London Calling (part VI)

I am currently sat in the Art Cafe at St Luke’s Church, Redcliffe Gardens. Ambient music plays in the background as quotes from Bob Dylan, Charlie Chaplin and other artists inspire conversation from the screen. Every thirty minutes a short film (see ‘London Calling (A Little Interruption)’ post) punctuates the relaxed atmosphere with thumping beats of Moby and fast paced images aimed to evoke conversation. My remit for this afternoon, like yesterday, is to sit looking arty and relaxed to encourage any guests to do the same (maybe not look arty!)
It has been an interesting journey to this point (see ‘London Calling (part IV)’ post) and one that has made me consider where I am in terms of outreach and evangelism.

I have become increasingly aware that I speak from a very post modern mindset; one that sits within a place of questions, of suspicion to authoritarian proclamations and one who enjoys the process rather than the result. Outreach has become more and more about a relationship, and my passion lies in people experiencing faith rather than having it explained. Too often we revert to a mode of evangelism that explains how people can get faith rather than encouraging people to experience what we have experienced.

The Art Cafe, for me, should always have been a space to experience the peace of God, His fingerprints in the expression of His children and His love calling them in a time of quiet. It was not a place where we welcome people in to ‘explain’ our faith and tell people what we think. Charlie Chaplin, on the screen in front of me says;

‘We think too much and feel too little.’

It so true at this time. This culture is tired of hearing what people think, of what someone, who doesn’t know what we’re going through, what we’ve felt, tell us how it is. We shut our ears to the reason of others because it has been destructive in the past. We yearn to feel.

This is, of course, a very post modern view point and I am aware that many around me don’t believe the same but as I have struggled with the original vision of this Art Cafe, those who engage with art don’t want to be told what to think; the one right interpretation of a piece, they would rather discover for themselves the emotions being drawn from them. They enjoy seeing something for them, connecting with an expression of the human condition. What makes a masterpiece, a timeless classic? The multi-facetted nature, the expression of something that defies time and place and becomes something everyone can engage with again and again.

As ‘Charlie’s’ face, cheekily smiles down at me I think about his films and how every time i see them I capture a better understanding of humanity and myself and there’s a profound exchange taking place. I think of my process of preparation for a sermon/talk and how I long to express my passion or pain or emotional response to a passage or truth in the hope that God would make it accessible for all people who have known what it is to live. For me, it’s not about making cultural reference to explain a meaning in a passage it is more about me putting people in a place where they can experience the truth of the story to place their story into God’s story.

I’m going to make this short as I need to go and open the doors to the public and welcome people to come enjoy this space, explore their own creativity and engage in conversation with themselves and the art around them. May God bless everyone who visits here with space to ‘be’ and speak to them in their silence through the art.


  1. Interesting thoughts Ned. “Outreach has become more and more about a relationship, and my passion lies in people experiencing faith rather than having it explained. Too often we revert to a mode of evangelism that explains how people can get faith rather than encouraging people to experience what we have experienced.” My issue with this is that (a) if we don’t share our faith (at some point and in a way that’s appropriate) how will people discover the truth of Jesus Christ?
    and (b) I’m struggling to find a Biblical framework for this so called post-modern approach. Feeling is all very well but there comes a point when we surely have to stop stroking our chins and admiring pictures of Charlie Chaplin and have the courage to engage folk in conversation. To not ‘tell’ but ask where people are at with God. To follow the Jesus model and ask them where they are at and what they beleieve. Surely our aim is to mimic Christ? NOw i’m not knocking you or your approach i just want to try and understand it from a Biblical, Jesus perspective.
    I also think your views on what people think today about faith etc are so wide of the mark it’s not true.
    Keep it up – you are making me think and getting me angry. That’s all good!

    1. I see in thee gospels Jesus allowing people to experience Him and then telling. He did first told second. I am not denying the need for the explanation but not as an introduction to the Christian faith.

      In terms of ‘what people think today about faith’ I have two responses.

      1) This post was specifically aimed at those who engage with art and have the post modern world view.

      2) This world view, however, is becoming increasingly prevalent in London and will spread throughout the country if it has not already. This is backed up by research from leading sociologists, all of which are debating and conversing on how church connects with it. I am not suggesting that all people feel or think this way and there are many in this country and culture for whom your approach to outreach and evangelism will work but for me and those who dwell within the post modern mindset where being told and forcing us to think a certain way and ‘argued into the relationship’ is suspicious.

      As with everything, I’m afraid, it’s mixed economy again, both/and not either/or.

      The Bible tells us to tell, I’m not denying that but Jesus and Paul speak of knowing Christ. Knowledge, to be translated into reality, needs to be experienced and tried. If someone just knows the facts and the answers and has no experience of the truth of them they mean nothing. Take driving for example… I can be told how to drive the car, how you have found driving and how you do it. I can pass a test to say I know how to drive but get me in a car for the first time and I’ll crash. I will only know how to drive if i have experienced the sensation of being in the car in the driver’s seat making important decisions. Yes someone will need to explain how to drive as I experience difficulties.

      Paul writes his letters to comunities for whom they spent years leading and showing them experiences of Christ. The letters are surprising in the fact that they are teaching very simple truths. Paul and his assistants spent years living and working in communities giving them experience of the love of God and creating relationship then when they were immitating and knew how to experience that they left and started the telling and teaching and explanation of how it all works.

      I am, as always, very aware that I am on a journey and could be saying things that are completely wrong. I’m happy to engage in discussion because it is important to hear God speaking through opposite views. I’ll offer thhe following poem which may upset and anger you more but has been a great reminder to me.

      Christ’s piece is you,
      Christ’s piece is me,
      It is those that do,
      And it is those that be,
      Without one another we can’t cover 360 degrees,
      Because we don’t need ‘I’s to see, we need We.

      As every image that we see of ourselves is reflected,
      Every image that we see of the world is subjective,
      We need two points of view to gain some perspective,
      And the ability and humility to accept this.

      Because in our vision lies division,
      A polarised view of action and pacifism,
      But contradiction doesn’t mean fact and fiction,
      more like discordant harmonies in the melody of wisdom.

      I need you, like red needs blue,
      You need me, like do needs be,
      And life shouldn’t be binary,
      Our eyes shouldn’t be primary,
      We need to trade in reds and blues for indigos and violets see:
      We need to try and be purple.

      Not just protest march bruises as we go out and do,
      Or blood filled cheeks as we hold our breath and be,
      I mean purple.
      Full circle.
      The hares and the rabbits,
      the tortoises and turtles,

      So let us be moved to be mauve,
      Maroon and mulberry,
      Lilac, plum and lavender,
      May the red and blue poles of our souls and our minds combine to be magnets of magenta,

      May we take the opposites and make the composite,
      As every image has its limits
      And every picture could be richer,
      If we have someone else to see that we are in it,
      We need to be purple.

      [by Harry Baker aka Dubb]

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