Voices in Craven

Getting back into the swing of work after our holiday in Venice. A tough transition!

A20422118284_a71f54989c note from Rev David Houlton one of our rural officer for the diocese gave me great joy.  All this month there is an initiative called Voices in Craven which is encouraging local people to engage with their local churches.  Throughout June there will be a number of vocal performance events of various flavours – these range from Jazz performances to traditional church music.

Continue reading “Voices in Craven”

Rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship

I was interested in the newly appointed Bishop of Dorking, Jo Wells’ comments about social media 

Twitter is turning the world into a place where people hurl abuse at each other quicker than they can think or even speak, the Church of England’s newest bishop has warned.

I think we should also rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship with each other. Continue reading “Rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship”

Appreciating the environmental activists

A very interesting Appreciative Inquiry session today with people involved in environmental mission around Yorkshire and beyond. The intention was to talk about their passions and what have been their best successes.  Here are my reflections while sitting in Asda in Keighley marking time before another meeting!

In a Christian context I feel that care for the environment is always warmly talked about but not always understood as an essential part of church mission – environmental issues take a back seat when we think of the call to worship God, make disciples and tend to the poor. “people put environment in a box” was what one person said.

Environmental issues take us beyond our immediate and local concerns and in many ways connect all of us. “Jesus died for the whole of creation not just people” was how someone put it reminding us that creation is not just global but cosmic. Our theology should be a cosmic theology – so let’s share a bigger gospel. As we are primarily called to worship God we can say that we are worshiping Him WITH all of creation.

Environmental groups are quite rightly associated with campaigning for greener energy procurement, the reduction of carbon emissions and other critical issues concerning the planet’s survival.

“Care for the environment is not an option – we are doomed otherwise” was one contribution. Christians and the church, though, can offer a different model of hope.

From a Christian point of view the motivation cannot be just be about survival but about worship. Our duty is to care for the environment not out of fear but out of love for the creator.

The question of church growth and evangelism is preoccupying the diocese. So does environmental concern equate to an evangelical mission opportunity? One person suggested that when it comes to the environment God is already at work in the hearts of many people – whether Christian or not. There is a natural God given longing towards caring for the environment which is shared by all of us; the church can help interpret that longing and help people understand God already at work in people’s lives.

On the question of care of the poor (which tends to gain resources and attention from our church communities), environmental concerns are relevant. The scourge of mental health problems brought about by repressive and unhealthy environments is shocking. The absence of green spaces where people feel safe, cramped and badly maintained homes and unclean streets all take a part in defining poverty. Ironically our church building far from enhancing the local environment are a hazard in themselves and draw resources away from poverty action. So yes, local environmental groups have a part to play in transforming our communities and those who live in them.

From our conversations today I can see that care for the environment has big part to play in healing and reconciliation within our communities. There are many examples of local environmental groups that have brought different sections of the communities together – growing and sharing vegetables, creating safe and beautiful community gardens, arranging for local people to walk and talk together. The work with young people and schools is commendable.

We can engage with our neighbours in helping to improve the local environment. In doing this we can build relationships which are essential to reaching people with the gospel message. “We have lost the practical agenda”, says one, but by engaging in environmental issues we can re-connect with our neighbours.

“It is really depressing where we are at the moment but we as Christians can bring a message of hope. We can be a catalyst in the community, inspiring the practical and spiritual”

Longing to see something new

Why we take photographs is something for each photographer to answer in their own way, but it is often about self fulfilment and the urge to make something other people will appreciate. It  might also be about learning a skill as a means of building self esteem and achieving something. For many people it’s just a way of keeping a record of people and events. At its best though, photography is about watching and waiting to be captivated by something mysterious – to explore and discover images we hadn’t planned or expected to see.

Bark Calvery

If we go into the field with a preconceived idea of what we are looking for, the ideal photo, then there is a good chance we will not see what is actually there. We are conditioned to see the world in a particular way and to filter out anything that doesn’t conform to our expectations. This is deep stuff because what we think is true about the world may only be what we allow to pass through our particular coloured lens.

So, it seems to me, photography is about submitting ourselves to the possibility that there is more – more than we expect or can imagine. To make this shrouded world visible we have to be open to nature and not control it, to be willing to spend time getting to know it.

When I search the Internet for inspirational landscape photos, as I often do, I am mostly disappointed. It seems to me that many people (including me) are striving for the textbook photo – a well composed shot of a classic vista at dawn in the style of a celebrity partitioner. I picked up a small book recently offering a guide to classic Yorkshire landscape locations. The guide is full of information about location, time of day, composition tips. It makes me wonder whether this isn’t more reflective of our desire to be accepted and feel we belong to the club.

If our creativity doesn’t challenge and disrupt our normal patterns of  feeling and seeing then it is simply a nice piece of decoration.

And so as I sit in the wood near my home I am waiting in the silence to be found by nature and introduced to something I haven’t seen before. I am looking for a connection not just with the natural world but with its creator and longing to be immersed in that relationship.

 

 

Black Beck in Heber’s Ghyll Woods

Heber’s Ghyll Woods is about 10 minutes walk from our house. It’s a lovely walk up some steep steps beside a tumbling beck – Black Beck according to the map. You climb through trees and criss-cross the beck over a series of bridges leading up to the edge of the moor.

In the last few weeks the falls have been wonderfully energetic.

Everyone usually heads for the Cow and Calf Rocks or to Middleton Woods, but I think this spot deserves more time and attention.  more photos

Complex Wood

I have taken out an online subscription to www.onlandscape.co.uk which is brilliant I have to say. On the site there is an interview with David Ward who’s work is terrific. In it he said he is always looking to simplify his images. I heard a similar thing from David Bailey who said he was always working towards a blank sheet of paper.

Walking in the woods it has always been the complexity that has fascinated me and so the idea of trying to simplify what is already complex seems to me to risk losing something of the nature of it.

Another quote from someone is that “for every complex problem there is always a simple solution, this answer is usually wrong”. In fact I would say the “keep it simple” mantra has become something we no longer ever question in almost every creative field!

So as I walk though the woods today I have been thinking about complexity and how to embrace it.

Cut is the branch

cut is

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo’s laurel bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man.

Faustus is gone; regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendfull fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practise more than heavenly power permits. [Exit.]

(Scene XIV. Marlowe, Christopher. 1909-14. Doctor Faustus. The Harvard Classics)

Just Pray advert, is it in the real world?

The purpose of advertising is to gain attention and to put over a message that people will remember. Remember that.

I think the JustPray.uk ad is cheesy and really quite odd in the way it’s presented but I do get the message that prayer is relevant in our everyday lives.

justpray

I have been though some deeply terrible situations where I have been incredibly supported through prayer. Friends have prayed, I have prayed and the connection between people and God has been profoundly evident. For those who have not experienced prayer I can quite understand how strange it must seem. But I would say that for me prayer is not a ceremonial uttering of words during a church service but a dialogue or connection with God that is always open. The presence of God and our conversation with him is something which is there in every situation – we carry the presence of God into all situations no matter how small. For me the realisation that we can have a dialogue with God at all times was a turning point for me. I don’t get down on my knees or go into a linguistic spasm, I just talk. It works.

The Just Pray advert was supposedly intended to be shown in cinemas but the rejection of the advert can only have been a good thing. The emotional engagement with the film has been intensified and the attention it has gained has been significant. I used to produce promotional films when Mary Whitehouse was alive and kicking. A complaint from Mary Whitehouse was always considered a blessing because of the added publicity it would generate.

But all that promotional stuff is grubby isn’t it? It is possible that those responsible knew it would not meet the straight forward cinema policy and that rejection could be an advantage. The word “ban” being a stretch.

The reaction against the ad seems to suggest that people think it is imposing some false view of the world or that religion, to use that unimaginative term, is being “rammed down our throats”. Let me just say that the manipulative way commercial advertising plugs into our deepest needs and values is quite shocking. Our lives and values are being heavily manipulated by commercial advertising agencies. Let’s not be too harsh on a campaign which in my experience is plugged into the real world.

 

 

The wood is not yet dead

woodIt doesn’t seem long since we were enjoying blossomy trees and children were playing amongst the bluebells. Now, life is retreating again and the sun is muted by washed out skies.

The wood is not yet dead just preparing for rest, and this clearing is like a house strewn with the remains of a riotous party. It is a place recovering from the excesses of time well spent.

It is peaceful here where the smell of decay is sweet. There is not much sound, only the crunch of leaves and a lone crow’s call stabbing onto into the cold air.

The wood is not yet dead and the glorious shades of yellow and red seem to insist that in even in the dark seasons  is something to celebrate.

The beauty of the wood never ends, but it also never stands still. The wood is not yet dead.