Contemporary Art in St Paul’s Cathedral

Canon Paul Oakley (who introduces many lunchtime lectures and has written on poetry as “A splash of Words”) welcomes the arrival of a new art into the very old St Paul’s Cathedral, in London: a video piece by Bill Viola and his partner/collaborator, Kira Perov.  Bill and Paul are obviously visibly moved by seeing it, in situ.

What is is about an artwork being made for a specific location, in an old building?  Tateshots interviews Nicholas Serota, as well as the makers.

This is significant: it is the leading art building/museum in the capital city of London, interacting with a leading building representing the Church of England.  The Church as patron – a role it was more connected with in the past.

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John Piper: One third of the Bible is Poetry

John Piper is well-known not only as a preacher, but also as a poet.  In this article, he points out carefully that one third of the Bible is poetry, and why that might be.

He gives two reasons:

  • it expresses the inexpressible – or at least tries to
  • it is slow communication, it forces the reader to slow down, to take in the nuances

He has written a short article, whereas a few weeks ago on this blog, we’ve heard a much longer videoed talk by Canon Oakley, on why poetry is important to the church and belief – under the title “resonance, not relevance”.

However, Christian denominations being what they are, it’s helpful to have leading figures in different branches of the same tree/vine saying the same thing.

For those writing poetry (or sermons), I’d warmly recommend listening to John Piper’s talk on George Herbert, and writing as a spiritual practice.  Viewable here.

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Fashion Design from faith

How is spirituality manifested in form? How would designers express their faith and values in their fashion creations?

“Sons ‘n’ Daughters: A Fashion Discourse” is a showcase of new works by fashion designers of the Christian faith – Barney Cheng, Lulu Cheung, Joanna Chu Liao, Noel Chu, Enoch Ho, and Hidy Ng – informed and inspired by their faith journeys.

This fashion show was included in an important response to T S Eliot’s poems “The 4 Quartets” – the event being “The Still Point” by the International Arts Movement, in Hong Kong, in 2014.

Characterised by qualities of the designers’ oeuvre, and built on their faith for God the Father, the new collections attempt to present an imagery of refreshing departure from an otherwise vanity–based industry, to stir a discourse on closing the seeming gaps between faith and fashion.



Barney Cheng, faith, fashion, Hong Kong

Barney Cheng designs

Barney Cheng – find out more on his website.  Barney trained at Royal College of Art (London), Parsons School for Fashion (Paris), and University of Waterloo (Canada) before establishing his atelier Yenrabi.  His work tends to use gorgeously embroidered fabrics, for special events such as cocktail dresses and weddings and evening gowns.


Lu Lu Cheung, fashion designer

Lu Lu Cheung, Spring/Summer 2017

Lulu Cheung has a very distinctive website – which initially just displays her name – but when you click on that, it opens as, and you hear birdsong.  As you click on the Lookbook to see the clothes, beautiful classical music begins to play.

There are pictures of flower arrangements on the website, and her opening statement is that her work is inspired by nature.

“I like my designs to conjure a carefree and buoyant feminine beauty but I also want to have down-to-earth practicality.  My design is expressing the soft-yet-strong of women.”


Noel Chu, wedding dress design, Hong Kong

Noel Chu working on one of her glorious wedding dresses

Noel Chu specialises in wedding wear.

With each unique wedding dress design, Noel captures the essence of the individual woman behind the label “bride” that often comes with high expectations. Noel’s devotion and demand for perfection go into every one of the gowns she creates, as she shares her incredible enthusiasm and creativity with each bride.

 See more on her website.




Hidy Ng makes award-winning ready to wear ranges of clothing, a favourite of International Fashion Editors.  Her website is full of runway shows at Paris, Hong Kong and .  Even her design drawings are exquisite.


You can view an industry interview with her hereScreen shot 2018-02-11 at 20.35.27.png.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnoch Ho has his own label, Berayah – named after the Hebraic word meaning “God has created”.

His clothing is modern with a “crisp geometric aesthetic”.  If you like having pockets in your clothing, then prepare to be delighted – as these, whether hidden in seams or featured upfront, are ever-present.

Screen shot 2018-02-11 at 20.46.45


The statement on his website gives a rather beautiful description of his Autumn/Winter 2017 collection “The Grace of Grey”:

“Our morals are guided by black and white, yet in reality our flawed beings live in grey areas in between…. the world can be a beautiful place if we learn not to cause division by our definitions of black and white, but rather the common extension of grace in our respective greys.”

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Not relevance but resonance

When a clergyman writes a book which the poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy describes as “This beautiful and wise meditation centred around Mark Oakley’s anthology of the ‘soul language’ of poetry opens new windows in the shared house of both poetry and belief” – then we are looking at a very interesting bridge-book.

“The splash of words:believing in Poetry” – is the book – and its author speaks about it in this fascinating and easy to follow video talk – the talk itself is a compact 42 minutes, but there is a very extensive series of interesting questions afterwards, which pushes the running length to an hour and a half.  (Don’t be put off, just listen to the talk and you will find yourself wanting to hear more. Viewing it is time well spent).

Continue reading

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The Lord’s Prayer in Glaswegian

Jamie Stuart wrote “A Glasgow Gospel” – here is his Scots translation of the famous prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer:

Faither o us aw, bidin oan high,

We ken yer name is holy.

Let yer blessins stert, and let yer rules be carried oot, here, right noo, just like in Heaven.

Gie us breid for the day, Lord, an let us aff the hook for aw oor fauts – and we’ll dae the same for them that gie us a hard time.

Dear God, keep us awa from temptation, an save us from the evil one.

For sure, the Kingdom is aw yours Lord, alang wi the power, and the hale glory, aye – even tae the feenish o time.


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“We live in a world that doesn’t have very much hope right now and if you get a glimpse – a glimmer – of something to actually give hope and to actually transform the human heart and communities and the world – that’s powerful.”

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I just came across a very old song, written by John Newton, set to new music by Jamie Barnes of Sojourn Community Church.  The lyrics are very powerful still in the 21st century, although written 230 years ago.

John Newton is probably best-known for his hymn “Amazing Grace”.  His life was a mixture of extreme circumstances – and an overwhelming personal sense of mercy and forgiveness by God – which you can see in his lyrics.

During his lifetime, John Newton was captured and pressed into service by the Royal Navy, and on the receiving end of brutality from a captain (flogged with 96 lashes for attempting to escape the ship) and later from a slave trader’s wife who treated him as badly as the slaves in her household.  He was rescued by a sea captain but on the voyage home to England was again in great danger, as the ship he was sailing in was holed and filling with water.  He prayed, crying out to God for mercy, the ship’s cargo shifted and blocked the hole, and the ship drifted to land.  This was his initial conversion experience, however, he had a fuller spiritual conversion when a year later he fell ill with fever and again cried out to God for help, giving his destiny into God’s hands and for the first time said he experienced peace with God.

After his conversion, he continued for a time in his work as captain of slavery ships – although later he would become a powerful influence for abolition.  He became a minister at Olney, where Samuel Cowper the poet came to live – they became great friends and together they published a book of hymns which contains many classic songs of worship still sung today.

While he was a church minister, the young William Wilberforce met him – and later consulted him about possibly leaving Parliament, to become a minister – but John Newton convinced him to stay in Parliament and serve God there in his work.  Thirty years after retiring from slave trade ships, in 1788 John Newton wrote a brutally honest record of conditions on the slave ships, a pamphlet called “Thoughts upon the Slave Trade” – which he regarded as a late confession.  He had a copy sent to every MP.  A strong ally with William Wilberforce, he lived to see the passing of the Slave Trade Act 1807, although dying within a few months.

(If you are interested in finding out more about the UK Abolition campaign, the film “Amazing Grace” (2006) is a good film to view; it tells of William Wilberforce’s life struggle against the slave trade, but there is a memorable scene in which he speaks to John Newton – played by Albert Finney, see photo above this post).

In John Newton’s life, he not only powerfully felt the forgiveness of God, but also passed on that experience by giving millions the words to understand and express it themselves in song.  He was a powerful preacher in the pulpit, and now his songs still carry his message.

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“Atheists don’t have no songs”

Steve Martin: “Religious people have such beautiful music and art, and atheists really have nothing…… until now.”


This is a lovely list song – lyrics made up of a list of categories – in this case, faiths.  Sung with great good humour.

Small note – the Blues is actually based on Black Gospel and deep expressions of faith in trouble…. and from that sprung Rock and Roll so actually, those have been rooted in Christianity too!

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Reconnecting: microphones and liturgy

Is there a special prayer to prepare to use microphones, when speaking in church?  Malcolm Guite, in his column “Poet’s Corner” in “The Church Times” considers this very point.  He comes up with some playful verses:

For putting the rechargeable battery back in its charger:

V: They that wait upon the Lord
R: Shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40.31)


For clipping on of the microphone:

V: I will magnify thee O Lord
R: For thou hast set me up (Psalm 30.1)


And for that discreet little fumble to turn the microphone on:

V: Let not thy left hand know
R: What thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6.5)


However, it is worth reading the whole of the short article* to discover how Malcolm finds, as an Anglican priest, that the deliberateness of preparation for service, and serving eucharist (communion) continue on into the rest of the week.  There is heaven in the ordinary.



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Patience, waiting

One of the first listed characteristics of love in the famous list in 1 Corinthians 13 is patience: “Love is patient….”

God is Love – therefore we can expect that he is patient.  Understanding that is helpful. Unfortunately, some Christians, when asked, believe that God is angry and vengeful, a tyrant impossible to please – the thought of him being patient with them is unrealised.

As we grow up to be more like our Father in heaven, then we will – very gradually – become more patient.  And understanding patience will in turn mean that we understand him better.

Today’s reading helps me:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!                                                                 (Psalm 27:14)

Waiting is patience.  And that patience is not something scarey and weak – we are to be strong in that, we are to have courage during the waiting, and who/what we are waiting for is the Lord.

In this, we please God.

“The Lord is pleased with those who respect him, with those who trust his love.”  (Psalm 147:11)

If you are waiting for his help today, trusting, know that He is patient.  And He is pleased with you.

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