Saturday, 26 May 2012


Two things for Pentecost. First of all a Painting by He Qi the Chinese artist, which evokes the spirit and fire and hints of Pentecostal wind.  He was the CMS Artist in residence a few years back and painted a wonderful image for the CMS office in Oxford. You can see it here: The Art of Mission 

And then a prayer by Walter Brueggemann from his excellent book: Prayers for a Privileged People

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
We hear the story of the wind at Pentecost,
Holy wind that dismantles what was,
Holy wind that evokes what is to be,
Holy wind that overrides barriers and causes communication,
Holy wind that signals your rule even among us. 
We are dazzled, but then – reverting to type -
We wonder how to harness the wind,
how to manage the wind by our technology,
how to turn the wind to our usefulness,
how to make ourselves managers of the wind 
Partly we do not believe such as odd tale
because we are not religious freaks;
Partly we resist such a story,
because it surges beyond our categories;
Partly we had imagined you to be more ordered
and reliable than that. 
So we listen, depart, and return to our ordered existence:
we depart with only a little curiosity
But not yielding;
we return to how it was before,
unconvinced but wistful, slightly praying for wind,
craving for newness,
wishing to have it all available to us.
We pray toward the wind and wait, unconvinced but wistful.
Walter Brueggemann Prayers for a Privileged People

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

MacChurch ? make that i-Church

 I posted a tweet: ‎10 Things Churches Can Learn from Apple Stores | #MacChurch or should it be iChurch 

The blog   was based on  an article about the success of Apple Stores, but the blogger had re-interpreted the principles in the church context, which were for me the fascinating bits...
10 Things You Can Learn From the Apple Store, by Guy Kawasaki.
My friend, Carmine Gallo, has written a book called The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty. The Apple Store is the most profitable retailer in America, generating an average of $5,600 per square foot and attracting more than 20,000 visitors a week.
 a cynical friend responded on Facebook 
22 May at 20:33 · · 2
Mike Burke

 1. Make your church twice as expensive as all others 

2. Make your Church totally incompatible with other brands. 
3. When someone complains about the sermon, tell them they they must be the cause of the problems because everything is perfect from our end. 
4. Assemble all the parts cheaply & dangerously elsewhere & then sell it here as something valuale & beautiful. 
5. Embue all your users with a smugness & brand superiority. 
6. Rubbish all alternative versions of church. 
7. Re-invent what you are doing every 18 months so that people feel ashamed about using the obsolete model. 
8. Wear a pollo neck jumper & eat sushi. 
9. Don't challenge the genuis of the brand, this really is the only show in town. 
10.....need I say more,... I'm just a hypocrite - I would happily buy Apple products if I could afford them. Please disregard all of the above!
 For some reason this made me think of the I'm a Christ Follower clip on YouTube,a parody of the MAc vs PC adverts, There is a series of 7 in all) 
 I'm a Christ Follower (Mac vs. PC Parody) Part 01

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Candidates for Newness

Van Gogh seemed obsessed with the Cypress tree.  They appear in many pictures, almost church steeple like, pointing to the sky, encouraging us to look upwards. Where the heavens are a never ending movie of shifting shapes, full of Kaleidescopic possibilities.

My paintings  are both Oil Pastel drawings in my small A6, postcard size, stetch book. Copied from Van Gogh's images. They seemed appropriate images at this time of Ascension, when we seem to look intently into the skies (Acts 1:10-11).   

I  have also been reading a poem in Walter Brueggemann's excellent little book:   Prayer for Privileged People

'Candidates for Newness'   is a poem about Ascension, the space between Eater and Pentecost   anbout looking up to new possibilities but also staying close to the ground, and what we think of as reality. It  advocates a hesistant expectancy  
I found it very encouraging, when facing change and newness.....

 Candidates for Newness 

We live the long stretch between
Easter and Pentecost, scarcely noticing.
We hear mention of the odd claim of ascension.
We easily recite the creed,
"He ascended into heaven."
We bow before such quaint language and move on,
immune to ascent,
indifferent to enthronement
unresponsive to new governance.

It is reported that behind the ascending son was
the majestic Father riding the clouds
But we do not look up much;
we stay close to the ground to business and
to busyness
to management and control.

Our world of well-being has a very low
ceiling, but we do not mind the closeness
or notice the restrictiveness.
It will take at least a Pentecost wind to
break open our vision enough to imagine new governance.

We will regularly say the creed
and from time to time-
-in crises that
drive us to hope and to wish—
wait for a new descent of the spirit among us.
Until then, we stay jaded,
but for all that,
no less candidates for newness.
Walter Brueggemann Prayers for Privileged People

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The 'Go Forth' People

Ascension Day was on 17th May this year, so today, 20th was the Sunday after Ascension. It is the time when we remember, 40 days after the resurrection, when Jesus ascends to the Father. Often it is overlooked and eclipsed in evengelical circles by Pentecost.....

But it the occasion of the Great Commission given to the Disciples ' you go, preach the gospel......'  (Matthew 28), which must be one of the most important, foundational texts for a mission society, like CMS.

The Church Mission Society used to be based in Partnership House in 157 Waterloo Road, London before the relocation to Oxford. The local Post Office used to call it 'Go Forth' House,  because of the verse from Mark (16:15) emblazoned across the front of the building:

Unfortunately since we moved out,  the place has been boarded up and sits empty. And the message now seems to suggest the sad demise of Western Mission.

My former colleague, Patrick Goh the previous CMS Personnel Director has put together a sequence of pictures of what he has called 'Go Forth' people. They are people we know well from years of working together.  A great bunch. Many have moved on to other things, beyond CMS.  

(according to my Shazam APP, the music is 'What Grace is Mine', by Keith and Kristyn Getty)

Mission is not dead; it is still very much alive, Not as an institution, but as a movement of people of mission....   a Community of Mission Service. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Prague Reflections

Prague is a great place for a City Break. Except that it was far too cold and we didn't bring enough warm clothing. That was back in February for half term (last year, 2011!). My first time in what I have always known as Czechoslovakia,  now the Czech Republic. 

Reflections - Charles Bridge, Prague 

Prague is a great city, built along the River  with lots to do - good food, plenty to see, especially the austere Prague Castle complex - including St Vitrus Cathedral with its wonderful gargoyles and Lobkowicz the Old Royal Palace. A great place to wander and watch over the city.  I particularly enjoyed the art galleries. Inspirational... 

We went on a free walking tour starting at the clock Tower in the Town Square.  
Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) joins the two halves of the City, crossing the Vlitava River and is adorned by 75 statues. It's full of tourists. We spent quite a bit of time there too. 

My Oil Pastel drawing is of Charles Bridge at night - reflections on the black Vlitava River.......  

I nearly went again this week for the ISAAC European Conference, 17th - 20th May hosted by Teen Challenge. In the end I'd done enough traveling recently and needed to be around home for a bit.  

ISAAC is a consortium of Christian Drug rehabilitation Programmes around the world  I've been involved since its inception in Florida in 1997. In fact, the first Gen Sec, Dave Partington and myself did a consultation of another Network in the Indian Sub Continent 'FORUM' for Tearfund earlier, that indirectly led to its formation. I continue involvement now, especially in the expansion of ISAAC in Asia. It's a great network of amazing people.  

Visit the ISAAC website. We also have a FACEBOOK page and community if you are interested.      

The Old Prague Astronomical Clock in the OLD Town Square, with the hourly 'Walk of the Apostles' 

The City tour starts near the Old Clock in the Prague Town Square. But it's not just the old astronomical clock  that has the hourly 'Walk of the Apostles'. Many apostles are apparent in the ISAAC Network as well.....  

Friday, 18 May 2012


I went to the opening night of 'Perception' in Southall

My colleague Jonny Baker is part of the London Independent Photography (Ealing Group).    He blogged about the photo exhibition and sent me an invite.  15 photographers were interpreting the theme of Perception in their own way. 

I thought it would be good to go with my son Jonny, who is studying photography and film making. He has his own website where you can see some of his images: a space for brief moments of introspection. There are sections for moving images and iphotographs (instagrams images) as well as a photo blog.

I like the ethnic make up and cultural mix of Southall, where the exhibition was taking place,  although that was not reflected that much in the photographs. There were some great images and a good turnout - wine and nibbles always helps. The Dominion Arts Centre seems to also have a great footprint with many diverse groups using the place.  If you are in the area (up til 6th July)  pop in and have look-see.  

Southall is also a great place to have a curry afterwards... 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Creative Spirit: The Methodist Art Collection

One of the Highlights of last year's Greenbelt 2011 was the Exhibition of some of the Methodist Art Collection. I wrote about it in a previous blog: Dreams of Home. The Collection had some stunning images under the theme 'Jesus in the everyday' and I spent a couple of happy hours staring at them. I also bought the CD Rom Collection and Study Notes 'Creative Spirit".   

There was a lot to inspire, but my favourite image was Dalit Madonna by Jyoti Sahi

Dalit Madonna  Oil on canvas 148cm x 119 cm  (c.2002) Jyoti Sahi,  b. India 1944 

Unlike in Europe , where midwinter is a time of darkness and cold, lifeless earth, in Asia the winter season is a time for rejoicing, and bringing into the home, the fruits of the earth.
That is why in this image of the Mother and Child, the relation of Mary to Jesus is symbolic of the transformed earth, which becomes like a full vessel of life. The Birth of our Lord is in this way celebrated every time we come together for the Eucharist.
 From the Creative Spirit notes on the Methodist WebSite

Jyoti Sahi

There are links to the images on the Methodist Website and the CD Rom is worth getting.

You can also watch a brief YouTube video on the Methodist Art Collection which gives you an idea of the variety of images available.

If you want to find out where they are being displayed next have a look at the calendar 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

sacred:space - The Puzzle of Evil

The last sacred:space evening (Sat 28th April) was led by Mike Cope in the NAWKI style - Church but 'NotAsWe KnowIt' 

And the theme was the Puzzle of Evil. It was an excellent, thoughtful evening.  Mike had help from 3 friends Alan, Shona and Ivan.

They explored the theme by means of video, image, discussion, conversation, music, song - a rich multimedia of thought-provoking material.  A heavy topic with a light touch. With space to think and reflect using various prayer stations...

The content was rich, mainly dealing with the problem of suffering rather than evil per se.    Drawing from negative theology (or apophatic as opposed to catathatic theology), we see an 'imperfect reflection' (through a  glass darkly). To the standard question 'if God is so powerful, why is there so much suffering,  the standard answer is 'free will'.  Augustine called this a 'better explanation than any other philosophy'    
But John Hick argues that 'if the price of being human is suffering then the price is too high'
(All of this was on an simple video which I will post once I have the link)

Alan had a number of pointers to potential answers .....
  • The film the City of Angels   (Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan) an angels who falls out of heaven and experiences humanness - love and pain together
  • Eli Weisel's picture of the young boy hung by Nazis - who took a long time to die - 'where is God?' someone in the crowd asked - 'There he is on the Gallows'.   Either God is dead, hung like the young boy, or he is involved in suffering. 
  • Bonhoeffer argued that only a Suffering God is of any use 
  • Grunewald's Triptych of the 'Crucifixion' in the chapel of a hospice for leper
The pointing finger of identification, the leprous skin of Christ who became 'a curse'; the purity of the praying women, and the Cross like a giant Crossbow shooting the Christ-arrow to hit the Divine target.  The image of the Divine lamb that was slain..... all point to God's involvement in our suffering.

‘A god who cannot suffer is poorer than any human. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do not affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either. So he is a loveless being’                       Jurgen Moltmann   (1974) the Crucified God
 As I said, the evening was thought provoking. Yet it was in the simple acts of lighting a candle, or writing a prayer or dropping stone in water, that somehow provided a way forward in the face of such huge, unanswerable, puzzling questions......

Sunday, 13 May 2012

ARADHNA -Mukhteshwar 'Blessed are the Merciful'

I love the hautingly beautiful music of ARADHNA, having seen them at Greenbelt a few years ago (in the CMS Tent). They were TCKs from Woodstock and have learnt classical Indian Music, which they serve up as a belnded fusion of East & West, proving Rudyard Kipling wrong yet again. ....  Here the two SHALL meet.....
This Music Video is from their new DVD 'Sau Guna'

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercyThose who are poor in this worldBlessed are they, blessed are theyFor the kingdom of heaven is theirsBlessed are they, blessed are theyThey who mourn in this world, will have peaceThe meek in this world, will ruleBlessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercyThose whose hearts are pure in this world will see GodThose who make peace will be called the children of God - Sri Yeshu Ji

Mukteshwar is the first of six short films from Aradhna's DVD Sau Guna.

Buy Sau Guna here:

For full lyric translations go to

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Lodge at Istalif: I lift my eyes up to the Mountains

(1) Istalif: Mountain and Valley 

We were staying at the Lodge at Istalif  - a group of us having a  break from routine.  I was here to meet with some of our people - working mainly in Mazar. This was a chance to get away for a couple of days and have fun together.   We had to walk an hour from where the van dropped us off at a school in a village.  We were staying at a Lodge belonging to friends from the US. It is a small business they run

We were only 7 in all.  We talked and walked up the valley, sat and read. And relaxed together.  We ate mainly omlettes and toast in the morning and rice and beans in the evenings (fortunately suplemented by Chicken one night and very late Kofte the other)  Green Tea was plentiful and neverending.   Frederica ran an Art workshop..... looking at the theme of rock and water.

I did a couple of paintings -  One of the River valley, just below the lodge (2) - Oil Pastels in an A4 Stetch Pad.

(2) Istalif River, below the lodge 

The other of my pictures is a Oil Pastel (1) stetch from the balcony of the view facing us, in all its splendour and majesty.  A reminder to look up ......

I lift my eyes up to the Mountains where does my help come from  (Psalm 121)  

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.