1980s. As a consequence of the weakening of the communist regime and its ideology, the status of the sacred music improved in public. One of the turning points was the celebration of the 125 years of Mokranjac’s birth. In 1981, the Radio Television Belgrade Choir performed and recorded the greatest Serbian composer Stevan Mokranjac’s most important spiritual works – The Liturgy and The Funeral Service (Requiem).’

Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds spoke about Galina Ustvolskaya’s unexpected avenue to the Znamenny tradition through the works of Igor Stravinsky:

‘As one of the most important composers to arise in Soviet Russia, Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) opened new dimensions for Russian music by cultivating an original style in the midst of cultural and political calamity. Her indignant protests that she was ‘in isolation by choice and by geopolitical circumstance’ were reinforced by her vigorous rejection of many conventional genres and traditions and the development of her own, uncompromising voice. This paper will begin with a review of the conspicuous inclusion of characteristics of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Znamenny Raspev in her work, an approach that provided a route through which her extreme musical language could progress, and her spirituality could be explored, amidst the restrictions imposed in twentieth-century Russia.

Yet Ustvolskaya was not the first composer to be fascinated by the spiritual and cultural implications of this Orthodox chant, and to spot the possibilities its musical vocabulary presented. The thriving folk tradition of the chant, its reference to an ancient - more spiritual - Russia, along with its Modernist potential, had also made it a very attractive musical vocabulary to Stravinsky (1882-1971) half a century beforehand in an entirely different political context.’

Julija Jonane discussed the appearance of Russian Orthodox genres and composers in the revival of Latvian Sacred Music:

‘Latvia is a multi-religious country where the most prevalent are three Christian Confessions:

- Evangelical Lutheran
- Roman Catholic
- Russian Orthodox.

Although Russian Orthodoxy in Latvia has an old and rich history, Orthodox traditions in musical compositions of the Latvian music history became incorporated much later, only at the end of 20th century. As Latvia regained independence (1980s and 1990s), the traditional churches also re-established themselves. At the same time, Latvian music culture was hit by the wave of the spirituality and religious music become even fashionable. Composers became interested in music genres of the old and established religions (Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox), such as masses, liturgies, hymns, vespers, sacred concerts, etc.

Nowadays, at the beginning of 21st, century, we have composers who are truly dedicated to sacred music and consider it to be their calling. Among them the following three are of the particular importance:

1) Jurijs Glagolevs’s/Yuriy Glagolyev’s (born in 1926) predecessors were known Orthodox priests and church choir conductors. He created sacred compositions for performance mainly in church ceremonies.

2) Musical settings by Andrejs Selickis/Andrey Selickiy (born in 1960) are also inspired by his work as a singer and choir conductor of various Russian Orthodox churches in Riga. However, often the composer’s sacred oeuvre rises above the traditions and canons of his religious denomination – towards Christian ideas in a more general sense.

3) The third composer who writes music according to the Russian Orthodox traditions is Georgs Pelecis/Georg Pelecis (born in 1926). Although he is not directly involved in church activities, his compositions are inspired by his faith. Five oratorios by him are considered to be an important contribution to Latvian sacred music history as well as intersecting with Russian Orthodox genres. The oratorio God is Love (2001) was specially composed as a dedication to Russian Orthodoxy in Latvia within the framework of the 800th Jubilee of Riga. This work, described by the author himself as "an ecumenical concert", combines the Latvian and Russian languages, thus symbolically reflecting the interaction of two different cultures.’

Ivana Medic highlighted Serbian piano music inspired by the Orthodox tradition:

‘One of the most interesting strands of Serbian musical modernism that emerged in the decades after the World War Two was an idiosyncratic intertwining of the various neo- styles (neoclassicism, neoexpressionism etc.) with Orthodox tradition. This trend was distinguished by the nostalgic/poeticised relation towards the distant past (in particular, the idealised Middle Ages), and the aim to revive the "archaic" by using contemporary (including avant-garde) artistic means. This style has proved to be extremely vital and, with some modifications, it has survived to this day.’

She discussed piano music by several Serbian composers (Vasilije Mokranjac, Svetislav Božic, Miroslav Savic, et al.) who found inspiration in the Orthodox tradition. ‘While some of them use verbatim quotations of church chants and work them into the pieces, others opt for a less direct approach, where the church music is only simulated (and often supported by the onomatopoeia of ubiquitous bells).’

Gregory Myers shared thoughts on Nikolai Korndorf’s 1978 Setting of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy:

‘A work that has only recently appeared on the composer’s work list, and a composition best defined as written for the drawer, Nikolai Korndorf’s setting of the Orthodox Liturgy is an early work dating from 1978; this is music composed at the pre-dawn of a new era. The decade of the 1970s marked the beginning of Russia’s spiritual awakening; the allure of the Russian Orthodoxy crossed generations drawing many to and back into its fold, as if they were saying ‘this was once ours and let us reclaim it to make us whole’. Korndorf’s compositional approach appears to draw on earlier traditions that antedate and therefore bypass traditional 19th-century Russian sacred music trends. The composer recasts, reconnects and succeeds in re-establishing that long lost organic relationship between canonical texts and music.’

Tara Wilson argued that for Vladimir Martynov Russian Orthodoxy was a cultural and compositional aesthetic:

‘Vladimir Martynov (b. 1946) is one of Russia’s leading contemporary composers, noted for his long-term employment of minimalist techniques, as well as for his cultural and compositional manifesto, entitled ‘The End of the Composers’ Time’ (1996). Regarded as a polymath, with specialisms in Russian Orthodoxy, sacred choral music, Eastern and Western Philosophy and post-structural theory, Martynov advocates that contemporary compositional language should function as a form of ‘bricolage’; as a commentary on past cultures and musics, both secular and sacred, while connecting these to the present day. Directly influenced by Russian Orthodoxy as a doctrine, as form of ritual and as a source of archaic musical vocabulary, Martynov makes the connections between chant and Minimalism, while constructing what he terms a ‘New Sacral Space: a new type of performance ritual that aims to engender meditative contemplation within a postmodernist context.’

Tatiana Soloviova considered Stepan Smolensky and the Renaissance of Sacred Music in Russia:

‘To understand Russian sacred music, it is crucial to investigate its history. One of the most important in the history of sacred music in Russia was its renaissance, which took place at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. After a long period of being a marginalized area subdued by foreign domination, Russian sacred music was at that time returning to its roots, ancient chants becoming an element of the vanguard of music creativity in Russia, and the subject of admiration for foreigners. This renaissance included several simultaneous trends: historical research, composing, performing, educational issues and also public debates. For the first time in Russian history, sacred music was being discussed in leading newspapers!

A remarkable role in this renaissance was played by Stepan Smolensky (1848-1909), little known to Russians, let alone the English public. His pioneering research into medieval sacred chants, his teaching and composing were not only germane to the renaissance, but also its essential ingredient. During this directorship the Moscow Synodal School became a first class educational institution and its Choir was hailed by Europeans as an outstanding phenomenon. Smolensk greatly influenced Kastalsky, Rachmaninoff, Grechaninov and others: thanks to his guidance many masterpieces were created (it is to him that Rachmaninoff dedicated his "All-Night Vigil"). The so called New Direction in sacred music started and led by Smolensky represents one of the most glorious pages in cultural history of Russia. Discussions of that time are both relevant and enlightening for those interested in sacred music nowadays.’

Tanya Sirotina discussed the poetic theatre of Vladimir Rubin:

‘Born in 1924, Rubin served in the Red Army during the Second World War. Since the 1950s he has been active as a composer, living his philosophical and religious convictions in the medium of art. He survived the fall of the Soviet empire and the emotional turmoil, and witnessed the ensuing disruption of human souls that arose within this period.

A patriarch of the contemporary Russian compositional school who continues the line of Russian musical tradition, he took lessons from Vakhrameyev as a child, and was later a student of Goldenveyzer (1949, piano, Moscow conservatoire). Personally acquainted with Shostakovich and Sviridov, in his art he pursued the idea of poetic theatre and maintained the revival of the sacred word in his operas, choral and film music.’

In an interesting deviation from the main theme Arnold McMillin explored the reflection of religion in Modern Belarusian Literature:

‘Belarus was dominated by its neighbours from the mid-17th century onwards, and its history has taught it to be tolerant to the point of passivity, albeit not in religion where for centuries Belarusians have striven to retain their religious identity, despite opposition from within and without the country.
Poland and Russia attempted to impose Catholicism and Orthodoxy, respectively, but Uniate beliefs remained, and have been adopted by many contemporary writers.

In the 1920s in Western Belarus several clerical poets, whilst preaching the Catholic faith, defied the government by espousing nationalist ideas. Many such ‘bourgeois priests’ were to suffer murder and exile.

During most of Stalin’s time religion was banned in Belarus. Since the collapse of Communism, however, it became a prominent theme in literature, especially poetry. In the 1910s and following decades, a number of writers had written about the pull of Russia on the one hand and Poland on the other, leaving Belarus in the middle, trying to remain politically and spiritually independent. This theme has was taken up again by several prominent contemporary poets

Religious controversy, never far away, also entered scholarship, through falsification of the name of the enlightenment figure of Francis Skaryna.

Contemporary Belarusian literature contains myriad responses to God, from pious verses to angry challenges, particularly following the Chernobyl disaster. Notable are many lively dialogues with the Deity, who often seems to be rural and local, offering protection from the world around.’


Galina Ustvolskaya - Symphony No. 5 Amen.

Windows on the world (290)

Barcelona, 2013


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lent, Holy Week and Easter at St John's

Children from Downshall Primary School came to St John's Seven Kings to learn more about Easter. They took part in seven Easter Activity Stations which enabled them to learn about the Easter story and reflect on what the story says to them. This year's Easter Activity Stations involved, among other activities, tasting vinegar and chocolate, washing hands, placing rocks in water and making foil crosses. The Easter Activity Stations taught, among other stories, about the Last Supper, the trial of Jesus, carrying the cross, Jesus' death and resurrection. These activity Stations were also used at All Saints Goodmayes this year and for our own Good Friday Children's Activity Morning.

Brambles the donkey led our Palm Sunday procession from St Paul's Goodmayes to St John's. The service and procession was attended by more than 100 people. From St Paul's the procession went to Westwood Recreation Ground where palm crosses were blessed and the Gospel was read. From there the procession continued along Meads Lane to St John's Seven Kings where the service concluded with Communion. Along the way, the congregation of Seven Kings United Free Church left their service to greet the procession with waved palms, banners and instruments.

The Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches celebrated the learning done together as part of this year's Lent Course - 'Build on the Rock: Faith, doubt and Jesus' at a Lent Service hosted by Seven Kings United Free Church. Among feedback from each of the three groups that studied the Course was the following:

  • "We had some very deep discussions. Our discussion about death was particularly interesting, thoughtful and deep."
  • "I appreciated thinking about Jesus as 'friend' and 'brother'. This was a new way of thinking. I had to stop and think about what we are really saying when we call Jesus our 'brother'."
  • "Asking why God leads us to pray was thought-provoking and important for me."
  • "You think you're not that good as a Christian but to then hear that we all struggle with doubt, it makes you realise that you're not odd."  
On Maundy Thursday we appreciated a reflective Communion service with footwashing where Jean Richards, our Reader, spoke about the background to Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17. Our Good Friday Devotional Service featured dramatic monologues written by Rev. Alan Stewart giving perspectives on Christ's Passion from Judas, Pilate, Mary, a Soldier and Peter. Our Service Sheet included two images of the Passion by Worthing-based artist Jonathan Peter Smith ( In between came our Good Friday Children's Activity morning with Easter crafts including: Easter snow globes, Easter cards, Easter plates, Easter gardens, Easter cakes and more.

Easter Day included a Sunrise Service followed by breakfast which began, as did our All-Age Communion Service, with the rolling away of the stone from the empty tomb. During this Service I said, 'The story of Christ’s death and resurrection takes us forward into a new life. The reality of his presence with us on the way helps us endure and persevere. The combination of the two brings hope for the future because whatever we may experience in the here and now, ultimately Love wins. That is what has made sense for millions of Christians over the centuries since that first Easter Day. May we also know Christ’s resurrection not only making sense for us but also making sense of our lives too.' 

Our Easter Day ended with the baptisms of four children from a local family. There, I said, 'As we celebrate these baptisms today, may we realise afresh the way that our deepest needs - for love and significance – are fully met through baptism into the family of God. Who are we? We are the beloved sons and daughters of our Father God. Why are we here? To use our God-given abilities to do work for God that only we can do.'  

Scott Stapp - What Would Love Do?