Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

'Gift' exhibition reception

Tonight we held a well-attended opening night reception for the ‘Gift’ exhibition.

I said: 'Welcome to St Stephen Walbrook and welcome to ‘Gift’, commission4mission’s third exhibition here in the stunning blend of old and new art and architecture to be found at St Stephen Walbrook which draws significant numbers of tourists and other visitors year in and year out. The reordering of the church undertaken in the 1980s sensitively introduced significant examples of modern art (altar by Henry Moore and kneelers by Patrick Heron) within this Wren masterpiece, which also contains significant woodwork and carving by William Newman.

Newman’s dark wood panelling provides a dramatic backdrop to the regular programme of contemporary art exhibitions that the church will now host. For these, we partner with either established art societies (such as the National Society of Painters, Sculptors & Printmakers or the Society of Catholic Artists) or artists with an interest in St Stephen Walbrook and our spirituality. In 2016 our programme will feature solo shows by the stuckist artist Joe Machine, artist-priest Alan Everett, Brazilian artist Kim Poor, and group shows by the National Society and commission4mission.

commission4mission’s ‘Gift’ exhibition anticipates the traditional season of giving associated with the Christian festival of Christmas, but is intended as a broad theme open to wider interpretation. Our artists showcase their individual engagements with this theme and so, while, as you view the exhibition you will certainly see images exploring the giving involved Christ’s incarnation and crucifixion, you will also see a wide range of other interpretations of our theme including reflections on gifts such faith, reflection, choice, hindsight, creativity, intercession, identity and revelation, together with meditations on our abuse as humans of the gifts we have been given. We hope that the range and variety of work, both in terms of content and media, will give pleasure and prompt reflection.

commission4mission seeks to encourage churches to commission contemporary art and Rob Floyd is one of our artists who has experienced particularly significant opportunities in making the Stations of the Cross cycle for Manchester Cathedral and Stations of the Resurrection cycle for Liverpool Cathedral. We have therefore invited him to reflect on those experiences and opportunities with us today. Rev. Rachel Mann, Poet in Residence at Manchester Cathedral has said, “I heartily recommend that if you want to understand a little more about the applications of the word ‘Art’ in our language, spend time in communion with Rob Floyd’s paintings. You will be rewarded.” We will, I am sure, be similarly rewarded by what Rob has to share with us tonight.'

Rob reflected on his experiences and opportunities emphasising the importance of holding face-to-face discussions with churches and cathedrals about exhibition and commission opportunities. He spoke too about the energy and pressures of large series of works together with the sense that works taken on a life of their own once displayed. His cycle of Stations of the Resurrection are due for completion by Easter 2016 and three works from this series are included in the ‘Gift’ exhibition.


Bruce Cockburn - Gifts.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Society has largely lost the ability to talk about religion and belief in public discourse

There is an excellent article in today's Observer from Stephen Pritchard on levels of faith literacy in the media:

'“The media’s coverage of religion is a bit like covering football from the point of view of hooliganism and never really watching the game,” said Michael Wakelin, former head of religion and ethics at the BBC, at a fascinating, though occasionally depressing day of discussion held in London recently on Islam and its treatment in British broadcasting and newspapers. After years of conflict in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Muslims in Britain feel that they are too often associated with the crimes of extremists while too little attention is paid to the positive contribution they make to civic life or to the peaceful aims of their faith.

Understanding that faith – and indeed all faiths – is an urgent priority, said Wakelin, quoting Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmiths University of London: “Billions of people around the world remain religious, despite the assumptions of secularity. Millions are in Britain, Europe and the west. After decades in which we have barely talked about religion and belief in public discourse, society has largely lost the ability to do so. Diversity, global trade and extremism make it pressing to do so now.”

Wakelin maintained that a generation of neglect, with education failing the religious curriculum, the major religions failing to engage with the wider public – and the media not understanding religion and therefore keeping it at arms’ length – had resulted in a society that lacked the confidence to deal with religious subjects and religious people.

Inspired by the success of the Science Media Centre in transforming the way science is reported, he is now involved in setting up a religion media centre. “We do not want to promote religion or even say that it is a good thing, but we are wanting to have a recognition that it matters and therefore it needs to be reported, discussed and examined with knowledge, fairness and respect.'

Earlier in the week Jonathan Freedland addressed this same issue in relation to society in general:

'Whatever else the seers of the past, the Aldous Huxleys, Jules Vernes and HG Wellses, imagined for the 21st century, it wasn’t ... that in 2015 we would still be in thrall to the stories we’d told one another for two millennia. And yet here we are ... a recurring theme of our era is the persistence of the ancient faiths.

It was not just the sci-fi writers who assumed we’d be over this by now. Most believers in science and progress took it as read that we would put aside such fairytales as we reached a higher stage of evolution. There would be no room in the space age for the sand and dust of the biblical past. What’s more, true progressives would want to hasten the banishment of religion from the public sphere, taking its superstitions, its fear-fuelled strictures about sex and its out-dated patriarchal attitudes with it.

But this has proved a double mistake. It’s failed as both description and prescription. On the former, its prediction of the future proved wrong: faith is still here, apparently stronger than ever. For that reason alone, for the role it plays in shaping our world, religion has to be taken seriously – more seriously than Dawkins-ite atheists, who dismiss it with talk of “fairies at the bottom of the garden” or “sky-pixies” will allow.'


Arvo Pärt - Credo.

Held in the divine memory

Here is the piece I wrote for this week's parish newsletter at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

During the recent Living with Dementia evening at St Martin-in-the-Fields several people expressed the hope that has been articulated well by scientist and priest, John Polkinghorne, that "the immensely complex ‘information-bearing pattern’ (memories, character, etc) carried at any one time by the matter of my body ... is the soul and, though it will dissolve with the decay of my body, it is a perfectly sensible hope that the faithful God will not allow it to be lost but will preserve it in the divine memory in order to restore its embodiment in the great divine act of resurrection."

I was reminded by this of the parables Jesus told in which a sheep, a coin and a son, respectively, are lost. Each story ends with rejoicing over the finding again of that which was lost. These stories hold out the possibility that, in God, nothing is lost. Certainly, the importance to Jesus of that which was lost being found is emphasised by his choosing to tell three different stories on this same theme.

In the context of a condition like dementia in which memory is progressively lost, it could be a source of some hope that nothing is lost and that all we are and have been is held in the divine memory. If we are, in some sense, as Psalm 139 suggests, fearfully and wonderfully made by being formed or knit together by God in our mother’s womb; if our frame is not hidden from God when we were being made in secret, if God’s eyes beheld our unformed substance, and if all the days that have been formed for us were written in God’s book when none of them as yet existed, then it would follow beautifully and logically that those memories and knowledge would be retained in the divine memory for eternity. Maybe, as the saying goes, nothing lasts but nothing is lost.


Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends Theme.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Windows on the world (359)

Greenwich, 2015


The Welcome Wagon - The Strife Is O'er.

'Gift' exhibition - first view

commission4mission’s third exhibition in the setting of St Stephen Walbrook was hung today.

The exhibition, which is entitled ‘Gift’, anticipates the traditional season of giving associated with the Christian festival of Christmas, but is intended as a broad theme open to wider interpretation. commission4mission artists taking part showcase their individual engagements with the theme.

Artists exhibiting are Ally Ashworth, Beverley Barr, Hayley Bowen, Harvey Bradley, Victoria Burton-Davey, Christopher Clack, Valerie Dean, Jonathan Evens, Rob Floyd, Maurizio Galia, John Gentry, Clorinda Goodman,Tim Harrold, Alan Hitching, Anthony Hodgson, Jean Lamb, Mark Lewis, David Millidge,Janet Roberts, Henry Shelton, Sergiy Shkanov and Peter Webb. The work includes assemblages, ceramics, an installation, mosaics, paintings and sculptures. In addition to much of the exhibited work, a range of artist cards (including commission4mission’s Christmas cards) and other craft items are also for sale.

Anita Collier is showing work in the ‘Gift’ exhibition as a guest artist. The work she is showing includes her ‘The Gift’ sculpture as a bronze.

A gift of 10 per cent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the charity Oasis. commission4mission has made Oasis their charity of choice meaning that charitable giving will be exclusively to Oasis for the time being.

The exhibition is open from Monday 28th September to Friday 8th October (10.00am – 4.00pm, Monday – Friday).

The launch and evening reception will be held on 28th September (6.30pm), preceded by their AGM (5.30pm). All are welcome.

During the launch and evening reception, Rob Floyd will speak about making the Stations of the Cross cycle for Manchester Cathedral and Stations of the Resurrection cycle for Liverpool Cathedral. Rev. Rachel Mann, Poet in Residence at Manchester Cathedral says, “I heartily recommend that if you want to understand a little more about the applications of the word ‘Art’ in our language, spend time in communion with Rob Floyd’s paintings. You will be rewarded.”


Belle & Sebastian - If You Find Yourself Caught in Love.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:
'Hi there - news from Redbridge Sophia Hub!

Enterprise club this Tuesday lunchtime - we have a business MOT session with Nnenna Anyanwu - experienced business coach.

We had a great enterprise club session with Ola Asgill this week (write up next week)- here's the report about the fab session with Fiona Flaherty previous week.

Here's the photos, videos and info on a very successful skills swap last Saturday - the NCS young people are doing some promotion tomorrow in Ilford Town Centre.

Guest bloggers this week - Trevor Quinton on T4T (a trading Charity) and its new gardening service for residents and Brenda Maguire on her new business following her passion for funky painting and decorating

It's the Redbridge Chambers breakfast on Tuesday. There's a contingent going from Sophia Hubs - start-ups are welcome. Very good networking opportunity. Info here.

It's Social Saturday on 10th October - have you ideas for how we can promote social enterprises in Redbridge. Click here for info.

There are two stalls opportunities - therapy, green and crafts at Forest Farm Peace Garden, crafts and Christmassy gifts at a Christmas Indie pop up market in Chadwell Heath.

HMRC have a very useful website - info here

And don't forget the Redbridge Business Hub launch on 7th October - info here

Hope to see lots of you on Tuesday morning and Tuesday lunchtime!

Best wishes,

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Redbridge
E: M 07707 460309 / 0208 590 2568 (answer phone)
T: @sophiahubs7k F: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings (please follow us and Like us!)'

Start:Stop - Revealing meaning and purpose

Bible reading

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. (Mark 8. 1 – 10a)


The feeding of the four thousand is a story of Jesus meeting the basic needs of the people with him but is also a story about that action having a deeper level of meaning and significance. We can see this if we think for a moment about the outline of this story and the extent to which it reminds us of another story. A group of Israelites are in the wilderness and are hungry because they have too little to eat. In response God provides them with bread to eat. That is the outline of the feeding of the four thousand but it is also, in essence, the story of God providing manna in the wilderness to the Israelites when Moses led them from Egypt to the Promised Land. The similarity is deliberate, whether on the part of Jesus or Mark, because through this action Jesus is seen as the new Moses for the people of Israel.

Following the parallels between these two stories through means that the people of Israel are to be seen as being in slavery once again – whether that meant the political oppression of their Roman conquerors or, as St Paul suggests, under the bondage of sin. The Exodus – the salvation of the people of Israel - began with the death of firstborn sons and, in the story of Jesus, our salvation comes through the death of God’s only Son. Jesus leads his people through water – in the original Exodus that was the path through the Red Sea, but, for Jesus’ followers, it is the rite of baptism. They go on a journey through the wilderness – where, as we have seen, they are fed and provided for – and end their journey when they enter the Promised Land – which Jesus spoke about as being the kingdom of God that he initiated but which is still to come in full.

God is also at work in our lives to bring and to reveal meaning, purpose, shape and significance to our lives too, if we are alert to this deeper level of life and our not solely focused on the meeting of our basic needs. We all have a need and a desire for there to be more to our lives than simply the survival of the fittest; the scramble to meet our basic needs. Your life is not simply about having enough to survive; the meeting of your basic needs. God wants you to see a deeper level of meaning, significance, shape and purpose to your life. Are you open to see the meaning and significance that he brings or does a focus of getting prevent you from seeing and receiving what he is already giving?


Lord God, we recognise the need and desire we have for there to be more to our lives than simply the scramble to meet our basic needs but also acknowledge that our basic needs do need to be met before we give our full attention to our higher needs. We ask, therefore, that as you met the basic needs of the four thousand, so our basic needs will be met in order that we give attention to our need for meaning and significance.

Inspire us to seek meaning and shape within our lives. Help us recognise the significance and purpose that you bring.

Reveal and bring meaning, purpose, shape and significance to our lives. Keep us alert to this deeper level of life and not solely focused on the meeting of our basic needs. Ensure that a focus of getting will not prevent us from seeing and receiving what you are already giving to us.

Inspire us to seek meaning and shape within our lives. Help us recognise the significance and purpose that you bring.

We recognise that when we are in genuine need and poverty, it is very difficult to think about anything else other than survival. Develop in us a compassion, like that of Jesus, which sees the needs of those whose basic needs are not being met and responds to by sharing at least some of what we have.

Inspire us to seek meaning and shape within our lives. Help us recognise the significance and purpose that you bring.


Revealing meaning, purpose, shape and significance, developing compassion, meeting basic needs, sharing what we have. May those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


The Moody Blues - Watching And Waiting.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

St Stephen Walbrook: Autumn Newsletter

The Autumn Newsletter for St Stephen Walbrook is available by clicking here and features information about new curate Revd Sally Muggeridge, feedback on our Discover & explore and Start:Stop initiatives, news of a programme of events focusing on Philanthropy in the City, details of our Business Harvest Festival, and news of our art and music programmes.

This year’s Business Harvest Festival takes place at St Stephen Walbrook on Wednesday September 30th at 1pm, and will be followed by a Reception.

Traditionally harvest is a time when the country gives thanks for the natural gifts of the land and the safe harvesting of them. We give thanks for that, but in the City of London we also take the opportunity of bringing to the altar symbols of the work we do in our City. It might be hospitality, accounts, commodities, money, building, the wine trade or any of the variety of businesses associated with the wider family of St Stephen Walbrook. By tradition the parish has been a centre for the insurance markets, banking, hospitality, tourism and law. You could add, at this time, the building industry and property developers.

We have a tradition that companies designate someone to bring an object to represent their work and to place it on the altar as a symbol during the service. All are most welcome and we very much hope that you will include your business associates in the invitation and ask you to pass on to them our hope that they might join you for this traditional celebration of harvest with a modern slant.

This is a time of change and at such times it is encouraging to be reminded of the continuity of life and the many blessings we each receive focused on harvest time. The Business harvest includes all aspects of the wider parish of St Stephen and has representations from the City Civic as well as the City of London Police and the Friends of Walbrook.


Barclay James Harvest - Hymn.

Eric Newton - artist, art historian and critic

Eric Newton was an artist, art historian and critic. 'He became the full-time art critic for the Manchester Guardian, and after a spell at theSunday Times (1947-1951), he returned to the Guardian in 1956 and remained there until his death. He promoted the work of among others Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore, whom he counted a personal friend. His European Painting and Sculpture (1941) remained a standard text into the 60s, as did War through Artists' Eyes (1945). He was actively engaged in the renaissance in the arts that characterised the post-war years in Britain. He became a household name in Britain in the 1950s, largely through BBC radio talks and The Critics.' 

'He produced several books in addition to his newspaper and radio work and created mosaics for Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, mostly on a religious theme.' These include: St John the Baptist, RochdaleSacred Heart Church, Hillsborough; Our Lady and St Edward, RC Church, Chiswick; Honan Chapel, Cork; Royal Hospital School Chapel, Holbrook; and Saint Colmcille's Church, East Belfast. 

'He was a man of profound religious convictions' whose 'last work before his sudden death in 1965' was The Christian Faith in Art, a history of religious art and its impact on the spiritual development of Western civilisation. In this book, co-written with William Neil, he explores the centuries-long interaction between Christianity and all forms of art: “For Christian faith, unlike a jug, has no visual existence…For the artist, in such a world, only symbolism will serve.” As a result, he viewed Expressionism - 'the art of discovering a visual equivalent for the emotions' -  as the necessary term for Christian art to exist at all. In the twentieth century, it was only through Expressionism that it became possible for the artist, if he or she wished to do so, 'to tackle the unseeen or the supernatural, to work by symbol instead of description, to return, in fact, to the point where Blake had closed his eyes to the world of phenomena and drawn on his imagination to fill the gap, or where the early Pre-Raphaelites had used their eyes in order to select from what they saw only what would intensify the picture's meaning.'   

Here is an excerpt from his Meaning of Beauty, in which he explores our struggle to capture the essence of beauty:

'Beauty, let us say, is a recognisable quality; yet each person would draw up a different list of beautiful objects and give them different æsthetic indices. All that can be agreed upon is the nature of each man's reaction to his own list. In each case the sensation is not merely pleasurable, but pleasurable in the same way, and the sensation produced by objects at the top of the list is an intense one. A's list may be headed by the Sistine Madonna, while B's starts with the Blue Danube waltz - objects so dissimilar that no scientific method could possibly isolate, still less describe, the common factor which A and B would agree to call 'beauty'. And yet the sensations inspired by them have at least the common factors of pleasure and intensity. What kind of pleasure? And why so intense? Reasonable questions surely, yet the philosopher who attempts to answer them is playing a game of chess against desperate odds. Let him screw up his courage to move a single pawn, and he finds himself committed to a battle from which no one has yet emerged victorious. He is engaged - poor soul - in a struggle with his Creator, and his only weapons are words.'


Tribe of Judah - No One.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Holland House: Nature and art

I am currently spending the week at Holland House in Cropthorne, Worcestershire on a Diocesan training course.

'Holland House stands in three acres of beautiful gardens alongside the River Avon and is situated in the beautiful Vale of Evesham, an area with a long history of market gardening including some of the best quality apples, plums, pears and, of course, the famous ‘grass’ (asparagus). Since 1946 it has been a Retreat House, offering opportunities for individual and group, day and residential retreats as well as providing a place for a variety of groups to meet and share in discussion and other activities.'

'Holland House boldly states that it seeks to be “in harmony with creation”. This means understanding our place as individuals, groups and human beings in a creation filled with many other kinds of being.

Holland House seeks to provide the space, time and ethos that will facilitate an authentic encounter with self, the other and the Divine – whether on retreat, at a business meeting with colleagues, walking in the gardens, or sitting in quiet meditation.

Being in harmony with creation also means finding harmony with other faith traditions, and in support of this aim Holland House seeks to encourage people from other traditions to use the House and to share the treasures of their own tradition with us.

The vision for Holland House is to increasingly become a place that enables this encounter to take place, whilst remaining rooted in its Christian tradition. By positively inviting people of every faith and none to share their own encounters with the Divine, Holland House actively pursues its stated aim: to discover and promote harmony with all creation.' 'Holland House is committed to working towards a sustainable and environmentally sound future.'

Holland House is also enhanced by a variety of artworks displayed around the building. Work on show includes that of Leonie Marklew Barrett, Graham Clarke and Karolina Lárusdóttir, among others.

Leonie Marklew Barrett is a Christian artist and trained Theatre and Costume Designer. She began painting images with a Christian context and message in 2005 and since has exhibited widely in the UK. Many of her pieces are displayed in places of retreat, hospices, hospitals and in private collections.

'Graham Clarke, artist, author, illustrator and humorist, is one of Britain's most popular and best-selling printmakers. He has created some five hundred images of English rural life and history, of the Bible and of the Englishman's view of Europe.'
'Karolina Lárusdóttir creates a world of her own, with imaginary people in strange situations, often floating, carrying rainbows or being visited by angels. Often Karolina's contemporary paintings contain a wry humour that enhances the surreal and timeless qualities she creates when dealing with her favourite subject - people.'


Jennifer Warnes - Song Of Bernadette.