Surprised by Sculpture – Crucible2 has arrived!

Margaret SheatherArt and faith have a long shared history – artists find inspiration in religious images; and painting, sculpture and music speak of the spiritual both directly to individuals and through their places of worship.  Crucible2 brings a wonderful new opportunity to see how these two long-time partners interact.

I feel as if I know Gloucester Cathedral quite well these days, but walking around it at the moment brings a series of surprises as I come across the one hundred sculptures that make up the exhibition.  You can’t miss some of them – David Mach’s “The Thief” just inside the main door, for example, or the Siberian tiger prowling across College Green.  Others, you are suddenly aware are looking out at you from a niche or archway, like David Bailey’s Adam.

The cathedral is a great work of art in itself, evolving over the centuries into the wonderful mix of wide perspectives and intimate spaces, ancient stone and contemporary glass that we see today.  In that context some of the sculptures seem to me to be very much at home, while others offer a thought-provoking contrast or even challenge; but I suspect all our visitors will have different views about which pieces fall into which category.

It’s exciting to think of the thousands of visitors we’re expecting to come to this exceptional exhibition experiencing different reactions and being led into new ideas by the skill and inspiration of so many artists.

Margaret Sheather, Chair of Gloucester Cathedral Council

How can we keep faith?

AA Robert glance at the latest news headlines is hardly encouraging: another cease fire in Gaza ends with the firing of more missiles, refugees killed in the Ukraine, another found dead in a container at an Essex port, and in Iraq thousands forced from their homes fleeing for their lives because of their faith. How, we may well ask, can they keep faith in the face of such danger and hostility, how indeed we may ask ourselves, can we keep faith in the face of such a world as ours, how can we talk of a loving God.

Let us not have the audacity to pretend it is easy, there are no simplistic answers or trite phrases that will somehow make everything better. What we see laid bare before us are scenes of inhumanity and evil, and must be named as such and indeed, being named, must be confronted.

Unusually perhaps it has been the church and its bishops who have in recent days been leading the challenge to our politicians to respond, to go to the aid of the refugee and to confront the aggressor, and there may be some ready to remind the church and its bishops to keep out.

But God did not ‘keep out’- indeed quite the reverse, the God we believe in got involved, stuck into the mess and the darkness of our world in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus God was born among us as a refugee, lived in exile, faced injustice and torture and held fast to light in the face of the greatest darkness on the cross and through that brought new life and hope.

The life death and resurrection of Jesus convinces us that though the darkness may be great it will never ultimately win, for he has shown us that love will triumph.

May we never give up, and may that love be shown in us, our lives, our words, our deeds that even in the face of such headlines the world may still have hope for the future.

The Venerable Robert Springett, Archdeacon of Cheltenham

Seize the day; make your lives extraordinary

Ben Evans portraitYou can never tell what is going on behind a person’s smile. A person may be filled with joy and sunshine on the surface, with nobody ever seeing the turmoil and pain that lies just beneath the veneer.

It is a familiar truth, bordering on cliché, that we all tell ourselves whenever somebody reveals that they are low. And yet the suicide of comedian Robin Williams earlier this week, as he finally lost his battle against the demons which had always plagued him, has brought many people up short. Because despite all the leaps forward, poor mental health still retains a stigma; people still don’t understand what it means to suffer the isolation and pain of depression and related illnesses.

I have friends who have been through those dark moments, when the world has laid them so low that they can barely function. We need to be with them at those moments; to let them know that they are loved and that we care for them. Not in a theoretical “I’m praying for you” way; but in a “I’m getting my hands dirty; I’m standing with you” way.

Everyone has the ability to be amazing. In the film Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams played a teacher who told his students, “Carpe diem”. He wanted them to be the best they could; to take life by the scruff of the neck and live a life filled with passion and joy. But sometimes the fight can leave us for no obvious reasons. Which is why we must never forget to tell those around us that we love them. That we will lift them up when they are down. That we will not forsake them. Because God never forgot us – and He made us to be extraordinary.

Ben Evans, Diocesan Communications Officer

If you are suffering from depression and would like to speak to somebody about it, Listening Post is a Gloucestershire charity offering counselling to adults suffering from emotional distress. You can call them on 01452 383820, 01242 256060 or 01453 750123. Alternatively you can call The Samaritans any time, day or night, on 08457 909090 or email  jo@samaritans.org

A life to live, a race to run

Pauline BruntThe Commonwealth Games are over. Considered the best ever, it was certainly a gripping 10 days. The potential of many young competitors had been recognised and, with training and commitment they gave it their all. They took part in their particular sport with perseverance and blazed the way for many who will follow in their steps. Along the way they were supported by their families, trainers, and fellow team members. When they competed they were encouraged and cheered on. 15,000 volunteers made everyone feel at home, a friendly presence. The memory will live on for a long time for many.

Just one day after the closing ceremony of the Games, with great solemnity, the leaders of the Commonwealth and many others gathered in Glasgow Cathedral to remember the beginning of the First World War a hundred years before. With respect they honoured those who fought and died in that conflict and those who were injured in it. Up and down the country similar services were being held. A generation of young men went into the carnage of trench warfare and gave their all. Along the way their families supported them by praying for them, writing letters to them and sending food and clothes parcels.  Small acts of kindness meant a lot. Their memory has lived on for a long time.

Every person in every generation has a life to live, a race to run, however long that may be. All of us have the example of those who have showed us the way and are encouraged by those who have gone before, who have blazed the way and cheer us on. The writer of Hebrews urges us to ‘… run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…’ (Hebrews 12.1b-2a NRVS).

The Revd Canon Philippa Brunt, Vicar of Parkend and Viney Hil,l Area Dean of Forest South Deanery, Diocese of Gloucester

We will remember them

mattOn the 28th June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, started a chain of events which would ultimately lead the world to war.  The 4th of August will mark the 100th anniversary of Britain officially entering the conflict.  Many places of worship, including Gloucester Cathedral, will mark this National Day of Commemoration with a tribute to those who fought and died.

Today the horrors of war are still very real.  Every day we are brought news of the seemingly unresolvable conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the uprising in Ukraine which has become a global tragedy with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17.  There are continuing civil wars in Syria, Somalia and the Ivory Coast, and insurgence fighting in Afghanistan; the list, sadly, goes on.

As we remember those from the past who died in the First World War, we also pray that each and every one of these current conflicts is resolved quickly and peacefully, without the further loss of life.  Maybe one day we will learn to end confrontations before they escalate into wars.

But in order to do that, we first need to remember and recognise.  Remember that each person caught up in war has a story as to why they are there, and recognise that we need to understand their lives and what brought them to this point before seeking a resolution.

‘I went to see the soldiers’ by Kenny Martin 

I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row
And wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before
Was like for each of them?
What made them angry, laugh, or cry,
These soldiers, boys and men.
Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers
These men have earned and shared a love, that’s not like any others
They trained as one, they fought as one
They shared their last together
That bond endures, that love is true
And will be, now and ever
I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
Of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
But here they are and here they’ll stay,
Each one silent and in place
Their headstones line up row on row
They guard this hallowed place

Matthew Brunt, Diocesan Management Accountant