congratulations chelsea on winning the FA cup!
one of things i love about being in london is that it's a place people pass through or come to visit so it was great to catch up with mark scandrette this week who is on holiday in london. mark is a friend involved in mission in san fransisco who is inspiring, creative, and lives out experiments in truth as he seeks to follow in the way of christ. this story is from his book soul grafitti. somewhat bizarrely i also bumped into some friends from ireland randomly on the street and we ended up going for a coffee to catch up. it's a small world...
i'm not that experienced at photographing people - i tend to do landscape and just things that catch my eye but am trying to work on some black and white portraits...
transition is a new movement/stream/network seeking to empower communities to find their own creative solutions to peak oil and climate change. i first heard about it because there is an ealing group being started and the age of stupid is being shown at st marys (now there is a nice big screen there!) on june 14. i was delighted to see that there is a group in ealing and that there must be some people involved from st marys. nic hughes riffs on the movement at length...
there is a loose network of leaders and communities that grew out of a few gatherings we have had over the last few years in the uk. the network was made a bit more intentional/formal recognising that there were plenty of others involved in the same kind of stuff who didn't necessarily have the history of friendships but could gain a ton from being part of it. so there is an online ning forum/social network. it's always hard to do but to help define it a bit we came up with the following description of what it's for and the values...
Open set | Spin free | Generous | Vulnerable | Questioning
the network has ended up being known as the tautoko network because of the name of the site where it was originally hosted! as well as the online network there are occasional get togethers - the last was before greenbelt last year in gloucster cathedral. it's a uk based network so ignore if you're from elsewhere but we have a weekend get together coming up the first weekend in july. if you are are in the uk, agree with the above and want to come along you would be most welcome. follow the link above to book. it is cheap, relational, good food, with some worship and conversation thrown in the mix. the way the newtork grows is simply by people in it inviting others to join. so if you haven't heard about it it's because it's been pretty low key/under the radar. but now you know! if you are in the network and haven't booked and want to come hurry up and book - places are limited to the size of the hostel.
the final comment before we left at the end of the london mind body spirit festival from a masseur on a neighbouring stand was that we had good energy which was nice to hear. i didn't notice at the time but it looks like he had the ten commandments tatooed on his arm (from this photo)?
a team of us have been on the dekhomai stand for the fourth year from grace, moot, cms, gillingham, contemplative fire, sheffield, greenwich - all connected through a network of friends. we offer spirituality from the christian tradition. the word dekhomai means welcome or welcoming place and our approach is gentle and warm (we hope). people can have foot and hand massage, make a prayer cord, be prayed with (which pretty much everyone wants to be) and explore the jesus deck. the encounters with people there are personal so i don't plan to narrate those. we had a sense of god's presence (good energy?) and that some searchers had been nudged by god in our direction. what we offer is a gift with minimal opportunity for any follow up, though it is interesting that having been there a few years we definitely have people coming back to find us.
one guy i chatted with was interested in jesus but frustrated with the arrogance of christians - it re-assured me that a gentle approach fits well in that environment as opposed to more confrontational types of evangelism (that i tend to think of as devangelism). one guy who visited us was wearing a t-shirt saying dear god save me from your followers which made us smile but i can understand why some people feel that...
the jesus deck came into its own this year i felt. this was partly because we have got a bit more confident using it and partly because some of us used the process of lectio divina with it which was a creative combination thought up by martin thomas when he used it at a psychic fair. he got some cloths designed that you move the card(s) round through four stages. he explains how he uses it on his web site. and if you are interested you can buy a cloth through him - contact details are on his about page. the cloth/lectio gave a structured process for using the cards that i found really helpful. the jesus deck is a set of cards of the four gospels. each card has an image, a scripture text and a theme. through whatever means (drawing blind or selecting from a number of cards turned up) the person chooses 1, 2 or even 3 cards. the story the cards tell is then narrated and explored and then we explore how it connects with the person's own story. it is amazingly simple but opens up all sorts of conversations and connections that we then pray about together. it's not a reading in the sense of predictive reading, but it is a different way of reading (lectio) a scripture.
if you have been thinking about getting involved in this sort of thing go for it. it's a great space to be in and is definitely an area of quiet growth
i have just finished reading A Brief History of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist (thanks nic). his concern is that curation may be forgotten and so has conducted eleven extensive interviews with well known curators to help the memory live on. i say well known but part of the curator's role is often to disappear behind their work so i didn't really know the names very well at all.
it's fascinating seeing the themes that surface again and again in different ways in the interviews and with the lens i bring to reading i am looking to scrape off the surface themes that resonate with curation in worship. one of the strongest is negotiating newness in art in the midst of the public, artists, museums, galleries, benefactors and patrons, and the range of institutions and powers at play in the art world. in short the curator is most definitely a negotiator, a middleman or middlewoman even if that wasn't what they signed up for! (sound familiar?)
some curators locate themselves at the independent freelance end of things so they have the creative space to fulfil their vision. they problematise the institutions and the art world and haven't got time for them. so seth siegelaub calls the museum 'a cemetery for art' with its focus on historicisation. and sees no point in working with a museum because of its vested social and structural interests. art institutions can be very detached from artists which ends up being a real problem so why bother with them? in an article i want to come back to in curating subjects it made me smile when okwui enwezor says that the day curators want a permanent job they have reached a threshold! it so sounds like the debates around mission and sustainability and ordination/full time paid or not...
on the other hand there are plenty who managed to take roles inside the museums and used that to negotiate permissions for artists to do amazing things in and around those huge spaces. obrist suggest in questions to curators that a couple of keys to the curators who have managed to create the most impact in and around museums have been their own closeness to artists and their ability to create trust in the interplay between the institution, the public and the artists. without that trust you won't be able to do much but once it's there who knows what can happen? sandberg talked about the courage to run a museum in a non academic experimental way - but you're not going to do that without a lot of graft in building trust.
there have been a couple of significant changes in museums in particular. one was that museums stopped just seeing themselves as showing permanent collections. but warehoused the artworks to create different kinds of themed shows bringing the good stuff out from time to time and showing it in different ways, making different articulations and connections with it. and the second was a shift in some museums seeing themselves as sites for experimentation. at art historians day in 1970 michael diers says that it became clear that museums had to say goodbye to their isolation, to their function as an aesthetic church (!). out of this emerged the idea of the museum as a workshop or laboratory. johannes cladders talked about the museum as a space of risk (which I love). i remember going to an amazing evening at the victoria and albert museum in london with DJs and projections, and an evening of installations in traditional spaces by onedotzero – that definitely had this laboratory feel. i suspect that if you rewound, things used to be a lot more stuffy!
my response to this debate is pretty similar to how i feel about the wonderfully creative mission leaders, improvisers and worship curators who have been part of the emerging church/alternative worship movement that has subverted, shaken, deconstructed and brought newness to the christian faith in the soil of postmodern cultures at the edges and in the heart of the institutions. let's have both and everything inbetween! i love it that there are curators who want to sail off the edge and do things that the institution cannot imagine or permit. and i also love it that there are those who patiently earn trust and negotiate space within the heart of the church. the beauty of the new environment is that it's so easy for those people to connect and share their learning and stories and journey together. can you imagine a cathedral employing a curator to play in their cathedral which they see as a laboratory and a space of risk with a wealth of artworks (theological capital?) that's been warehoused but that the curator can bring out of the cupboard to create new articulations with imagination holding up and subverting the continuity of the tradition? renewal that comes from the centre and the edge
the blog is a little quiet because i am in the middle of running the dekhomai stand at the london mind body spirit fair which tends to be full on. the surprise this year is that there are four christian stands with a presence at the festival - all with a different take. so this involvement in the new spiritualities is definitely an area of quiet growth...
my way of thinking about this is through margaret wheatley's amazing piece on networks - lifecycle which i have blogged about at least three times i think 1 | 2 | 3. in it she says that networks change things through 1. naming - getting involved in practice. several people have done that - john drane for me was the first i came across. 2. connecting - people involved in the same practice connect and share stories, experience and learning which of course is so accelerated through the digital media. 3. nourishing - fuelling the practice and network. this has happened informally and formally through training, blahs, articles, and the recent gathering. 4. illuminating - shine a light on the practice so others see and get inspired by it.
it seems to me this process has happened and there's now an intentional network of practitioners - christian travellers in the new spiritual culture that is in the process of being set up. leave a comment if you're interested in knowing more about it...
i was contacted by geez magazine a while back to ask permission to use a photo. i was delighted to be asked having heard good things about the magazine (and pleased that that is the third magazine i have had a photo in this year). well yesterday a copy dropped on the doormat. hailing from canada, it looks great, is intelligent, funny and poignant. a couple of the people working on it have done time with adbusters which didn't surprise me - it has a similar feel. on the 'feel' of the magazine the eds replied in the letters page to someone who didn't like the name by saying that they wanted a name that suggests they are in the realm of religion but not in a typical way, that the exploration of topics is more like saturday evening over beers than sunday morning with its strictures. each issue has a theme. the current one is inspired by gandhi's notion of experiments in truth (which i was inspired by in mark scandrette's book a couple of years back) - put legs on an idea try something out such as downward mobility or sit in public, see what happens. don't just sit there theorising. the magazine is like greenbelt - i.e. it's a space in church life where you actualy feel good about being a christian rather than embarrassed if you know what i mean. the magazine has been running a daringly awkward sermon contest - 300 words only. the nest issue will have a bundle of winners.
on the subject of magazines conspire also looks like an interesting new zine on the block birthed out of the simple way community - a different approach to how the economics and distribution works, with communities subscribing to be able to distribute it free having signed up and agreed to donate towards it as a community.
we are doing our own experiment in truth again this week - off to run dekhomai at the london mind body spirit festival chatting with, listening to, praying with, massaging feet of, making prayer bracelets with, doing jesus deck readings for visitors to our stand. the experiment? take christian spirituality out of the church box and into the spiritual marketplace and join in with what god is already doing... if you pray, do pray for us. we hope the 'energy is strong' in our booth :-)
ok the blog is now healed. i reworked the stylesheet code and it has created the thinner middle column which i wanted (and had before) - still no idea what happened in the mean time. anyway i have looked at it in flock, firefox, safari. if you are looking at in anything else and it looks a mess can you let me know in the comments? thanks...
apologies if you have noticed my blog looked a total mess today! i have no idea why. but i have removed some code from my stylesheet to make it temporarily look better. but the whole reason i created the additional code was to get a thinner middle column than you can on standard templates. it's worked since january - who changed something out there in the ether overnight? hopefully i'll work it out but for now the middle column is annoyingly wider than i want it...
but about to head out to this so life's not all bad
i realise i never got round to posting this photo up before now. this was one of three that i exhibited as a station for the stations of the cross exhibition in oxford. the station i had was barrabus, the criminal who the crowd choose to release and in so doing condemn christ to be crucified. it was one of three that i called studies in crowd behaviour 1, 2 and 3. the first studies in crowd behaviour 1: wishful thinking is here.
matt who co-ordinates the DJs for the grace cafe each month came up with a fun idea for last week. he created a collaborative playlist on spotify and then invited a few of us to contribute in the week. you simply drag and drop tracks into it. then at grace the soundtrack in the cafe was that playlist on random play... collaborative DJing! worship trick 67 series 3. apologies if you are in a country where spotify isn't licensed!
in the spirit of collaboration i have created a jb blog readers collaborative playlist. so if you are a blog reader of mine and want to drop some tunes you are listening to on spotify in there then here's the http link and the spotify url
this post is the second in a series on worship curation
 opening up a series of reflections
what is it that a curator thinks about in relation to curating worship? in the first post i laid out a very practical list that i drew up for people taking the curation role in grace - thanks to the people who have commented btw. if you follow in a newsreader you're missing that part of the conversation. i'm beginning to think this is going to be a really interesting conversation as it plays out. i have started to and fro-ing with a few people via e-mail and plan to publish a series of interviews over the next few months.
in retrospect i'm not sure if such a practical post was the best way to start. maybe it was too functional? so let me come at the question of what it is that a curator might think about by suggesting it is three things: articulation, imagination and continuity. this is not my original thought! it's from an essay in curating subjects by simon sheikh on the techniques of the curator where he suggests that as curating looks to the future it should centre round these three notions.
worship imagines a world, nothing less. sheikh suggests in relation to exhibition making that if the curator is happy with the way the world is now they should continue to make exhibitions as always and repeat the formats and circulations. but if they are not content with the world they are in in a broad sense, and in the art world, then they will have to produce other exhibitions. i find this such a resonant idea. i'm not content with the world - globally, politically, or indeed the church world or the way worship is played out and imagines the world. so if you are curating worship what kind of a world do you imagine, do you make? maybe that is the most important question any of us can ask and it will probably take a lifetime to answer? if you are restless perhaps it is because you don't like the world being made for you by other imaginaries? i was talking with someone yesterday who had been at a christian exhibition for their organisation running a stand talking to the punters at a conference. but they were next to a stand that was selling worship cds for your church - if you didn't have a worship band, you could simply plug in their cds and sing along. the music played non stop for three days and nearly drove my friend insane. but the point is what kind of world is being imagined?! i want to create a totally different one. reflecting on alternative worship, which is where the notion of worship curation has come from, i think it has been about imagining new worlds, new relationships, new strategies and tactics, and counter-publics, about saying that other worlds are indeed possible, that business as usual simply will not do.
so these three themes...
articulation. this is how sheikh puts it (substitute worship for art or exhibition as you read any of these quotes):
worship is an articulation of something, of how things could be seen. i think this is really helpful. as a community or a curator you have a vision, a take. it might not be fully worked out but it is definitely not a neutrality. i think we sometimes want to pretend about this. if i reflect on this in grace, taking something like communion, we have articulated a radical vision of hospitality and welcome around the table in most of our liturgies - this is deliberately in the face and counter to the imagination of a world where only the insiders are welcomed. in the song table of christ one of the lines is 'come if the church stops you at the door'. this is articulation. articulation is also around more subtle things like deconstructing the front, or the role of the expert or priest, around posture and layout, and around the use of culture and popular culture in worship - making a world out of the stuff of everyday life rather than articulating a world which runs in parallel to the rest of life. i love the phrase 'an offering but not a handout'. art rarely works when it shouts - maybe punk is the exception?! and worship is the same. it's good to have clarity about what you want to articulate but it needs to be offered and explored rather than shouted and dictated. the tone and posture are really important. i also like it when art is multi-valent - functions at many levels and meanings so people can find a number of pathways through. but let's not pretend that this doesn't then have an articulation...
imagination. i go on and on about imagination and creativity. it's what it means to image god - such a gift. and the curating is a process about imagination. it's the fun part. at a macro level it's about ways of seeing, imagining another world, but it's also about imagining at the level of the process of coming up with ideas and dreaming things that have not been done before or have a different take. i will come back to the process of how people come up with ideas in interviews with people i hope. but it's so exciting to be involved in the making and producing in this way. i like to think sometimes that the angels sit in the rafters or on the balcony thinking what on earth are these crazy people going to do to worship today?! and we keep surprising them and bringing smiles to their faces. beach hut advent calendars, stations of the cross in public art galleries, embedding prayers in slabs of concrete, slapping containers of installations in city centres, sending surprises through the post, welcoming people dressed in contamination suits, guerilla worship... - i love what you guys dream and have dreamt and is yet to be dreamed. imagination - it's a muscle that can be developed and needs to be flexed and there's nothing better for it than being around other people flexing imagination, maybe it's a habit that can be caught.
continuity. i'll pick up on this more in interviews. but art/worship has a history a narrative or histories depending on who does the telling no doubt. there is a tradition, a line of ancestory, a communion of artists/saints worldwide and down the ages. to curate is to locate in this line sometimes straight, other times kicking off from, subverting, giving a new spin to, and opening up the traditions. it's how traditions get remade and taken forward. and the beauty of the art world and church world is that there is so much to play with. but it is a continuity whatever way you look at it even if sometimes a rupture is brought to that continuity. if you are located in a particular denominational setting (as we are in grace) this affords certain rules/logic/grammar. if you are outside of that, continuity will play out slightly differently. but the point is as a curator or team how are you locating in relation to continuity of the worlds before and the world to come? alternative worship in this respect was much keener to stress continuity and location in tradition in contrast with the modernising moves of worship in the 70s and 80s that broke with continuity going for the new.
this was going to be a quick post over breakfast and has extended a bit!... but a final quote from sheikh
pall singh is an amazingly creative guy and has been a friend for years. he is the founder and creative behind sanctuary a community in birmingham who draw on the
contemplative traditions of the christian faith but fusing it with contemporary british asian culture. it's truly unique. he is now also a cms mission partner which is great. this month on proost we have three movies from east and west trust who produced a dvd (scroll down this page) a while back of 5 meditative movies which captured the flavour of what they are about. pall was the visionary behind it. natural images mix with the sounds
of aradhna - tabla, sitar and so on - around the themes of fire, water and light. we've picked three that seem to tie in perfectly with pentecost. all the movies are around 7 minutes long and make an ideal meditation in their own right or visual wallpaper for the soul as background during worship and prayer.
i had a count up and there are around 40 movies now on proost which surprised me how fast we've built up that number. subscribe if you haven't or download the individual movies...