I’m so envious. I’m a big fan of UK band Massive Attack, so to be in the position Jonny Baker was recently in – in that particular context (as he describes it) would have been a significant experience in my musical / visual journey. Here’s Jonny’s post, unedited (and thus minus capital letters), and almost in it’s entirety. Strangely, as I prepared this post my iPod (on shuffle) started playing Massive Attack – their song Protection:
Here's the trailer for the film
“last night i went to see massive attack with adam curtis at manchester international festival. i am really glad i came up. it was quite an extraordinary experience. i had alt worship envy - it was an industrial feel to the building with 11 of the largest screens imaginable from floor to ceiling - a totally immersive visual environment. massive attack were playing a soundtrack behind one of the screens. anyone thinking it was a usual massive attack gig would have been disappointed - there was one massive song and the rest were covers. but it was all about the film - everything is going according to plan. it roamed through cultural footage over the last 50 years weaving global narratives that unmask many of the paradigms or worldviews of that era. if it had a weakness it was almost too evangelistic! i wish i had had a notebook to jot down many of the themes but wanted to just soak it up. in the best sense of the word it was prophetic, evoking grief and shaking the numbness and ways we get used to business as usual. empires were crumbling as we watched, the gods of the age found wanting. i really hope it will come out as a film - we will definitely watch it on the pioneer training. it was a bit bleak and the offer of redemption at the end was simply saying that you can change things, that there are other possibilities (which was great to be reminded of!).
the theme that particularly got me thinking was what was described as 'managing reality' - how in the wider culture with fear of the future the logic turned to safety and trying to manage and control everything. it so reminded me of the church and even trends in the charity sector. i will probably come back to this when i think about it a bit further but the parallels are there.
i have said for many years that art and prophecy are close friends. this was another reminder…”
Steve Taylor in a recent post
directed readers to an update on Sanctus
1 which was posted on the Fresh Expressions website.
It’s worth a read. Certainly I found it quite energising.
Here’s an excerpt:
Nexus Art Café appointed a new manager, although
their job title is that of art and venue coordinator.
"...[This] change has allowed us to refocus on where
we are in terms of Christian spirituality: it has released us from any
inhibitions in assessing the stage we have reached in our journey and what we
are doing as part of that journey. It has given us a good nudge in the right
Another outcome has been for Sanctus1 to think of
Nexus as a 'legitimate' place to be linked with. The café is now more
financially viable than it has been previously, so again, Sanctus1 feel happier
merging with something of worth - rather than thinking they have taken on a
This is all part of Sanctus1 making the gradual
move towards being missional. We have seen some of the fruit of that when Sanctus1
recently contributed to an art exhibition at Nexus.
As well as our weekly service on Sundays and
Wednesdays, Sanctus1 is also involved in:
These are run every month by Nexus Art Café
(supported by Sanctus1) on their big screen in response to a survey about
This is a joint venture between Nexus Art Cafe
and Sanctus 1 and takes the form of a short weekly mediation, lasting
about half an hour and designed to bring some spiritual relief and relaxation
in the middle of the busy week.
A small group offers deeper discussion about what is happening in
our lives and try to find God in what is happening. It meets twice a month at
“…The Christian faith provides a ‘big story’ in which to locate my own, a
vision of life and a sense of meaning that transcends and enfolds everything. I
love it. Still, it doesn’t stop me getting routinely shipwrecked in a puddle of
“…Anabaptism was a
sixteenth-century radical Christian renewal movement in territories that now
comprise parts of Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Alsace and
Its distinguishing features included
putting Jesus at the centre of our understanding of the Christian faith,
emphasis on new birth and discipleship in the power of the Spirit,
establishment of believers’ churches free from state control, commitment to
economic sharing, and a vision of restoring New Testament Christianity.
It drew adherents primarily
from poorer sections of the community, though early leaders included university
graduates, monks and priests. Assessing its numerical strength is difficult,
because it was driven underground by persecution; it certainly influenced many
more people than those baptised as members…” (Source: The Anabaptist Network in the UK).
“In Poetic Theology, William Dyrness argues that one legacy of
the Reformation was the loss of contemplation. We began to privilege the ear
over the eye, the head over the heart, and beauty was to be found [only] outside
the sanctuary Calvin was intent on placing “the emphasis on the people and
their discipleship in the world and not on the space of worship in the church”
(218). Implicitly, the place of gathering was denigrated, and indirectly, place
There are a host of issues
that rise from this. First, church buildings became sanitary and dull, no
longer evoking the imaginative energy that impels the richness of worship.
Second, we lost tough with the power of symbol. Sacraments themselves became
almost meaningless. This, combined with the priority of preaching, made it
increasingly difficult to justify both the outer and the inner gaze of the
soul. It also became difficult to justify an appeal to the affections — yet
this is the root of the will, and also the larger part of how we know our world
(even if pre-cognitive)…”
I used to be a regular listener to The
Forum conversations during Alan Jones’ tenure as the Dean of Grace
Cathedral. He retired in 2009.
Since then the new Dean (Jane Shaw) has put her own spin on The Forum and it’s been nice to listen
again, in recent weeks, to some of the back-catalog of fascinating interviews.
Three in particular stood out. The first two stood out because I’ve
regularly read and been deeply challenged by the books they have written over
the years. While the third was a person I’d not come across before:
First up, Alan Jones himself, in conversation on the 22nd April 2012. The conversation
was recorded under the title, The Church
in the World.
Secondly, James Alison,
talking on the 13th November 2011. The conversation was recorded
under the title, Broken Hearts and New Creation: Intimations of a
And thirdly, Stephanie Spellers,
talking on the 30th October 2011 under the title: Anglicanism
Remixed: Embracing our Traditions and Embracing The Other.
Sadly I missed this news until just recently. Gordon Cosby, the
co-founder – with his wife Mary – of The
Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C. died, aged 95, on March 20th
2013. May he rest in peace. More here.
It is from him (and the late Elizabeth O’Connor) that I got a focus
that has been so important to me – a focus on the importance of the “Inward”
and the “Outward” journey. The whole missional orientation of the church community
was inspirational too. My introduction to The
Church of the Saviour came in 2000 by way of a wonderful book written by
Peter Renner. It was titled The Church
of the Saviour: A Radical Experiment.
“The one journey that ultimately matters is
the journey into the place of stillness deep within one’s self. To reach that
place is to be at home; to fail to reach it is to be forever restless. In
contemplation we catch a vision of not only what is, but what can be. Contrary
to what we have thought, contemplatives are the great doers.”
“…Faith is trusting the flow and reveling in the view and being
carried beyond all existing boundaries…”
I always appreciate the ‘poetic’ strand, the richness of language,
image and metaphor invariably woven through Rowan William’s sermons – this one
from 2009. It’s a wonderful example:
is what we are here for as a Church. Our life as church declares to the world
that God's longing is for a humanity like this, broken open for intimacy.
Broken open: because there is a cost in the creation of the humanity God longs
for. At the very beginning of all things, and at the very beginning of the
story of God's people, the word of God speaks into a dark emptiness and brings
life and light. By sheer divine freedom, God brings light, makes a humanity
where there was no humanity, a community where there was no community. And God
makes us able to receive his mercy where once we could not even understand that
we needed it. In a word, we have been called from nothingness; but this means
that we still stand over that abyss of emptiness -- an inner void that only the
Word of God can hold and fill and make to be something that is real and living.
Sin is our constant temptation to slip back into nothingness, into unreality --
the void of our own individual desires and agendas, the void of a self that
deludes itself into the belief that it is really there on its own, independent
of God and others…”
A recently published study by
Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve
Bruce focuses on the question “Why are women more religious than men?”
Published on the 20th September
2012 it is profiled in the following way:
“…Women are more religious than
men. Despite being excluded from leadership positions, in almost every culture
and religious tradition, women are more likely than men to pray, to worship,
and to claim that their faith is important to them. Women also dominate the world
of 'New Age' spirituality and are far more superstitious than men.
This book reviews the
now-sizeable body of social research to consider if the gender gap in religion
is indeed universal. Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve Bruce extensively critique
competing explanations of the differences found. They conclude that the gender
gap is not the result of biology but is rather the consequence of important
social differences over-lapping and reinforcing each other. Responsibility for
managing birth, child-rearing and death, for example, and attitudes to the
body, illness and health, each play a part. In the West, the gender gap is
exaggerated because the social changes that undermined the plausibility of
religion bore most heavily on men first. Where the lives of men and women
become more similar, and where religious indifference grows, the gender gap
Written in an accessible style
whilst drawing some robust conclusions, the book's main purpose is to serve as
a state-of-the-art review for those interested in one of the largest
differences between male and female behaviour.
1: The Great Divide 2: New
Religions 3: Spirits and Bodies 4: New Age and Spirituality 5: Conservative
Religion 6: Biology, Roles and Attitudes 7: Risk 8: Ways of Life 9:
Secularization 10: The Sum of Small Differences…”
Interesting output from The UK-focused YouGov survey, which Professor Linda Woodhead
commissioned to inform the 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates. Her
findings are presented in her article ‘”Nominals” are the Church’s Hidden
Strength’ in the current issue (26 April 2013, p. 16) of the Church Times.
Sadly, this is only available online to subscribers of the newspaper.
British Religion in Numbers
“…The analysis proper, which forms the first part of the article,
distinguishes four types of Anglicans:
Godfearing Churchgoers (5% of Anglicans) – These are Anglicans who
attend church, are very certain in their belief in God, and who say that God is
the main source of authority in their lives. They are also likely to score
highly on other indicators of religiosity (such as prayer and Bible-reading)
and to hold conservative views on many issues of personal morality,
particularly sexuality (setting them apart with Baptists and Muslims rather
than fellow Anglicans).
Mainstream Churchgoers (12% of Anglicans) – These have more in common
with Non-Churchgoing Believers than with the Godfearers. Apart from their
churchgoing, they differ in being a little more religious than Non-Churchgoing
Believers on a number of measures and a little more morally conservative.
(50% of Anglicans) – These share a good many of the attributes of Mainstream
Churchgoers, notwithstanding that they do not attend church. They all believe
in God (although some prefer the word Spirit), and significant numbers practise
religious or spiritual activities regularly. ‘These “nominals” are more than
Anglican in name only: they believe, practise, and identify with Anglicanism.’
Non-Churchgoing Doubters (33% of Anglicans) – These Anglicans are also
more than merely nominal. Only 15% are outright atheists, most being agnostic
or unsure about God, and more than one-fifth claim to practise some religious
or spiritual activity in private. They are the most morally permissive of the
The second half of the
article is an impassioned – some may say occasionally idealized – plea for the
Church of England to take more seriously non-churchgoing Anglicans in general,
and Non-Churchgoing Believers in particular, rather than representing
Godfearing Churchgoers as the ‘most real Anglicans’. Woodhead contends that the
Church is in danger of becoming too clerical and congregationally-based…” (Emphasis,