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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Bread for the World & Les Colombes

The Opening Night for Les Colombes at St Martin-in-the-Fields was held tonight at our Bread for the World Eucharist. The service featured music from Yonatan Maimon and the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The artist, Michael Pendry, was interviewed by Katherine Hedderly and the service was followed by the opportunity to take in the sound cloud and lighting of Les Colombes. Michael Pendry has said of Les Colombes: “Folded by different people, the doves in their unity stand for such a fundamental human right. The time has come to admonish and to stand up for this – for the right to peace and freedom! So that that the flock of doves might grow, from place to place, from country to country, across all borders.”

Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Sam Wells, says that: “Like the best liturgy The Doves is about words and signs and sounds and space – and its glory is its elegant simplicity. When at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove Jesus wasn’t blown away – he was touched more deeply that words can say or eyes can perceive. That’s what this exhibition is about – and what’s more, it affirms that the Holy Spirit works through the humble hands of you and me. ”

The service reflected that focus with music including 'Breath on me, breath of God', 'Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,' 'Come, Holy Ghost,' 'Litany to the Holy Spirit,' and 'She sits like a bird.'

Everyone is also welcome to a special performance by singer/songwriter from Tel Aviv, Yonatan Maimon on Monday 5 June at 6.30pm. Yonatan’s recorded his latest album in an ancient Israeli national park and evokes traditional spirituality through a contemporary folk sound. His emotive guitar-playing will set the scene for the viewing of Les Colombes that will follow his performance.

Visitors are encouraged to create their own doves, which can made in the Foyer from Saturday 20 May – Sunday 25 June.

Our Regular opening times are:
  • Monday, Tuesday, Friday: 8.30am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-6.00pm.
  • Wednesday: 8.30am-1.15pm and 2.00pm-5.00pm
  • Thursday: 8.30am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-6.00pm
  • Saturday: 9.30am-6.00pm
  • Sunday: 3.30pm-5.00pm
Our late opening hours for Les Colombes are:
  • Wednesday, 31 May to 10.30pm
  • Thursday, 1 June from 9:30pm to 11pm
  • Thursday, 8, 15, 22 and 29 June to 11pm
  • Friday, 9, 16, 23 and 30 June from 9:30pm to 11pm

Yonatan Maimon - Kol Davar Katan.

New monthly Foyer display at St Martin-in-the-Fields

The latest initiative from the artists and craftspeoples group at St Martin-in-the-Fields is a changing display of work by the group members in the Foyer of the Crypt. Each month a different member of the group will show an example of their work, so do look regularly to see the changing display. 

In June we are showing Rosalind Beeton's Pentecostal painting entitled 'The Holy Spirit blessing'. 

The artists and craftspeoples group plan artistic contributions on the site, as part of our common life at St Martin’s.


Peter Hurford - Litany To The Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Start:Stop - Blessings found in set-backs, disappointments and difficulties

Bible reading

‘… a thorn was given me in the flesh … Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.’ (2 Corinthians 12. 7 - 10)


‘In the early 1980s, after decades of steady deterioration, writer and academic John Hull lost his sight. To help him make sense of the ensuing upheaval in his life, he began to keep an audio diary. Across three years, he created over 16 hours of material; these recordings would form a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness.’

‘Based on these original recordings and his published diaries ‘Touching the Rock’, [the film] Notes on Blindness recreates Hull’s fascinating and deeply moving experiences through an immersive hybrid of documentary, dramatic reconstruction and highly sensory cinematic techniques and sound design. Sensitive, poetic and thought-provoking, the film charts Hull’s journey through emotional turmoil and spiritual crisis to a renewed perception of the world and the discovery of ‘a world beyond sight’.’ ‘In a John Newton moment of amazing grace, an overwhelmed Hull stands among towering pillars to full organ accompaniment. He tells Marilyn of an intense feeling that God was approaching him. “It’s a gift. Not a gift I want but it is a gift. Not why I got it but what am I going to do with it?”’

‘We travel with Hull farther and farther into the world, or non-world, of blindness, until finally he comes to a point where he can no longer summon up memories of faces, of places, even memories of the light. This is the bend in the tunnel: beyond this is “deep blindness.” And yet at this deepest, darkest, most despairing point, there comes a mysterious change—no longer an agonized sense of loss, of bereftness, of hopelessness, of mourning, but a new sense of life and creativity and identity. “One must recreate one’s life or be destroyed,” Hull writes, and it is precisely re-creation, the creation of an entirely new organization and identity, which is described in the closing pages of his astonishing book. At this point, then, Hull wonders if blindness is not “a dark, paradoxical gift” and an entry—unsought … but to be received—into a new and deep form of being.’

In reflecting on the nature of that gift, John Hull said that, ‘After living with it and meditating on it for some time, I realized that blindness is not just a loss but it is one of the great human states which have characteristics of its own.’

‘My works, are, in a way, a yearning to overcome the abyss which divides blind people from sighted people. In seeking to overcome that abyss I've emphasized the uniqueness of the blind condition—blindness is a world. I've also sought to show that it's one of a number of human worlds. That sight is also a world. And that to gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people need each other.’

St Paul and John Hull challenge us to search for the gifts and blessings to be found in set-backs, disappointments and difficulties.


God of grace, you know our weaknesses and failings, and that without your help we can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, our own and others. Grant us, therefore, the help of your grace. Grant it according to our particular needs this day. Enable us to see the tasks you will set before us in the daily routine of our lives, and help us work hard at our appointed tasks. Teach us to bear patiently all the trials of suffering or failure that may come to us today. May we know your grace is sufficient for us, for power is made perfect in weakness.

Enable us to find the gifts and blessings that you share in set-backs, disappointments and difficulties.

Eternal God, Light of the nations, in Christ you make all things new: guide our nation in the coming General Election through the inspiration of your Spirit, that understanding may put an end to discord and all bitterness. Give us grace to rebuild bonds of trust that together we may work for the dignity and flourishing of all. Grant Your gifts of wisdom and compassion to those who are standing as candidates, giving them a commitment to seek the good of all people and a desire to protect people who are weak and vulnerable. Free us from all bitterness and recrimination and in all things grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference.

Enable us to find the gifts and blessings that you share in set-backs, disappointments and difficulties.

Almighty God, through your Holy Spirit you created unity in the midst of diversity; we acknowledge that human diversity is an expression of your manifold love for your creation; we confess that in our brokenness as human beings we turn diversity into a source of alienation, injustice, oppression, and wounding. Empower us to recognize and celebrate differences as your great gift to the human family. Enable us to be the architects of understanding, of respect and love.

Enable us to find the gifts and blessings that you share in set-backs, disappointments and difficulties.


May Christ, who out of defeat brings new hope and a new future, fill you with his new life; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Artlyst interview: Mark Dean projects ...

My latest article for Artlyst is an interview with Mark Dean, whose Stations of the Cross we recently hosted at St Stephen Walbrook as an all-night Vigil on Easter Eve.

In the interview Mark speaks about the elements of his work which often come together in quite surprising ways. He says:

"It does sometimes feel like it’s not just up to me – that there is an underlying relationship that I am drawing out, or noticing. And so the collaborative basis of this project feels like an extension of that process. And this is confirmed by the fact that all three of us (and of course the churches we are partnering with) have a common relation in our Christian faith, despite our quite different approaches. So without making grand claims, I would say it is the Holy Spirit that binds it all together. Actually, this goes back to the previous question about the sense of the sacred in art. The late critic Stuart Morgan once said to me that the problem with the Modernist engagement with spirituality wasn’t that it wasn’t real, but that it was somehow exclusive – as though only artists were privy to the spirituality that generated creativity. Understanding the working of the Holy Spirit throughout the world helps us to avoid that kind of elitism, which can be understood as a form of Gnosticism."

This aspect of his work is further explored by Lucy Newman Cleeve in her essay for the Stations2017 catalogue and in an interview that she gave to Elephant Magazine about the project. Stations2017 has been reviewed by Art & Christianity Journal, while the videos shown can be viewed on Mark Dean's website.


Neil Young - Cowgirl In The Sand   

Saturday, 27 May 2017

HeartEdge: Catalysing Kingdom Communities

Sam Wells spoke to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on 'Catalysing Kingdom Communities', the strapline of HeartEdge. HeartEdge is a growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields. It helps churches deepen and integrate their cultural, commercial and community reach while building association and learning with those on the edge

Click here to hear Sam explore what it means to be faith communities that welcome and include in today’s world? The Moderator of the General Assembly chairs a special session which also includes the current Scots Makar, Jackie Kay. Also listen to Sam's talk at the launch of HeartEdge by clicking here.

HeartEdge is organising useful workshops and events across the UK tailored to your priorities. The next events are:

Start:Stop seminar

Wednesday 31 May, 1 – 4pm, St Stephen Walbrook. Learn about the genesis of Start:Stop (10-minute work-based reflections for people on their way to work) together with Revd Jonathan Evens, Associate Vicar Partnership, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Priest-in-charge, St Stephen Walbrook.

An opportunity to discuss:
  • growing a new congregation;
  • engaging with working people;
  • ministering in the workplace;
  • communicating with busy people.

Great Sacred Music seminar 

Thursday 8 June, 12.50 – 4pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Learn about the genesis of Great Sacred Music (a 35-minute lunchtime sequence of words and music speaking to heart, head and soul) together with Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Andrew Earis, Director of Music, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

An opportunity to discuss:
  • growing a new congregation; 
  • engaging with music lovers; 
  • using music in mission; 
  • sharing faith insights with secular audiences.
Both seminars are free to HeartEdge members, £10 for others. Register with Revd Jonathan Evens at or 020 7766 1127.

At the Heart – On the Edge will explore mission by doing theology, sharing ideas, uncovering solutions and finding support. Hosted by Rev Dr Sam Wells, we'll focus is on:
  • Congregation –Liturgy, worship and day-to-day communal life – gathered and local
  • Commerce – Start and sustain enterprise to generate finance for your church
  • Compassion – Grow participation and volunteering to address social need locally
  • Culture – Use art, music and ideas to reimagine the Christian narrative in your context
Interested? Register for this launch event and what will be an inspiring, practical first conference.

HeartEdge | Building Kingdom Communities
  • A network of churches and organisations initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields
  • For those working at the heart of commerce, culture and community
  • With those at the margins and on the edge
  • Building association, learning, development and resource
Taking place at St Michael’s Centre, 5 minutes walk from Bristol Parkway Station in the village of Stoke Gifford. Regular train services run to and from London, Cardiff, Birmingham and beyond. The site is less than 3 miles from the M4, the M5 and the M32 motorways. St Michael’s is 6 miles north of Bristol city centre, and well connected by bus, with cycle routes and by road.

Register for free to attend on the day - click on the green register

Learn more about HeartEdge here.


Delirious? - Now Is The Time.

Thy Kingdom Come: 'Transformation' Prayers

On Thursday afternoon at St Stephen Walbrook we used the works of art in Terry Ffyffe's 'Transformation' exhibition for a guided 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer event.

Terry says: “Art should inspire the viewer, ideally raise the consciousness and elevate the mind to think of higher things like the beauty and mystery of the natural world, to contemplate the deep questions as to purpose and meaning, like ‘What is the origin of this life? What is Reality? Questions that have no easy answer but require a personal journey of developing awareness.”

His exhibition coincides with the Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the ‘Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles’, an event that transformed them from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming the “Good News”. Terry, formerly a figurative painter in the classic tradition had a “transformation” experience himself and is now firmly established in his new direction of depicting the beauty of the hidden world of nature and the inner world of the mind”. The exhibition brings together the last works that he was working on before this profound change. He says, ”The early paintings are about the Historical Jesus and the New Paintings are about the Holy Spirit”.

Based on my reflections about the incarnate and Cosmic Christ from the exhibition's Private View, we bookended this time of prayer with prayers from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

Since … I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world …

My paten and my chalice are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to the new day.

One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life. One by one also I number all those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. And again one by one — more vaguely it is true, yet all-inclusively — I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come, and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.

This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond. All the things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those too that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms, so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice; the only material you desire.

Once upon a time men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvests, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day. Amen.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.


Morten Lauridsen - O Magnum Mysterium.

Windows on the world (346)

Stratford, 2016


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Windows on the world (345)

Stratford, 2016


Echo & the Bunnymen - Bring On The Dancing Horses.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

'Jamaican Spiritual' exhibition

St Stephen Walbrook will host a prestigious exhibition of Jamaican painting and sculpture from 3 July until 14 July 2017, weekdays only 10.00am - 4.00pm (Wednesdays, 11.00am - 3.00pm).

The exhibition has been organised and curated by Jamaican Art Collector and Promoter Theresa Roberts.
In keeping with the setting all the work will revolve around spiritual themes drawn from the variety of world religions which exist on Jamaica itself
There are works by old Jamaican masters but the majority of pieces are new and created specifically for the show by young Jamaican artists. Mediums represented include painting,sculpture and photography.
The show represents the vibrancy and cultural diversity of Jamaica in a uniquely spiritual way.


Bob Marley - Redemption Song.

Faithful improvisation in a five act play

Here is my sermon from today's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook:

Mike Leigh is the well-known director of films such Secrets and Lies, Mr Turner, Topsy Turvey and Life Is Sweet. Improvisation is a significant part of his directorial methods. He begins a film with an initiating idea, which conjures up a number of possible actors he can cast. Since he doesn’t work with formal scripts, the auditions take the form of an exercise where the actor delivers a caricature of a person they know. Once the cast is established, a list of potential characters is devised, out of which a base character who lies at the core of the drama is established. After this, the actor researches the character and does solo improvisations with the director. This process of solo improvisation and research goes on for weeks and even months before the actor is introduced to another actor who has been cast, and they begin duo impros. Leigh shoots two thirds of his film without revealing the ending. Then the crew pauses for a week or so while he does improvs of the final scenes. After that, the end scenes are shot.

Improvisation is also what Jesus is talking about in this farewell discourse to his disciples (John 14 - 16, today's Gospel - John 16. 5 - 15). He is going to leave them (as happened at the Ascension) and then he will send the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, the comforter and advocate, to them (as happened on the Day of Pentecost). The Spirit will speak to the disciples whatever he hears from Jesus; both the many things he wanted to say to them but which they could not bear at that time and also the things that are to come. Earlier in his discourse, he also said that the Spirit will teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them. The result will be that they will do greater things than him.

Jesus said many amazing things that people still repeat regardless of whether they follow him or not. But his farewell discourse to his disciples must be among the most amazing because in it Jesus says that those who follow him will do greater things than him and will be led into all truth. When you think how amazing Jesus’ own actions were, it is hard to imagine how people like us could do greater things than that, and, when you think how profound his teaching was, how could we be led into deeper or greater truth than that?

But Jesus was articulating something that all good teachers think and feel; the sense that all the time he had spent with them and invested in them was not so they would be clones of him, simply repeating the things he did and said, but instead that he had equipped, empowered and enabled his followers to follow him by using their own gifts and abilities and initiative which would inevitably mean that they would do and say different things from him but still with his Spirit and based on all they had learnt from him. He was saying that each one of us is a unique combination of personality, abilities and potential and, therefore, each of us can make a unique mark on the world. His followers can do greater things than Jesus because they will do different things from him in his name and Spirit – things that only they can do for him because they are that unique package of personality, ability and potential.

Sam Wells, the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields has described this in terms of improvisation. He says that we constantly “face new circumstances in each generation that the Bible doesn’t give us a script for.” Instead, the Christian story is like “a five-act play -- creation, Israel, Jesus, church and eschaton. We find ourselves in Act 4, and the most important events have already happened. Our role is to be faithful in Act 4, because God will do the rest in Act 5.” “The most dynamic gift to the church is the Holy Spirit working amongst people who learn to trust one another and see the abundant things that God can do with limited materials. That’s analogous to what happens in theatrical improvisation.”

“Improvisation isn’t about being original, clever, witty or spontaneous. Improvisation is about allowing yourself to be obvious.” People who train in improvisation train in a tradition. The Spirit comes to remind Christians of the Christian tradition by reminding us of all that Jesus did and said, so we embody it in our lives. Faithful improvisation in the present time requires patient and careful puzzling over what has gone before. It’s about being so soaked in a tradition that you learn to take the right things for granted or, as Jesus put it, the Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus said so that we intuitively do those things on an improvisational basis. In this way we can do greater things than Jesus because we will do different things from him, but in his name and Spirit.


Will Todd - I Sing Because.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alexander de Cadenet, Awakened Artists, & Ekhart Tolle

Awakened Artists is an international community of artists whose artwork offers access to a deeper dimension of existence and contributes towards the evolution of consciousness.

This new web-site has been launched as a platform for specially invited artists whose work has a spiritual direction. The site was launched featuring both the artworks of Alexander de Cadenet and desert artist David C Greene's wonderful paintings of the desert under the light of the moon and stars. It is intended to build a community of artists who share a love of art that explores and gives access to a deeper, spiritual dimension of life. If you would like to be considered for inclusion on the site email Alexander de Cadenet at

In September 2016, de Cadenet was invited to meet with Eckhart Tolle, in his home town of Vancouver to explore his perspective on the relationship between art and the spiritual dimension. Together they explored how this relates to Eckhart’s own practice as the one of the world's foremost spiritual teachers and an amateur photographer. It was a joyful, life enhancing encounter, filled with profound insights into the deeper, spiritual dimension of art and the mysteries of creativity. Part 1 has been published in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine in the May issue and Part 2, with an exclusive featuring of Eckhart's photos, will be published in a later issue. Copies of the magazine can be purchased here -

Here is a short extract from Part 1 of the interview:

"Beauty arises when something more essential or deeper, something that underlies the world of sense perception shines through. It is what I call the ‘underlying Intelligence’ that is the organizing principle behind the world of form, a hidden harmony, as it were. To use more traditional language, it belongs to the realm of the transcendent, the realm of the divine, if you want to call it that". Eckhart Tolle


Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser - All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun.

Les Colombes: The White Doves

Les Colombes: The White Doves
an Art for Peace Project by Michael Pendry at St Martin-in-the-Fields

Wednesday 31 May – Monday 3 July

Les Colombes is a multimedia installation by German artist Michael Pendry. Following successful installations with over 300,000 visitors in Jerusalem and Munich, Les Colombes will descend on St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square from 31 May – 3 July 2017.

Coming straight from Jerusalem, the 2,000 white paper doves, a symbol of the spirit, but also of peace, float through the nave of the church forming an almost 15 metre long sculpture. Light moves around the space and over the sculpture simulating the doves in flight. Quietly and playfully they integrate their movement into the atmosphere, exuding a magical sense of tranquillity and strength.

A sound cloud especially composed and produced for the installation by digital music producers Digital Haze infuses the space with the sound of cooing and fluttering wings. While a gentle rustling of the wind and mystical chords hover in space, alternating between a strong intensity and an ebbing away.

Les Colombes is free to visit during regular opening hours with special late night openings on Thursdays and Fridays from 9.30-11.00pm.

Artist Michael Pendry on Les Colombes

“Folded by different people, the doves in their unity stand for such a fundamental human right. The time has come to admonish and to stand up for this – for the right to peace and freedom! So that that the flock of doves might grow, from place to place, from country to country, across all borders.”

Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Sam Wells on Les Colombes

“Like the best liturgy The Doves is about words and signs and sounds and space – and its glory is its elegant simplicity. When at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove Jesus wasn’t blown away – he was touched more deeply that words can say or eyes can perceive. That’s what this exhibition is about – and what’s more, it affirms that the Holy Spirit works through the humble hands of you and me. ”

About artist Michael Pendry

Michael Pendry was born in Stuttgart, grew up in Munich and partly in England, where his father comes from; his mother is from Bayreuth/Germany. He works as a designer and artist in both countries. Michael Pendry studied interior design, stage and set design at the FH Rosenheim and, for several projects, at the art academy in Munich. Pendry is driven by his desire to reach out to those people who do not normally visit cultural venues. Among countless other installations over the years “Das apokalyptische Weib” for the Long-Night-of-Museums in 2006 and the light and video installations “Sacre Coeur” and “Störung” (Disturbance) have been some of the highlights in the career of this multimedia artist to date and showed his great innovative talent in finding new means of multimedia expression and catching the interest of thousands of people. Lighting the rotor blades of a nearly 100 metre high wind wheel just outside Munich in 2010 with ”Star of the South” was definitely one of his most ambitious projects. With this project he also attained a new level in his public profile in the national press and media, and even in France and Spain. Two of his latest installations, Les Colombes and Urban Paradise in 2014, also became popular successes and were reviewed throughout the media. Pendry, a multi-talented artist, worked at a well-known theatre in Munich, the Kammerspiele, for two years as a stage designer with Dieter Dorn as director. The so-called “Werkraum”, an experimental space for young people from the theatre, was one of the platforms where he could demonstrate his passion for the world of drama and acting.


Digital Haze - Besser Werden.

The life of Jesus reproduced in our lives

Here is my sermon for today's Choral Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Stephen Verney begins his commentary on this passage (John 15. 1 - 8) with a great evocation of the way in which vines are grown: “On a stony hillside above his house, where the thyme grows and the prickly pear, and a wild fig tree fights for its existence in a pocket of shallow soil, a farmer decides to plant a vine. In the autumn he clears a terrace, and brings top soil. He sets a post for the vine to climb, and fixes horizontal supports for its branches. Then in the spring he plants it and fences it against the goats; as it grows he trains it, and in the following autumn he prunes it back.

The vine depends for its life on the farmer, but equally the farmer depends on the vine. For the vine can do what the farmer cannot; it can take the rain that falls on the hillside and convert it into grapes, which the farmer can harvest and tread out in his wine-press, and pour the juice into his vat to ferment and bubble. The farmer and the vine are dependent on each other, and the purpose for which they work together is that water should be turned into wine.” Jesus is the vine, his Father is the farmer. They are dependent one on the other although their roles are different. Their shared purpose is that water is turned into wine; that the vine is fruitful and that its fruit becomes wine shared with others as the sign and symbol of Jesus’ blood. The process for achieving this can itself be painful; involving pruning and crushing.

We are part of this picture because there is one vine but many branches. Each one of us as we become Christians is grafted into the vine to become part of the vine itself. Verney writes: “I AM the vine, and you are the branches. Dwell in me, and I in you. Here is teaching both simple and profound, to move the human heart. If the branch dwells in the vine, then the life of the vine dwells in the branch. If the branch grows out of the stem, and out of the roots which are drawing up the goodness of the soil and the rain, then the sap of the vine flows into the branch, and the pattern of the vine’s life unfolds itself through each branch to produce bunches of grapes. So it will be, says Jesus, between you and me. If you do not dwell in me you cannot bear fruit …”

How do we dwell in Jesus? To keep our life dwelling in Christ’s, we must continually renew our decision that “what has been done once for all on the cross by Jesus shall the basis, the starting point, the context of all my thinking and deciding and doing,” writes Lesslie Newbigin. We feed this decision by protecting time for prayer, bible study and worship in our busy lives and schedules. As we do so, the sap of the vine, the life of Christ, flows into us and we produce fruit. The fruit of the vine is, as Newbigin again writes, “the life of Jesus reproduced in the midst of the life of the world, the pure love and obedience by which people will recognise the disciples of Jesus, the branches of the real vine.”

This fruit, the life of Jesus reproduced in our lives, is the real test of whether or not we are actually dwelling in the vine, in Jesus. In recent years, we have come to know much more about the spiritual life of Mother Teresa, someone whose face shone with the all-encompassing joy of one for whom “to live is Christ.” Everyone who knew her assumed that she was supported in her ministry through a deep and abiding sense of Christ’s presence with her.

Yet the opposite was true. Mother Teresa lived feeling as if she did not believe: “I have no faith” – “They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God … in my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss – of God not being God – of God not really existing.” Her sense of feeling that there was no God has been revealed in letters that she wrote to her spiritual confidantes. Yet, as Sister Wendy Beckett has written, “this woman who felt that there was no God and lived in emotional anguish was also profoundly aware, intellectually, that God was her total life and that she lived only to love him.” This was what was apparent in her life and ministry and this fruit showed that whatever she felt about the absence of God in her life, she was still a live branch in the vine.

Ultimately, the fruit of our lives - the life of Jesus reproduced in our lives – is the sign of whether we are healthy branches dwelling in the vine. Prayer, bible study and worship are channels for the life of Christ to flow into our lives rather than the sign than his life is flowing into our own. As we are grafted into the vine, into Jesus, we receive his life flowing through us and take on his characteristics – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. These characteristics result in acts of love because love must act, as we saw in the life of Mother Teresa. While hate could be indifference or inaction, love is always active and must respond practically to the needs we see around us.

This Christian Aid week we can use our spheres of influence to give, act and pray, and in this way support the loving, sacrificial selflessness of Christian Aid partners who support and empower those they serve. We can choose active love over inactive indifference and, together with Christian Aid and others like them, create a powerful force for change which derives from the life of Christ flowing into us as we dwell in him and where our active love is the fruit of the vine - the life of Jesus reproduced in our lives.


Gregory Porter & Beverley Knight - Mary Did You Know.

Start:Stop - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Bible reading:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3. 12 - 17)


Our Monday lunchtime Discover & explore services are currently exploring themes taken from the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Recently we reflected on the Reformers beliefs regarding scripture including: to love and treasure the Word of God; seeing the Scriptures are the sole source for doctrine and practice; rejoicing because the Scriptures deliver Christ to us; the Word is to be read, taught and proclaimed; the Word informs us of God’s love and instructs us in His will; and God’s written Word is given for all people. (

Colossians 3 says we are to let the word or message of Christ dwell in us richly as we worship together. The missiologist Lesslie Newbigin has helpfully unpacked some of what is involved in doing so. He wrote that: “The Bible is the body of literature which renders accessible to us the character, action and purpose of God. Taken as a whole, the Bible fitly renders God but this can only be understood as we are in engaged in the same struggle that we see in scripture. This is the struggle to understand and deal with the events of our time in the faith that God creates purpose, sustains all that is and will bring all to its proper end. The Bible comes to us in its “canonical shape”, as the result of many centuries of interpretation and re-interpretation, editing and re-editing, with a unity that depends on two primary centres - the rescue of Israel from Egypt and the events concerning Jesus - events, happening in the contingent world of history, which are interpreted as disclosures, in a unique sense, of the presence and action of God. However, the interpretation has to be re-interpreted over and over again in terms of another generation and another culture. The original interpretative language becomes a text which in turn needs interpretation. Yet the text cannot be eliminated. The events are not mere symbols of an underlying reality which could be grasped apart from them. What is presented in the bible is testimony.”

“The Bible is the book of community, and neither the book nor the community are properly understood except in their reciprocal relationship with each other. It is this relationship that is the clue to the meaning of both the book and the community. The Bible functions as authority only within a community that is committed to faith and obedience and which is embodying that commitment in an active discipleship embracing the whole of life, public and private.”

A further helpful way of understanding how the Bible can function with authority in our lives was set out by former Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright. He describes the story of the Bible as a five act play (containing the first four acts in full i.e. 1. Creation, 2. Fall, 3. Israel, 4. Jesus) within which we can understand ourselves to be actors improvising our part on basis of what has gone before and the hints we have of how the play will end:

"The writing of the New Testament ... would then form the first scene in the fifth act, and would simultaneously give hints (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15, parts of the Apocalypse) of how the play is supposed to end ... The church would then live under the 'authority' of the extant story, being required to offer an improvisatory performance of the final act as it leads up to and anticipates the intended conclusion ... the task of Act 5 ... is to reflect on, draw out, and implement the significance of the first four Acts, more specifically, of Act 4 in the light of Acts 1-3 ... Faithful improvisation in the present time requires patient and careful puzzling over what has gone before, including the attempt to understand what the nature of the claims made in, and for, the fourth Act really amount to."

Wright concludes that he is proposing "a notion of "authority" which is ... vested ... in the creator god himself, and this god's story with the world, seen as focused on the story of Israel and thence on the story of Jesus, as told and retold in the Old and New Testaments, and as still requiring completion." As Lesslie Newbigin has written, this story is understood "as we are in engaged in the same struggle that we see in scripture"; that "is the struggle to understand and deal with the events of our time in the faith that God creates purpose, sustains all that is and will bring all to its proper end." This is what I think it means to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly and to make the Bible authoritative in our lives.


Open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of your law. Open our spiritual eyes to show us the glimpses of glory we cannot see by ourselves. Give us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened. May we see that the works of God stand as marvellous mountain ranges in the Bible, but also see that the highest peak, and the most majestic vista, is the person and work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May your word shape and inform and direct our practical living.

Remind us of the sufficiency of your grace to produce genuine change in our lives. Allow seeds from Scripture to bear real, noticeable fruit in tangible acts of sacrificial love for others that we might be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. May your word shape and inform and direct our practical living making us more manifestly loving, not less, because of the time invested alone in reading and studying your word. May your word shape and inform and direct our practical living.

May we experience the great goal of Bible reading and study as this: knowing and enjoying Jesus. This is a taste now of heaven’s coming delights. This is eternal life, that we know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. In this way give direction, focus, and purpose to our study that we may press on to know you, the LORD. May this form great yearning and passion in our souls, so that we count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord. May we keep both eyes peeled for Jesus until we see how the passage at hand relates to Jesus’s person and work. May your word shape and inform and direct our practical living.


The Blessing

Go now in peace, knowing that you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Mark Heard - Well Worn Pages.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

'Transformation' Private View

Tonight's Private View for the 'Transformation' exhibition by Terrence Ffyffe at St Stephen Walbrook featured music from Michael Homer, 'Painting the Light' a film of the artist by Alex Vernon, and reflections on the work from Tessa and Terry Ffyffe, Edward Lucie-Smith and myself.

In my remarks I said the following:

Welcome to St Stephen Walbrook for this Private View and exhibition. St Stephen Walbrook hosts a regular programme of contemporary art exhibitions. We partner either with established art societies (such as the National Society of Painters, Sculptors & Printmakers or the Society of Catholic Artists) or significant art critics such Edward Lucie-Smith. In 2017 our programme has already included displays of art created from refugee camps, the Diocesan icon of hospitality, crucifixion drawings by Francis Bacon, a digital residency by Daniel Bourke, and an Easter Eve Vigil with the digital artwork of Mark Dean. Our programme will continue with an exhibition of spiritual art from Jamaica, an exhibition and conference with the sculptor Alexander de Cadenet and a group show by commission4mission.We have also led on the creation by the City of London of The Art of Faith, a City Walk exploring modern and contemporary art commissions in the city churches. I hope you will take away a copy of The Art of Faith leaflet and the leaflet publicising our exhibition programme.

This exhibition explores two transformations; a person artistic transformation and a universal spiritual transformation. Terry Ffyffe has described in his essay ‘Beyond Post Modernism’ how he had a transformative experience whilst painting. For much of his career he has been a well-regarded figurative painter in the classic tradition, drawing inspiration from the Old Masters such as Van Eyck, Bosch, Goya and Rembrandt, and increasingly tending towards religious imagery.

“Whilst painting the Resurrection event, using free, broad, colourful strokes to represent the transcendental light emanating from the Risen Lord.,” he says, “I had an "Epiphany" that took me back to the beginning and I realised once more that the Modern Movement was beget by the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Zeitgeist, and that the purpose of Art is to glorify God, to be transcendent, to inspire people, to bring joy and peace, and to connect the viewer with their deeper mind (self) and lead to contemplation of the great questions like "What is Reality?" Where do we come from? Where are we going? And that art should reveal Beauty, and (with the Modern ideal) a beauty that has not been seen before. In a moment I saw it all.”

As a result, he returned to the style of work that he had painted at the beginning of his career but empowered with all the study he had done and the considerable life experience he had gained. No longer emulating other artists or working in a derivative style, his new work is original and authentic. The inspiration for it comes from personal experience in meditation and the images we see coming via the Hubble Telescope, The Liga project and the electron microscope; the patterns of nature.

This exhibition brings together the last works that Terry was working on before this profound change with his new work depicting the beauty of the hidden world of nature and the inner world of the mind.” This leads us to the second transformation explored in this exhibition. Terry says, “The early paintings are about the Historical Jesus and the New Paintings are about the Holy Spirit.” The exhibition is deliberately organised to coincides with the Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the ‘Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles’, an event that transformed them from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming the “Good News.”

This transformation occurs when the incarnate Christ ascends to his Father allowing his Spirit to then come and fill his followers. Terry’s visionary depictions of this transformation would seem to have synergy with Franciscan mysticism and the writing of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Richard Rohr. Rohr says that, “Franciscan mysticism is about an intuition of Jesus as both the Incarnate Human One and the Eternal Cosmic Christ at the same time”:

“The first and cosmic incarnation of the Eternal Christ, the perfect co-inherence of matter and Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-11), happened at the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that same Mystery a mere 2,000 years ago, when we were perhaps ready for this revelation … Jesus presents himself as the “Anointed” or Christened One who was human and divine united in one human body—as our model and exemplar. .. Christ is our shortcut word for “The Body of God” or “God materialized.” This Christ is much bigger and older than either Jesus of Nazareth or the Christian religion, because the Christ is whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.

Ilia Delio writes, “The conventional visualization of the physical world was changed by Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which showed that matter itself was a form of energy. . . . For all practical purposes, energy is the ‘real world.’” There it is: science revealing that everything is both matter and energy/spirit co-inhering as one; this is a Christocentric world. This realization changes everything. Matter has become a holy thing and the material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on matter, by loving it, by respecting it. The Christ is God’s active power inside of the physical world.

Delio continues: “Through his penetrating view of the universe Teilhard found Christ present in the entire cosmos, from the least particle of matter to the convergent human community. ‘The Incarnation,’ he declared, ‘is a making new . . . of all the universe’s forces and powers.’ Personal divine love is invested organically with all of creation, in the heart of matter, unifying the world.”

The coming of the Cosmic Christ is … the unification of all things.”

Teilhard calls this Christogenesis, believing that as the universe evolves toward its full realization at Omega, this is the point which coincides with the fully realized Christ. It is also at this point that God will be ‘all in all’ (1Cor. 15:28c).

A body of work that imaginatively depicts the Cosmic Christ and Christogenesis is genuinely original and holds great potential not only to depict transformation but to be transformative as these works are contemplated and prayed over in this place. So, as we welcome you to St Stephen Walbrook and to this Private View and exhibition, we also invite you not just see but also to experience transformation.


Bruce Cockburn - Lord Of The Starfields.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Discover & explore: Through Christ alone

Discover & explore services at St Stephen Walbrook feature music and liturgy with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields. These services explore their themes through a thoughtful mix of music, prayers, readings and reflections:
  • “A perfect service of peace in our busy lives.”
  • “Spiritual food in the middle of the day.”
  • “Beautifully and intelligently done.”
The current series of these services of musical discovery is exploring Reformation 500 themes and continued last Monday with the theme of 'Through Christ alone'. The service featured the Choral Scholars singing: Morning star & The Deer's Cry by Arvo Pärt; God so loved the world by Bob Chilcott; and O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit by Thomas Tallis.

All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:
  • Mon 22 May - God loves you 
  • Mon 29 May Bank Holiday – Church closed 
  • Mon 5 June - Baptism saves 
  • Mon 12 Jun - The Lord's Supper 
  • Mon 19 Jun - The Cross alone 
  • Mon 26 Jun - Forgiveness is free 
  • Mon 3 Jul - Life of repentance
In today's service I shared the following reflection:

‘When Martin Luther preached from the Gospel passages on John the Baptist, he always emphasized how John’s finger pointed to Christ, and how the church most follow in John’s footsteps and point people to the Lord without fail.” He said:

“…The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ. He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it …”

“For this reason it is necessary constantly to persevere and adhere to John’s testimony concerning Christ. For it requires toil and effort to continue with word and testimony, for a person at death to be able to say, I must die, but I have a Saviour concerning whom John the Baptist testifies; on him and on no other creature, either in heaven or on earth, do I rely …”

“What I am telling you is that it is easier for us humans to believe and trust in everything else than in the name of Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.”’ (

How could we understand this key Reformation emphasis today? For me, the key to understanding is the incarnation. In John’s Gospel we are told that: “No one has ever seen God” but “The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” In the Prologue to John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as being God’s Word to human beings; he is in himself the message that God wants to communicate to us. This Word is a real person, not simply a description of God or a statement of the truth about God. What this means is that the truth about God is found in a relationship with Jesus and not in a set of statements or beliefs about him. Truth is not a prescription that we can swallow but a relationship in which we live.

The key difference between the Old and the New Testament for Christians is that in the Old Testament God was revealing himself to and through fallible human beings – meaning that his revelation is imperfectly made and imperfectly received - while in the Gospel stories of Jesus, God is able to fully reveal himself in the humanity of Jesus. So, there is in scripture a developing revelation of God which culminates in the person, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. This means that where we see a difference between the revelation of God found in the Old Testament and that found in the Gospels we have to resolve that difference in favour of what we find in Gospels, because it is the only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, that has made God known.

Jesus is the creativity, the definition and the wisdom of God; all wrapped up and revealed in human form and flesh. Jesus’ creativity is seen in the new way of being human that he reveals to us. In him, the divine and the human come together enabling us to see all that human beings can potentially be; all that we can potentially become. In him we see the best of humanity because in him we see God expressed as fully as can be in human form.

What we see is love because God is love and therefore, in Jesus, we see pure love expressed without reserve and without self-seeking: the way of compassion instead of the way of domination; the way of self-sacrifice instead of the way of selfishness; the way of powerlessness instead of the way of power; and the way of giving instead of the way of grasping. Therefore to follow in his way is to experience divinity in our lives; to move towards the divine. When we see him call his disciples to follow him that is what occurs; they leave their old way of life behind in order to begin to experience a new and divine way of being human. As the Prologue to John’s Gospel puts it, God himself becomes their Father.

In doing so, he is also the Word of God which describes and defines us. The Prologue to John’s Gospel explains Jesus’ ability to define us in terms of light and darkness. John gives us the image of God as light to help us grasp the idea that Jesus is the one by whom we can come to see humanity as we really are and as we were intended to be. Light is not something we can see directly but something that enables us to see ourselves and our world. This is what Jesus does for us through the incarnation; he shows what humanity was originally intended to become. In Jesus, for the very first time in the history of the world, a human being lives a fully human life.

As a result when we see ourselves and our world in the light of the life of Jesus, what we see are our failure and inability to be the people that we were created to become. In the light of the way that Jesus lived his life, we see our lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. As the writer of 1 John says, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But when we live in the light, seeing ourselves as we really are, then we become honest with ourselves and with God. By coming into that honesty we confess our sins and are purified of them.

Ultimately, the Word that God speaks to us in and through Jesus is ‘Love’. In 1 John 4. 9 – 10 we read, “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.”

Jesus came into our world as the Word of God to live a life of self-sacrificial love as a human being. He shows us what true love looks like and he shows us that human beings are capable of true love even when most of the evidence around us seems to point towards the opposite conclusion. But he did not come solely as an example or a description of love. He is love itself, the reality of love, and, therefore, as we come into relationship with him we come into a true relationship with love. This why he came, that we might receive him; that we might receive love. He is then in us and in him. Love in us and we in love.

In the beginning Love already existed; Love was with God, and Love was God. From the very beginning Love was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. Love was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

“God is love. And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.

Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. (1 John 4. 8 – 12).


For love God came to us in the person of Jesus—God With Us—and poured his Spirit into us that we might be one with him forever. In his name, let us pray to the Lord, saying: Christ is all, and is in all. Lord, thank you for the gift of your constant presence. Give us the desire to commit our hearts to you. Thank you for the grace of your unfailing love. Grant us the willingness to love others as you have loved us. Thank you for uniting us with your Son. Help us put on our new selves, setting our hearts and minds on things above. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of hope, with thanks and praise we open our hearts to you, who unite us with you through Christ. Help us to pursue you with the passion only your Spirit can provide, and to reflect you with the light only your Spirit can supply. So we say, Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thou hast led me to place all my nature and happiness in oneness with Christ, in having heart and mind centred only on him, in being like him in communicating good to others; This is my heaven on earth, but I need the force, energy, impulses of thy Spirit to carry me on the way to my Jerusalem. Here, it is my duty to be as Christ in this world, to do what he would do, to live as he would live, to walk in love and meekness; then would he be known, then would I have peace in death. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

( and

The Blessing

With our lives hidden in Christ, let us now depart in peace, united in the faith and joined in His call to
serve through the power of His in-dwelling Spirit; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Arvo Pärt - Morning Star.