Pictures available

18 02 2011

I’ve added a PDF of the pictures used for the Do You Wonder … ? exhibition here. Alternatively, you can follow the link on the home bar above. The pictures are not high res and are obviously small. You need to imagine them on a large canvass. The 3D doesn’t work on the PDF either so don’t bother getting your cardboard glasses out! If you want to see the real thing then get yourself to ECG.


Emerging Church … inherited problems!

16 02 2011

This is slightly tongue in cheek! But beneath it lurks an uncomfortable truth – if only I could see it properly. What a friend of mine calls the meta-narrative in the mist.

VFX Hanley shares a space called The Lounge with other agencies working within the city centre. It used to be a bank and is now kitted out with wood effect flooring, ambient lighting, an open kitchen, leather sofas and tub chairs. A group of us met to discuss how we might develop the space further. We looked at better lighting, better signage, a proper coffee maker etc. but what was most pressing was to sort out two emerging (but not new) problems.

The first was to do with storage. It is great that the space is getting used more regularly and that is exactly what we want. However, where do the groups keep their stuff? All the usual questions were raised ‘do they really need that stuff?’ And ‘can we not share resources and therefore not duplicate the same things in different cupboards?’ And ‘how can we maximise cupboard space using minimum wall space?’ – you know the questions.

The second was to do with the general look of the place. It is a lovely space, but without a dedicated cleaner it soon begins to look unloved. Again the same old questions were asked: ‘can we afford a cleaner?’, who might volunteer?’, ‘can user groups take more responsibility?’. In the end we struck upon a great (yet not entirely new) idea. A Benedictine Clean! St Benedict’s rule offers a possible spirituality for work whereby work is a means to goodness of life. Benedict’s rule is also moderate, a healthy work/life balance is essential and within that balance falls the place of prayer and worship, with monks often seen reciting the Psalter during work. So a group of us decided to pray and clean our way through The Lounge.

What is fascinating (and scary) for me is how soon we come back to the problems of inherited models of church. It felt as if I was sat on a property committee of old whilst deciding what to do with the space that we now inhabit. I can’t help but wonder if there is any escape from those things that used to frustrate me so much and led to me being where I currently am. I know this is about property, and re read the first line of this post, but most people who are engaging in similar kinds of ministry will often speak of the same frustrations that belong to structure and organisation as well as some theological stuff too. Is this simply what it means to be in organised community with designated space? Or is there another way?

On other stuff – I’ve been asked to help with creating a sacred space at Stoke Pride; I’m now working on Lent and Christmas 2011; and a few ideas are beginning to form around the Olympics next year.

Do You Wonder …?

4 02 2011

So in the last two weeks of December I installed an art exhibition called Do You Wonder …?
In the Lounge, Gitana Street, Hanley. 10 pictures of everyday people were taken in the streets of Hanley and then printed onto canvass. Each picture represented something of the nativity story – The Prophet, Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph, the inn keeper, the angels, the shepherds, the star, the magi, Mary and child and a stable scene. Each picture was converted into 3D so that you got a much fuller picture by wearing a pair of 3D specs. I won’t go into detail here about how it was done but you can get hold of the photographer here (Neil) and you can get in touch with me at if you want to know more about the ‘how to’. So was it a success? Well that’s difficult to say! One of the problems we have in pioneer ministry is rating or determining success. Perhaps success is not a useful term – perhaps blessed is a better way of thinking about the merits of a project. So rather than ask ‘was this a success?’ we ask ‘who was blessed?’ but for now we can rate is successful by the fact that we had a lot of people come and see it; we had an excellent review on the local cross rhythms radio station; we were in the local press; the conversations had with all the models were great; the conversations had with Neil the photographer were even better!; it firmed up the partnership between vfxhanley and nightchurch; and I built up one excellent relationship with a man who came in nearly every day to speak to me (he also received communion when I took a midnight communion in clubland on Christmas Eve) But … success was only partial. Just about everyone who came through the doors already belonged to an established Christian community; and despite lots of effort – not one of the models came down to see their picture. I still have not managed to find a way to break down those barriers that exist between church and ‘not-so-church’ (other than through personal conversations of which there are too many to recount). What have we learnt – that The Lounge is a great venue at night but not so good in the day; that we need to plan these kinds of things now (February) if we are to have a real impact at Christmas; that these things work best in partnership with a whole host of other agencies (whether they are faith based or not); that conversation and relationship are always primary; and that it is well worth doing again. The exhibition is off to ECG at the end of April, so get a ticket and see it there. It is also beginning to inspire some ideas in the North East!

Taadaa!!! – The Launch

1 02 2011

It worked!

You will not believe the number of people who have asked me either here, in person, on twitter or on Facebook

‘what are you counting down for?’

Well it is for this very moment. Right now I have just (re)launched the VFXhanley online presence. It’s hard work trying to start an online work when you’re already online. I’ve tried not to facebook or twitter for the last month but every so often it got the better of me and I just had to! Anyway, this blog is now fully operational and active, the twitter and facebook pages are all up and running and the website can now be found at you can also email me now at the website is a work in progress. Not all of the pages are live yet but the site will develop as the work develops. I want to say now – many, many thanks to Barry of Creative Council who designed the website and is continuing to help me with it.

So here I am, sat in my living room with a glass of wine and a couple of party poppers – my very own, exclusive, launch party!

Many people have been asking me about the Christmas 3D Nativity stuff which happened the last two weeks of December. You can see some of the stuff on the website and a few reflections will be coming in the next post, but for now, I’m just going to party the night away at my very exclusive launch.

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