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Friday, 30 June 2017

Café Musica & The Secret Chord

It was over one of the Mersea Art Café’s delicious cappuccinos that James Weaver and Peter Banks discovered their mutual pasts, treading the boards on the professional music trail, were both similar and so very nearly collided. Now, teamed up, the combination of their two voices provide a rich emotion, drawing out the best in both the quirky covers and original songs they perform. With an essentially acoustic multi-instrument approach, Café Musica are captivating audiences and listeners alike. Café Musica's take on music is classic, yet fresh and they appeal to such a broad spectrum. They definitely have the cool factor, along with a respect for music which makes them popular across multiple genres and audience ages.With the backing of GingerDog Records, they have now released their first official album 'Learning to Breathe’. Featuring a surprising mix of songs, you can't help but get hooked on Café Musica.

Café Musica and friends are providing the music for an Evening Service this Sunday, 6.30pm, at St Peter's Chapel, Bradwell-on-Sea, which will focus on 'The Secret Chord', the book co-authored by Peter Banks and I, which is an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life, written through the prism of Christian belief.    

Covering a range of musical styles and influences, from gospel music to X Factor, 'The Secret Chord' conveys enthusiasm for music and its transformative powers. While a significant number of books have been published exploring the relationships between music, art, popular culture and theology - many of which we have enjoyed and from which we have benefited - such books tend either to academic analysis or semi biography about artistes whose output the writers' enjoy. By contrast, 'The Secret Chord' is an accessible exploration of artistic dilemmas from a range of different perspectives which seeks to draw the reader into a place of appreciation for what makes a moment in a 'performance' timeless and special.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Discover & explore: Reformation 500 & Londinium

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 has explored Reformation 500 themes and comes to an end on Monday 3 July at 1.10pm by exploring the theme of 'Life of Repentance.' The Choral Scholars will sing: Ach, arme Welt – Brahms; The Lord's Prayer – Joshua Pacey; Anthem – Leonard Cohen; and Beati quorum via – Stanford.

Our autumn Discover & explore series will be part of the ‘Londinium’ programme organised by the City of London and will explore Rome, London & Christianity through music, prayers, readings and reflections. Highlights include St Paul in Rome, Constantine and The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook:
  • 25th September - St Paul in Rome 
  • 2 October - St Peter in Rome 
  • 9 October - The Early Church in Rome 
  • 16 October – St Alban 
  • 23 October – Constantine 
  • 30 October – Christianity in Roman London 
  • 6 November – The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook 
  • 13 November – St Augustine 
  • 20 November – St Mellitus 
  • 27 November – St Erkenwald & St Ethelburga

One Commandment: Love one another

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

I imagine that some of you have been watching Broken, the gritty drama on the BBC about a Roman Catholic priest and his parishioners. The series feels very real as this priest grapples with his own demons, while seeking to be with and minister to the issues and needs in his parish.

In last Tuesday’s episode, Father Michael had to mediate when one of his parishioner’s Helen Oyenusi, the mother of a son with mental health issues who has been killed by the Police, was visited by her devout brother, Daniel Martin, who then clashed violently with her gay neighbour, Carl McKenna, as all were trying to come to terms with her son, Vernon's, death.

The conflict between Carl and Daniel unfolded with horrid inevitability. Hurt feelings fed by a lifetime of bullying clashed with bigotry fed by scripture, and the result promised to be devastating. Pride—a constant theme of this series—threatened to cause yet more pain. Instead, urged by Helen and Father Michael, Carl’s magnanimity gave us a happy ending. Carl repaid Helen’s kindness and demonstrated his own by dropping the charges against Daniel, a man puffed up with faith-backed intolerance. In a moving statement Helen spoke about the way in which Carl’s mother had loved her son and simply accepted the reality of his sexuality. She said that, ‘Her love was unconditional and that’s exactly how it should be.’

That is what the writer of the Letter of John (1 John 3. 13 - 24) also says: ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’ He also said that ‘We know love by this, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us.’ That is unconditional love, and, as a result, ‘we ought to lay down our lives for one another’ because this is Christ’s commend to us – God’s commandment is ‘that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.’

Jesus and his first disciples lived in a culture where there were 613 commandments in the Torah, the Law of Moses, divided up into 248 positive commandments (Thou shalt's) and 365 negative commandments (Thou shalt not's). The Pharisees had then taken these 613 commandments which were to do with the detail of life - shaving, tattoos, clothing, work, food and drink, farming, money and so on – and multiplied these commandments by creating detailed instructions about the ways in which each of these commandments was to be kept. Keeping all of these additional rules was a heavy burden for all who tried to do so and a point of tension and conflict for Jesus and the Pharisees.

Jesus, by contrast, taught that love was the fulfilling of the Law. Instead of keeping the endless detail of the regulations created by the Pharisees, Jesus said that we should simply love God, ourselves and our neighbours and that all the Law of Moses is actually designed to that end. This was liberating teaching which brought rest for those weighed down by the burden of trying to keep hundreds of commandments and thousands of additional regulations.

When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus endorsed the summary of the Law which speaks about love for God, love for ourselves and love for others. St Paul took this teaching to heart and wrote in his letter to the Church in Rome (Romans 13. 8 - 10) saying: ‘The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.’

He repeats this in his letter to the church in Galatia (Galatians 5. 14) says: ‘the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”’ He concludes that, ‘in Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith working through love.’

As Christians we are not called to keep 613 specific individual Commandments and are certainly not called to practice the additional detailed instructions relating to them devised by the Pharisees. Instead, there is one simple command which fulfils all the Law, when genuinely practised, and that is the love of which Helen Oyenusi spoke, unconditional love.

The commandment of God is that we should ‘believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.’ All who obey this commandment abide in God, and he abides in them. We know what this love is like because Jesus laid down his life for us and, therefore, this one commandment requires everything of us; that we, too, ought to lay down our lives for others.


Bruce Cockburn - Strong Hand Of Love.

Bread for the World & Light the Well

Last night we enjoyed a wonderful Bread for the World Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields with a temporary installation of the 'Light the Well' community art project led by artist Anna Sikorska, plus songs and music including: Like a candle flame - Kendrick, Longing for light - Ferrell, This little light of mine - arr. Raney, Kindle a flame - Bell, Lord Jesus Christ your light shines within us - Taize, Anthem - Cohen, In a world where people walk in darkness - Shephard, and The Lord bless you and keep you - Rutter. The service was followed by lantern-making and discussion groups, after refreshments.

Here is the reflection that I gave as part of the service:

In 2014 the artist Grayson Perry made a vase as a portrait of Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat politician who fell from grace when his wife, Vicky Pryce, revealed that he had asked her to take the blame for his speeding offence and the speeding points incurred. He resigned from the cabinet and was subsequently jailed for perverting the course of justice. Perry thought that Huhne was unchanged by his prison experience and, therefore, represented powerful white males with a kind of bullet-proof, Teflon, confidence and chutzpah that was unaffected by wrongdoing and failure. As a result, Perry purposefully smashed the finished vase and then had it repaired using an ancient Chinese technique which involves lacquer resin dusted or mixed with gold, saying, “I have smashed the pot and had it repaired with gold to symbolise that vulnerability might be an asset in relationships to such a person.”

St Paul told the Christians in Corinth that they had the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in their hearts, but that this treasure was in clay jars, so that it might be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and did not come from them (2 Corinthians 4. 6 - 12). If the clay jar, the container of the light, were to be perfectly formed, then the light inside would not be seen from the outside. The light of Christ would effectively be hidden. Like people looking at the confidence and chutzpah of the Teflon-coated Chris Huhne, people would look at our perfect life and not Christ, because they would only see us. Instead, St Paul says, because we are not perfect and have difficulties and flaws we are like cracked clay jars, meaning that it is then clear that where we act or speak with love and compassion, this is because of Christ in us, rather than being something which is innate to us or simply our decision alone. He used this image of light in containers seen through cracks, or thin translucent clay, to assure the Corinthian Christians that they had the light of God in their lives, despite the fallibility and frailty of those lives. Similarly, Leonard Cohen sings in 'Anthem': ‘Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack / In everything / That's how the light gets in, / That's how the light gets in’.

The artist Anna Sikorska is helping us reflect on these themes through ‘Light the Well’, the community art project which she is undertaking together with the artists and craftspeoples group. The project involves making porcelain lanterns (glazed ceramic globes) like those in front of the altar. The size, surface decoration and character of each lantern will differ, although the base material - and overall look - is consistent white ceramic, roughly made. The lanterns are made by laying strips of porcelain onto a round support. Porcelain clay glows with a transparency individual to itself but those of you that make lanterns later after this service will realise that in order to be as translucent as possible the strips of porcelain need to be as thin as possible. Once made, they are fired and the lanterns are then suitable for being outside. They develop cracks in the firing, through which the light inside will also be seen. In the Light Well these lanterns will be joined together with cord covering the stone floor in a random constellation. The cord also connects a light bulb within each lantern, so each one will shine from within.

These cracked translucent lanterns lit from within are a visible realisation of St Paul’s image of light in clay jars. By linking the lanterns together, this installation will also highlight another aspect of this passage. Paul writes that ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.’ Paul writes of us in the plural. We are afflicted, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. It is as we come together to engage with affliction, perplexity, forsakenness, and being struck down that we carry in our body the death of Jesus and show the life of Jesus. It is as we come together, linked, like the lanterns, by the light of Christ that we become the Body of Christ.

I don’t know how the image of a crack letting in light came into the mind of Leonard Cohen but it fits really well with St Paul suggesting that there are fractures and flaws running through each of our lives and that these imperfections actually enable the light within to be seen more clearly. I don’t suppose that Grayson Perry had this passage in mind when he smashed the Chris Huhne vase and had the resulting cracks gilded with gold, but, like St Paul, he suggests that our vulnerabilities are the most precious aspect of our lives; of more significance than a confident pride in ourselves that will not acknowledge weakness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that to ‘be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself ... on the basis of some method or other, but to be ... the [person] that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life …

following Christ results in the liberation of the self to exist for and with others .. "The Christian ... must drink the earthly cup to the dregs, and only in his doing so is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ." Bonhoeffer could thus say that Christ takes hold of Christians at the centre of their lives, while at the same time recognizing that it also Christ who launches Christians into a world of suffering and difference. Hurled into the midst of this world, Christians are not to assume a sense of privilege but are to relinquish privilege for the sake of others …

To be claimed by others is … to participate in the vulnerable God's existence for us. In contrast to a "religion" that can only offer smug reassurance, bourgeois comfort, and pious quietism, the "new life" to which Jesus calls his followers is fraught with risk.

Bonhoeffer … claimed that God is revealed in the world precisely in those places that the world is most prone to ignore: in suffering, rejection, and scorn. The God of Jesus Christ takes these anathemas, makes them God's own, and invites all disciples to participate in them.’


Each of us are like cracked or translucent clay jars because of our flaws and vulnerabilities. It is through these lines of stress – the suffering, rejection and scorn with which we engage - that the light of Christ is seen. It is as we join together in living for the sake of others – linked together as the lanterns will be linked in the Light the Well installation – that we become the Body of Christ and reveal him most fully in the world. In this way, the Light the Well community art project and installation will show us what it means to be the Body of Christ – the Church – in the world today.


Joe Raney (arr) - This Little Light Of Mine.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Light the Well and The Secret Chord

I will be giving the reflection for Bread For the World, 6.30pm, at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Wednesday 28 June. Everyone is welcome at our weekly informal Eucharist, an evening service with prayer, music, word and reflection. 

I will be reflecting on our ‘treasure in clay jars’ project, a community art installation. ‘Light the Well’, is a community art project which Anna Sikorska is undertaking together with the artists and craftspeoples group. The project involves making porcelain lanterns (glazed ceramic globes). The size, surface decoration and character of each lantern will differ, although the base material - and overall look - is consistent white ceramic, roughly made. The lanterns are made by laying strips of porcelain onto a round support. Porcelain clay glows with a transparency individual to itself. Once made, they are fired and the lanterns are then suitable for being outside. They develop cracks in the firing, through which the light inside will also be seen. In the Light Well at St Martin's these lanterns will be joined together with cord covering the stone floor in a random constellation. The cord also connects a light bulb within each lantern, so each one will shine from within. There will be a lantern-making workshop with Anna Sikorska after the service.

In my reflection I will refer to Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem' which includes the line 'There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.'

I will refer to another Leonard Cohen song on Sunday at St Peter's Chapel Bradwell-on-Sea at 6.30pm, Peter Banks and I will lead an Evening Prayer based on themes drawn from our co-authored book, The Secret Chord. The book takes its title and key theme from Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. 

James Weaver and Peter Banks are Café Musica, who will provide music for the service. The combination of their two voices provide a rich emotion, drawing out the best in both the quirky covers and original songs they perform. With an essentially acoustic multi-instrument approach, Café Musica captivate audiences and listeners alike.


Café Musica - Dark Side.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Windows on the world (350)

Brussels, 2016


Sixpence None The Richer - We Have Forgotten.

Art awakening humanity

Art awakening humanity is a conference organised by St Stephen Walbrook in partnership with Alexander de Cadenet and Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine that will explore the relationship between art and the spiritual dimension by taking words spoken by Eckhart Tolle in an interview with Mind Body Spirit Magazine as inspiration:

“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”.

”True art can play an important part in the awakening of humanity.”

The conference will be held in the context of an exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook of Alexander de Cadenet’s ‘Life-Burgers’, works which question the vanity of worldly existence and explores the “cultural hero system” proposed by philosopher Ernest Becker.

  • Jonathan Evens - Modern art & spirituality – a brief survey
  • David Cranswick - The role of integrity in traditional craft practices and the ancient cosmology of the pigments, metals and planets
  • Edward Lucie-Smith - An agnostic’s view of art & spirituality
  • Theresa Roberts‘Jamaican Spiritual’: spirituality in Jamaican art
  • Jonathan KearneyArt, theology & the digital: creating new understandings
  • Mark DeanConcerning the esoteric in art
  • Jonathan Koestlé-Cate - Art & Church: ecclesiastical encounters with contemporary art
  • Alexander de Cadenet - The Origin and the purpose of the Awakened Artists Group – a new group exploring the relationship between art and the spiritual dimension
To register for this stimulating conference, click here.


Gungor - Beautiful Things.

3 Mothers: Latest ArtWay Visual Meditation

For my latest Visual Meditation for ArtWay I reflect on icons depicting contemporary saints or church members, focusing on 3 Mothers by Regan O'Callaghan:

"O'Callaghan ‘believes in representing the sainthood of all believers by painting living Christians with the same care and honour that you would reserve for painting a saint.’ ...

In doing so he is consciously building on the tradition of iconography, having studied the technique of icon writing for 6 years, specifically focusing on the Greek and Russian traditions. The ‘Sainthood of all Believers’ series is therefore a contemporary response to an ancient tradition. Religious icons belong in the realm of what he calls a ministry of encouragement, whether this is experienced in their writing or the praying before them. It is this spirit that is of interest to him."


John Tavener - Fragments Of A Prayer.

Les Colombes artist Michael Pendry in Artlyst interview

Les Colombes: The White Doves, an Art for Peace Project by Michael Pendry is at St Martin-in-the-Fields until Monday 3 July.

Michael is a multimedia artist, who was born in Stuttgart in 1974, draws on his experience as a stage designer in the theatrical installations he regularly creates for cultural institutions. Having created installations for an increasing number of churches and having stated that he is driven by a desire to get through to those people for whom visiting cultural facilities is rather unusual, I took the opportunity provided by the installation of his ‘Les Colombes – The White Doves’ at St Martin-in-the-Fields, to explore these motivations more fully with the artist in an interview which has been published by Artlyst.

In the interview I note that ‘Les Colombes’ has become an installation which is touring the world – installed in Munich and Jerusalem prior to London and travelling on to San Francisco and Berlin. Michael thinks ‘Les Colombes’ “is easy to understand, has a simple and, most of all, a very emotional message which is so relevant in our times... the doves in their unity stand for such a fundamental human right. The time has come to announce and to stand up for this – for the right to peace and freedom! May the flock of doves grow, from place to place, from country to country, and across all borders.”'


PLastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Spiritual Jazz now and then

Colin Marshall writes that 'Jazz has inspired a great many things, and a great many things have inspired jazz, and more than a few of the music's masters have found their aspiration by looking — or listening — to the divine.'

He quotes Andy Beta who noted that: 'This culminated in John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme, which opened the gates for other jazz players seeking the transcendent, using everything from "the sacred sound of the Southern Baptist church in all its ecstatic shouts and yells" to "enlightenment from Southeastern Asian esoteric practices like transcendental meditation and yoga."'

'It goes without saying that you can't talk about spiritual jazz without talking about John Coltrane. Nor can you ignore the distinctive music and theology of Herman Poole Blount, better known as Sun Ra, composer, bandleader, music therapist, Afrofuturist, and teacher of a course called "The Black Man in the Cosmos." NTS' expansive mix offers work from both of them and other familiar artists like Alice Coltrane, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Gil Scott-Heron, Ornette Coleman, and many more (including players from as far away from the birthplace of jazz as Japan) who, whether or not you've heard of them before, can take you to places you've never been before.'

Steve Huey adds that 'Albert Ayler conjured otherworldly visions of the spiritual realm with a gospel-derived fervor.' Jaimie Dougherty expands by saying: 'It’s no secret that Ayler’s ecstatic style of play was informed by his Christian spirituality (however unorthodox it may have later become), and many critics in the ’60s compared Ayler’s style to speaking in tongues. Ayler’s style is expansive—he finds power in fiery arpeggios running across tonal boundaries, notes drawn to time-stretching length, and pushing the timbre of the saxophone into strange new territory. Similarly, Peacock and Murray explore on Spiritual Unity the limits of their instruments, and the limits of rhythm and time. It’s at these limits that they manage to suggest both eternity and a kind of time-rootedness or temporal contingency.'

Spiritual Jazz continues to inspire the likes of Denys Baptiste, Martyn Halsall and Dwight Trible:

'The Late Trane is the powerful and commanding new album from British saxophonist Denys Baptiste, a giant of the UK jazz scene. Reimagining and reworking ten carefully chosen composition from John Coltrane’s late music (from 1963 – 1967) with a fresh and modern new interpretation, The Late Trane perfectly balances Denys Baptiste’s unique artistic vision with the visceral emotions and cosmic references that encompasses Coltrane’s late music.

The later works of John Coltrane, preserved in both studio and enigmatic live recordings were some of the most emotional and spiritually charged music of the 20th Century. Written at a time of tumultuous change in America and the world: the civil rights and anti racism movement, the Vietnam war, the peace movement and space exploration inspired a great flow of creativity of which Coltrane was at the heart. As Denys explains: ‘John Coltrane continues to be one of my most important influences and his late period has always intrigued me and has stimulated my work over many years. To play this music, with these incredible musicians alongside me is hugely inspiring’.

During the mid to late 60’s, John Coltrane’s music was inspired as much by the spiritual as the cosmic and a series of ground-breaking studio albums marked the last phase of his musical odyssey. Crescent, Ascension, Interstellar Space, Meditations, Om and Sun Ship all exemplified this period of explosive creative growth, where the boundaries of jazz were shifted forever.'

'Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and producer Matthew Halsall has carved out a unique niche for himself as both a band-leader and producer delving deeply into the worlds of spiritual jazz and string-laden soul. His latest project finds him playing with and producing the legendary LA jazz singer Dwight Trible, who first came to international renown with his 2005 Ninja Tune release Love Is the Answer. Trible, whose deeply soulful voice has seen him compared to Leon Thomas and Andy Bey, has worked with the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Horace Tapscott and Kamasi Washington (he sings lead vocals on the Epic) and brings a deep-rooted soulfulness to everything that he sings. Halsall and Trible first met at the Joy of Jazz Festival in South Africa back in 2015, when a chance encounter backstage led to Trible sitting in with The Gondwana Orchestra for an impromptu reading of the classic Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas anthem 'The Creator Has A Master Plan', and a lasting friendship and respect for each others music was born.

The relationship started to bear fruit in July 16, Trible was performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival and Halsall invited him to guest with him at a memorable show at the, newly re-opened, Jazz Café in London. A recording session at 80 Hertz studios in Manchester followed, providing two tracks that feature here: The timeless standard I Love Paris, and the traditional spiritual Deep River, featuring Halsall regulars pianist Taz Modi, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Luke Flowers. Inspired by what he heard Halsall offered to produce a Dwight Trible album for his Gondwana Records imprint. Together they selected some of their favourite songs and in November last year they went into Fish Factory Studios, London with new recruit Jon Scott taking the drum chair. They recorded an impassioned reading of Donny Hathaway and Leroy Hutson's classic Tryin' Times (a song as sadly relevant today as it was in 1970), a vibrant, soulful version of the Nina Simone smash Feeling Good and a beautiful take on the timeless Bacharach classic What The World Needs Now Is Love featuring harpist Rachael Gladwin. They also laid down two spiritual jazz masterpieces, a powerful re-working of Dorothy Ashby's Heaven and Hell (from the legendary The Rubiyat of Dorothy Ashby album) and a heartfelt version of Coltrane's beautiful ballad Dear Lord, with lyrics by Trible. Lyrics that have an extra poignancy after they received praise from none other than Alice Coltrane, who heard Trible perform his version of the song shortly before her passing.'


The Bobby West Trio & Dwight Trible - In The Beginning, God.

Welcome to the June HeartEdge Mailer ...

Welcome to the June HeartEdge Mailer ...

At HeartEdge our passion is growing Kingdom communities - via congregations, culture and commercial activity and acts of compassion. Join HeartEdge - become a member here

This month - Benjamin Blower on art and the grotesque and a clip of Broderick Greer on Mary’s rebel anthem. Links to Catriona Robertson talking about extremism and terrorism and Sam Wells and Jackie Kay about faith communities. Also, Luke Bretherton writes on citizenship . Plus lots of fundraising ideas and hear about Soup. Also HeartEdge news and Sam on building assets or addressing deficits.
Enjoy? Tell your friends and like our Facebook page for more!
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Mark Heard - Strong Hand Of Love.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Start:Stop - Show us how to be the answer to our prayers.

Bible reading

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5. 16 – 23)


Last week an Ordinand at Westcott House tweeted a photo of beds set out in St John’s Notting Hill for use by the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. His tweet said: ‘When people say, in the aftermath of tragedy, prayers are useless, remind them they inspire acts like this. Those who pray are those helping practically as well - not mutually exclusive. St John's Notting Hill with St Clement's Church took a leading role in helping the misplaced and traumatised following the tragic fire.

This tweet is a reminder of the reasons why the Bible encourages us to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances. Our prayers are not simply about God in action, they are also prompts for us to take action. Many of the prayers we pray can be answered quickly and with amazing results if we become better listeners to the voice of the Holy Spirit. If we can change our mindset as we pray, we can be used of God in mighty ways to be His agents of transformation.

Kim Butts is someone who has explained how this amazing reality became part of her prayer life. She was in a small group of women studying the Bible together and learning to pray. One young woman had three small boys and a husband who was working in another state to support them. He only made it home for a weekend every few months. There was very little money, but Bertie was always joyful. Her prayer one evening (they met in her home, as she couldn’t afford childcare) was for her husband to be able to come home for Christmas. The group prayed for the Lord’s provision and for this husband and father to be able to come home in time to celebrate with his family.

As they were praying Kim had an overwhelming sense that she was supposed to do something for this family. She shared her thoughts with another friend and they decided that between them they could help in the situation. First, they left Bertie, some money anonymously on the seat of her car. Bertie tearfully told our small group during their next meeting about how she had been worried about not having enough grocery money for the week. The envelope had contained the amount she needed.

Then when Bertie wanted to visit her husband for a weekend in case he was unable to come home over Christmas, they offered to take turns staying at her house to take care of the boys. While she was gone, they took the boys to get a Christmas tree. After it was set up, the five of them started making decorations for the tree and singing Christmas carols. The boys had a wonderful time and were so excited for their mother to come home. They all prayed for their father to be able to come home too. Imagine the surprised faces when both of their parents came through the door! The family had a wonderful reunion and a very special Christmas!

This is a very simple example, and it is easy to say, "We don’t need to pray before we help people." Very true, but we are often in a hurry and may miss opportunities as God puts them in our paths. Prayer helps us recognise those opportunities. Being the answer to the prayers of others is one way to be used by God. Being the answer to our own prayers is an astonishingly powerful privilege.


Rescuing God, you left the safety and beauty of heaven to come and save us. You gave your very life to deliver us from death forever, and to bring us into fullness of life. We thank you for all who take risks and make sacrifices for others in their daily work, and especially for the men and women who work in our emergency services. Help us to honour and appreciate our police, fire-service and paramedics and to bless them through our interactions with them, our support of those known to us personally, and our prayers for them. We pray for all the residents of Grenfell Tower. We pray particularly for those who have suffered injury, those who have died, and all the residents who have are left without a home today, and the entire community that has been affected. Our prayers are with all who have been affected by this fire, especially the victims, their families and friends, and all who are still worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for. As we pray, show us how to be the answer to our prayers.

God of truth and hope, in Christ you walk with your children through the valley of the shadow of death. Visit today all who know the panic and terror and trauma and grief of sudden, violent, ruthless attack, especially all who were victims of the attacks on Westminster Bridge, in Borough Market and at Finsbury Park Mosque. Bless those injured, bereaved, horrified, dismayed. Turn siege into renewal, fury into wisdom, doubt into gentleness and tension into trust, that as your people experience a Babel of tumult you may transform their chaos into a Pentecost of peace. As we pray, show us how to be the answer to our prayers.

God of mercy and judgement, in Christ you came among us as a vulnerable child and suffered a cruel and untimely death. In the face of terror you show us what we rightly love. Visit the people of Manchester today, in the midst of horror, and grief, and injury and dismay. Comfort the maimed and the bereaved. Strengthen the hands of those who bring healing, hope, and kindness in the face of agony and brutality. Teach each one of us to hold dear what can so suddenly be snatched away, to cherish what can so intimately be threatened, and to uphold what some are seeking to destroy. Make this time of terror and loss a moment of renewal in what we most deeply believe and most firmly maintain, that though we fear we may more truly love, and though we despair we may more profoundly know you, whose kingdom we seek, now and forever. As we pray, show us how to be the answer to our prayers.


Praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, being the answer to our own prayers. May all those blessings of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Taize - O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

come, again: degree show 2 design - central saint martins

Degree Shows at Central Saint Martins are a collective cacophony of voices and creativity. Thanks to University of the Arts London Chaplain and Interfaith Advisor, Mark Dean, I was able to see that for myself this evening at the Private View for Degree Show 2 Design.

Crossing disciplines, Show Two spans from design and fashion to drama and cultural enterprise. Projects on show – whether provocation, performance or product – present a future in the making.

Courses featured in Show Two:
  • Culture and Enterprise programme: BA Culture, Criticism and Curation, MA Innovation Management
  • Drama and Performance programme: BA Performance Design and Practice, MA Performance Design and Practice, MA Character Animation
  • Fashion programme: BA Fashion, BA Fashion Communication, Graduate Diploma in Fashion
  • Graphic Communication Design programme: BA Graphic Design, MA Communication Design
  • Jewellery and Textiles programme: BA Jewellery Design, BA Textile Design, MA Material Futures
  • Product, Ceramic and Industrial Design programme: BA Ceramic Design, BA Product Design, MA Design: (Ceramics); MA Design: (Furniture); MA Design: (Jewellery), MA Industrial Design
  • Spatial Practices programme: BA Architecture, MA Architecture, MA Narrative Environments

Pulp - Common People.

St Mary the Virgin, Banbury

I have enjoyed a HeartEdge visit today to the splendid late 18th Century church of St Mary the Virgin at the heart of Banbury. The church is of particular interest for several reasons, including its connection to St Stephen Walbrook.

As designed by the architect, Samuel Pepys Cockerill, the building was a perfect square with sides 90 feet long. It is thought to have been modelled on Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Stephen Walbrook, which, like this building, has a dome supported by twelve classical columns.

In 1873 the whole east end was reconstructed to the design of Sir Arthur Blomfield, All that remains of Blomfield's richly coloured decorative scheme are figures in the chancel which are painted in imitation mosaic In the dome of the apse, is depicted the Vision of the Throne of God from Revelation chapter 4: the rainbow, the four and twenty elders, the four living creatures, and the seven lamps symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Behind the High Altar are the figures of the Twelve Apostles with appropriate symbols of their calling or martyrdom. The stained glass is also of Blomfield’s time, the most striking windows being those at the eastern end of the nave above the galleries – by an unknown artist.

The church has a Lamp of Brotherhood brought from Monte Cassino in 1964, one of 84 throughout the world, and the first in this country. Jonathan Swift hints in the preface to the 1726 edition of Gulliver’s Travels that he had taken the name of Gulliver from tombstones in the Churchyard at Banbury. 

In 2002 the chancel was extended forward to create a stage, facilities for those with disabilities were added, emergency lighting and toilets were added and the church was redecorated. St. Mary’s is now both a place of worship and a resource to the community for performing arts. Since 2002 throygh LiveArts, St Mary’s has offered a performance and exhibition venue to a wide range of local, national and international artists, choirs and orchestras.

LiveArts at St Mary’s is a group of volunteers who, on behalf of the church supports, promotes and organises a programme of events, about 30 each year, both midweek and weekend. These include numerous local choral societies and orchestras (often supporting local charities) as well as well-known artists, Sir James Galway, Hayley Westenra, St Agnes Fountain, alongside the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and the Black Dyke Brass Band.

The Beacon drop in Centre in the St Mary's Church Centre is a drop-in centre for people who are homeless, poorly housed or socially excludedincluding those with mental health or substance misuse problems. Referrals are made to longer term housing and connection floating support workers are available. The Beacon is a place where people can come to find a warm, accepting environment and friendly atmosphere.

Banbury - famous for its cakes, cross and the ‘Ride a Cock Horse’ nursery rhyme – is an ideal base for touring the Cotswolds, Shakespeare’s Stratford Upon Avon, Warwick and Oxford. Banbury retains much of its historic market town character, and was granted its market charter by Queen Mary 1 in 1554. The town has a modern shopping centre which blends in with the old shopping streets, where visitors can find a fine selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Banbury Museum is home to a permanent collection of The Civil War, plush manufacturing, the Victorian market town, costume from the 17th century to the present day, Tooley’s Boatyard and the Oxford Canal, as well as an international temporary exhibitions programme, family fun events, talks, tours and fun for all.


Moonrakers - Waulkin' O'er The Fauld.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

CARAVAN: I AM at St Martin-in-the-Fields

I AM is a peacebuilding exhibition that premiered in Amman, Jordan under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah involving 31 of the Middle East's premier contemporary women artists that promotes and celebrates the many accomplishments of Middle Eastern women in shaping our world into a peaceful and harmonious one.

I AM will visually celebrate the rich, diverse and crucial contributions that women from the Middle East make to the enduring global quest for harmony and peace. In this way, the exhibition aims to challenge existing stereotypes and misconceptions about Middle Eastern women by showing how they dynamically and very significantly contribute to the fabric of local and global culture. I AM will showcase the insights and experiences of Middle Eastern women as they confront issues of culture, religion and social reality in a rapidly changing world both in the Middle East and West. This exhibition is an acknowledgement of how they continue to creatively evolve new narratives that uphold their rich heritage while embracing a future full of challenges.

I AM premiered at the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman, Jordan (3 May - 14 June) and will next be showcased at London's St. Martin in the Fields on Trafalgar Square for the months of July and August (2 July -20 August), followed by touring North America from the fall of 2017 through the end 2018, premiering in Washington, D.C. at the Katzen Arts Center of American University (September 5-October 22).

At each exhibition venue, a variety of events and programs will be planned to stimulate discussion, dialogue and education, promoting further understanding (talks, concerts, literary readings, film screenings, panels, forums, workshops, etc.).


Alabama Shakes - Don't Wanna Fight.

Exhibitions update: Image and identity

I've recently enjoyed seeing two exhibition about image and identity:

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!: This summer Grayson Perry, one of the most astute commentators on contemporary society and culture, presents a major exhibition of new work at the Serpentine Galleries. The works touch on many themes including popularity and art, masculinity and the current cultural landscape.

Perry’s abiding interest in his audience informs his choice of universally human subjects. Working in a variety of traditional media such as ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry, Perry is best known for his ability to combine delicately crafted objects with scenes of contemporary life. His subject matter is drawn from his own childhood and life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues ranging from class and politics to sex and religion.

The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, tackles one of Perry’s central concerns: how contemporary art can best address a diverse cross section of society. Perry said: “I am in the communication business and I want to communicate to as wide an audience as possible. Nothing pleases me more than meeting someone at one of my exhibitions from what museum people call ‘a non-traditional background.’ The new works I am making all have ideas about popularity hovering around them. What kind of art do people like? What subjects? Why do people like going to art galleries these days? What is the relationship of traditional art to social media?”

A Channel 4 documentary Grayson Perry: Divided Britain followed Perry as he created a new work for the show: his attempt to capture the thoughts of a divided country a year after the EU referendum. Harnessing social media, Perry invited the British public to contribute ideas, images and phrases to cover the surface of two enormous new pots: one for the Brexiteers and one for the Remainers. He also visited the most pro-Brexit and pro-Remain parts of the country for the programme, which is available to watch on All4. 

Saatchi Gallery and Huawei have teamed up to present From Selfie to Self-Expression. This is the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day, and celebrates the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity.

The show also highlights the emerging role of the mobile phone as an artistic medium for self-expression by commissioning ten exciting young British photographers to create new works using Huawei’s newest breakthrough dual lens smartphones co-engineered with Leica.

I'll also be going to see Art Out of the Bloodlands: A Century of Polish Artists in Britain at the Ben Uri Gallery from 28 June - 17 September 2017. This exhibition focuses on the contribution made by the largest migrant community to 20th/21st Century British Art, this exhibition highlights the work of Polish artists who have worked and continue to work in Britain. Featured artists include: Jankel Adler, Janina Baranowska, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Stanislaw Frenkiel, Feliks Topolski and Alfred Wolmark, complemented by contemporary practitioners working in London now. All but a handful of the featured works have been created in England – the new homeland - yet many retain symbols of Polish national identity, from Catholicism and the cavalry, to the dark forests and traditional embroidery.


Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here.

St Matthew Bethnal Green: Commissioning young artists

Congratulations to Fung Lau and James Johnston, both priested today at St Matthew Bethnal Green.

In 1957 it was decided to rebuild St Matthew Bethnal Green and Antony Lewis was appointed architect. Work began in 1958 and the temporary church was demolished in 1960 and the present church was re-consecrated on 15 July 1961.

The enlightened vision of Antony Lewis included commissioning young artists and ensuring that their work was integral to the structure of the building. Thus the church now has Stations of the Cross by Don Potter, a staircase sculpture by Kim James, the Apostles Screen by Peter Snow and an altar by Robert Dawson. Dorothy Rendell painted the tester designed by Lewis himself (as were the light fittings and the font) and the murals in the Upper Chapel are by Barry Robinson. The glass panels are designed by Heather Child. (see Art in St Matthew's)

Apart from these major pieces St Matthew’s houses a legacy from many of the other bombed churches in the area which are no longer standing. The stained glass in the Back Chapel by Lawrence Lee incorporates windows from St Philip’s, Swanfield Street, the crucifix at the east end is from the temporary church, as is the statue of Our Lady of Peace and a number of the carved wooden furnishings.

The interchange between artists and the church continues. For some years, the church hall was home to two galleries - Paradise Row and T 1 + 2.

Artists that have either had work in or related to the church are Cornelia Parker, Wolf Von Leinkiewicz, Lucinda Rogers and Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost.


Rhabanus Maurus - Veni Creator Spiritus, Mentes tuorum visita.

St Stephen Walbrook - Art videos

The website for St Stephen Walbrook has had additional videos added relating to the art exhibitions that have been held there and films that have been made there in recent years.

These videos can be found in the Gallery section of the website and feature work by Francis Bacon, Daniel Bourke, Terry Ffyffe, Michael Takeo Magruder, Kim Poor and Paul Raftery.


Genesis - Watcher Of The Skies.

We don’t know where we’re going

I've appreciated Gary Younge's recent reflections on the Election result in The Guardian (click here and here). The following quotes align with my reflections following the result:

The Brexit vote revealed a fundamental division within our nation and the Election result shows that we remain a divided nation and don't know how to address that reality - 'When Big Ben called time on Thursday night, we saw clear evidence of a political realignment that the media and the political establishment had dismissed with hostility, and now regarded with confusion. We saw a polity that has lost touch with its people; a political culture unmoored from the electorate, and a mainstream media that drifted along with it. The election did not create that dislocation; it was merely the clearest and least deniable manifestation of it so far. We are in new territory. And we don’t know where we’re going.'

Brexit unleashed a wave of self-centred isolationism which is not representative of the majority within our nation and the Election result indicated a corrective to this - 'During the EU referendum, much of what was wrong with Britain was blamed on foreigners – either the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who took our money at the expense of the NHS, or immigrants, who, it was claimed, took our jobs and plundered our benefits. But this time round, there was no one else to blame. There was a concern in that room in Wembley that Britain had become too harsh and unforgiving. One woman said she thought things had swung too far the wrong way, and that it was time to “make things fairer”. Another agreed. “We need to show people we care about them,” she said.'

'For far too long, cynicism has been the dominant force in British electoral politics, willing failure at every turn. When they saw large, engaged crowds, the political class and its stenographers in the media dismissed them. They did not appeal to people’s better nature because they assumed people did not have one. Mistaking morality for naivety, they presumed that people were motivated solely by self-interest – in the narrowest and most venal sense – and could not be moved by principle.'

'One of the most important lessons, and one that goes beyond our borders, from this result is that there is a response to the multiple pathologies of xenophobia, racism and rabid nationalism, bequeathed by globalisation, that does not demand pandering to bigotry.'

We are seeing a backlash to the unfairness of austerity cuts which have targeted those already poor whilst allowing those already rich to continue to make money - 'After the 2010 election, the Conservatives insisted on a period of austerity, claiming that it was necessary to repair public finances in the wake of the global banking crisis. The poor and the public sector have borne the brunt of these cuts – but after seven years, the pain of austerity has spread well beyond the very poorest ... As this sense of precariousness broadened to touch those who had never felt it before, and the desperation felt by an ever-widening cross-section of society deepened even further, we should not be surprised that there was an electoral backlash.'

'The print media are losing their influence in part because people receive much more information online nowadays but also because the right-wing press stopped try to report news objectively and began reporting news polemically (and, as a result, can no longer be trusted as an accurate source of news) - 'But while it was possible to see how most voters had formed their first impressions of Corbyn and May from the image presented by the media, what became clear to me while I was covering the campaign was that the impact of Fleet Street was not decisive. Thanks to the proliferation of online media sources, the decline in newspaper readership and weakening loyalties to established brands, the press does not have the same electoral clout it once did.'


Deacon Blue - The Believers.

Greyfriars Kirk

I had an inspiring HeartEdge visit to Greyfriars Kirk last Wednesday to meet the Minister Revd. Dr. Richard E Frazer and the Associate Minister Revd. Lezley Stewart

Greyfriars is a worshipping congregation of the Church of Scotland in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town where a church has stood since 1620. The Kirk seeks to be a welcoming, inclusive community and to respond to local needs in a variety of ways. Worship takes place during the week as well as on Sundays in English and Gaelic.

The Kirk is a major venue for the arts, a tourist destination and through the Grassmarket Community Project supports many vulnerable citizens. Greyfriars community outreach takes many forms but is primarily focused around their centre in the Kirkhouse on Candlemaker Row. The project is now managed by Grassmarket Community Project Ltd. - a partnership between Greyfriars Kirk and Grassmarket Mission.

Throughout the week the Grassmarket Community Project offers a variety of workshops aimed at developing people’s self worth, social networks and skills.

Craft, art and community are all central themes in their work. Participants have the opportunity to join in with GRoW wood workshop, the Plough to Plate cookery and gardening program, the Grassroots Textiles workshop, Greyfriars Herb Garden or one of their many arts and education activities.

Although primarily aimed at individuals facing deep social exclusion, the Grassmarket Community Project encourages members of the local community to join in and work side by side with participants from all walks of life.


Ricky Ross - Trouble Came Looking.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Windows on the world (349)

Brussels, 2016


Fleet Foxes - If You Need To, Keep Time on Me.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Start:Stop - Exchanges of Love

Bible reading

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17. 21 – 26)


At several points in John’s Gospel we hear Jesus speaking about his relationship with God the Father and with God the Holy Spirit. When he speaks in this way it is as though Jesus is pulling back the veil which prevents us from seeing God and giving us, thereby, a glimpse of God as Trinity. For example, he says that God the Spirit takes what belongs to God the Son and declares it to us. All that belongs to God the Son, he says, also belongs to God the Father. So, all that Jesus has belongs equally to the Spirit and the Father. Therefore, we have a picture of God the Father giving to God the Son who gives to God the Holy Spirit who gives to us. What is being pictured for us is an exchange of love within the Godhead.

Similarly, when Jesus prayed that his followers might all be one, he prayed this on the basis that his followers might be in God as he is in the Father and the Father is in him. The united relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit means that, at the very heart of God is a dynamic relationship in which a constant exchange of love is underway. Jesus prayed that we, who follow in his footsteps, would experience the same oneness with God and each other that he enjoys with God, his Father. In essence, his prayer is that we will experience unity, because unity is what is at the very heart of God.

We can be part of the constant exchange of love in God; a love which involves the continual giving and receiving of affirmation and authority. If we live in God, we live in love and love lives in us. We become included in the constant exchange of love which exists in the Godhead and are, therefore, constantly loved no matter what else is going on in our lives.

The exchange of love at the heart of the Trinity creates an environment of acceptance and affirmation in which authority is constantly shared by being given and received. Our participation in that exchange, as God’s children, then compels us, to make the attempt to create similar exchanges within the communities, organisations and networks of which we are part; whether that is family, workplace, church or community.

How might that work in practice? We could think briefly of the contrast between places where co-operation exists and those where it does not. I can think of one person I know who was recently working in an environment where self-promotion and active criticism of those with whom they worked seemed to be rewarded and the experience of being in that workplace was one of tension, strained relationships, walking on eggshells. Conversely, I know someone who has doubts and questions about the existence of God but whose experience of the quality of relationships in the church she attends has been such a positive contrast with her experience of relationships in society generally that she has found God in her experience of being welcomed, accepted and affirmed for the person that she is. Her experience has been of an exchange of love which connects to that occurring in the Godhead, while the other person’s experience was of a workplace full of suspicion and tension because what was exchanged was gossip and critique rather than love.

I wonder to what extent we can create everyday exchanges of love as a result of our encounter with the love that is constantly being exchanged by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


Holy Trinity, as we enter our workplaces may we bring your presence with us. May we speak your peace, your grace, your mercy, and your perfect order in our offices. May the work that we do and the way we do it bring faith, joy, and a smile to all that we come into contact with today. May everything we do today bring hope, life, and encouragement to those around us.

In our everyday exchanges, may we know and share your exchange of love.

Enable us to maintain good relations within our workplaces by minimising scope for conflict or blame and by promoting respect for others. Enable us to go beyond minimum standards of behaviour by showing love to those with which we work.

In our everyday exchanges, may we know and share your exchange of love.

Loving God, you showed us what all-out love looks like when you sacrificed yourself for others. Enable us to love you and others with all our being and in word and deed. Help us to explore what that might mean in our workplaces.

In our everyday exchanges, may we know and share your exchange of love.


Bring the presence of God, maintaining good relations, minimising scope for conflict, promoting respect, loving in word and deed, speaking peace, bring hope, life, and encouragement, sharing exchanges of love. May all those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


Van Morrison - Street Choir.