Monthly Archives: August 2014

On A Midnight Train From Georgia

Baptism of Christ Icon - written by Tamara Rigishvili

Baptism of Christ Icon – written by Tamara Rigishvili

To be honest I don’t know if it really was put on the midnight train, or any train for that matter. Maybe it came by plane or postal van, but however it travelled, it arrived safely at my door last week.

The truth though is that it did come from Georgia – Tbilisi, Georgia to be exact – some 2,653 miles to the east of my home, where the very talented artist Tamara Rigishvili lives and works. However, the creation of this beautiful icon came about in what was for me an unusual series of events, which culminated in owning what has become to me a very important representation of the story of Jesus’ baptism.

In April of 2014, I wrote about using this icon to explain the actions performed while making the sign of the cross in Coming Into The Presence of God. Wanting to upload an image of the icon that has been used on that day, I googled several images and came up with one that was taken from Tamara’s website. However, I felt that I needed to get authority to do that, and so I e-mailed her and sought permission, asking her to check out the contents of my blog and with the promise of a link to her site.

Christ submerged in the water of the Jordan

Christ submerged in the water of the Jordan

Thus a correspondence was begun between two people, thousands of miles apart, who did not know each other, did not necessarily speak the same language (although Tamara’s English is excellent, whilst my schoolgirl Russian is yet to be tested); connected by their common faith, and which resulted in my asking if she would ‘write’ a copy of the icon for me. True to her word, she completed the icon over a three month period and it was then carefully packaged and despatched…

… In the meanwhile, as part of my spiritual direction at college, it was suggested that I meditate on Matthew 3:13-17. This description of Jesus’ baptism is just one of the bible’s explicit passages where the Trinity appear together.

And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
Matthew 3:16-17

As a Trinitarian at heart, I have always found that the three-fold nature of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit has both fascinated and frustrated me. On the one hand each has its own separate identity and characteristics, on the other they are all one and the same. I do not argue against this nor do I find it easy to explain – although traditionally in the Church of England, as a curate it usually falls to their lot to preach on Trinity Sunday each year – so I better get my thoughts in some order by then!

The passage itself presents a beautiful image of being submerged beneath water, and then a figure rising in a sparkling cascade to see the sky above suffused with a pure light that is concentrated in a shaft centred on their head and a clear voice filling the air with a confirmation of their worthiness. What, it was suggested, if that figure were you?

So often we can feel unworthy, and could not imagine such a thing, but we are invited to do so by God as he offers us his love and grace. ‘This is my daughter… this is Linda… this is [insert your name here]’.

I don’t believe that God arranges for these things to come together without a purpose, so as I spend time contemplating that passage alongside my beautiful icon, I hope and pray that you too will accept that grace, knowing that you ARE worthy to receive it.

Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17

For more details of Tamara Rigishvili artwork, please do visit her website

Of Being Challenged

We are challenged to look beyond what we know

We are challenged to look beyond what we think we already know

The last few days have been particularly challenging, both in terms of my personal response to events that have happened and reflections on the responses of others to these situations. On the whole the outcome has been positive and hopeful, but this has been at the expense of other’s sorrow and suffering.

Harrowing pictures of the brutal treatment of Christians and Yazidis as they are persecuted for their faith, left me sobbing for the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators of these violences. The incomprehension that once again genocide rears its ugly head in the name of religious intolerance and I feel powerless…

Yet, the response of many has been to speak out and simply say ‘It’s not right” and that we will do something about it. Whilst I am not in a position to honestly know whether military intervention is part of a solution; I do know that humanitarian airdrops of food and water were the correct immediate response to alleviate some of the suffering. I also know that the emergency appeals by charities such as Christian Aid for donations enable us all to ‘do’ something towards long-term solutions; and of course there is always prayer.

The outpouring of sorrow for all of the unknown and nameless victims of these atrocities has been matched this week by the sorrow and sadness of the passing of one whom we felt we really did know, the actor Robin Williams. His death has brought to our attention the devastating and often silent suffering of those for whom depression is the ‘black dog’ that they have to live with on a daily basis.

Social media sites and newspapers have been full of messages of condolences and self-identification and some, in their genuine sadness and sense of mourning have inadvertently used phrases and ideologies in their expressions of sympathy, that although well-meaning have highlighted a lack of understanding of suicide and depression. I have personally been humbled to reflect on things that are helpful to say and things that are not, and have learned immensely from those who have challenged these unintentional faux pas.

The fact is that sometimes we all need to challenge what isn’t right, and this Sunday I will be preaching on the story of the Syrophoenician woman who dared to speak out and challenge Jesus because she knew in her heart of hearts that he was the one who could heal her child whether she was Jew or a Gentile, simply because of her faith in him

Then Jesus said to her,“O woman, your faith is great – Matthew 15:28

So I will continue to hold all of these situations in my prayers and whenever possible look for ways to challenge both mine and other people’s assumptions, but hopefully to do so in love.

Have faith that all will be well

Have faith that all will be well

If you are living with depression or care for someone who does you may find this helpful – I Had A Black Dog

Shining Through The Glass


Detail of the Transfiguration Window at St John the Evangelist, Hedge End

Detail of the Transfiguration Window at St John the Evangelist, Hedge End

One of the most beautiful and interesting crafts is that of creating stained glass. Over the years I have visited a great many cathedrals in which this art form has been displayed in the incredible and intricate windows that allow light to enter in a myriad of rainbow hues; but I’ve never really been able to capture with my simple ordinary camera, the extraordinary details and colours that my eyes can discern, of those high and lofty kaleidoscopes.

Even small country churches have their own special windows, and closer to home the church at St John the Evangelist, Hedge End has several, including a series of six tableaux of the life of Christ in the curved apse at its East end. In other windows around the church, these Victorian masterpieces in glass work also tell the stories of the saints whose names are lent to the church building.

St John the Evangelist Window with close up details of the serpent in the chalice

St John the Evangelist with details of the serpent in the chalice

However, as intricate and as detailed as the windows are, it is not really this aspect that fascinates me, but rather the effect they produce as light shines through them; when it falls on white walls and altar linen, the pools of colours shimmering in mirror image

Stained glass reflections

Stained glass reflections

But it is also most effective when everyday objects  such as flower stands,

Flower Shadows blog

Flower shadows

and an aumbry holder…

In the shadow of the aumbry light

In the shadow of the aumbry light

…create ethereal shadows that are wreathed in colour and patches of light.

Even when that light is blocked in some way, what appears to be an ordinary clear glass window reveals its secrets. The imperfections of each pane revealing its own beauty

Imperfections reveal their own beauty

Beauty revealed in imperfection

Perhaps though, the most beautiful example of nature’s own stained glass windows was the one that I glimpsed when I walked in the arboretum at Wolvesey Palace in Winchester the other day…… This then is the light of nature and creation flooding into the church.

Light from nature's stained glass window

Nature’s stained glass window

Still we must be careful not to just allow ourselves to simply bathe in that light, soaking ourselves in its warmth and colour; but instead to remember that before it gets to stream in through those windows into our eyes and hearts, it has already shone on all those outside; where Christ is waiting to for us to join him in helping to build up the kingdom of heaven; and where we can all become living stained glass windows that reflect the rainbow colours of God

A man that looks on glasse,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
And then the heav’n espie.

The Elixir from The Temple (1633) by George Herbert