June 2009


Over the next few days I want to share with you some reflections and pictures from an exhibition that will run in Centenary Square Birmingham from the 2nd through to the 4th of July 2009.

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Here is some background:

How the exhibition came about: The Images project 

In this project we have used intentionally 2 key entry points into providing opportunities for members of the public to engage in ‘saying the unsayable: opening a dialogue about living, dying and death’.

 

The first entry point was via community groups and networks of people. This so that opening up such a dialogue could be rooted in places and with groups of people with whom we share other significant parts of our lives.

These significant parts of our lives also include loss situations and deaths of those around us, as we will and do all die!

 

The second entry point was the use of art as a medium to:

  • convey and express how elements of living, dying and death surround us, guide our behaviours and choices for how we choose to live
  • highlight and take the opportunity to notice many shared but hidden or undisclosed or ignored pointers to areas of our lives. Especially those where these are often difficult to name or articulate in words or via conversations

 

We aimed to capture much of these everyday life and living elements through the use of photography.

 

So for the main part of the project we worked with 11 varied community groups over a 9 month period (see page 12 for details of the 11 groups). We set up the following contract with members in these groups who chose to be part of the project:

  • To learn photographic skills
  • To take images using the following prompts  

Take a photo of….

  • Loss and/or change
  • Living well
  • Care, friendship and support for someone in need
  • Compassion for someone
  • How you might visualise any aspect of death or dying 
  • What brings you to life – makes you feel alive
  • What deadens you – makes you feel sad

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Each group then had photographic and camera lessons from Ade Marsh our project manager and the group members were then:

  • each provided with a camera to use over a 2 – 3 week period
  • asked to think about a supporting text to illustrate the meaning for them of the images they had taken
  • informed of the exhibition where we committed to exhibit an image from each participant in some form
  • requested to participate in an evaluation process relating to their experience of taking part in the project and taking images of the subject matter

So with 11 groups taking part, 96 people signed up to take part in the project, 86 submitted photographs and this yielded 7591 photos!

This is what we found 

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which each group and its members responded to the idea of taking part in the project and the ease with which they found and took images portraying the prompts provided. Images have been the route into this territory.

 

Here are some of the comments from the evaluation process and questions we asked of those participating in the project:

Question 1: How did the subject of dying, death and loss as part of everyday life make you feel?

Lost’

‘Uncomfortable, as they are often perceived to be taboo subjects and I hadn’t really thought about them before. At the age of 28 I still think I am immortal’

‘Mixed feelings, not so worried as I was before’

‘It made me feel reflective and widened the scope of the meaning of the project brief’

     

Question 3: Which was your favourite photo related to the subjects of dying, death and loss as part of everyday life and what did it mean to you?

‘the way out sign because I feel it represented death and dying by exploring choice and direction’

‘the derelict building photo – it made me feel sad to see the destruction of these buildings – made me relate to them which I wouldn’t normally do’

  ‘the puddle one because going to school on a wet and cold Monday makes me feel dead inside’

 

 Question 6: What did you learn about taking photos related to subjects of dying, death and loss as part of everyday life?’

‘not to take things for granted and cherish your memories’

‘made me think and look at things from a different perspective’

‘it opened up a whole new vista’

‘flowers signify a true meaning of life – the way they grow and die is amazing. I also learned about different cultures of people in my group’ 

 

 

The view from the Project Manager Ade Marsh (Ade Marsh is a professional freelance photographer specialising in working with young people and community groups –  www.ademarshphotography.com )

96 people from across Birmingham have produced this truly remarkable and unique photographic exhibition. Some had never used a camera before in their lives and yet all have been able to capture images reflecting their thoughts and feelings about living, dying and death.

 

So how has this been achieved? For me, it started 15 months ago when I was approached by NHS West Midlands to manage the photographic side of this project having already been working on its campaign, ‘Living Well to the End of Life’.  As a former community and youth worker, I was able to initially draw on my contacts from across Birmingham to meet and invite community and youth groups to take part in this thought-provoking project. The people I met suggested others who might like to get involved and it wasn’t long before I had found the eleven groups we were looking for – a diverse cross section of Birmingham’s population.

 

Each group of up to twelve people was shown how to use the professional digital compact cameras, given training in basic photographic techniques and talked through the photographic brief. To their delight, every participant was then lent a camera to use for a few weeks.

 

I hope you agree that the photos they have taken and the comments that accompany them, have produced an exhibition of images that is not only meaningful to each photographer, but also relevant to us all – opening a dialogue about living dying and death.

 

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the time will come

when with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat

You will love again the stranger who was yourself

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored

for another, who knows you by heart

 

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf

the photographs, the desperate roles

peel your own image from the mirror

Sit. Feast on your life

 

Derek Walcott

 

Cyril-alex_4x6

 

Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c. 378 – 444) was the Pope of Alexandria when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the later 4th, and 5th centuries.

 He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431, which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is counted among the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles Pillar of Faith and Seal of all the Fathers, but Theodosius II, the Roman Emperor, condemned him for behaving like a proud pharaoh, and the Nestorian bishops at the Council of Ephesus declared him a heretic, labelling him as a monster, born and educated for the destruction of the church.

Theology.

Cyril regarded the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus Christ to be so mystically powerful that it spread out from the body of the God-man into the rest of the race, to reconstitute human nature into a graced and deified condition of the saints, one that promised immortality and transfiguration to believers. Nestorius, on the other hand, saw the incarnation as primarily a moral and ethical example to the faithful, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Cyril’s constant stress was on the simple idea that it was God who walked the streets of Nazareth (hence Mary was Theotokos (Mother of God)), and God who had appeared in a transfigured humanity. Nestorius spoke of the distinct ‘Jesus the man’ and ‘the divine Logos’ in ways that Cyril thought were too dichotomous, widening the ontological gap between man and God in a way that would annihilate the person of Christ.

The main issue that prompted this dispute between Cyril and Nestorius was the question which arose at the Council of Constantinople: What exactly was the being to which Mary gave birth? Cyril posited that the composition of the Trinity consisted of one divine essence (ousia) in three distinct realities (hypostases.) These distinct realities were the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Before the Son became flesh in Mary’s womb, Cyril asserted that there existed two natures of the Son—one divine nature and one human nature. Then, when the Son became flesh and entered into the world, these two divine and human natures both remained but became united in the person of Jesus. This resulted in the slogan “One Nature united out of two” being used to encapsulate the theological position of this Alexandrian bishop.

According to Cyril’s theology, there were two states for the Son: the state that existed prior to the Son (or Word/Logos) becoming enfleshed in the pereson of Jesus and the state that actually became enfleshed. Thus, only the Logos incarnate suffered and died on the Cross and therefore the Son was able to suffer without suffering. Cyril’s concern was that there needed to be continuity of the divine subject between the Logos and the incarnate Word—and so in Jesus Christ the divine Logos was really present in the flesh and in the world.

orange_flowers

 

I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
The curlew’s tear turned its edge on the silence.

Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted

Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,

And the big planets hanging.

.

 

From Ted Hughes, The horses

 I commend this motion being out forward by the Diocese of Bradford at the next meeting of the General Synod. I wonder what the outcome might be??!!

 

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‘Senior posts reduction in the Church of England’

 

 

Over recent years parishes across the country have been faced with considerable reductions in the number of stipendiary parochial clergy. When as a result of this Bradford Diocese moved towards clustering parishes, Calverley Deanery Synod passed a motion which, in amended form, has become that which General Synod is being invited to consider.

There have been some internal re-organizations within dioceses of duties among senior clergy: for example, in Bradford the two Archdeacons now carry additional responsibilities previously held by separate officers (reversing former trends to divest archdeacons of their parochial or other responsibilities). But this has not assuaged the feeling among many in the Diocese – a feeling shared by many in the Church of England, as the church press correspondence columns witness –that as the number of parochial stipendiary posts reduces, so the number of extra-parochial and ‘senior’ stipendiary posts should also reduce in proportion; and that this should be done in a carefully thought-out way across the country. This is a controversial point of view, but needs to be engaged with rather than brushed aside. This motion is brought by the Diocese of Bradford in order to enable the Synod to reflect on what the Spirit may be saying to the Church of England about its structures of responsibility and oversight.

The following points may be of assistance to the debate:

1. From 1990 to 2007 the number of full-time stipendiary clergy reduced from 11076 to 8304, and is projected to be 7920 by 2012. The overall projected reduction over only 22 years is around 3156 – around 28% of all stipendiary clergy.

2. During the period 1990-2006 almost the whole of this reduction was from those in parochial posts, resulting in widespread re-organization and further amalgamations of  parishes – a process which had been taking place over a much longer period.

3. In 1959 there were 14,380 full time stipendiary clergymen of whom 377 were  ‘dignitaries’, i.e. senior diocesan posts. In 2007 there were 8,304 full time stipendiary clergy of whom 347 were ‘dignitaries’.

4. The number of non-stipendiary clergy, house for duty, Readers, Deaconesses and licensed lay ministers in 1960 was 6958 and has grown to 11201 in 2007. These ministers also need support and encouragement: some of this may be specifically episcopal, but a considerable degree of it could be done by stipendiary clergy having a more episcopal role.

5. Despite a large decline in church membership and in full-time stipendiary clergy over recent years, there has been no serious consideration given to the need to reduce the number of senior posts and the structures around them. The maintenance of  episcopal apparatus, support services and expenses produces a Church that appears top heavy: e.g. in 2008 the Church Commissioners spent £7.3 million in maintaining  diocesan bishops’ houses, and £14.5 million in grants for bishops’ support staff, office and working costs: an average of half a million pounds per diocese, or 10 clergy or lay worker stipends.

6. The key question is what work needs to be done, and how best to do it. Could we have more part stipendiary or self-supporting dignitaries? Could their work be shared between teams of parochial clergy, full and part time? As the patterns of parochial ministry are changing, how are we also changing the patterns of oversight and the deployment of episcope, especially when we see many good and holy people in senior posts who are stuck in a hierarchical culture and who are increasingly overburdened by the demands placed upon them – which may well be unrealistic and unsustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

My house in Windsor is slowly becoming my new home through a process of adaption and sorting. Key in all this are my pictures. I finally  found the spot for one of my favourites – a signed Hepworth Moon – very mystical and  needing to avoid any direct sunlight.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hepworth here are the bare bones of her life and some images:

Dame Barbara Hepworth (10 January 1903 – 20 May 1975, was a major British sculptor and artistof the twentieth century. She was a contemporary and friend of Henry Moore.

hepworth

 

 

Hepworth was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire,  attended Wakefield Girls High School and won a scholarship and studied at the Leeds School of Art from 1920 (where she met Moore). She then won a County scholarship to the Royal College of Art and studied there from 1921 until she awarded the diploma of the Royal College of Art in 1924. She later studied for a period in Italy.

 

Barbara Hepworth is one of the most significant sculptors and artists of the 20th century. Her work exemplifies Modernism and along with her contemporaries in England such as Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and others she helped to develop modern art (sculpture in particular) immeasurably.

One of her most prestigious works is Single Form, in memory of her friend and collector of her works Dag Hammarskjöld,  at the United Nations building in New York City. It was commissioned in 1961 by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation following Hammarskjöld’s death in a plane crash.

Hepworth’s first marriage was to the sculptor John Skeaping, with whom she had a son, Paul, in 1929. Her second marriage was to the painter Ben Nicholson. They married on 17 November 1938 at Hampstead Register Office. The couple had triplets in 1934, Simon, Rachel and Sarah; Simon also became an artist. The couple divorced in 1951. Her eldest son, Paul, was killed on 13 February 1953 in a plane crash while serving with the Royal Air Force in Thailand; Hepworth created a a memorial to him, entitled Madonna and Child, in the church in St Ives.

She was made a Dame in 1965, ten years before her death during a fire in her St Ives studio in Cornwall  aged seventy-two. The studio and her home now form the Barbara Hepworth Museum.

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As well as at the Barbara Hepworth Museum, more of Hepworth’s work will be on display at The Hepworth Wakefield a museum currently under construction in Wakefield. An opening in 2010 is anticipated.

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st-albans-martyrdom

Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr. Along with his fellow saints Julius and Aaron, Alban is one of three martyrs remembered from Roman Britain. Alban is listed in the Church of England calendar for 22 June and he continues to be venerated in the Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Communions.

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