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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Start:Stop - Take us to the mountain-top and sustain us in the valleys

Bible reading

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. (Luke 9. 28 – 36)


As they looked back on their experiences with Jesus the disciples were able to see that the sight of Jesus transfigured had been an important assurance for them that Jesus was God’s Son and that the path he followed, even though it led to his death, was the path that God had mapped out for him. Jesus was seen in glory speaking with the great patriarch and the great prophet of the Israelites, Moses and Elijah, and then God spoke to confirm Jesus as his Son. Everything about this experience spoke of Jesus as God. Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about his plan to fulfil God’s purpose by dying in Jerusalem and God confirmed to them that everything Jesus said came directly from God himself. This experience should have been a confirmation for the disciples of everything that Jesus is and was about to do but, at the time, it seemed to be too much for them to comprehend. They were afraid, confused and kept the experience to themselves. It was only later, looking back, that they could see the confirmation that this experience provided.

I wonder if we have had experiences of events and plans coming together in ways that confirmed to us that we were on the right path. It may be that we need that kind of confirmation in our lives and should be asking God for his confirmation about our direction in life. What God wants to do for us, as he did for the disciples, is to give us a greater vision of Jesus as he really is. That will not answer all of our questions but can strengthen our ability to trust and follow him through our questions and uncertainties.

Like the disciples, we, too, will have mountain-top experiences in our lives; times of great blessing and revelation when all seems well with the world and when we know without any uncertainty that we are God’s children. What, I wonder, have your mountain-top experiences been? Whatever they were and however wonderful they were, we inevitably, as did Jesus, came down from the mountain-top to experience suffering or failure. We cannot live on the mountain-tops but those experiences sustain us when we are in the valleys. Such experiences are one of the means God uses to go with us through the valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death.

The disciples only recognised the full significance of their mountain-top experience as they looked back. At the time, they felt afraid and confused. Are you able to look back on events that may not have been clear at the time but which have been significant, sustaining experiences for you in your life? Have there been times of joy, wonder or blessing which you have now lost sight of in your life and need to rekindle and relive? The disciples relived their experiences by telling them to others and by having them written down so that their stories could be passed on to others including us. It may be that you also need to relive your experiences of refreshment, blessing and revelation by telling others about them or by writing them down to share with others.


Lord God, give us your guidance over the direction in life through the experience of events and plans coming together in ways that confirm to us that we are on the right path. Give us a greater vision of Jesus as he really is and, through that greater vision, strengthen our ability to trust and follow Jesus through our questions and uncertainties.

Take us to the mountain-top and sustain us in the valleys.

Lord God, give us mountain-top experiences; times of great blessing and revelation when all seems well with the world and when we know without any uncertainty that we are God’s children. We know that we cannot live on the mountain-tops but those experiences sustain us when we are in the valleys. Go with us through the valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death, and sustain us in part through the legacy of our mountain-top experiences.

Take us to the mountain-top and sustain us in the valleys.

Often we only recognise the full significance of our experience as we look back. Encourage us to look back on events that may not have been clear to us at the time but which can become significant, sustaining experiences for us in our lives. Remind us of times of joy, wonder or blessing which we have now lost sight of and need to rekindle and relive. Enable us to relive our experiences of refreshment, blessing and revelation by telling others about them or by writing them down to share with others.

Take us to the mountain-top and sustain us in the valleys.

Mountain-top experiences, times of great blessing and revelation, recognising the full significance of our experiences, confirmation that we are on the right path, and a greater vision of Jesus; may those blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


The Brilliance - Does Your Heart Break?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

plus+ presentations: adding value to the City of London

As part of further developing the relationships St Stephen Walbrook has with the business community in the City of London, we plan to begin a new series of events in the autumn to explore the place of faith in the world of business.

This new ongoing series of events is entitled ‘plus+ presentations’, as the series is one part of the way in which St Stephen seeks to add value to the City.

The inaugural plus+ presentation will be given by Douglas Board, founder of Maslow’s Attic, on 21 September (6.30pm). Douglas is a senior visiting fellow at Cass and also writes on management, faith, society and humour, as well as careers. Previously, he was consultant, director and then deputy chairman of Saxton Bampfylde, a top 10 UK search firm.

Douglas will share practical, intellectual and spiritual reflections on flourishing at work in a presentation entitled ‘In an open plan office, can anyone hear you scream?’

The format for ‘plus+ presentations’ is:
  • 6.15pm: Evening Prayer (optional) 
  • 6.30pm: plus+ presentation 
  • 7.00pm: Drinks reception & networking 
  • 7.30pm: Close 
Going forward, we plan to run the plus+ presentations on the third Thursday of each month, although the remaining 2017 dates will be 19th October; 9th November.

On 19th October Revd Sally Muggeridge, Curate at St Stephen Walbrook, will speak from personal experience about campaigns to increase the numbers of women on Boards.

On 9th November Barbara Ridpath, Director of St Paul's Institute, will speak on Transitions: how to make life-changing career changes by choice or necessity.

On 18 January 2018, our presenter will be Professor Richard Higginson (Director of Faith in Business, Ridley Hall Cambridge) speaking about Christian entrepreneurs living out their faith.


Deacon Blue - Wages Day.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Sabbatical Art Pilgrimage: Latest ArtWay Report

My latest Church of the Month report for ArtWay focuses on Notre-Dame des Alpes, Le Fayet:

'The church has rightly been described as an essential stage in understanding the revival of sacred art in the twentieth century but is overshadowed by the fame and significance of Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce du Plateau d’Assy ... There are at least two reasons for the significance of Notre-Dame des Alpes. First, the architecture of the church was the inspiration for the church of Assy, Novarina being the architect for both. Second, the decoration of the Le Fayet church represents the first stage in the revival of sacred art that Fr. Marie-Alain Couturier sought to move beyond at the church of Assy.'

This Church of the Month report follows on from others about Aylesford Priory, Canterbury Cathedral, Chapel of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Hem, Chelmsford Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, Église de Saint-Paul à Grange-Canal, Lumen, Metz Cathedral, Notre Dame du Léman, Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce, Plateau d’Assy,Romont, Sint Martinuskerk Latem, St Aidan of Lindisfarne, St Alban Romford, St. Andrew Bobola Polish RC Church, St Margaret's Ditchling and St Mary the Virgin, Downe, and St Paul's Goodmayes, as well as earlier reports of visits to sites associated with Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Antoni Gaudi and Henri Matisse.


Bruce Cockburn - Jesus Train.

Windows on the world (362)

Brussels, 2016


Gillian Welch - Black Star.

Friday, 15 September 2017

The shaping of space and time by music, instruments and architecture

Rehearsal-Photo Malene Skaerved

Peter Sheppard-Skaerved reflects on the first event of ‘Preludes & Vollenteries’, which took place last night at St Stephen Walbrook:

"An inspiring start to this exploration of 17th Century music, architecture and instruments. There’s so much to discover, but what strikes me most of all, the morning after the event, is the shaping of space and time, that the music, the instruments and the building, in combination demands; and, perhaps most of all, how that develops, deepens, when the space is a listening space-when we (performer and audience) listen to each other, listening to each other, listening to the space. Even in the very centre of London, there’s no limit to how quiet this listening can take the music. For me, a revelation."

‘Preludes & Vollenteries’ is a series of salons inspired by the architecture of the Square Mile, the astonishing churches built and restored in the years after the Great Fire of 1666. Yesterday’s concert brought together music by musicians whose careers flowered in London and works by composer/violinists published in the ‘Square Mile’ at the end of the 17th Century.

Listen to last night's concert by clicking here. The next concert will be 6pm on the 29th September at St Margaret Lothbury.


Peter Sheppard-Skaerved - Voil Qe'm Digaz Cals Mais Vos Plaz.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Exploring history at St Stephen Walbrook

At St Stephen Walbrook this week, the sound of the Walbrook, Street vendors’ cries and conversations at the Stocks market, Tavern conversations and a Merchant dictating a letter can all be heard as part of the House of Sound. This Sonic Trail sees ‘Mythophones’ – sculptural speakers – placed around Cheapside for listeners to connect to the locations and their previous incarnations.

The river Walbrook played an important role in the Roman settlement of Londinium. Starting in what is now Finsbury, it flowed through the centre of the walled city, bringing a supply of fresh water whilst carrying waste away to the Thames, and dividing Roman London into its eastern and western halves. When St Margaret Lothbury was rebuilt in 1440, the Lord Mayor paid for the lower Walbrook to be covered over. John Stow, the historian of London, wrote in 1598 that the watercourse, having several bridges, was afterwards vaulted over with brick and paved level with the streets and lanes where it passed, and that houses had been built so that the stream was hidden as it is now.

A temple of Mithras dating to the third century AD lay a short distance from St Stephen Walbrook. The remains were found in 1954 during the construction of the Bucklersbury House office block and will be displayed within the new Bloomberg London building.

Prior to the construction of the Mansion House in 1739, the Stocks market lay on the same site, dating to 1282, taking its name from a set of stocks used for punishment. A 1322 decree stipulated that the Stocks market was one of five places where fish and meat were allowed to be sold in London. After Stow's time its character changed, and towards its end was used mostly for selling herbs.

Then, tomorrow at 6.00pm, Peter Sheppard Skærved begins his exploration of the 17th Century violin, inspired by the astonishing churches of the Square Mile. This series of salons will explores the dialogue between the great architecture of Wren, Hawksmoor and Hooke, and the work of the violin makers and composers whose instruments and music flooded in the London in the years after the Restoration.

St Stephen Walbrook is one of the most unashamedly Italianate of Wren’s astonishing City churches. It is the perfect space to hear one of the great early 17th Century Cremonese violins, by Girolamo Amati, in a salon programme focussing on the Northern Italian violin style of the 1600s.

This concert features works for solo violin including:

Heinrich Biber – Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata XVI) ‘Guardian Angel, companion of Mankind’ and others by Tomasso Vitali, Giuseppe Torelli, Nicola Matteis, Biagio Marini. Played on a violin by Girolamo Amati (1628)

Plus world premiere: Peter Sheppard Skærved – ‘voil qe’m digaz cals mais vos plaz’ (Lombarda of Toulouse).

Tickets (limited number) available on Eventbrite and on the door, or reservations from .

Finally, the autumn Discover & explore series at St Stephen Walbrook will be part of the Londinium season of events organised by the City of London and will explore Rome, London & Christianity through music, prayers, readings and reflections.

Highlights include St Paul in Rome, Constantine, and The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook:

25th September - St Paul in Rome
2 October - St Peter in Rome
9 October - The Early Church in Rome
16 October – St Alban
23 October – Constantine
30 October – Christianity in Roman London
6 November – The Temple of Mithras & St Stephen Walbrook
13 November – St Augustine
20 November – St Mellitus
27 November – St Erkenwald & St Ethelburga

Discover & explore has been described as "A really wonderful series of services; intelligent, thought provoking and hopeful - the perfect way to start your working week!"


Peter Sheppard Skærved - Violin Concerto - III. Fantasia.

Bread for the World: Christian Education

Tonight, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, we hosted a Churches Together in Westminster Reformation 500 event, with St Anne’s Lutheran Church London and Revd Eliza Zikmane, focusing on Martin Luther’s legacy to Christian Education through the Small Catechism.

In our Bread for the World service we sang two of Martin Luther's hymns (A mighty fortress is our God and Now thank we all our God) and a setting of Our Father (Lord's Prayer), while St Martin's Voices sang: Jesu, meine Freude (Chorale); Aber die Herzen forschet (from Motet ‘Der Geist hilft’) - J.S. Bach; and Jesu joy of man’s desiring - Bach. The service ended with Organ Chorale Prelude ‘Wir glauben all ‘ an einen Gott (from ‘Clavierubung’).

Our readings were extracts from Luther's Small Catechism:

Table of Duties

Certain passages of Scripture for various holy orders and positions, admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers


He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

To Parents

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4

3) The Creed

The Second Article: Redemption

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Plate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Eliza Zikmane spoke about Luther's use of cutting-edge technology and the wide range of mediums he used through which to teach. In our discussions after the service we explored the following questions:

1) What was the basic Christian education you had and by whom? Did it have a lasting impact, and in what way?

2) I wonder what kind of sections would we choose and why, if we were to write a Small Catechism (a short outline of our/our church's faith). What kind of questions and answers would we write? Would they still be relevant in several hundreds of years’ time?

3) Luther used cutting-edge technology and a wide range of mediums to teach. How are we embracing the cutting edge technology of our time and with what results? What are the challenges for Christian/religious education in London in 21st century?

We began and ended our discussions with the following prayers from Small Catechism:

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent that my love may go out to my neighbour. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore, I will remain with you, of whom I can receive but to whom I may not give. Amen.

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.