a great few days

What a great few days the week ended with.

On Thursday friends from Greenwich came over to look at the organ and consider playing to for us now and again. This may happen but it was great to catch up and have lunch.
fullsizeoutput_b43On Thursday evening it was another amazing privilege to spend some time with Rikard and Zara, this time to see some of Zara’s stunning work that was on display as part of the (In)visible Exhibition at Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green. With the artists there expressing the struggle and reality of life’s difficulties I found this to be beautifully painful experience.

Friday is my day off but the day started with coffee with Stephen Timms who is my local MP. Again, it was a joy to spend quality time with this great MP who has been committed to East Ham and Newham for an incredibly long time, and one who knows so much and has established good links. I hope in the future as we move on we may work together on some things of value for the community.

Later that day an opportunity came my was that surprised me and I grabbed! I looked onIMG_1117 the BFI website to see that there were 2 or 3 tickets surprisingly left for a live screen talk with Keira Knightley. So I grabbed one, sat next to an Austrian film critic, and listens to just an amazingly wonderful interview with an actor I have admired for some time. Keira was humble in talking about just how much luck she had had with roles, genuinely pleased at the reception she received from people, and outspoken and strong in explaining that she had deliberately taken roles of powerful woman who challenged society. Its as an amazing 60 or so minutes which will be treasured by many that were fortunate enough to be there.

A pretty great couple of days!

naieve optimism?

shapeThe Richard Rohr daily thought today ends with these words:

Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. No one can possibly go to heaven alone—or it would not be heaven.

Inherent Goodness can always uphold you if you can trust it. I call that goodness “God,” but you don’t have to use that word at all. God does not care. It is the trusting that is important. When we fall into Primal Love, we realize that everything is foundationally okay—and we are a part of that everything!

I’ve been pondering these words all day.
I’m asking myself ‘how do we trust?’
For some it can be a tall and seemingly unachievable challenge.
Today I was pretty humbled after doing a pastoral visit to a family living here on the peninsula. This family are living in the midst of a real challenge in their lives; the outcomes could be quite scary and yet the faith and trust of these people is outstanding. It’s unwavering. There have been tears and confusion, but the trust has never lacked. I walked away from their home fully believing I had been welcomed into a holy space. I went to pray and bless as the parish priest, and I did, but I returned much more blessed, much more conscious of God,  than I could ever have hoped to have left them with.
I get the connectedness thing of Richard Rohr. Just yesterday I was talking with a good friend, whilst tasting a nice malt, around how we are all connected and if we could only just realise that how the world would be full of people who loved and cared for each other. I guess that as we trust more we become more connected and as we become more connected we trust more …. the opposite is that we become less connected and less trusting which is how I see the direction going in the communities and the world I inhabit. Rather than connectedness this results in suspicion or fear.
I rote an essay recently as part of my MA around the subject of the beautiful film of The Shape of Water. (If you’ve not seen it …. go see!) I quoted these words from an interview about the film with Guillermo del Tor, the director:

‘We live in a time of fear, and hatred and rage. Every day on the news, and every day in social media and every day in our lives,  we’re told to fear something, fear the other, fear the other religion, the other immigrant, the other gender; and it is a time to embrace the fact that there is no us and them, but only us, and that’s what we have.’

That’s a powerful and quite horrible image of fear that breeds when we are disconnected. It results in suspicion, brokenness and a sense of needing to achieve alone. In such a climate people will always put themselves first and neglect the other.
All we have is each other says del Toro. I think that connects strongly with the words of Rohr today.
We are meant to connect.
I get that.
but … and there is always a but ….
How do we work that out in the world?
What is the secret … how do we love … how do we trust as a default?
Can we or is that a simple naieve optimism?

a post to remind us that we are marvellous!

main_shareLast night at RFS I watched Saving Mr Banks.

In the discussion afterwards I describe it as ‘a beautifully crafted film with some amazing acting which realistically showed a lot of emotion and pain as people struggled to let go of stuff from their past’

This was quite an emotional film and many afterwards admitting to welling up with tears at various places (of course … being a man i did NOT!) as the film prompted past memories that had not been fully dealt with. Seems this is an issue for many of us! The film shows very powerfully how past ‘stuff’ can influence our normal everyday backyard life.

This past year, probably 18 months, I have been coming up against stuff of my past. Some of this stuff has been painful but I have encountered it, immersed myself in it, stared it face on, and stepped out of it. I’d like to say I’ve come out better, but I am not sure I am at that space yet.  I think I’m close. I’m where I should be and that’s positive.

Sometimes I have laughed at myself as I’ve gone down those mental paths of the past where I have had to listen to those voices that told me I am worthless and good for nothing. I’ve laughed because, actually, I have no respect for those people or voices or my past and know they talk crap. I know their words are a lie. I know those words have no authority.

Other times I have frozen in fear, and found myself weeping, as I guess I start to consider some of this crap may … just may … be true. Spoken words are powerful, and no matter how resilient you are, they can have a massive effect on your self thoughts. When I worked for the Behaviour Support Service we knew that the children we worked with needed to hear a ratio of 8 positive comments  to every negative comment.

That sounds a lot … but why should it be? … why is that not a reality in our society? In a well informed ‘civilised’ society like ours … why is the norm negativity … when it could be so easily the complete opposite? I mean …. how difficult is it to be nice to each other, to tell each other how amazing and wonderful we are.

When I am challenged in this area I tend to find support from other words. I particularly find strength from the creation story in Genesis. God creates and says ‘it is good’. God creates humanity and says ‘it is very good’. I also find strength in these words from Psalm 139 …. when feeling alone or down, the words of this Psalm kick me up the arse basically and force me to take on board the truth.

So … following from last nights film … and realising how many people really are dealing with past shit due to others … and not looking for words of encouragement or platitudes personally (cos I already have 2 great friends who do that of whom I’m incredibly thankful) … I share this as some form of support …

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

Go today … be blessed in the thought that you are marvellously made! Not because I say so … but because the One who created says so!

the selfish giant

Conner Chapman in The Selfish GiantTonight I returned to the Picture Palace to see The Selfish Giant. This has been at the top of my ‘want to see’ for a little while. I was going to go to Southbank to watch it, or download ot from BFI, but was persuaded to wait for the Rochester Picture palace screening. (There will be no spoilers)

It was worth the wait.

I particularly wanted to see the film as I knew a little of the make up that intrigued me … the lead roles of Arbor and Swifty played by two lads from a tough Bradford estate. The gritty reality they bring is awe inspiring. The passion of the film is simply breathtaking with a mix of dry humour, fathomless unashamed affection and scandalous tragedy.

Despite it’s incredible acting and beautiful cinematography (I loved the breathtaking mist shrouded shots of imposing pylon landscapes) this is no easy watch. Be prepared to be shocked and quite ripped apart as, essentially, this is a film that is pretty Godless with no offer of hope or dreams of a better future.

But this film is still worth watching … just do so with a stiff drink at hand or a box of tissues or both!

sunshine connections

I really enjoyed the RochesterFilm Society showing of Sunshine on Leith this evening. This was a fun, feel good movie, which, to be honest, was great to watch after the events of this past week.

Some did not like the connection between the story and Proclaimers music, but I thought that worked pretty well. The performances of Mullan and Horrocks alone make the film worth seeing, but there is so much more in this than two talented actors.

I liked the way the film portrayed the fragility and centrality of relationships. In this film, to be human is to be in relationship, or to be connected in some way, to another human being. Even though relationships were key to humanity, they are shown to be very prone to cracking due to human behaviour and misunderstanding.

In this film, relationships are what life is all about, but they only work for the people who are prepared to fight for them. Whether it is a parental, lover or friendship (all three are illustrated in the film) ‘Sunshine’ almost wills the characters to chase the relationship as away to show its value and importance. For relationships to flourish … vulnerability was needed. For some reason I connected with that in tonights film!

All that for a shallow musical …. thanks RFS for giving me an excuse to come out of the house and experience this for a while.

great lineup

pretty impressed by our line up for the next few films for Rochester Film Society … why not come check us out.


Gatsby – a gaudy extravagance

THE-GREAT-GATSBY-International-Poster-04-535x247Last night at Rochester Film Society we saw The Great Gatsby. As with the reviews of the film the discussion afterwards was mixed.

possible spolier alert … but not too much!

I pretty much loved the film. The soundtrack jarred as 20’s jazz was crudely mashed with Beyonce and rap. The blatant sensory overload of glaring colour, brazen  activity and overpowering dialogue all contributed to what I think was trying to be an illustration of the clash between pre-modern and a modern lifestyle. I don’t think the sound mashing or the gaudy sensory overload worked particularly well, because it meant watching the film was not always comfortable, but then I suspect that may well of been the aim of Luhrmann all the time.

The acting of DiCaprio and Mulligan oozed a real base chemistry that I think also gave a deliberate vulgar feel to the film. After initially not rating DiCaprio, I think it’s amazing that he has already delivered two amazing roles in Django and Gatsby this year … and it is still only May!

There was a line in the film from Nick, played by Toby Maguire, which grabbed me and has stayed with me… ‘I was within and without’. In his narration role this tended to refer to the Toby character being in both places … both a participant and a practitioner, both an observer and one being observed, both at the centre and on the periphery, both here and there …. or simply both, and! Very apt descriptions that I resonate with in spirituality.

I’ve not blogged about a film in a while but those who have read SHP for a little while will know I wonder whether this is a medium through which God still chooses to communicate to the world … just like God does through any and every art medium within creation. I think an underlying message in this gaudy over played yet beautiful film is one of presence. I think there is a theme of presence which over-rides the pre-modern and modern world which today does not recognise any sacred or secular … but simply a whole creation that is totally sacred.

There was a song overplayed throughout the film from Lana Del Rey, the overplayed lyric being ‘will you still love me when I am no longer young and beautiful?’

I think the underlying message from the creator is ‘Yes’

the fight for freedom

Django_Unchained_PosterimgresTwo days, two films. Django Unchained at Chatham Odeon and Lincoln at the BFI IMAX.
Two very different films. One classic Tarantino, the other superb Spielberg.
Two great films essentially exploring the same subject.

Freedom and equality.

Tarantino’s tongue in cheek, and excellently directed, film gave a full on violent account of how to gain justice and freedom. This involved making people ‘pay’ for their crimes so that they could not continue hurting others. Spielberg, on the other hand, outlines the wheeling and dealing within the ‘respectability’ of politics; the half truths told, the scheming and the jobs ‘offered’ to ‘buy’ votes. Both films explored these issues through the backdrop of slavery.

The interesting thing that strikes me from both films is that both methods are immoral. But … both methods work to ensure the freedom of the innocent.  Both films seem to be validating an ‘ends justifies the means’ philosophy. I am not sure how I sit with that … and while most of us would not condone or encourage the Django justice system, we support day after day the Lincoln model …. ‘it’s called democracy’ says the main character somewhere in the film.

Is there any difference?
Does my faith require and demand a different way?
If freedom is at stake do the ends justify the means?
I would argue not …

But back to the films … both are great and both are must see films in my opinion, although I will only be buying one on DVD to add to my ‘favourite director’ collection!

a good cinema season ahead …

This season is looking good at the other cinema …. which has become one of the highlights of my week. If you’ve not been before, and you love film, why not join in. 7.45pm, Thursday nights, Chatham Odeon.

There’s also a facebook page and a twitter account if you do that stuff.


It’s been an interesting few days with a fairly big variety of things.
Wednesday morning I returned to St Stephens to preside at the the 10 am Eucharist. It was good to see some familiar faces.

Wednesday evening I led evening pryer in the crypt. 3 minutes before starting our ‘normal’ group of 3 or 4 was suddenly swelled to over 40 with a massive influx of visiting Dutch teachers who decided to join us for Evening Prayer, which made things a lot more interesting when we were praying for the unity of the church.

Thursday morning saw me visiting a local prison. chatting to the chaplain and walking around meeting some of the staff.  This was a very powerful and humbling experience which got me thinking on what freedom actually is.

Thursday afternoon I led the leavers service for a local girls grammar school.  This was a good service planned by the Head Girls and was creative in places. It was, actually, a real joy to be involved. The irony of coming from a prison where people were locked up partly as a result of lack of opportunity while overseeing a service developed with creative young people who have great opportunity ahed of them was particularly apparent.

Thursday evening I went to my normal film club and watched quite a harrowing film which I’m glad I went to see … but to say I enjoyed it would not be correct! I currently feel as if my day has gone full circle …from being trapped by lack of opportunity passing through great opportunity to returning to being trapped again.

The variety continues tomorrow as I meet up with my wetherspoons friends and then get ready for the Sweeps Festival. If you are a pray-er, please pray for us over tis weekend … thanks!