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Saturday, 28 April 2018

Windows on the world (294)

Oxford, 2017


Bruce Cockburn - Stab At Matter.

HeartEdge Mailer | April 2018

HeartEdge is a growing ecumenical international network, passionate about nurturing Kingdom communities via four C’s - congregations, culture, commercial activity and compassion.

Each month in our Mailer we bring you commercial practice, cultural activity, community and congregational development. Inspiration, ideas and resource!

This month:
  • Tips for developing your church as a venue. Comedy clubs - examples and tactics, plus how to start that social enterprise. 
  • Anthony Wilson on ambition, Willie Jennings on inhabiting the abandoned spaces, Georgia May on radical hospitality.
  • Plus Liturgy on the Edge, previews from Ai Weiwei, free video resources and Liz Crumlish on renewal at the margins.
Forthcoming HeartEdge events include:

“Who is my Neighbour? The Global and Personal Challenge - Book Launch" London - 21 May 7pm, St Martin in the Fields: Revd Dr Sam Wells hosts Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu, Dr Megan Warner, Revd Richard Carter and Sam Ahmad Ziaee for an evening exploring themes in the book. Edited by Richard Carter and Sam Wells, “This richly challenging and deeply engaging book merits careful consideration at a time when fear of the 'other' threatens to overwhelm us.” The Rt Revd Adrian Newman Bishop of Stepney. “This brilliant book addresses one of the most urgent questions of our time: how to welcome the strangers who come seeking a home with us.” Timothy Radcliff. Register your free place here and buy the book for £10.

Thursday 24 May, 2pm - 4pm: St Martin-in-the-Fields, London: HeartEdge Start:Stop Workshop. Learn about Start:Stop, the popular 10-minute work-based reflections for people on their way to work, with Revd Jonathan Evens. Session include - growing a new congregation; engaging with working people; ministering in the workplace and communicating with busy people. Book here or call 020 7766 1127. HeartEdge members - free. Non-members - £10.

'At the Heart. On the Edge', a day hosted by Revd Scott M. Rennie, Minister of Queen's Cross Parish Church and Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Wed 13 June 2018, 10:00am – 3:30pm, Queen's Cross Parish Church, Albyn Place, Aberdeen AB10 IYN. Register at The day includes theology, ideas, solutions and support with a programme developed jointly by Queen's Cross Parish Church and St Martin’s. The day will explore mission and ministry in relation to: Congregation - Liturgy and worship for day-to-day communal life – gathered and local; Commerce – Starting and sustaining distinctive enterprise to generate finance for your church; Compassion – Growing participation and volunteering to address social need locally; and Culture – Using art, music and performance to reimagine the Christian narrative in your context. The day includes refreshments and lunch - we'll ask for a voluntary contribution towards the cost of lunch on the day. 

24 - 27 August: Boughton House, Leicestershire, Greenbelt: Sam Wells, Vicar of HeartEdge members St Martin in the Fields will be speaking at Greenbelt Festival this August Bank-Holiday. Carol Ann Duffy, Paula Gooder and Pussy Riot also feature. Details here.


Michael McDermott - Let A Little Light In.

Beyond: Art from the Edge

BEYOND is an opportunity for people to explore spirituality through a variety of creative approaches.

The aims of BEYOND are:
  • To help people to a deeper understanding of spirituality through the arts and other creative activities.
  • To explore non-traditional ways of being Christian.
  • To be a resource for church people who wish to further explore their relationship with God.
Using art, poetry, philosophy and theology, BEYOND curates provocative spaces in order to inspire and stimulate discussion.The installations and events create environments for questions and grappling with ideas about God without signing up to an established line of dogmatic thought.

6th May sees the launch of their ART FROM THE EDGE exhibition as part of the Brighton Artists Open House festival. The sub-title to this evening event is 'a spiritual private view', and it will be a chance to view the art along with some reflections and meditations inspired by this work and the situations of the artists involved.

ART FROM THE EDGE is an exhibition featuring work from and about the marginalised of society. St Luke's Prestonville hosts drop-ins for homeless and various recovery groups and the artworks on display will be work created by people from these groups or by artists working with them. This exhibition will be an eclectic mix of styles and formats and will give a glimpse into the world of those in our society who are often seen as being excluded or unable to contribute.

The image above is a pointillist sketch in ballpoint pen created by Richard Fletcher which will be on display with other examples of his work.


Michael Kiwanuka - Tell Me A Tale.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Peter S. Smith at Bankside Gallery & Kevis House Gallery

Peter S Smith is a Painter/Printmaker with a studio at the St Bride Foundation in London. He studied Fine Art at Birmingham Polytechnic and Art Education at Manchester. In 1992 he gained an MA (Printmaking) at Wimbledon School of Art. Examples of his work can be found in private and public collections including Tate Britain and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. His book 'The Way See It' (Piquant Press) is a visual monograph of contemporary work by a professional artist who is a Christian, which provides an illustrated introduction to the art of engraving.

Peter's work can be seen in two exhibitions. The first, Print REbels, is at Bankside Gallery until 13 May. This exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder and first President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, Francis Seymour Haden. Prints by Haden and those who inspired him including Rembrandt and Durer are included, along with works by his contemporaries including Samuel Palmer and J.A.M. Whistler; members of the Royal Academy who were closely associated with the RE and current members of the RE responding directly to their Society's heritage. These current members have created a portfolio of new prints inspired by a past or present member.
Peter has chosen to honour Geoffrey Wales.

Wood engravings by Anne Desmet and Friends at Kevis House Gallery is a collection of new and recent works on paper by Neil Bousfield, Anne Desmet, Edwina Ellis, ​Peter Lawrence, Peter S Smith and Roy Willingham from 5 May - 23 June.

Anne Desmet says: "I am delighted to have been invited to curate this exhibition of contemporary wood engravings for Kevis House Gallery. I have chosen to focus on the works of six established artists in the belief that the opportunity to see a collection of works by each one will shed the particular light and offer the specific insights into each artist's abiding themes that one normally only gains via a solo show. I also hope the exhibition will demonstrate the shared concerns that create lively relationships between the work of all six of us.

I have known the wood engravings of each of these fine artists for years. Technically, they are all expert practitioners of the art yet, in addition, each brings something refreshingly unusual and innovative to this wonderful historic medium. From the most highly topographical and figurative to the most abstract, from editioned print to experimental engraved collage, from single-lock black-and-white print to multiple, overlaid, colour blocks, there are shared concerns and rhythms that link all our works and throw up interesting connections between them."


Duke Special - Condition.

commission4mission's creative retreat 4

The worship at commission4mission's creative retreat included poetry readings using poems by Pierre Jean Jouve, Edwin Morgan and John O'Donohue. Jean Lamb and I also shared poems we wrote during the retreat. I also brought poetry by John F. Deane, David Gascoyne, Jouve and Gabriela Mistral to read while on the retreat.

Edwin Morgan is an interesting poet, who 'had his own disagreements with organised Christianity, both in its Protestant and Catholic forms' but who, nevertheless found that 'the powerful persona of the Jesus of the gospel narratives continued to niggle him, and to fascinate by his difference.' This led him, in the year 2000, to write a trilogy of plays on the life of Jesus, entitled AD. Morgan was a concrete poet, like Ian Hamilton Findlay and Dom Sylvester Houédard (aka dsh).

I finished reading Deane's Give Dust A Tongue, in which he shares aspects of his life and work which influenced his faith and his poetry using a combination of memoirs and poems. The culminates with meditations on Christ's question to his disciples, 'Who do you say that I am?', which Deane explores through an edition of Poetry Ireland Review and a sonnet sequence entitled 'According to Lydia'.

Our retreat ended with a special Communion Service at St Peter's Chapel led by Revd Brigid Maine which had Mary Fleeson's 'Remember Me' as it's centrepiece.


Live - Heaven.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

commission4mission's creative retreat 3

I led Compline for commission4mission's creative retreat this evening and began by reading Pierre Jean Jouve's 'Evening Prayer' and ended with a poem I began composing this afternoon drawing on the liturgies we used and poems we read:

We awaken to the presence of God here
in this ordinary place, yet make our Morning Prayer
in the spirit of Anglo-Celtic Saxon saints. We seek
the thin thread of grace by which God holds all
knowing that love of victory or profit and pride,
even in our perceived holiness, will close our
ears to his call. Like guilty Pilate washing and
watching, washing and watching, we need grace
and confession. Our Evening Prayer in the sacred
dark closes the ragged wound, as soft curtains
drawn on a day when healing and hope are welded as one.


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

commission4mission's creative retreat 2

Thanks to Mark Lewis, who has organised our creative retreat, we have been using liturgy from Rex Hunt in our services at St Peter’s Chapel combined with poems from Jean Lamb, Edwin Morgan and John O’Donohue. Last night we shared the drawing, paintings and photography we had worked on during the day. This morning we shared a walk together around the Bradwell Ring.


Delirious? - Show me heaven.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Engaging with religious approaches to grief and loss

Exhibitions at Glasgow International 2018 and by Art Angel engage with religious approaches to grief and loss:

'For his solo exhibition at Tramway, Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey has taken as his starting point an 18th Century wooden figurine of Job held at the Wellcome Collection in London. Leckey has enlarged the object to human scale. This single forsaken biblical figure occupies alone the vast space of Tramway.

The title ‘Nobodaddy’ is taken from the poem by William Blake, a name that for Blake is a play on the idea of God the father of no one, but also the man with no body. In Leckey’s sculpture this body is expanded and infiltrated by technology. Man’s limbs are hollowed out, the organs removed, and filled with speakers that give voice to his state. Opposite the sculpture a large video projection mirrors the figure as it is toggles through different scenarios.'

Laura Cumming writes: 'Based on a German carving, Mark Leckey’s statue is larger than life and fully as profound with its sorrowful face and putrefying sores. A poor soul lost in suffering, almost, he sits alone in his melancholy contemplation, head in hand like Rodin’s Thinker.

But what he’s thinking is voiced in the air. The statue speaks, words emitting from its wounds and also from a screen in which the motionless Job is given some kind of life through a flux of shifting light and scenario. Time passes, place changes, the days speed and slow; and still the prophet endures. He talks of his plagues, ancient and modern (the camera enters the figure, an endoscopy of hollowed tracts), bewildered by their harshness; and yet there is still hope: he dreams of swimming, and even of flying.

The lament is powerfully moving, not least because the Turner prize-winning artist sets up a tension between the virtual and the real. The screen, with all its brilliant CGI effects, is restlessly compelling, and yet one is drawn loyally back to the poor simple statue. It is a gripping standoff between old and new technologies, in which the biblical agonies of Job, thousands of years ago, are made devastatingly present and timeless.'

Taryn Simon's first major performance work An Occupation of Loss takes place in a subterranean location in Central London. 'Each night, professional mourners simultaneously broadcast their lamentations, enacting rituals of grief from around the world.'

'Their sonic mourning is performed in recitations that include northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Venezuelan laments, which safeguard the soul’s passage to the Milky Way; Greek Epirotic laments, which bind the story of a life with its afterlife; and Yezidi laments, which map a topography of displacement and exile.'

Adrian Searle writes: 'Alone, in couples and in trios and quartets, these singers and musicians – Armenian Yazidis, Cambodian performers of Kantaomming, Ghanaian women wailing and crying, performers of Greek polyphonic panegyri – are singing for those who are not here ... Their indifference to us despite our proximity is disturbing, as one is led by sound from one group to another, from culture to culture, language to language, ritual to ritual. Sometimes I feel like I am intruding on a stranger’s grief. At other moments transfixed and bewildered, like a lost anthropologist, a rubber-necker, a ghoul. Do I think about my own losses, the dead I didn’t mourn, my insufficiency of tears, my failed gravitas?

For all the polyphonies and cultural differences, there is an overall measure to the forms and sounds of lamentation, a register of sorrow that appears to cross times and places, religions and beliefs. What they mostly have in common, apart from a display of outward mourning and loss, is a sense of paying witness, and of being alive among the dead.'


John Prine & Nanci Griffith - The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness.

commission4mission's creative retreat

I'm currently on a creative retreat with other commission4mission artists at the Othona Community, Bradwell-on-Sea. This is a time for reflection, creativity and fellowship combined with creative time. Services are in St Peter's Chapel Bradwell-on-Sea, and meals and accommodation with the Othona Community.

Our creative times include drawing, painting, photography, reading, writing, poetry and beach-combing etc. I've been taking photographs on the beach this morning.


Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Laying down our lives

Here is the sermon that I preached this morning at St Martin-in-the-Fields (based on John 10. 11-18):

‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ Jesus repeats the phrase ‘lay down my life’ five times during his discourse about being the Good Shepherd. Clearly, that makes it of particular significance in this context and, while it has rightly been interpreted as being part of Jesus’ preparation of his disciples for his imminent death, it is a phrase with multi-layered meanings that have significance for us in terms of laying down our lives and taking them up again. For the Good Shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep has a daytime significance, a night-time significance and an end of lifetime significance.

The Greek word translated as ‘Good’ in our translations is the word ‘kalos’, which has the double meaning of attractive and skilled. This shepherd is good because he is both good-looking and effective in his role. His role was one that required a whole life commitment. Sheep, and therefore shepherds, were central to the economy in Jesus’ day. Sheep provided food, milk, meat and wool, and were essential to the Old Testament sacrificial system. Both men and women could be shepherds and among the Biblical examples are Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David and Amos.

However, caring for sheep involved a nomadic lifestyle because of the available pasture. Although sheep could survive in the arid Mediterranean environment with minimum water and could be left to fend for themselves rather than being fenced in, they had to be regularly moved on to find new pasture. This meant that shepherding was a 24-7 job where the shepherd lived, worked and travelled with the sheep.

One implication was that shepherds could not fulfil their religious duties and thus were religious outcasts. ‘So it was a radical, even appalling, idea that shepherds were the first to hear, directly from angels, about the birth of Jesus, the saviour of the world. Everything about that went against religious propriety.’[] ‘Sheep are the most frequently mentioned animals in the bible and shepherds get about 100 mentions because, in a pastoral society like ancient Israel, both were used to describe the relationship of God with his people: ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ (Psalm 23)’.[Richard A. Burridge, John]

So, the good shepherd, this attractive and skilful shepherd, ‘puts the whole of his mind and heart at the disposal of the sheep, through lambing time and shearing time, through summer days in the high mountains and through the cold winter days when food is scarce’.[Stephen Verney, Water into Wine] To do so keeps the economy functioning and enables the role to be used as a key metaphor for God, while turning those who worked as shepherd into religious outcasts. If ever there was a case of being ‘At the heart. On the edge.’, this was it!

Like the Good Shepherd, we are encouraged by scripture to lay down our lives through our daily work (whether paid or unpaid). So, Jesus encouraged us to work while it is daylight, because night is coming on, when no one can work (John 9.4). Similarly, St Paul encouraged us to work hard and cheerfully at all we do, just as though we were working for God and not merely for our employers (Colossians 3. 23). That is the daytime significance of the phrase ‘lay down your life’.

During the day, sheep could wander within the area of that day’s pasture and the flocks of different shepherds could mingle but, at the end of the day, the shepherd would call his sheep by name and lead them to a sheepfold for the night, counting them to ensure none had been lost, and would then lie across the entrance to the fold; hence Jesus’ reference earlier in this discourse to himself as the door of the sheepfold. So, the night-time significance of the phrase ‘lay down your life’ is that the Good Shepherd lay down to sleep across the entrance to the sheepfold, thereby forming a protective gate for the sheep through the physical barrier of his or her body.

Who might we be called to protect or shelter in a similar way? One example could be that of the Irish poet John F. Deane, whose faith and poetry memoir I have recently read. He chose to leave his work in order to be the sole carer for his two young daughters following the tragically early death of his first wife, Barbara. Through this decision, in addition to caring for his daughters, he found his vocation as a poet by contributing to an Arts Council programme that funded writers in schools. He is, therefore, an illustration of Christ’s words that laying down our lives for others is paradoxically the way to find life and come alive ourselves.

A second example of someone laying down their life for others brings us to the third understanding of this phrase, which is to do with its end of lifetime significance. On 24th March this year, French police officer Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame walked into a supermarket having swapped places with a hostage to secure their release. Later, responding to the sound of shots inside, his police colleagues stormed the supermarket and the terrorist shot Beltrame through the throat. Originally from a secular background, Beltrame had found faith in his thirties. The National Chaplain of the French Police force said of him: ‘He did not hide his faith, he radiated it. We can say that his act of self-offering is consistent with what he believed. He bore witness to his faith to the very end.’ As Giles Fraser stated in a recent Thought for the Day ‘Beltrame was indeed a Christian martyr, a hero of selfless commitment to other people and a witness to the courage and love that is exemplified by the cross.’

Jesus said that the Good Shepherd would lay down his earthly life to protect the sheep if they were attacked by wolves or other predators. King David is perhaps the most famous example given of this in the scriptures. In order to convince King Saul to let him fight Goliath he said, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it.’ David risked his life for the sake of the sheep and that was the basis of his rise up the political and religious hierarchy in Israel to become the shepherd King. His story suggests that the last came become first, that the least can aspire to become the greatest.

Jesus, however, reversed that journey; as God, he gave up all power and prestige to become a human being, to be with us through his incarnation, like shepherds, generally, to become a religious outcast and, ultimately, to lay down his earthly life in order to save others. In Jesus, we see that divine leadership (being a shepherd King) is not about personal aspiration and achievement but, instead, about service and sacrifice.

So, we see that laying down our lives for others, when we’re not called to make the ultimate sacrifice, involves commitment to our daily work, protection and support of others on an ongoing basis, and the turning upside down of the usual hierarchies that we find in business, politics and religion.

At St Martin’s, we have a particular opportunity to explore what that means in practice through our business. From the point that Geoffrey Brown established the Enterprise here at St Martin’s, he engaged the church with the world of work. Our Vicar Sam Wells explained in the Memorial Service for Geoffrey that his understanding of the incarnation ‘meant taking human existence seriously.’ ‘It required particularly taking seriously some things the more pious and world-wary church ignores or scorns – things like wages, work and wealth-creation. Geoffrey earned people’s respect because he didn’t see faith as an escape from life: he saw it as a deep attention to, and trust in, the details of making a living, doing good and doing well.’

We are continuing to work out what that vision means in practice through our approach to mission which integrates all we do commercially, with our congregational, cultural and compassionate activities. It is why in this year’s Annual Report we say that,through the St Martin’s Action Plan, we are seeking to become an exemplary organisation. ‘Exemplary organisations have an admirable and inspiring ethos and embody it in everything they do. They monitor their performance through good governance. They cherish their people, communicate their purpose, embrace a range of partners, and share their wisdom. They thus attract engagement, participation, commitment, support, and imitation. We seek to become widely and rightly recognised as such an exemplary organisation.’

Doing so, in the light of the incarnation and the example of Jesus as Good Shepherd, means inverting the traditional hierarchical structures of business, politics and religion in order to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard wherever they are within the organisation and providing all with the right training, resources and tools to succeed, so everyone can feel prepared and comfortable about making appropriate decisions on their own. In such organisations, ‘Me’ commands turn into ‘We’ control and the focus is on collaborative success, not on individual glory.

The Good Shepherd gave his own life so that the sheep could receive the superabundant life of God. The ordination charge for priests in the Church of England says ‘as servant and shepherd … set the Good Shepherd always before you as the pattern of your calling … to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations … the treasure now to be entrusted to you is Christ’s own flock’. As we have seen, however, this is true for us whether we are an Archbishop or a lay person, a minister or a manager, a volunteer or an employee. As Lesslie Newbigin wrote, ‘This is the way for all humankind, and to follow this way is to learn the only true leadership’.[Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come]


Gordon Jacob - Brother James' Air.

Taizé refound, 40 years on…..

Here's a guest post from Rev Hilary Oakley, Associate Priest, St Mary’s Hitchin:

I first visited Taizé in 1970. I was 16, and the Taizé community was just about to enter its heyday, when tens of thousands of young people came to witness this place of reconciliation and share in its life. I was deeply touched by the worship, in the large concrete Church of the Reconciliation, constructed in 1962. It was not so much the spirituality as the participation of people of different traditions, saying the Lord's Prayer next to me in French, Spanish, German or Dutch, and discovering that I too could use their words to praise God in the multi-lingual chants of the Taizé liturgy. My eyes were open to traditions, people and languages beyond my own, and I began to understand the importance of ecumenism, as well as my responsibilities as a European citizen.

In the second week of Easter, I visited Taizé again, after 40 years. The 1960s concrete church was still the same, but larger, with three waves of wooden extension at the west end. Beyond 60 or so adults, there were around 2,000 young people, many German, whose energy and exuberance brought Taizé alive, as it had done 40 years before. The numbers were smaller than I remembered, but the languages were more extensive, and now included Polish, Bulgarian, Swahili, Chinese, reflecting a wider Europe, greater mobility, and our engagement with a bigger world. It was challenging in a number of sometimes contradictory ways. The perspective was wider, the different traditions less important, the variety greater, the numbers smaller.

I came away wondering just how far as a Christian community we can continue to afford the luxury of division, divergence or mutual suspicion, as we struggle to afford to maintain separate buildings and church infrastructures in parallel. Taizé has nudged me to find a renewed enthusiasm for ecumenism, an energy to enable us to address and overcome those challenges that so constrained the previous generation of ecumenists, and lost us the last 40 years. As Taizé founder, Brother Roger, so simply put it: “Make the unity of the Body of Christ your passionate concern.”

Our country is also hugely divided as politicians struggle to find the Holy Grail of a Brexit that suits everybody. Yet on this biggest of all issues facing our national life, we the church have so little to say. Perhaps we just don't want to rock the boat, a stance so alien to the way of Christ. Perhaps we need to refind our commonality of faith and liturgy with our European friends and neighbours. Perhaps while the politicians argue, we should be building bridges across the Channel, a new European Christianity, an integration, a reconciliation. Perhaps we can find a vision of a future where we can speak together, and speak out, about the issues that concern us all.

I think this is a good time for us to refind Taizé and share its vision with our young people, tomorrow’s church and tomorrow’s world, those in whom we need to be investing now. If you would like to take a group pf young people to Taizé this summer, you can make contact directly with Brother Paolo at, or else drop me a note at, and I will make the contact for you.


Taizé - Stay With Me.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Spiritual power and sensitive engagement that define pilgrimage

Alys Tomlinson has been named Photographer of the Year in the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards for her series Ex-Voto.

Tomlinson says:

'‘Ex-Voto’ is an extension of my previous work in Lourdes. Still intrigued by this place of great spiritual contemplation and worship, I re-visited the project with a different approach. Shooting in large format black and white slowed the process down and gave me space to think. Using anthropological experience gained during my MA, I became interested in the markers left behind at pilgrimage sites. Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Votos’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude and devotion, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape. Taken at the pilgrimage sites of Lourdes (France), Ballyvourney (Ireland) and Grabarka (Poland), the project encompasses formal portraiture, large format landscape and small, detailed still-lifes of the objects and markers left behind.'

'Mike Trow, the chair of the judges and former picture editor for British Vogue, said: “Alys Tomlinson is a worthy overall winner for telling a story so beautifully, quietly, and yet with a spiritual power that spoke of her sensitive engagement with the subjects and places that help define pilgrimage.”'

The 2018 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition is at Somerset House until 6 May and features inspirational works by more than 600 artists, the exhibition showcases winning and shortlisted works from the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards, the world’s most diverse photography competition. Curated by Trow, the images are specially selected from a record-breaking number of submissions. The 2018 Awards cover a wide variety of genres, from architecture to landscape, street photography to wildlife, portraiture to travel.


Karl Jenkins - Benedictus.

Windows on the world (393)

Oxford, 2017


Mavis Staples - The Weight.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Liturgy on the Edge: Pastoral and attractional worship

There are a growing number of HeartEdge-themed resources now available, including a selection of HeartEdge branded books.

These resources include ‘Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story’, the online discipleship course which St Martin-in-the-Fields launched at Greenbelt 2017 and which has now been downloaded more than 400 times. HeartEdge-branded books include: ‘For Good: The Church and the Future of Welfare’, ‘Who Is My Neighbour? The Global and Personal Challenge’ and ‘Liturgy on the Edge: Pastoral and Attractional Worship’. These are books which speak into key issues and situations of our time in ways that have been described as timely, valuable and courageous. They are commended as richly challenging, deeply engaging and as being outstanding guides.

The most recent is Liturgy on the Edge: Pastoral and attractional worship; a practical companion to creating pastoral liturgies arises from the vibrant ministry of St Martin-in-the-Fields which is designed to aid local ministry teams in devising forms of worship outside and beyond the scope of authorised church liturgy, yet in sympathy with its purposes and structures.

It includes outline liturgies for:
  • regular pastoral services, such as an informal Eucharist, worship for small groups or for a church away-day, a dementia-friendly service, a healing service, interfaith ceremonies.
  • acute pastoral needs, such as services for communities affected by local tragedy, those experiencing loss through violence.
  • outreach services in the open air or welcoming people into sacred space.
  • special services though the year for Homelessness Sunday, Prisoners Week, Holy Week, Harvest, Remembrance, a community carol service and more.
Each section is introduced with a reflection on theory and practice, and each item has a commentary on theological, liturgical and pastoral choices made with the aim of enabling practitioners to adapt and create liturgies for their own contexts.

Liturgy on the Edge: Pastoral and attractional worship is edited by Sam Wells with contributions from Richard Carter, Andrew EarisCaroline Essex, Jonathan Evens, Katherine Hedderly, Alison Lyon, Alastair McKay, Fiona MacMillan and Will Morris.

My contribution to the book concerns Start:Stop and I will be leading a HeartEdge workshop about Start:Stop at St Martin's on Thursday 24 May from 2.00 - 4.00pm. This is an opportunity to learn about this popular 10-minute work-based reflection for people on their way to work. The session includes: growing a new congregation; engaging with working people; ministering in the workplace and communicating with busy people. Book by emailing me at or by calling on 020 7766 1127. HeartEdge members - free. Non-members - £10.


Will Todd - Call Of Wisdom.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Forgiveness in Text and Life

Forgiveness in Text and Life - St Martin-in-the-Fields, together with the Council of Christians and Jews - exploring the nature of forgiveness in Judaism and Christianity with Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE and Revd Dr Sam Wells.

Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE is Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue. She was the second woman rabbi in the UK, the first to have a congregation of her own worldwide. She is a cross-bench member of the House of Lords. She is an author and broadcaster who is particularly interested in refugees and asylum seekers, mental health, housing and homelessness, and health inequalities.

Revd Dr Sam Wells is Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and a widely-known writer, broadcaster and theologian. He is also Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College London. He has served as a Church of England parish priest for 20 years and spent 7 years in North Carolina, where he was Dean of Duke University Chapel. He has published 30 books, including a study of reconciliation, Living Without Enemies.

Chaired by Rabbi Helen Freeman, Principal Rabbi, West London Synagogue.

Free and open to all.


Sweetmouth - Forgiveness.

Monday, 16 April 2018

'Novelist Guy' & 'Wade in the Water'

The following were worth noting amongst the reviews in yesterday's Observer

Novelist: 'Novelist Guy' - 'This is, for lack of a better word, a conscious album: there aren’t any shanks or mentions of weed, nor is there any disrespect to women. God gets a lot of shoutouts. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when God entered Novelist’s narrative, but a great deal of the rectitude on here has its backup in the musician’s faith.

You can’t help but wonder how Novelist’s audience will take to it, and to his reappearance after such a long absence; Novelist was incandescently hot three years ago. Grime moves fast and Novelist isn’t quite who he used to be.

However, Stormzy demonstrated that faith doesn’t exactly play badly on a grime album – the video for Blinded By Your Grace Pt 2 (ft MNEK) has 5.5m YouTube views. And neither does conscience: witness again Stormzy’s refusal to let the Grenfell Tower disaster be forgotten. Grime is now a maturing genre, with room for a multiplicity of voices and subject matters. And in Novelist, grime now has an upstanding and versatile outlier.'

Tracey K. Smith - 'Wade in the Water' - 'Her offbeat, spiritual poems are her boldest – where it seems almost as though she is putting together a DIY Bible.

In Hill Country, God drives round in a jeep with the windows down and wonders whether there is “something larger than himself rearranging/ The air.” In Beatific, an arresting (in every sense) poem, a man obliviously crosses the road and there is a hint this down-andout pedestrian could be a messiah. In The Angels, we meet a pair of Hells Angels: “Grizzled,/ In leather biker gear” who prove “Emissaries/ For something I needed to see”. They reek of “rum and gasoline” but, like many angels before them, tell us “not to fear”. This startling poem ends with other celestial sightings – laid on thick, poetic impasto. Yet the ending is beautiful and bare. It gives us “night” where “light” was expected: “My mother sat whispering with it/ At the end of her life/ While all the rooms of our house/ Filled up with night.”'

Tracey K. Smith - Wade In The Water.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Picasso To Souza: The Crucifixion

My latest article for Artlyst explores powerfully expressive crucifixion images found in two of the Tate’s current exhibitions. In 1932, the ‘year of wonders’ explored by Tate Modern’s Picasso 1932: Love Fame Tragedy, Picasso created thirteen seminal ink drawings of the Crucifixion, while All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life at Tate Britain showcases the fearful and terrible grandeur of the 1959 Crucifixion by F.N. Souza:

'Between the two World Wars and in the aftermath of World War II, Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece with its brutally realistic depiction of the suffering endured by the crucified provided a frame and inspiration for artists such as Picasso, Rouault, Buffet, Bacon, Sutherland and Souza to protest the violence unleashed by human beings in that most bloody of centuries. The Tate’s current exhibitions provide an opportunity to explore some of less well-known and less frequently exhibited of these images, which ultimately stand as a warning against our human tendency to attack and destroy those we scapegoat.'

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Sufjan Stevens - Ring Them Bells.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Sermons from Holy Week at St Martin-in-the-Fields

Read and listen to sermons from Holy Week at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Maundy Thursday
Abiding in Love by Revd Katherine Hedderly

'Our theme for Lent this year has been Abiding, based on the book by Ben Quash. It has seen us reflect on how we abide with God in our care for others and in our relationships with them, in the physicality of our bodies and minds, by being attentive and making space for God in our everyday actions and behaviours.'

Continue reading this sermon here

Good Friday
A Cross in the Heart of God by Revd Dr Sam Wells

'I believe that the longing to be with us in Jesus was the reason God created the world. But this longing was always going to carry immense risk, and that the fundamental choice God made was to say, ‘I am going to carry the consequences of that risk and I am not going to expect humanity to shoulder a burden it cannot bear.’'

Continue reading this sermon here / Listen to the audio version of this sermon here

Easter Day: Parish Eucharist
Resurrection in Nine Words by Revd Dr Sam Wells

'Resurrection is a breathtaking mystery. It’s also the epicentre of the Christian faith. It’s something to be discovered, believed, and lived. It’s an idle tale if it simply remains a technical event: if it’s real, it’s a cosmic transformation. It’s not something to agree with in your head.'

Continue reading this sermon here / Listen to the audio version of this sermon here

Easter Day: Choral Evensong
Journeys, conversations and epiphanies by Revd Jonathan Evens

'In the English language we have many words and phrases that use the metaphor of a journey for aspects of our lives. When babies are born we say that they have arrived. When we have a big decision in front of us, we say we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.'

Continue reading this sermon here


St Martin's Voice - I Stood On The River Of Jordan.

O broken God be with us always

'Give us this day our daily
incentives; fill us with goals though there is
no goal; give us this day our energy.

O broken God be with us always
now, and to the end of time.'

Here is the ending of one of the best poems by John F. Deane featured in his Give Dust a Tongue: A Faith & Poetry Memoir.

Deane was born on Achill Island in 1943. He founded Poetry Ireland – the National Poetry Society – and The Poetry Ireland Review in 1978, and is the founder of The Dedalus Press, of which he was editor from 1985 until 2006. In 2008 he was visiting scholar in the Burns Library of Boston College. John F. Deane’s poetry has been translated and published in France, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden and other countries. His poems in Italian won the 2002 Premio Internazionale di Poesia Città di Marineo. His fiction has been published by Blackstaff Press in Befast; his most recent novel Where No Storms Come was published by Blackstaff in 2011. He is the recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry and the Marten Toonder Award for Literature. John F. Deane is a member of Aosdána, the body established by the Arts Council to honour artists ‘whose work had made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland.’ His poetry has been shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 1996 Deane was elected Secretary-General of the European Academy of Poetry. In 2007 he was made Chevalier en l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French government. He is currently the editor of Poetry Ireland Review.


John F. Deane - Shoemaker.

Windows on the world (392)

Oxford, 2017


Thursday, 12 April 2018

Rock gets Religion

Mark Joseph is an American multimedia producer, author, and founder/CEO of MJM Entertainment Group and Bully! Pulpit. Joseph is also an award-winning record producer who has worked with artists like Lauryn Hill, P.O.D., Switchfoot, Lifehouse, Sixpence None The Richer, Scott Stapp of Creed, MxPx, Dr. John, ZZ Top, Blink 182, Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Andrae Crouch, and others.

Joseph is the author of a trilogy of books about Christians in Rock Music beginning with The Rock & Roll Rebellion, continuing with Faith, God and Rock 'n Roll: How People of Faith Are Transforming American Popular Music and ending with Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music. Joseph says younger Christian artists are having unprecedented success as mainstream musicians. In turn, their songs are having an impact on popular culture in ways that contemporary Christian music never could.

In The Rock and Roll Rebellion, Joseph asks is there such a thing as Christian music? Fans of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) might think so, but not Joseph. In this well-researched work, he argues that Christian music is not a separate genre, and that by creating a separate marketing category, Christian musicians removed themselves from pop culture—to their own detriment as well as the culture's. Through profiles of leading Christian musicians and producers (including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pat Boone, Run-D.M.C., and U2), Joseph explored Christianity's place in American popular music, concentrating in particular on the rise of CCM as a commercial power. For anyone interested in the tension between sacred and secular in modern American music, or for fans of popular artists who have struggled with these issues (such as Amy Grant, Sam Phillips, T-Bone Burnett, Mark Heard, and dozens of others), the book makes for fascinating reading.

In Faith, God, and Rock & Roll, Joseph profiles the surprisingly long list of bands and artists who signed with secular labels but still make music that speaks of faith in God. Among the topflight acts he writes about are Jars of Clay, Lenny Kravitz, U2, Creed, Lauryn Hill, Sixpence None the Richer, Destiny's Child, Lifehouse, and P.O.D. This book explores in detail the more sophisticated version of religion now permeates the airwaves and dance clubs through a history of the movement and interviews with some of its most prominent purveyors, from U2 to Lenny Kravitz to Coldplay. Included is information on which bands with "God on their side" have reached the Top 10, as well as photographs, and profiles of 60 artists whose work is fueled by religion or spirituality such as Bono, Donna Summer, and Bob Dylan.

In Rock Gets Religion Joseph notes that the religious and religiously influenced are now commonplace in the music scene (Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Katy Perry, 21 Pilots). Joseph explores the tensions caused when religious youth are thrown into the world of rock 'n' roll. He weaves thoughtful commentary amidst the stories of devout and not-so-devout rockers along with a warning about the inherent dangers of sanctifying rock.

He argues that four major trends caused this phenomenon: (1) Dozens of rookie artists are bypassing the CCM scene altogether going directly to mainstream labels; (2) established Chrisitan artists are switching to mainstream recording companies; (3) Those popular artists who experience religious conversions are staying in mainstream music instead of leaving for the church circuit; and (4) the American Idol phenomenon resulted in pop stars being picked by the American people instead of music industry gatekeepers who selected the stars of yesteryear. As a result, while sales of Christian music as a genre may have been in a steady decline, the religious influence on rock has never been greater.

Rock Gets Religion lays out the case for people of faith to continue to make their music in the middle of popular culture, and updates the scene with dozens of successful (and not so successful) stories of Christians who have done just that. "Mark Joseph has been a key voice in the transformation of American popular music," says former Van Halen singer Gary Cherone. "In this book, his final in a three-part series, he shows us how the transformation happened and outlines a vision for the future of the unlikely alliance of rock music and serious faith."


Switchfoot - Live It Well.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son

Here is the reflection that I shared in today's Choral Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields, speaking on John 3. 16 – 21:

God so loved - love is from God because God is love; pure love, the essence of all that love is and can be. Love that is patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love that does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love that never ends.

God so loved the world - the heavens and the earth that God created in the beginning, the heavens which declare the glory of God and the sky that displays what his hands have made, humankind that God created in his own image. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. God so loved he world that he created in the beginning.

God so loved the world that he gave – true love involves giving; in fact true love is giving. Our love is often less than this. We speak of those we love as being everything we need or as soul mates who complete us, but rarely talk in terms of giving all we have to others. Yet that is the nature of God’s love, he gives all he has to us.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son – the Father gives us his Son and the Son gives his life, his whole life, even unto death. Yet, because Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God, this is a way of saying that what God gives to us is himself, everything he has and is.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life – God gives himself to us in order that we can become part of him and enter the very life of God himself. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it to the full. Eternal life is the life of love that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share within the Godhead and in to which we are called to come and share by the ever-giving love that God the Father shows to us through God the Son.

God’s love has been revealed among us in this way, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. We live in the light of this love which reveals all that we can potentially be and become as human beings. We come into the light of Christ by comparing our lives to his.

As we do so, inevitably we find that we fall short; that our capacity to do what pleases him (by living out all goodness, righteousness and truth) is less than his capacity for these things. Generally when we make comparisons, we compare ourselves with others and so compare ourselves with those we think are worse than or similar to ourselves. We’ve all heard others and, maybe, ourselves saying ‘I’m alright, Jack!’ or ‘I’m as good as the next person, if not better!’ On the basis of these comparisons we think we are ok; at least no better or worse than others, at best, better than many others around us. On the basis of these comparisons we are comfortable with who we are and see no need to change.

In the light of the way that Jesus loved, we see our own lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, remain in darkness, and there is no truth in us. The true comparison that we make should not be with others, but with God. Jesus challenged us to ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ On the basis of that comparison, we all fall short. As St Paul writes, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’

Jesus, through his life and death, showed us the depth of love of which human beings are really capable and, on the basis of that comparison, we come up well short and are in real need of change. It is when we live in the light of Christ, seeing ourselves as we really are that we become honest with ourselves and with God. By coming into that honesty we confess our sins and are purified; as we said earlier in this service, let us confess our sins in penitence and faith, firmly resolved to live in love and peace with all.

We can sum up in some words from the first letter of John: 'God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also' (1 John 4. 7 – 21 abridged).


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - Kyrie.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Apocalypse Now: Michael Takeo Magruder interviewed

My latest interview for Artlyst is with Michael Takeo Magruder with whom I discuss the inspiration behind De/coding the Apocalypse his installation inspired by the Book of Revelation. In doing so, I particularly wanted to explore the way in which his ‘translation of digitally-aligned ideas and situations into visceral forms and accessible experiences allows us personally to engage with and reflect on his complex subjects in our own time and on our own terms’ and the way in which we can do so by following ‘the trajectory of his over-arching narrative as it picks up and weaves together threads drawn from a wide base of cultural theories, technologies and aesthetics’.

However, I began the interview with reference to the evocative and personal reflection Michael has offered for this exhibition:

‘I was a child of the Cold War era living in my nation’s capital surrounded by the incessant rhetoric and proxy wars of two ideologically opposed superpowers – all made real by the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Even at that young age I was already fascinated with both technology and religion. Upon reading the Book of Revelation for the first time I wondered to myself if John the Seer wrote of things like locust hordes and falling stars because he could not understand, much less describe, swarms of apache helicopters and the sight of missiles raining from an evening sky.

Now, three decades later, I watch my daughter grow up in a very different world that is defined by data, networks and code. And in this age of such technological possibility and destructive potential, I can’t help but wonder what end times she imagines in her own quiet moments of personal reflection. Her fears (or hopes) about the final days that she might witness are certainly not the same as those from my youth. My dreams never materialised, but hers might. So I look to her and try to understand what is her Apocalypse.’

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Bob Dylan - Jokerman.