Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Foyer display: Fiona Hunter-Boyd

St Martin-in-the-Fields is home to several commissions and permanent installations by contemporary artists.

We also have an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, as well as a group of artists and craftspeople from the St Martin’s community who show artwork and organise art projects on a temporary basis.

One of the initiatives from this group is a changing display of work by the group members. Each month a different member of the group will show an example of their work, so, if you are able, do return to see the changing display.

This month Fiona Hunter-Boyd is showing work from a new series of Biblical Mountains inspired by Isaiah 52 v 7 - 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings'. Fiona display includes ‘Mount Zion’, ‘Mt Ararat’, ‘Mt Tabor’ and ‘Mt Sinai’. Fiona’s previous work has included paintings of Scottish mountain landscapes. Her mediums of choice include watercolour, oils and collage.


Ike & Tina Turner - River Deep Mountain High.

St Martin-in-the-Fields at Greenbelt

As part of our content partnership with Greenbelt, St Martin-in-the-Fields contributed music, a new discipleship resource, and HeartEdge reflections on commerce.

Singers from St Martin-in-the-Fields with our Director of Music Andrew Earis, explored through word and song some of the great music of our religious heritage. Great Sacred Music provided an exploration in words and music of some of the UK’s top 100 hymns, including Be Thou My Vision, Abide With Me and Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Sacred Space was a time of silence, reflection, music and prayer to draw close to God and experience stillness and peace, including music from the Taize Community.

Alastair McKay with Ayla Lepine launched ‘Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story’ by facilitating three taster sessions from this new online interactive discipleship resource. ‘Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story’ is a free resource to explore the Christian faith, using paintings and Biblical story produced by St Martin-in-the-Fields in partnership with the National Gallery.

The course uses fine art paintings in the National Gallery’s collection, along with a Biblical text and a short theological reflection, as a spring board for exploring these two questions:

• How can I deepen my faith in God?
• What does it mean to follow Jesus today?

The course is designed for use in a group, and is intended to build relationships among those participating. It has been structured as 22 hour-long gatherings over three terms, and aims to cover key elements of the Biblical story from Creation to Apocalypse. Each hour-long session can, however, stand alone. So participants don’t need to have attended an earlier session to participate.

The following materials are offered:

• An overview of the course
• Guidelines for the course facilitator(s)
• 22 theological reflections, typically about 8 minutes in length
• 22 handouts with a Biblical text and two reflection questions
• 22 images of paintings from the National Gallery collection
• A list of further recommended resources

To access this free resource, go online and register your details here: .

I contributed to a session entitled 'Cathedrals and commerce: The challenge facing large churches'. This was in The Exchange, a new venue for 2017 that provided the opportunity over the weekend to think together about enterprise for the common good. I was part of a panel chaired by Cliff Mills which explored the reality that large churches are getting involved in enterprise activity to stay open and asked how we can find the right way through commerce and cathedrals. I talked about these questions in relation to HeartEdge, together with The Very Revd John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Alison Inglis-Jones from the Trussell Trust, and Jonny Gordon-Farleigh from Stir to Action.


Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

commission4mission's Vision exhibition & reception

Vision is an exhibition of artworks by members of commission4mission which will be held at St Stephen Walbrook (39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN) from Monday 4 to Friday 15 September 2017, Weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm (Weds 11.00am – 3.00pm).

A group exhibition by commission4mission, Vision is intended as a broad theme open to wide interpretation, but will explore sight, visions and revelations. Artists taking part will showcase their individual engagements with the theme. The exhibition will feature assemblage, ceramics, collage, digital prints, etchings, film, icons, installations, paintings, photography, poetry and sculpture.

The exhibition will include work by 27 commission4mission artists including Ally Ashworth, Hayley Bowen, Harvey Bradley, Irina Bradley, Christopher Clack, maryjean donaghey, Jonathan Evens, Terence Ffyffe, Rob Floyd, Maurizio Galia (Italy), Michael Garaway, John Gentry, Clorinda Goodman, Judy Goring, Laura Grenci (Italy), Barbara Harris, Deborah Harrison, Tim Harrold, David Hawkins, Jacek Kulikowski, Mark Lewis, Adeliza Mole, Colin Riches, Janet Roberts, Henry Shelton, Monica Thornton and Peter Webb.

Former Bishop of Barking David Hawkins, commission4mission’s Patron, contributes Adam and Eve (after Masacio’s ‘Adam and Eve Expelled from the Garden of Eden’ 15th century), 35” x 15”, photograph and acrylic.

David writes: “During a woodland walk, in a moment, I saw standing before me Adam and Eve – shortly before they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. The serpent was there, as was the Tree of Good and Evil, the Tree of Calvary and the Tree of Life. The ivy, like evil, entwined the couple as they in turn clung to the tree.

The relationship of English Ivy (Hedera helix) to a tree has similarities to the behaviour of evil towards human life. Its habit is to attach itself to anything that stands, with the help of suction-like roots called ‘hold fasts’. Although it does not kill the tree, it competes for nutrients, water and sunlight, and so it may weaken the tree making it more prone to disease and branch dieback.”

A reception to launch the exhibition will be held on Monday 4 September from 6.30pm. During this reception commission4mission Associate member, Wendy McTernan, will give a talk entitled ‘Interpretations of the Cross in Contemporary Art & Culture’. In today’s secular society, it is perhaps surprising that artists still find themselves drawn to the Christian cross as a means of expression. The cross has never been an event about which one can remain neutral; from the start it was an offence. Contemporary artists’ interpretations have taken many forms. Wendy will look at some examples and see how, in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways, Jesus’ story becomes part of theirs – and ours. commission4mission’s AGM will also be held at 5.00pm.

Revd Jonathan Evens, commission4mission’s secretary says, “Classical, modern and contemporary art and architecture beautifully combine for commission4mission’s fifth group exhibition in the setting of St Stephen Walbrook. The theme of the show will be ‘Vision’ and, as in previous years, will feature a wide variety of work from longstanding and new members.”

commission4mission’s Chair, Peter Webb, says: “We are very fortunate to be able to exhibit regularly at St Stephen Walbrook. The exhibition always attracts a great deal of attention in the City. As before, interpretation of the theme is up to individual artists, and no doubt we will have the usual amazing variety and originality in the work submitted.”

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

Damien Rice - On Children.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Windows on the world (359)

Brussels, 2016


Fairouz - The Prophet.

Latest Artlyst article: The Sacramental And Liturgical Nature Of Conceptual Art

My latest article for Artlyst is on the sacramental and liturgical nature of conceptual art taking Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond at Modern Art Oxford as its inspiration.

In the article I note that Michael Craig-Martin has argued that: 

'conceptual art, even art itself, is at its heart about the belief of the artist in re-presenting an object or idea in the form of something other. The artist is, therefore, doing with her or his art what the priest does with the sacraments.'

I was reminded of Craig-Martin's An Oak Tree 'by the statement, in the exhibition notes for Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond (Modern Art Oxford), that Finn-Kelcey’s ‘finished works often invite a leap of faith as ideas are transformed into images and materials.’ She herself stated that she worked in the belief that she could continue to reinvent herself and remain a perennial beginner. Faith was therefore not just among her recurrent themes but also informed her creative practices, as, Craig-Martin argues, is the case for all artists.'

My other Artlyst articles are:

PVRIS - Heaven.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

HeartEdge August Mailer

The latest HeartEdge Mailer has been published. This month: History Projects and new discipleship resources, connecting with carers and supporting refugees, plus Brené Brown, Stanley Hauerwas, Luke Bretherton, and cycle-based social enterprise - plus Sam Wells on Beveridge and the appreciation of assets.

Our passion is growing kingdom communities via four C’s - congregations, culture, commercial activity and acts of compassion. Find out more at the following HeartEdge events:  

Belle and Sebastian - We Were Beautiful.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Why should the Devil have all the best technology?

St Martin-in-the-Fields will host a Churches Together in Westminster Reformation 500 event on Christian Education as part of our Bread for the World Service on Wednesday 13 September, 6.30pm. The Service will be organised with St Anne’s Lutheran Church London and Revd Eliza Zikmane. It will focus on Martin Luther’s legacy to Christian Education through the Small Catechism by asking the question, Why should the Devil have all the best technology?

Bread for the World is a great way to find focus during a busy week. With music led by the Choral Scholars of St Martin’s, we share the Eucharist in church followed by a simple soup supper in 6 St Martin’s Place with the opportunity to reflect on and explore the bible together in small groups.


Martin Luther - O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold.

Start:Stop - Praise the Lord

Bible reading

‘… whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ Philippians 4. 8


The artist Paul Thek once wrote 96 Sacraments in one of his notebooks. By doing so, he celebrated everything around him and everything that was present to him, especially the small and everyday things.

‘To wake up. Praise the Lord
To breathe. Praise the Lord.
To touch the earth. Praise the Lord
To wash. To comb your hair. Praise the Lord.
To prepare breakfast. Praise the Lord.
To eat breakfast. Praise the Lord
To do the dishes. Praise the Lord.
To clean up. Praise the Lord
To write a letter. Praise the Lord.
To mail a letter. Praise the Lord.
To go out. Praise the Lord
To see the sun. Praise the Lord’

The things he celebrated can seem banal but, as our reading, suggests it is a godly thing to do to develop an attitude or habit of looking for the good in what is around us, the people we meet and the things we do. As the Carmelite lay brother, Br Lawrence stated: 'we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment.'

Nor need we worry if the things we celebrate are small or mundane. Again, Brother Lawrence has a helpful reminder for us when he says: 'We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.'

I wonder whether our view of our day and those we are with would change at all if we were able to simply say ‘Praise the Lord’ in respect of each thing we do, each person we meet and each place we go to.


Walk to work. Praise the Lord.
Greet the receptionist. Praise the Lord.
Get in the lift. Praise the Lord.
Acknowledge others in the lift. Praise the Lord.
Exit the lift. Praise the Lord.
Greet colleagues. Praise the Lord.
Find our desk. Praise the Lord.
Sit at our desk. Praise the Lord.
Turn on the computer. Praise the Lord.
Open emails. Praise the Lord.
Read emails. Praise the Lord.
Compose and send emails. Praise the Lord.
Answer the phone. Praise the Lord.
Attend meetings. Praise the Lord.
Begin tasks. Praise the Lord.
Complete tasks. Praise the Lord.

As we praise you, Lord, this morning,
We recognise that the world you created
contains much that is true, honourable, just,
pure, pleasing and commendable.
Keep us looking for these things
in the ordinariness of life
and praising you when they are found.
And may that blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Rest upon you and remain with you always.


Morten Lauridsen - Prayer.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Latest Artlyst interview: Revd Paul-Gordon Chandler

Image result for paul-gordon chandler st martin in the fields

My latest interview for Artlyst is with Revd Paul-Gordon Chandler, CEO and Founder of CARAVAN, whose I AM exhibition ends at St Martin-in-the-Fields today, before moving to Washington, D.C. at the Katzen Arts Center of American University from September 5 – October 22.

In the interview Paul-Gordon says:

'In the midst of the all-too-often widening divides of discord and misapprehension between creeds and cultures, I believe a new movement is needed now more than ever: not of belief, or of cultural or religious unity, but one that creatively builds on what we hold in common. Art allows us to see similarity within difference, offering a mode of reconciliation toward a new vision and experience of coexistence, proactively bringing about a sectarian-free world.

I believe the arts provide new pathways of understanding that transcend borders and differences. CARAVAN’s goal through these “creative demonstrations of dialogue and peacebuilding” is not just more dialogue or greater understanding, but something much deeper, seeing the establishment of intercultural and interreligious friendships.

To us, the aim of art is always higher than art… for it can help us see someone different than ourselves for whom they really are – that they are like us. As Kahlil Gibran, the early 20th-century Lebanese writer, painter, and mystic, and author of The Prophet, so powerfully wrote: “Your neighbour is your other self-dwelling behind a wall. In understanding, all walls shall fall down.”'

My other Artlyst articles are:
Paul-Gordon gave the sermon at the 10.00 am service of St Martin-in-the-Fields today focusing on the message of the I AM exhibition and titled "The Boundary-less Way". His latest book In Search of a Propher: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran blends memoir and biography in an 'introductory exploration of poet Kahlil Gibran’s influences, writings, and impact.'

In this book Paul-Gordon:

'traces Gibran’s life from his birth in Lebanon in 1883 and his immigration to the United States in 1895 to his return to the Middle East in 1899 and his encounters with leading artistic figures in Europe before his death in 1931. Each chapter centers on a key work of Gibran’s, with ample excerpts to get a sense of his style and messages. This orderly chronology will help readers fill in details and get a better sense of what events shaped Gibran’s work, including personal losses, World War I, and the dislocation of being an immigrant. Those unfamiliar with the poet’s work will gain solid insights into how and why Gibran sought out universal reconciliation of the religious impulses stemming from his Maronite Catholic upbringing, his Arab identity, and his Western education.'


Lisa Hannigan & Glen Hansard - On Love.

Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story

As part of our content partnership with Greenbelt this year St Martin-in-the-Fields will be launching 'Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story', an exciting new discipleship resource, with three exclusive ‘Inspired to Follow’ taster sessions. My colleague Alastair McKay has explained more in a post on the Greenbelt website - click here to read.

Alastair will be showcasing three sessions of ‘Inspired to Follow’ at GB17, in collaboration with Ayla Lepine an art historian and ordinand, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the festival. The sessions – a cross between workshop and educational event – are being offered in the new Canvas venue on the ‘other side of the lake’.

‘Inspired to Follow’ offers a space for us to explore together what it means to follow Jesus in today’s world. So there’s more questions than answers, as well as pointers to where answers can be found in God’s journey with us – through both the Biblical story and our journey in today’s world. Perhaps the best news is that all the materials for the 22-session course are provided free, in return for registering your details.

In addition, St Martin in the Fields will also be bringing Great Sacred Music to Greenbelt this year and I will be contributing to a session entitled Cathedrals and commerce: The challenge facing large churches. This will be in The Exchange, a new venue for 2017 that will be an oportunity to think together over the weekend about enterprise for the common good. On Bank Holiday Monday at 1.00pm, a panel chaired by Cliff Mills, will explore the reality that large churches are getting involved in enterprise activity to stay open and asking didn't Jesus turn over the tables of the money changers, so how can we find the right way through commerce and cathedrals? I will talk about these questions in relation to HeartEdge, together with The Very Revd John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Alison Inglis-Jones from the Trussell Trust, and Jonny Gordon-Farleigh from Stir to Action


Pēteris Vasks - Lord,  Open Our Eyes.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Windows on the world (358)

Brussels, 2016


Scott Walker - Farmer In The City.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The inexhaustible, unlimited motherly and fatherly love of God

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

Henri Nouwen was a bestselling author and pastor of a L’Arche community in Toronto, a community of people with learning difficulties. One of his best loved books is The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. The book reflects on the parable of the Prodigal Son by way of a painting; Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son.

In the book Nouwen describes his thoughts as he first saw that image as a large poster pinned to a colleague’s door: “I saw a man in a great red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of a dishevelled boy kneeling before him. I could not take my eyes away. I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic, and the mysterious light engulfing them both. But, most of all, it was the hands – the old man’s hands as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.”

Through reflection on the painting and through L’Arche, Nouwen became familiar with the home of God within him. That place where, “I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name and says, ‘You are my beloved son, on you my favour rests.’ Looking back he sees that his intense response to the father’s embrace of his son told that he was desperately searching for that inner place where he too could be held as safely as the young man in the painting. It maybe that we are each one searching for that place and embrace.

For Nouwen it all began with the father’s hands: “The two are quite different. The father’s left hand touching the son’s shoulder is strong and muscular … That hand seems not only to touch, but, with its strength, also to hold. Even though there is a gentleness in the way the father’s left hand touches his, it is not without a firm grip. How different is the father’s right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender … It lies gently upon the son’s shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother’s hand …As soon as I recognised the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches … with a masculine hand and a feminine hand. He is, indeed God, in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood, are fully present.

Then there is the great red cloak. With its warm colour and its arch-like shape, it offers a welcome place where it is good to be. At first, the cloak … looked to be like a tent inviting the tired traveller to find some rest. But as I went on gazing at the red cloak, another image came to me: the sheltering wings of the mother bird. They reminded me of Jesus’ words about God’s maternal love: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem … How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Day and night God holds me safe, as a hen holds her chicks secure under her wings. Even more than … a tent, the image of a vigilant mother bird’s wings expresses the safety that God offers her children. They express care, protection, a place to rest and feel safe …

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life … and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when … close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realised that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The … question is not “How am I to love God? But “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home … God is the father who watches and waits for his children, runs out to meet them, embraces them, pleads with them, begs and urges them to come home. It might sound strange, but God wants to find me as much as, if not more than, I want to find God …

Many people live their lives never fully sure that they are loved as they are. Many have horrendous stories that offer plausible reasons for their low self-esteem. The parable of the prodigal son is a story that speaks about a love that existed before any rejection was possible and that will still be there after all rejections have taken place. It is the first and everlasting love of a God who is Father as well as Mother. It is the foundation of all true human love, even the most limited. Jesus’ whole life and preaching had only one aim: to reveal this inexhaustible, unlimited motherly and fatherly love of his God and to show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives. In his painting of the father, Rembrandt offers us a glimpse of that love. It is the love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate.”


Keith Green - The Prodigal Son Suite.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Restoring relationships

Here is my reflection from today's lunchtime Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

The rock band Good Charlotte have a song called 'The Story of My Old Man'. It begins like this:

‘I don’t know too much, too much of my old man.
I know he walked right out the door and we never saw him again.
Last I heard he was at the bar doing himself in.
I know I got that same disease, I guess I got that from him.

This is the story of my old man,
just like his father before him.
I’m telling you do anything you can,
so you don't end up just like them.’

In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 18: 15-20), Jesus says the church is like a family and he is realistic and recognises that in a family brothers (and sisters and parents will fall out). The song was about a real family and in the song it is the Dad who has broken up the family. In all these situations there is real hurt and when people are in these sorts of situation they react with anger saying “don’t end up just like them” or treat them “as though they were pagans or tax collectors.” In other words don’t have anything to do with them because of the hurt they have caused.

Good Charlotte also have a second song on this same theme which is called 'Emotionless':

'Hey Dad, I'm writing to you
not to tell you, that I still hate you
just to ask you how you feel
and how we fell apart, how this fell apart …

I remember the days, you were a hero in my eyes
but those were just a long lost memory of mine
I spent so many years learning how to survive
Now, I'm writing just to let you know that I'm still alive
And sometimes I forgive.
Yeah, this time I’ll admit that I miss you.
I miss you. Hey Dad.'

You see the difference between the two songs? They’re both about the singer’s Old Man. In both he’s been hurt by the things that his Old Man has done. But in the second song, he’s writing to try to restore the relationship, even, at the end, to say that he forgives and misses his Dad. It’s clearly not easy because of the hurt but it’s also very much what he needs to do.

And it’s a similar story in our Gospel reading. Jesus is not giving the disciples these instructions so that they can reject those brothers and sisters in the Church who do something wrong. He is giving these instructions so that these brothers and sisters can be won back; so that the relationship can be restored.

When Jesus says treat people like pagans and tax collectors, he doesn’t mean reject them. Matthew was a tax collector. He knew from personal experience how Jesus treated tax collectors and outcasts. He went to their homes, ate meals with them and said that he had not come to call respectable people, but outcasts. He did all he could to restore the relationship and heal the wounds.

And that is also what we see in the parables before and after these instructions. In the parable of the lost sheep, the point is that we do everything possible to find those who are lost and the parable of the unforgiving servant was told to illustrate the point that we should not put limits on forgiveness but forgive again and again, just as God forgives us.

This is not easy. Another songwriter, Leonard Cohen, has said that, “Of all the people who left their names behind, I don’t think there’s a figure of Christ’s moral stature. A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes, the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity … (which) would overthrow the world if it was embraced.”

There is a divine generosity in Jesus which we are called to emulate. We will find it hard to forgive, just as the person in the two Good Charlotte songs found it hard to forgive his Dad. But that is where Jesus wants us to do and that is the point of these instructions that he gave to the disciples. They are about restoring relationships not about rejecting those we think are in the wrong. When we struggle to forgive, struggle to restore, struggle to reconcile then we are coming together in the name of Jesus and he is right there with us.


Good Charlotte - Emotionless.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Start:Stop - Walking the walk & talking the talk

Bible reading: James 1:22-27

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


Investors in People argue that “Everybody needs someone to look up to in the workplace. They want role models. This may seem like a daunting responsibility for a manager or employer, but it needn't be. It's largely just a matter of what we call ‘walking the talk’ and leading by example.” William C. Taylor, author of Practically Radical, has written that, “One of the most ubiquitous aphorisms in business is that the best leaders understand the need to “walk the talk” — that is, their behavior and day-to-day actions have to match the aspirations they have for their colleagues and organization.”

The phrase “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk” is a modern version of old sayings like “actions speak louder than words” and “practice what you preach.” Another early form of the expression was “walk it like you talk it.” Many people now condense this to “walk the talk.”
All these are essentially versions of James 1. 22, “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers. “The real blessing of the Christian faith does not lie in listening to sermons or reciting liturgies, but in dwelling on what is true until it transforms what we do. A genuine encounter with Jesus provokes action.”

The action it produces is “care for orphans and widows in their distress.” Jesus said, in the Parable of the sheep and goats, that God’s judgement on us will be based on our actions; giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison. These actions are to be the end result of our faith. If our looking deeply into God’s word does not result in our doing these things, our faith is not genuine and we are not walking the walk as Christians.


As we relate to our colleagues, customers and suppliers, make us doers not merely hearers of your word. May we talk the talk and walk the walk.

As we seek to model our values and those of our company in the way we manage or relate to others,
make us doers not merely hearers of your word. May we talk the talk and walk the walk.

As we demonstrate our faith in actions and, where necessary, words, make us doers not merely hearers of your word. May we talk the talk and walk the walk.

As we show compassion to those in need here in the UK and around the world you made, make us doers not merely hearers of your word. May we talk the talk and walk the walk.

As we seek to do our job and respond to the new challenges and opportunities in our changed political environment following the General Election result, make us doers not merely hearers of your word. May we talk the talk and walk the walk.

The Blessing

May your Spirit inspire, guide and empower us to live as your people, following in your footsteps, animated by your Spirit and putting into practice in our lives what we hear from your word. May we be doers of your word and not merely hearers only and may that blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Ave Verum Corpus.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beyond Airbrushed from Art History: Mystical Landscapes

Continuing the current trend of exhibitions which explore aspects of the spirituality of modern art (such as Divine Beauty: From Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana and still small voice: British biblical art in a secular age), Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in partnership with the Musée d'Orsay in Paris to explore the mystical experiences of 37 artists from 14 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O'Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler.

The years between 1880 and 1930 were marked by rampant materialism and rapid urbanization. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many European, Scandinavian and North American artists searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences.

Seeking an order beyond physical appearances, going beyond physical realities to come closer to the mysteries of existence, experimenting with the suppression of the self in an indissoluble union with the cosmos. It was the mystical experience above all else that inspired the Symbolist artists of the late 19th century who, reacting against the cult of science and naturalism, chose to evoke emotion and mystery.

The landscape, therefore, seemed to these artists to offer the best setting for their quest, the perfect place for contemplation and the expression of inner feelings.

Contemplation, the ordeal of the night or of war, the fusion of the individual with the cosmos, and the experience of the transcendental forces of nature, were stages in the mystical journey on which this exhibition invited viewers to take.

Highlights in the exhibitions included Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888, which prompted him to write about feeling “a tremendous need of —shall I say the word— I go outside at night to paint the stars”; Paul Gauguin's vivid Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) from 1888, painted during his sojourn in rural Brittany; Claude Monet's Water Lilies (Nymphéas) from 1907, which he painted after hours of Zen-like meditation beside his Japanese water garden; Edvard Munch's The Sun, created to inspire students in the wake of his well-publicized nervous breakdown between 1910-1913; Georgia O'Keeffe's Series I - from the Plains from 1919, which shows the terrifying power of an approaching thunderstorm in Texas; and a series of mystical lithographs by the recently rediscovered French artist Charles Marie Dulac, which illustrates St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of Creation.

Click here for the detailed presentation of this exhibition on the website of the Musée d'Orsay.


Scott Walker - It's Raining Today.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Elizabeth Jennings & David Gascoyne: Mystical Experience and the Making of Poems

Elizabeth Jennings was a poet 'with an acute ability to combine concrete detail with abstract thought.'

'She was a bold and genuine versifier who conveyed both a sense of the hidden, and the fact that it was powerfully alive within her. For many years her favourite of her own poems was Fountain, from A Sense of the World (1958), which ends, It is how we must have felt / Once at the edge of some perpetual stream, / Fearful of touching, bringing no thirst at all, / Panicked by no perception of ourselves / But drawing the water down to the deepest wonder.

She later explained: "Art, for me, is that strength, that summoning fountain".'

Peter Levi stated that ‘[Jennings] may be the last poet of what used to be called ‘the soul’. 'One strand of her writing vitalizes English mystical verse in which she was steeped.' She wrote that 'a writer should neither preach nor conceal their creed.' 'For her, it was about taking a Christian lens to all subjects, following on from Chaucer, Milton, Dryden, Patmore, Hopkins and T.S. Eliot.'

Her faith contributed to some significant prose works. 'Every Changing Shape (1961) was a highly regarded exploration of the relationship between poetry and mysticism, while Christianity and Poetry (1965) considers the influence of religion on literature':

'Poets and mystics who have experienced some close, personal but supra-rational awareness of God have always carried away from such moments of illumination an increased subtlety, a profoundly original understanding of human experience and of the apparent contradictions even in the physical universe.’ … ‘Poetry is not rationalization but revelation and what is healing in it, both for the poet and his readers, is the ability to depict conflict at its most vulnerable point; with Hopkins, this point is the wrestling of man with God, - but also the surrender of man to God.' ’While frequently making parallels between poetry and religion, Jennings teases out the differences between the mystic and the poet: the poet wants to communicate ordinary experience while the mystic moves away from it.

In Every Changing Shape she gives a reading of Miserere by David Gascoyne: 'the only living English poet, apart from Eliot, in the true mystical tradition. If not directly influenced by it, his work undoubtedly leads back to the visionary poetry of Vaughan, Herbert and Traherne.'

She writes, 'in the magnificent sequence of poems called Miserere the poet, in lines of extreme lucidity, examines the depths of man’s guilt and the terror of life without God. The traditional “dark night of the soul” is transferred to Christ himself—Christ who is both the victim and the conquerer:

God's wounds are numbered.
All is now withdrawn: void yawns
The rock-hewn tomb. There is no more
Regeneration in the stricken sun....

This may it be: and worse.
And may we know Thy perfect darkness.

And may we into Hell descend with Thee.'

'Kyrie explores “the black catastrophe that can lay waste our world” and pleads:

Grant us extraordinary grace.'

'... it is the poet’s vision itself which sanctifies and radiates. The vision is the end and not the means and once it has been achieved, however fleetingly, it illuminates all things outside it while itself remaining locked in its own lyrical form and music.. This is the hard-won triumph of all great visionary poetry.'

Gascoyne said that 'The poet's job is to go on holding on to something like faith, through the darkness of total lack of faith...the eclipse of God.'

Niall McDevitt argues that the purpose served by Christian poetry, 'certainly at Gascoyne’s level, is not to proselytise or even to pray, but to wrestle with Christendom.' 'None of us can deny that we are surrounded by Christian architecture, iconography, educational and charitable institutions, tourist rubble etc. Our ancestry is Christian, our guilt is Christian and the wars we watch on television being fought in our name are Christian also. Even our nihilism is Christian. True Christian poetry is a critique of Christendom, which is, after all, the superstructure of capitalism. As poetry cleanses the language, it cleanses the superstructure':

'Involved in their own sophistry
The black priest and the upright man
Faced by subversive truth shall be struck dumb,
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry,
While the rejected and condemned become
Agents of the divine.' (Ecce Homo)


Windows on the world (357)

Oxford, 2017


Michael McDermott - Shadow In The Window.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Norman Nicholson: Interweaving faith and geography into a theology of place

Vising the Lake District has reminded me of another great Cumbrian poet, Norman Nicholson, who was born on 8 January 1914 in a Victorian terraced house in Millom, where he was to live for most of his life. His writing career stretched from 1940 up until the time of his death. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1977, and the OBE in 1981.

His poetry is noted for its local flavour, its straightforwardness of language and the use of elements of common speech.Norman Nicholson died on 30 May 1987, leaving behind a rich legacy as the greatest modern day Lake's poet. In St George's Church in Millom, you will find a specially commissioned stained glass window designed and made by Christine Boyce. It is inspired by Norman's poetry and has sections of some of his poems worked into the design.

Martyn Halsall says that with Norman Nicholson we "have a writer whose intense localism proved actually to be liberation, enabling him to interweave faith and geography into a theology of place that stretched beyond global warfare into humanity's war against our fragile globe; a prophetic prophecy with which we need continually to engage."

A post at Vulpes Libris notes that Nicholson "was a man of firm Christian beliefs, and that permeates much of his work – not least the title poem of Sea to the West, which vividly describes the Irish Sea at sunset." "The closing lines of that same poem provided his epitaph – carved on the headstone of his grave at St George’s Church in Millom:

"Let my eyes at the last be blinded
Not by the dark
But by dazzle."

As a result of my visit to the Lakes I'll shortly be reading two anthologies compiled by Nicholson; Anthology of Religious Verse and The Lake District: An Anthology. The latter including Nicholson's wonderful poem about dry-stone walls which is simply entitled 'Wall'.

Kathleen Jones writes in the Introduction to Norman Nicholson: The Whispering Poet that:

"Norman Nicholson detested the ‘cult of the picturesque’. His chosen space was in the edgelands between the Lake District and the sea. He is the celebrant, not of the emotions aroused by landscape, but of man’s relationship with the land, above and below ground, documenting man’s capacity to produce industrial holocausts, exploring geology and its consequences. Norman had great admiration for the poet William Cowper. He wrote a biography of Cowper and praised him for ‘showing the English country scene more as it really was and less as it was imagined to be’. Cowper’s was not a landscape ‘of mountains, torrents and romantic wildness’ but of a more commonplace reality. Cowper ‘celebrated the usual, the everyday, the humdrum’, and this is where Norman chose to place himself, turning his back on the mountains and torrents that formed the north eastern horizon, to focus on everyday life in Millom."


Norman Nicholson - September On The Mosses.

St Martin's Bowness-on-Windermere

I enjoyed visiting St Martin's Bowness-on-Windermere recently. The following comes from their current website:

"Some of the unique features inside St Martin’s Bowness-on-Windermere are the decorative murals, the sixteenth century instructive sayings and the quotations from the Bible on the walls and the roof beams. The only remaining part of the original pattern of decoration is to be found above a window in the south aisle.

The appearance of the present church owes much to the 1870 restoration and enlargement under the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. The chancel was extended to the east, as the differing roof beams demonstrate, the tower was heightened and all the seating renewed. Most of the mural decorations (by a Mr Henry Hughes of Frith St, London) including two large paintings in the chancel, date from this time. They serve to relieve the bareness of the smooth re-plastered walls and pillars. The mural on the north wall of the Chancel depicts the Adoration of the Magi, that on the south wall, the Entombment of Christ.

The marble reredos behind the main altar incorporates mosaics, executed by Bell and Almond of London, depicting the symbols of the Gospel writers and the Passion. The reredos, and the whole chancel extension, were designed as part of the Victorian restoration by Paley and Austin.

The outstanding treasure of St Martin’s is the East Window which was so successfully restored in 1870 by Mr Hughes, under the supervision of the Society of Antiquaries, when the new chancel was built. The magnificent East Window contains some very fine stained glass, most of which dates from the 15th century. However, it is not all of this period. Some of the glass at the top is earlier, and the restoration of 1870 made good the damage believed to have been done by Cromwell’s soldiers. This included replacing the faces of the saints.

The history of the window is obscure but it is thought that the glass probably came from Cartmel Priory. The central theme is the crucifixion, flanked by a group of figures including St George (and the dragon), St Barbara, (also an early martyr to the truth) and St Katherine (patroness of learning and theology). In the medieval period, the prayers of these three so-called auxiliary saints were thought to be most effective in aid of the faithful. The supplicants shown kneeling below include Canons of Cartmel as well as various benefactors wearing their coats of arms. The earliest glass is at the top of the third light from the left; a representation of the Virgin and Child believed to date from 1260. In the Middle Ages the Virgin Mary was traditionally depicted in green (later replaced by blue). There is very little glass older than this anywhere in Britain. Surrounding the 15th century coat of arms of a Prince of Wales are many shields relating to north Lancashire families as well as the Prior of Cartmel (strongly suggesting the window’s origin). In the fifth light from the left, one of the seven shields bears what were believed to be arms of that branch of the Washington family (who had lands around the Warton area of Lancashire in the 1400s) and from whom the first president of the United States was descended.

Below the tower, you will see the Curwen Screen, installed in 2000. Magnificent etched glass panels designed by Sally Scott surmount the glass and wood base. The Angels & Music design depicting angels glorifying God through music reflects the theme of the surrounding wall.

At the base of the tower is the statue of St Martin. This carved wooden figure of the Saint shows him on horseback with a beggar, on foot, beside him. The Saint is dividing his cloak with his sword to give half to the beggar illustrating the best-known story of St Martin who became bishop of Tours in France and died in 400 A.D. The statue is probably of foreign origin and dates from the 17th century. It was returned to the church in 1915, having been removed for safekeeping during the 1870 restoration."


Thursday, 10 August 2017

John Ruskin: Brantwood and the Ruskin Cross

Today's place of pilgrimage was to Brantwood, home of John Ruskin, and to the Ruskin Cross at St Andrew's Coniston.

Brantwood offers a fascinating insight into the world of John Ruskin and the last 28 years of his life spent at Coniston. Filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures, the house retains the character of its famous resident. Displays and activities in the house, gardens and estate reflect the wealth of cultural associations with Ruskin’s legacy – from the Pre Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement to the founding of the National Trust and the Welfare State.
"Ruskin was one of the most important art critics and social thinkers of the nineteenth century. He championed the art of J. M. W. Turner and exercised a profound influence on the Pre-Raphaelites. When he came to write his famous architectural history of Venice entitled The Stones of Venice, he began to contrast mediaeval craftsmanship with modern industrial manufacturing."

"Ruskin believed that, to achieve the highest artistic ideals, the artist must understand the God given laws of nature by paying attention to minute details as well as spectacular effects."

"His ideas inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement but also had profound political implications. When the first Labour Party MPs were elected in 1906, the book that they said had most influenced them was Ruskin’s Unto This Last. Much of the second half of his life was spent defending his ideas that industrialisation and free markets were doing terrible damage to the ability of people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Gandhi and Tolstoy are amongst those who found his writing deeply compelling."

Tolstoy said that, ‘Ruskin was one of the most remarkable men, not only of England and our time, but of all countries and all times. He was one of those rare men who think with their hearts, and so he thought and said not only what he himself had seen and felt,but what everyone will think and say in the future.’

"After his death Ruskin’s ideas found expression in the welfare state, the National Health Service, and widening access to education. His analysis of gothic buildings made a direct contribution to the development of modernist architecture."

"Standing by his grave," as W. G. Collingwood wrote, "one cannot but think what we owe him. He was not a mere successful man, but a great pioneer of thought. He led the way to many new fields, which he left for others to cultivate. It is from him chiefly that we, or our teachers, have learnt the
feelings with which we look nowadays at pictures or architecture or scenery, entering more intelligently into their beauty and significance, and providing more consciously for their safe keeping. Nobody for many generations understood so clearly and taught so fearlessly the laws of social justice and brotherly kindness; no one preached councils of perfection so eloquently and so effectively. There are few of us whose lives are not the better, one way or another, for his work."

My appreciation of Ruskin's significance came as a result of the writing of the art critic Peter Fuller. Fuller wrote that:

"When, in the early 1980s, I wrote the essays, later gathered together in Images of God, I felt that I was being tremendously daring and even perverse in reviving the idea that aesthetic experience was greatly diminished if it became divorced from the idea of the spiritual. What I responded to in Ruskin, above all else, was the distinction he made between ‘aesthesis’ and ‘theoria’, the former being a merely sensuous response to beauty, the latter what he described as a response to beauty with ‘our whole moral being’. My book, Theoria, was an attempt to rehabilitate ‘theoria’ over and above mere ‘aesthesis’; I also tried to communicate my feeling that the spiritual dimensions of art had been preserved, in a very special way, within the British traditions."

"I became interested in the links between ‘natural theology’ and the triumphs of British landscape painting. I am still convinced that there is a close correlation between British ‘higher landscape’ and those beliefs about nature as divine handiwork which were held with a peculiar vividness and immediacy in Britain."

Such views seem to have little place in the contemporary art world and, as Jonathan Jones has written, "this fierce defender of figurative painting and enemy of the avant garde has now been almost erased from the history of British art. His legacy has been reduced to the career of his protegee Sister Wendy Beckett and the annual Peter Fuller Lecture ... Even Modern Painters, the magazine he founded in 1987, officially abandoned his editorial policy ... to become broadly sympathetic to conceptual art ... Fuller has disappeared from the story of British art because that story has been mythicised and thinned out."


Creed - With Arms Wide Open.