Civitas Sancti Tui

Lent 1 Evensong and Evilution 010309

Henry Scott Tukes paintings are full of vibrant colour as they depict the play of light on landscape and the human body. They are mostly painted in and around Falmouth and last year Falmouth Art gallery in concert with other galleries put on exhibitions.

In one of the main rooms in the gallery during this exhibition featuring Tukes work was a darker piece. At first I didn’t want to look at it with its dark brooding colours and from a distance it looked impenetrable. It was my wife who made me look again rather than return to the vibrant attractive Tuke paintings all painted before the First World War.

But as I looked more closely at the dark panels details emerged, these details were fragments of ordinary life, the smashed computer, the broken crockery, the teddy bear amongst scattered spoons, the broken 78 record semi covered by broken brick and corrugated iron.

It was the detail that drew me in, resonated with memory- memories relayed by relatives from two world wars- they spoke not of battles or great movements and meaning but vapour trails over south east England, or a broken leg as one emerged from the observer’s seat in a WW1 aircraft which had crashed into a railway embankment.
It’s in the details of life that joy and sorrow are experienced, the fractured frame or the fragrance of the rose, the sounds of a song.

These details were in this work by Roy Ray and the bigger picture emerged as each panel revealed through the details its ghastly meaning. Looking at the broken computers unleashed images of clerks and secretaries making the familiar sounds of tapping keys before bright screens as passenger aircraft ripped open walls and their lives.

We Christians are at the beginning of Lent, our major fasting season and season of preparation for Easter. Now we concentrate on details, fragments of life, what we eat and drink, service to the poor, the use of time. We are encouraged to understand that it is in the fragments and details of our lives that we truly see ourselves, we truly hear the judgements we make of neighbour, and we truly feel the need for our will to succeed. Jesus often talks of these details in simple terms- to whom did you give a cup of water? Who do you judge? Do you visit prisoners? Love your neighbour- the very person next to you; love even someone across a national or religious boundary like a Samaritan. It’s in the details that we know the reality of Jesus life in ours. As the tree is shaken what kind of fruit drops down? Roy’s painting here in the Cathedral reminds us to keep on looking at the details of life, and from there to a bigger picture.

These panels show us the details of city life smashed. The city- places where most people live. The city, the place of abundance, art, life, security and future. Cities have resources and cities typify our human aspirations where no longer determined by soil and season alone we can explore other ways of being human. Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Parisians, Londoners, New Yorkers will all know this. For Jews and Christians this is all summed up in the city Jerusalem, as a metaphor, a hope an aspiration. In Roy’s painting the City, the place of hope and aspiration is pulled down fragmented by human violence and envy, by distorted religion feeding off of violence and poverty.

The destruction of the City doesn’t suddenly come from nowhere- it comes from the build up of detailed actions and thoughts. WW2 emerged from so many small factors including the 33% of the German people who marked with a pencil a cross on a piece of paper at an election. London’s bombing in 2005 was made up of detailed decisions and actions going back years.

But it is in the city where the details gather and finally pull down and break not just details but big pictures and patterns. The patterns of aspiration and hope, vision. The London bombings of 2005 shook our dreams of multiculturism and liberty, New York broke for a time the American ideals with Guantanamo Bay, the Blitz even led us to fire bomb Dresden with the loss of 30000 plus lives.

(Tuke painted before the cataclysm of WW1 Roy Ray born in 1936 inherits the memories and knows the broken dreams of the 20th Century. It was a stroke of genius to have his work alongside Tukes in Falmouth Art Gallery. It created an unexpected balance. )

On Good Friday a big picture is painted. The fragments and details come together in destroying through betrayal, politics, mis- aimed religion. The big picture and pattern which is destroyed is something thrown out of the city- without the City Wall. It is the life of the God bearing human Jesus of Nazareth. The hopes and aspirations of many hang broken and destroyed. All the details bubble and push until their final end is the death of beauty, mystery goodness and hope.

The Choir has sung about this- Salvator Mundi- O saviour of the World… Roy’s painting also points not directly to Christ on the Cross but upwards to how all the details make a bigger picture, how the details reveal both the effects of violence and the cause.

At the end of this service as we process out the choir are going to sing near Roy’s panels William Byrd’s Anthem: “Civitas sancti tui” by William Byrd.

Scholars suggest that Byrd was thinking metaphorically of the demise of the Catholic Church in England when he chose this text about the desolation of Jerusalem. His hopes and aspirations fallen, his life’s inspiration snuffed out.
The words are:

Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.Sion deserta facta est,Jerusalem desolata est.
Your holy city has become a wilderness.Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem has been made desolate.

As you hear these words, these fragments of sound you might like to pray for all who have lost their Jerusalems, their hope, their vision. You might like to consider as you look at Roy’s work the details of your life this Lent. You might like to trace how those details of belief and behaviour can lead to the destruction of beauty, love, hope in the body of Jesus Christ hung outside the City Wall.

Prayers. Artists, scientists, politicians, musicians. Cities, Ausw. Rick Rescorla RIP- Cornish who saved so many lives.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals, He will dwell with them, and they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; death will be no more;; mourning, or crying, or pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

The Rev’d. Canon Philip Lambert
Truro Cathedral, U.K.

The Changeling

The Changeling, the recent Clint Eastwood movie about social justice, has a line that Angelina Jolie (the Mum) tells her young son Walter: “Don’t start a fight, but make sure you finish your fights.” The real-life mum of the movie, Christine Collins, showed us the importance of not only feeling deeply, speaking up but and most importantly, taking action. She publicly criticized the LA Police Department about their policies. With good reason. Walter was missing; and for whom her search never stopped. Christine, herself, had been physically and psychologically abused by the system. If you disagreed with the police force, you stood a good chance of going missing or being locked up in a mental institution, or dead. She pursued her feelings and her criticism with action.

Part of my faith journey has included studying the history of the church, especially the Lutheran branch. I wanted to understand what it meant to be Lutheran. That’s when I discovered the shadows of the Lutheran Church. Two large dark ones.

Martin Luther was an anti-semite. There is no question about this, one need simply read his words. He preached anti-semitism. Some historians trace Germany’s anti-semitic roots to Luther.

The Lutheran Church, the official church of the Germany, yielded to Nazism. There is no question about this one either, one need only to read the biographies of Dietrich Boenhoffer.

Criticism in Germany was dangerous in the Thirties and Forties. It could cost you your life. The church took the easy road on this one. Certainly there was compassion for the plight of those who were persecuted by the political regimes. But compassion without action is pointless.

As we are learning from our indigenous people, apologies are the first step to healing centuries-old hurt. In my mind, Luther and his followers (and that includes me!) owe the Jewish population a long overdue apology. These shadows of the church (and not just the Lutheran branch) continue. Today’s discriminated social sector are those with non-conforming sexual identities. Today, we are oozing with compassion for the portion of the Anglican Worldwide Communion whose religious convictions preclude them from unconditional acceptance of the LGBT sector. Hence the continuing moratoria on making a decision about how we will include the ‘sexual niggers’ of our society.

In this time and place of our lives, we have the great ability to exercise our freedom of speech and voice our concerns. We have the freedom to question authority without risk. With this freedom comes responsibility. Criticism is a form of freedom of speech. With it comes a heightened responsibility. It requires self-questioning, removal of reactivity and compassion. If criticism does not walk hand-in-hand with this trio, we have meaningless, hurtful diatribe. However, without out action, thinking and feeling are the incense of Christian life; only a reminder of what we are called to do: love radically.

Think (critically), Feel (compassionately) and Act (love radically). Think of these as alchemical elements which need to be balanced to equal Life.

Criticism is not just bad. Compassion is not just good. Criticism without responsibility or purpose is as destructive as compassion without action. Christine Collins provides us with a simple piece of wisdom: “Don’t start a fight but make sure you finish your fights.” I might add: thoughtfully and compassionately.

Nicola Adair


Forgive the adolescent opening – with a definition, as the cliché goes, from my Funk and Wagnall’s. A covenant, in its varied interpretations, is essentially an agreement, a contract, a compact between two or more parties. Lynn’s excellent homily of this past week examined, among other things the covenant between God and his people to never again destroy the earth by flood, in response to, in retribution for the actions of its occupants – however reprehensible. The ‘signature’ on this document, if you will, is the ‘bow’ in the sky, reassuringly appearing, as the clouds clear and the sun peaks through again to settle that bit of anxiety that percolates up in the psyche of the literalists among us. Lynn goes on to point out that this particular contract is as much a pledge given by God with no attached condition – as it is an agreement between. . . Sounds a bit like Grace to me.

As I attended to the rhythm of her text – as always accompanies a good homily in my experience – the linkages began to click and whir (again as usually accompanies) with the somewhat unexpected shunt to An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s diatribe on the earth’s (inevitable?) march toward global warming and all the attendant fallout. In particular, the graphic projections came to mind of what parts of the planet might look like 50 or 100 years hence. Namely that what is now heavily inhabited ‘land’ would have morphed into sea bottom. ‘Free-associative thinking’ being what it is, next stop was a recent Globe & Mail piece on computer modeled predictions of the disappearance of the Antarctic ice shelf with its kilometers-thick mass relentlessly dissolving and pumping up sea levels. And I started to wonder a bit about said covenant.

Pledge or contract, these ‘arrangements’, at least in the human world, have both a need to be revisited and renewed from time to time – boasting a distinct shelf-life as it were. Granted, such mortal agreements generally have a term attached – but even those so-called open-ended deals (pension plans, pledges of undying love, you name it) seem to have a way of yellowing around the edges after a while and slipping into the nether world of ‘that was then; this is now’. And I began to speculate if global warming was not, in some way, Gods serving notice that the terms of his covenant were in need of ‘renegotiation’. Just that little tickler that “I know what I said, but things have changed – and it’s not pretty”.

Now I’m all in favour of Grace. A pretty good deal: behave as you will, deny as you might, diminish for that four score and ten – and, with God’s grace, all is forgiven. (In passing, for those of you who haven’t seen the new Brideshead Revisited, there’s a great scene wherein the dissenting dad, on his death bed, does a little gestural recant of his ill-spent ways and, presto, the family is reassured of his future, post-mortal coil existence, as it were. Good ol’ Grace!) But being in favour of something and adopting it as the moral instruction manual for structuring one’s life decisions are two pretty different issues. In my world, contracts are a two-way deal. It may feel like it’s management piping the tune and we poor workers have no choice but to comply or else. But contracts are a binding agreement that obligates both parties to fulfill certain conditions. I work for 40 hours; you pay me an agreed upon rate. I die prematurely; and you agree to continue to provide pension coverage for my surviving partner. And so on. And further, we typically have input into the terms and conditions that comprise the contract. Put more succinctly, there is a mutual responsibility that attaches. No free (Grace-driven) lunches!

So what of God’s pledge? As Lynn indicated, the world is a much-changed place. Our capacity to wreak havoc and ruin is much-amplified from those days some 600 years BCE. And what’s that (schmaltzy) line from Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility”. So maybe it’s time to start mutualizing things a bit – and to lean a little less heavily on the ‘management’ obligation to keep a finger in the dike or to turn off the celestial faucet before we hit the 40 day mark. Maybe it’s time for the worker contingent to flesh out its side of the contract a bit more fully.

A year of so ago Nicola had researched a unique spin on stewardship as part of her then involvement in that ministry, creatively coined Green Stewardship – and somewhat confusingly and distressingly, had the ideas marginalized as ‘flavour of the month’. Undaunted she continued to assemble reference material, much of it originating from Earth Ministry and distilled into a succinct manual of parishioner responsibility entitled: “Greening Congregations Handbook”. (The website for those interested in looking a bit further is ) In keeping with the stimulus for today’s blog, reprinted in this handbook is a speech given by Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor and environmental activist, “Between the Flood and the Rainbow”, which too is worth perusing – when speculating about our side of the deal (online at ) So next time the clouds break and the bow appears, enjoy the show. But I’d wager that little tickle in the gut is as much one of felt responsibility as it is relief that the pledge is still good.

David Howard