Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How beautiful you are
(Written for my children some years ago - but seems even more relevant now, particularly the last stanza.)

I catch myself watching you
as you play in the garden,
bend in intense concentration over your latest craft activity,
mess up the kitchen making a sponge cake.
You look up and smile
but if you find I'm watching you too often
you ask what's wrong
and I tell you for the thousandth time that
I cannot believe how beautiful you are.

Amidst mud or glue, or clouds of flour
you giggle and grumble and grin your way through life.

The distance between us grows
but so does the love.
Letting you grow up and be whole
is the hardest of all privileges.

I want to protect you,
to make everything perfect, precise, safe and sound.
I want to heal you, help you, hide you and guide you
but I do you no honour if I make the world
a saccharine place of empty security.

So live a real life, a full life,
a life with scratches and disappointments
that mark the truth of living in abundance.
Live a whole life, a generous life,
a life with ups and downs,
heartaches and joyful celebrations.
Live a human, glorious life,
and fly safe in the knowledge that I will love you
when the landings are smooth and
I will pick you up and love you still when the landings are rough.
Live a real life.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Reflection – two glass panels. Orlando/Good Friday and Lampedusa/Pieta

(First used at the Connexional Leaders Forum of the Methodist Church, meeting in September 2016)

Image 1
I invite you to reflect on two images – these are glass panels and soon I hope to make a third and they will hang in our District Meeting Room at Central Hall. The first was originally to be called ‘Good Friday’ but it came out of the kiln on the morning that the news broke about the massacre of dozens of gay men in Orlando, Florida – so now it is called ‘Orlando Good Friday’. The second image is called Lampedusa pieta.There is something about the geography of grief that grounds it in our experience – place names change their meaning when dreadful events take place there: Dunblane, Piper Alpha, Nice, Paris, Orlando – we seek to glimpse one iota of incarnational love as we ask again and again, ‘Where is God in all this?’We have asked for 2000 years, ‘where was God on Good Friday?’I’ve often bemoaned the fact that Christians dash from the phoney cheers of Palm Sunday to the fulsome cheers of Easter Day, without paying sufficient attention to the narratives of complex love that weave through Holy Week. Yet I only have to watch the news today or any day of the year, to find myself located by the cross; transported again to exist in a constant Good Friday – watching, transfixed, unable to look away. I stand helpless and dazed by the enormity of loss and the reality of crucifixion that is happening every day in our world.Image 2

We keep on asking ‘where is God?’ as the little ones drown in an azure ocean whipped to a grey froth and frenzy.I see a thousand pietas today – the traditional blue of Mary’s robe becomes the turquoise of the Mediterranean and the mothers bend in anguish over their children and the grey robes of needless death overwhelm attempts to bring a glimpse of humanity or divinity in the midst of the chaos.How do we live as people of the resurrection, as people of good news in a world drowning in violence and grief? That is a proper question – not how do we survive and get through each day, somehow keeping a semblance of mental and social health – but how do we choose to live as people of the resurrection? How do we make it real, not for our private, exclusive holy club’s sake, but for the poor, the oppressed, the blind, the lame, the prisoner… for the refugee, the asylum seeker, the voiceless and the condemned?How do we respond to the God of grace, who lies face down on a beach?
How do we respond to the God of love, slaughtered for love’s sake?
How do we respond to the God of peace, who calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves?To what do we choose to pay attention, as people who have moved beyond despair to hope?How do we choose to act as people of resurrection?How do we choose to pray as those who believe in good news?

Monday, 13 June 2016

A fused glass panel formed 12.6.2016
by Michaela Youngson
The news broke yesterday morning. Another bloody Sunday, another 'Mass Casualty Incident', another slaughter of the innocents. You could write the script, the anguish, the courage, the text messages, the community response. The media behave as you would expect. The politicians behave as you would expect. Hate makes headlines, fear makes votes. In the face of such deep distress, such pointless horror, we stand transfixed, silenced, helpless and watch another generation dance the same dance as the last and the one before and the one before.

The panel shown here was originally to be called 'Good Friday' but it came out of the kiln yesterday, on the day that the news broke.  Perhaps there will be new life, a dawn beyond the horizon of grief but for now, for God's sake, we stand as those who looked upon the cross and wonder at a world desperately in need of a new narrative. A thousand pietas could be painted today, of mothers clutching their son's lifeless bodies. A thousand pietas could be painted tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow - until love defeats hate. The blood will flow, mingling with the tears - until love defeats hate. The stories on our screens will burn our eyes blind to compassion - until love defeats hate. Hasten the day - until love defeats hate.

Saturday, 9 April 2016


Reflecting on the Justin Welby story. Impressed by his response but wondering why a journalist thought it his business to investigate and cause pain to people. My own family background is interesting on my Father's side and it is impossible to get to the facts about his parenthood. It damaged him throughout his life. The Archbishop's response hints at healing being found in working out our own identity through the choices we make, rather than in factors entirely beyond our control.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

No room for Christ in Westminster?

In bureaucratic language Westminster Council dismissed the value of a world class sculpture, copies of which are to be found in The Vatican, Washington DC, Toronto and Madrid. The press release issued by Methodist Central Hall, tells the full story below. Also, scroll to the end of this post to find a link to the petition asking the Council to change its decision.

An application to install a bronze sculpture of ‘The Homeless Jesus’ at the front of Methodist Central Hall Westminster has been refused by the City of Westminster Council.

The application, which received several hundred on-line endorsements on the Development Planning website from people all over the country, was refused because “the proposed sculpture would fail to maintain or improve the character or appearance of the… Parliament Square Conservation Area” owing to “its location within the City Council’s Monument Saturation Zone”.

‘The Homeless Jesus’, created by internationally renowned sculpture Timothy Schmalz is of a life-sized figure sleeping on a park bench, covered with a blanket, his exposed feet bearing nail marks of crucifixion.  Schmalz describes the work as ‘a visual translation of core Christian values’.  The ‘Homeless Jesus’ gained international fame in 2013 when Pope Francis blessed the model and stated that is was a ‘beautiful and excellent representation’ of Jesus.

Permission has very recently been given for ‘The Homeless Jesus’ to be located in The Vatican in Rome and there are other sculptures around the world in Toronto, Washington DC and Madrid.

Revd. Dr. Martyn Atkins, Team Leader at Methodist Central, Westminster said, “Homelessness is increasingly a global issue, and we are witnessing what many say is the largest ever migration of people in Europe and North Africa. London is a leading world city and the positive symbolic effect of placing ‘The Homeless Jesus’ here in Westminster would be enormous.

“As a church we are extremely disappointed at the refusal of this application. We’re led to the unfortunate conclusion that a sculpture of Jesus, depicted as homeless, isn’t welcome in Westminster and so close to the Houses of Parliament. I imagine many people will find the Council suggestion that this particular piece of public art would somehow lower the tone of the neighbourhood insulting and ironic.

“Homelessness is real in Central London.  I hope that Westminster City Council will reconsider and see the positive impact that The Homeless Jesus can have in drawing public attention to the plight of homeless and dislocated people.’

“On Good Friday, Catholics from Westminster Cathedral, Anglicans from Westminster Abbey, Methodists from the Central Hall and many other local Christian churches will walk silently through Westminster to remember the death of Jesus Christ. The symbolic wooden cross heading the procession – for which the Council grants permission each year – will be carried by representatives of ‘The Passage’, a charity for homeless people supported by the Churches of Westminster over many years. In the context of the refusal of our application the irony is inescapable.

“We are now considering appealing the refusal and our hope would be that the Council will take our views into consideration and overturn their decision.   We are asking people who support The Homeless Jesus being situated outside Methodist Central Hall to sign an on-line petition, located here,

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Brussels – a response from Michaela Youngson on behalf of the District Chairs of the London Methodist District


It is with shock and deep sadness that we have again witnessed the murder of people going about their everyday lives. Londoners will watch the news of the explosions in Brussels and will remember the attacks on public transport in July 2005. The images and memories are vivid and remind us again of the vulnerability of life and the willingness of a handful of people to assert their own agenda through acts of terror and violence.

In the past few days lives have also been lost in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in many other places, often with little coverage on western media. Each life lost in an airport, market place, metro station or school is a cost too great. In the great complexity of the political realities that surround us it is tempting to lose sight of those individual lives and to feel helpless. Yet in all of the acts of cruelty that we witness, we see people putting their own lives at risk to help the injured and the vulnerable, we see people of different faiths standing in solidarity with each other, we see courage that we only hope we might demonstrate in the same circumstances.

As we consider the most unholy of actions in the midst of our Holy Week reflections, I pray that we will notice the acts of human decency and dignity in the midst of the carnage and chaos. When we consider again the cross of Jesus and his divine humanity, Ipray that we will not be blind to the common humanity we share with our neighbours.

Many of our Muslim brothers and sisters receive abuse, verbal and physical, when such events as have happened in Brussels take place and there is a great deal of pressure on the Islamic communities in the our city. Whilst we may feel helpless in the face of violence and events in Syria, we are able to be peacemakers in our own context. Consider ways in which you and your church can develop friendships with Muslim neighbours in your own community. Pray for their flourishing and the well-being of people of all faiths and none and reflect the sacrificial love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

A prayer by Tony Miles:

Suffering God,

we pray for the injured, dying and grieving.

May they receive help, comfort and healing.

When terrorism is rife,

may we not give in to despair,

for ultimately only enduring love

can triumph over evil, sin and death.

May the Spirit of Jesus

enable faith, hope and love to rise up,

with justice and peace. 


© Anthony D. Miles - March 2016