Snapchatting the Sistine Chapel

 

A poem by Sorrel Wood.

 

I looked for you in the Sistine Chapel,

Peering through a bustling scrum of tourists.

One tour guide waved a faded Minnie Mouse

Precariously flopping on a selfie-stick

To herd his chattering, snap-chatting flock.

 

Then I saw you: bearded, robed, reclining;

Your Father Christmas face so iconic

That it was all a disappointing déjà-vu.

Your accusatory finger pointed

Towards a languid, naked, tight-muscled Adam

Genitals small as a bunch of shrivelled figs.

 

A megaphone bellowed demands for silence

And I tried to pray, I really tried

But a backpack swung in my praying face

And I was carried by the rushing crowd

Like a rootless branch of river driftwood

Out of the chapel, towards the cafe.

 

I sought you out in the vast corridors

Of the Vatican art collection.

I found you, a thousand versions of you:

Baby doll eyes, girlish hair, impotent

Bearing faint traces of Christ-likeness

Like the almost-familiarity

Of meeting someone’s cousin.

 

I tried to buy you in the gift shop.

A glittering, gold cross (five hundred Euros)

Sparkled in the soft, Italian light.

“Nothing made in China! Everything blessed!”

A wrinkled nun informed me with a grin.

I wondered if the blessing extended

To the red-rimmed shot glasses, key rings,

The black and white “sexy priests” calendar.

 

I pined for you in the almost-quiet

Of a shrine at St Peter’s Basilica.

I lit a turgid electric candle

Longing for the warm light of a real flame.

And as the cameras clicked I understood

 

That I would find you where you’ve always been:

Healing leprous scabs, washing grubby feet

Kissing the smudged-lipstick face of the whore

Scooping up the knee-grazed child again

And when I found you, I would come to see

I was already lost in your embrace.

 

 

Sistine-Chapel-Michelangelo

 

Geraldine Crimmins: wellbeing and the arts

During Arts Weeks 2018 at Ripon College Cuddesdon, artist and wellbeing advocate Geraldine Crimmins came to speak to students and staff at the college.

 

Geraldine Crimmins is a London-based artist, currently in a professional residency at the Old Diorama Arts Centre in Camden.

 

Geraldine has exhibited at Somerset House and Spitalfields amongst other places, and since 2015 has won four awards for her work, including ‘Outstanding Progression and Achievement in the Arts’ from the Westminster Adult Education Service in 2015, and in 2016 she was awarded the national prize at the UK’s Festival of Learning.

 

Geraldine has said that it is her view that creativity can be a source of nourishment, a kind of ‘food,’ especially for the vulnerable.

 

Although a budding artist in school, Geraldine convinced herself she ‘didn’t have the imagination’ and went on to pursue a successful career as a counsellor and psychotherapist.

 

Geraldine joined us to share the story of her remarkable life, and the part in which the arts have played on that journey, followed by a Q&A session towards the end.

 

A good introductory article on Geraldine’s life and work is provided in this interview in The Canary, and we encourage a visit to her website which has more information, and an an excellent gallery.

 

Here is the talk, followed by the Q&A (which begins at 22.00 minutes), with Geraldine in full:

 

 

 

Praying through the lens, through the year – the art of noticing

Rosie Homer reflects on prayer through the camera lens. 

 

“Stop. Look. Listen.”

 

A phrase drilled into me from a childhood living next to a railway line – said to me every time we walked anywhere and had to cross the track. Repeated religiously, one could even say.

 

That refrain has stuck with me. It still accompanies me every time I go for a walk. It still repeats… religiously.

 

Though I have spent the past three years living in an indoor workspace, surrounded by books and words and thoughts, God and Christ make most sense to me when I’m out in the natural world.

 

Outside, it’s easier to feel a deeper connection with my particular surroundings and what it means to be a tiny part of this incredible universe in which we live. To understand things in relationship with the Divine; and in relationship with our fellow inhabitants of this Earth.

 

A personal practice of mine is to go out with my camera at certain points of the year, around the ancient agricultural festivals that the church calendar so often joins up with. An intentional act of setting aside time to be present through the ever-changing seasons. Photography in this context is my way of noticing, praying, being.

 

Being open to noticing whatever it is that catches my attention… – Stop.

 

Allowing myself time to observe that ‘subject’ to the exclusion of everything else… – Look.

 

Noticing myself paying attention, and my relationship in that moment – to the world around and to the Divine Presence… – Listen.

 

For me, this is prayer without words or intention or liturgy. It is openness and participation in that which already is. Seeing the image of the creator reflected; but also aware of myself as one who is created; and joining in with the ongoing process of creation, in observing and playing with that observation, through the lens.

 

The end product, the image, is more of an incidental by-product of the process. Perhaps in a similar way that a religious icon may be used, the photograph (or the process of taking it) for me is not the image itself, but a means of seeing through it, into what is.

 

Maybe if we stop, look, and listen to our surroundings a bit more frequently and intentionally, I wonder if we might not so often forget the fifth ‘Mark of Misson’ of the Anglican Communion – “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

 

Stitch by Stitch

Gemma Wilkinson reflects on the renewing creativity of God through embroidery. 

 

My mum taught me to crochet. I could do it before I was an ordinand and I can still do it now too! It is a skill I have honed and developed… I am teaching myself embroidery now because I feel I need to learn something other than theology while I’m training.

There are days where all I want to do is make things. Bread, cake, crocheted toys, or embroidered pictures. I wonder sometimes if this creative desire I have, the desire I must make things is a part of how I am made in his image. Creator God in whom all things had their beginning…

Some days I don’t feel like I contribute anything beautiful to the world, or the community to which I belong. Everyone has non-beautiful days, right? For me when they arrive I survive them by doing my best to make something beautiful anyway… Out of yarn, thread and fabric… To make something that is somehow lovelier than the sum of its parts. So, then I think God is making something beautiful out of me… perhaps in spite of me! Something that is more beautiful than the sum of my parts.

I also find that I cannot think too deeply or worry unduly when my mind is occupied by counting stitches. In those moments I feel myself relax and become less concerned with being perfect and more content with doing my best. It might not be the type of prayer you can read out in chapel… But for me it is the type of prayer where God answers back. In the quiet moments in my head I can hear that the spirit reminds me that I am not alone and bring me back to where I need to be. Stitch by stitch.

 

Eva’s Call

Alice Watson reflects on the origins and creation of the community artwork ‘Eva’s Call,’ which arose from the communal lament of the prejudices faced by women responding to God’s call into ordained vocational ministry. 

The reflection is followed by further photographs of the artwork, and a sample of some of the things said to women clergy and ordinands. 

Image - Rosie Homer - 1.jpg

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion!  Put on your beautiful garments.

Isaiah 52:1

The community piece of art which has come to be known as ‘Eva’s Call’ is a response to the ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’ movement which highlights female resistance and power against a backdrop of societal expectations of how a ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ should act.  The piece celebrates both the persistence of God’s call, and that of those who respond and follow.

It is based upon the lived experiences of ordained and ordinand women drawn from both within the Cuddesdon community and from wider groups of women, accessed through social media.  The response was overwhelming: each word you read has been said to or about women, and is reported without exaggeration or editing.  The central idea was to take these experiences and to transfigure them, through prayer and resistance.  Looking directly at institutional, and institutionalised sin, it responds in grace, seeking to transform structures and not participating within them.

Over three days, the college community was invited to come together to pray, to create, to transform, and to dream of a better world.  Candles were lit, cake was eaten, and people, from all walks of college life came by to share their stories, to think, and to produce the joy and lament that is evident within the work. We wove our stories, our tears and our laughter with those which we were given.

In a year which has both celebrated 100 years of the beginning of equal voting rights for women, 25 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood, and when the abuse, harassment, and subjugation of woman has been so visible, we worked conscious of our position of privilege as those able to live out their faith and their calling affirmed and supported.

On a personal note, this piece represents a decision and a challenge – to live out a vocation in a world which so often seems at odds with both conviction and Gospel.  It represents a desire to create a cultural memory, a knowledge and a strength, to sing our own Magnificat, and to suggest that this sin, whatever face it wears, is not OK.

Alice Watson

 Lent 2018

Image - Alice Watson

Image - Rosie Homer - 11

What course is your husband studying?

Do you know what St Paul says about women preaching?

I can’t debate things with you, you get too upset.

Irrational.

Ice-queen.

One of those silly feminists.

Keep away from those silly feminists.

Breastfeeding and hormonal.

Is your husband interested in theology?

LIBERAL. CHRISTIAN. SLUT.

That’s not the sort of language you expect from a lady vicar.

Should a lady vicar be wearing that?

How attractive should a female priest be?

(serving tea) I always knew you were a deacon at heart.

The problem is, you just seem to dominate the room. You just seem to be the focus of everyone’s attention.

Women only get through BAP to fill quotas.  Similar standard men wouldn’t be accepted.

You’re wearing too much makeup, you look unprofessional.

You’re not wearing enough makeup, you look unprofessional.

You’re only here because you’re a woman under 40.

Let the lady speak.

Will you ever feel equal to men?

Silencer.

Oppressor.

A rose between two thorns

You just haven’t found the right man.

Will people take you seriously?

Girlish voice.

Should you be wearing that?

Should you be seen to be going to the pub?

Let me explain…

I bet the children like you.

Oh we’ve got the girls this morning.

We’re just not used to priests in high heels.

I worry about the men with all these women priests.

Not conclusive to mutual flourishing.

Is your husband training for ministry?

What will you do with your children?

Are you presiding today? If so I am leaving.

You’re pregnant? Oh, that’s going to be difficult.

So, your husband will look after the children? We can treat you like a man then.

Needs time to discern if true vocation is to motherhood.

Of course we talked about whether you were going to have children at PCC before you came.

Gosh, three women on a team??? How will that work? Poor xxx, being the only bloke.

I can’t stand up here in front of Almighty God with you.

Who is going to look after your child while you do your training?

Why do we waste old ladies’ heating money training people like you?  You’ll get pregnant and it’ll all be for nothing.

Isn’t your husband ashamed that you didn’t put his vocation first?

Your poor children.  They’ll hate church because you neglect them, and then it’s your fault they’ll go to hell.

You need to give me the dates of your periods so I know when not to take communion.

The vicar’s wife always…

But why won’t you join the clergy wives group?

You naughty girl.

You’re authoritarian.

YOU WILL BURN IN HELL YOU F**KING C**T.

Women should not be priests.

Well we don’t want two women.

Some women vicars are very good.

I think it’s a case that men are not being faithful to God’s call, so he’s had to call women, even if they aren’t his first choice.

You’ve ruined my worship.

Sometimes ordained women are a bad thing.

But we don’t want a matriarchy.

Using female language for God demeans Him.

Nice jugs.

Well, I’ve never heard any of these things said…

If we call priests Father, what will we call the women?!

How are you going to cope without a husband?

You’re damaging to the gospel.

So is this a surrogate marriage?

But you would have been such a good mum.

Does this mean you can’t have children?

What if you have another baby?

How can you possibly do this when you’re a wife and a mother?

How will that work with the children?

Is your husband a priest too?

You must be so busy with the children.

Are you the vicar of Dibley?

Make sure you don’t get a married woman with children next time we have a curate.

What’s that f**king bitch doing here?

Are you automatically a vicar because your husband is?

Well at least you’re good looking.

Is your husband ordained too?

You scrub up alright.

Your family will hold you back.

Obviously the advert has all the equal ops guff but students need someone to look up to, not a girlfriend or mother.

Good girl.

They’ll never put you forward for training.

You don’t look like the normal sort of vicar.

What about your family?

You’re throwing it all away.

Who will cook tea for your family if you’re not at home?

Your husband cooks? Aren’t you lucky.

If all vicars were as pretty as you, churches would be bursting at the seams.

Should you have this many tattoos and be a priest?

The congregation were just being kind with their positive feedback.

Jesus was a man.

Jesus only called men.

I can never hear you, your voice is too high.

You’ve lowered the tone in your voice, that’s much better!

Smile, it might never happen.

You just have to stand there looking beautiful.

I’ve never seen a woman priest who looked, well, like you.

You poor dear, you’ve taken on a lot.

Women aren’t meant to be ministers. It’s in the bible – look it up!

I believe every word of the bible.

Yes but you aren’t really the vicar, are you?

I don’t want to deliberately hurt your feelings.

My amazing friends can’t find a job because they won’t share an altar with a woman.

I don’t want to upset your feelings.

She’s very strident.

The best candidate will undoubtedly be a man.

We don’t feel it’s appropriate for a woman to be the vicar.

I didn’t put you on the rota because I assumed you’d still be breastfeeding.

We were warned we might be landed with a woman.

I can see why this church is growing. It’s got a sexy vicar.

That bloody woman.

Not very inclusive.

I spoke to your husband about it, to check it was ok with him.

Are you the strippergram?

What should we call your husband?

We already have a female vicar, we’d have rather had a male curate.

You won’t be so committed once you have the baby.

Abomination.

Oh good, you’re easy on the eye.

But I thought you wanted to have kids?

Oh you’re going to theological college to get married.

It’s a shame. When they let women do something the men stop.

That’s nice dear.

You won’t be presiding at communion while you’re on your period will you?

I mean you’re still going to be a youth worker right? Not a proper vicar.

Have you prayed about becoming a vicar?

Good for you.  I’d never want to have a female vicar.  But good for you.

This pathway would be unsuitable for you, being a mother of a small child.

It’s just not right is it? It’s like the women are taking over.

I’m sure God will call the best man.

Calling God She just isn’t inclusive.

It’s not that I don’t like women preaching, it’s just that their voices are too shrill.

What are you going to do after you ‘graduate’?

The lady leading the service.

So your husband must be the new curate then?

Oh you’re still breastfeeding, how will that work?

Oh no, they won’t accept your kind there.

I don’t think you have a chance!

All these women, it’s just the Church capitulating to culture.

You shouldn’t put your hair up, it makes you look unfriendly.

You must tie your hair up to preside, it makes you look more neutral.

Of course, you’ll be much more pastoral because you’re a woman.

Who is looking after your children?

Make sure you’re discreet when you feed your baby in church.

Good girl.

Where are your children? We never see them.

Your daughter looks so unhappy.

Where is your husband?

I think you will find ministry is incompatible with your duties as a wife and mother, my dear.

I can’t receive communion from someone who paints their nails.

We can’t confide in you, you’re too young.

Not bad for a woman.

You must promise not to have children whilst you’re here.

Your miscarriage is probably a blessing given your job.

You are paid to be here 100% for us, not for your children.

We all really love you, agape of course, but a bit of eros too – wink wink.

You should do something about your eyebrows.

Are you old enough?

Of course it helps that you’re easy on the eye.

Too obsessed with preaching on women in the bible.

I bet you’ve got suspenders on under that cassock.

But what about your family?

Aren’t you lucky your husband is letting you do this.

God doesn’t change so your call must be from the other one.

Have you thought about what earrings you wear to lead worship and whether they could be distracting?

You intimidate other women.

When you are ordained priest I won’t be able to worship here any more.

Intimidating.

How are we supposed to concentrate on the service when we are distracted by your outfit?

We would have asked you, but we assumed you were busy with the children.

But your husband has worked so hard to get to where he is, it’ll all go to waste!

Here comes the coven!

You’ve ruined the Church of England.

Is there a male priest here?

But who will men go to if they have a problem?

We don’t want another female, it’ll upset the hen house.

Oh I do prefer women in skirts.

But you’re pregnant.

Are you going to get a lesbian haircut then?!

You’re going to be far too emotional if you get rejected from BAP, so it’s in your best interests to not be put forward

Wear your hair in a ponytail, you’ll be more attractive when talking to the young men.

The Whore of Babylon.

Satan’s Little Helper.

Where are your children then?

Is your husband here?

Does this mean you can’t get married?

I bet you can’t wait to have children.

Are you a children’s worker?

I didn’t’ recognise you without your children.

“Can everyone hear me?” No and we don’t want to.

Satan’s Whore

Daughter of Satan.

You’ve had a miscarriage, this vocation is just a surrogate child.

You’ve got a young child, now’s not a good time to train.

Are you in fancy dress?

I want my priest to be someone I get moral instruction from, not someone I wish to copulate with.

You’re very brave.

Our lovely little lady vicar.

You might have to work on your voice, as women’s voices can be shrill and unpleasant to listen to.

Keep wearing those skirts and batting your eyelids at the Bishop and you’ll not have to worry about your career.

Can we speak to your husband?

A woman who thinks she is a priest is like a whore trying to attend a cocktail party.  No one is fooled.

Well if she can’t preach, at least she’ll be nice to look at.

Now then, are you going to listen to the men in the room?

When’s all this women stuff going to be over and done with?

I am ashamed of you.

Oh, you’ve been a busy little girl, haven’t you?

You’ve misheard God.

Vicarette.

She’s the four F’s of women’s ministry: Fat, Female, Forty, and Thick.

I’m not being told what to do by a slip of a girl!

You have desecrated this cathedral.

We shall have to find another church, we could never worship somewhere led by a woman.

Nice to see the girls leading the service today.

Not really leadership material.

That skirt is unfair to your brothers in Christ.

You’re just too emotional.

God’s Plan B.

Intimidating.

If priests had looked like you when I was a lad, I might have gone to church!

I don’t believe in women priests.

I don’t take communion from you.

It’s nothing against you.

I don’t think we should have been given someone who will just go off and have babies.

Is your husband babysitting tonight?

Well that wasn’t bad for a little girl.

Do the gentlemanly thing and just resign.

A disaster.

Oh he loved women, in the kitchen and the bedroom, but not in positions of leadership and he’d really not want a woman doing his funeral.

Good girl.

Even more gorgeous than her photos.

Are you wearing mascara?

I’d have come to church if I’d known you’d looked like this.

I wish all churches had someone as good looking at you.

There’s plenty of work you can do without being a priest.

Stay in your lane.

Don’t you love God? He wouldn’t call you because you’re a woman.

Our party girl.

You’re doing the work of the devil.

You’re just a pseudo-priest.

SPAWN OF SATAN.

I believe women should be nuns and nurses, not priests and doctors.

I just get such a maternal vibe looking at her.

*Spat in face* during procession.

A good fundraising idea – come to church to ogle the vicar.

You have a husband and two young children, isn’t that enough?

I won’t be able to take communion because you’re a woman, what are you going to do to accommodate me?

You probably won’t like this question but I need to know what kind of priest you are – did you lose your virginity before you got married?

I’ll put a list up of dates you’re presiding so people know when it’s safe to attend.

I can’t see you doing this, but I could see your husband as a vicar.  The calling must be for him.

I didn’t listen to the first few minutes of your sermon because you’re a woman.  Actually, you were quite good.

You have a young child, you don’t have time to train.

So who does the cooking in your house?

Of course I can’t take communion from you.

You need to have a family before you get ordained.

Of course, you’ll only be able to minister to other women and children.

You’ll need to apply for churches that men wouldn’t want to apply for.

Ooh if only I was 10 years younger.

I’m coming back to church, just to get you out!

There’s no sexism in the Church.

All women ministers should sign to say they won’t get pregnant whilst in their post.

So you’ll be able to bake cakes and preach about it.

As your brother in Christ I am obliged to encourage you to re-consider taking a pastor / teacher role in the church as it is clearly prohibited in God’s word.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way patronising you.

I can’t see how the creator God would call you for something that He is against.

You say that God is not against women in leadership, so why was man created head?

Your pregnancy is bloody inconvenient.

You are the Mother of Satan

Are you planning on having more children because that could make training difficult?

You have a much nicer arse than that other female priest.  She has better tits though.

Cleavage in a cassock.

But what about your family?

Don’t your children miss you?

Yes, sweetheart.

She’s on her hobby horse again.

Do you think that this vocation is instead of a child?

Where do you intend to dump your children when taking services?

Your role is clearly to be with your children so we won’t be looking at stipendiary ministry.

You’re damaging your children.

Has the girl finished talking yet?

Where can I go to find a proper priest at Christmas?

Don’t go to the joint Good Friday service, someone pretending to be a priest will be leading it.

How dare you dress up as a man.

They’ve had two young females out of curacy, and now they’re looking for a mature man who will suit them better.

Is this the girls’ table?

Your husband is so brave!

Priestess.

I never really saw you as the leadership type.

Is your husband ordained as well?

Is that fancy dress?

To celebrate women’s episcopacy is triumphalist.

Why is someone so pretty going to be a vicar?

You’re too young to be a priest, and you’re a woman.

You’re far too pretty to be a vicar.

Hello, are you a strippergram?!

How will you manage the housework?

Where’s my kiss before you go?

Do you want to practise slamming the door in case you can’t manage it?

If you really knew your bible and were a proper Christian you would know that women can’t be priests.

Its good you’ve found something proper to do now the children have left home.

And what will you do for support if God doesn’t give you a husband?

Blonde vicar with a cracking rack.

Can you ask them to make sure we get a man next time?

Ha, well you would love beaver wouldn’t you…

You are the Devil’s gateway!

I don’t accept the patriarchal narrative.

Don’t worry, we’ll do everything possible to keep a pretty little thing like you in the diocese.

Now, the question is sex, that’s not how much you would like, but whether you’re male or female.

Do you mind if I touch your hair? It’s irresistible.

Madonna Lactans

Alice Watson reflects on Mary, Motherhood, and the mystery of Christ.

  1. What was

bouts

Dieric Bouts, Madonna mit Kind (ca. 1475)

He is eleven days old and we take him to Church. I am broken.  Not yet learnt how to reform, or realised that it might even be possible.  Swallowed up by silence, and doubt, that nothing can make sense any more.

I feed him in the vestry, I’m afraid he’ll fuss, of the looks, the milk that won’t be controlled, how he coughs and splutters and how I don’t really know what to do.  How I don’t really know who I am.  How I don’t really know.  Squished between the discarded decorations and the sign for the fete, I look up and in a dusty old picture I see you.  Did you know what to do, birthing your own Lord, Word made flesh. Your flesh. How you held in your arms a little ball of universe, and sprayed milky stars across his skin.  In chaos and in love.  What trauma did you know too?

He still feeds long after the bell has rung, after the rows of shuffling feet and crossing hands have made it back to their pew.  But the curtain swishes, and the veil is lifted, and the body of Christ (amen)  And the blood of Christ (amen).  How long until the Blood is my blood, and how long until it’s his?  For His blood was once yours, no purification needed, only grace.  So very full of grace.

  1. And is

Hansen

Kate Hansen. 2010. ‘Gladys and Elizabeth’

He is eight months old and I run back from classes to feed him.  Leaving behind the patriarchs, and the evangelists, and the dead German theologians.  There are quite a few of them. I don’t read many women in these early days.  I am tired and I pretend I’m not.  I drink too much coffee.  I keep up.  Sometimes.  Sometimes barely.  I think of you as my hands move around the beads, or as my mind moves around them as I will him to sleep.

At night I whisper the Magnificat to him.  Half promise, half threat, half dream.  Cast the mighty down.  Raise up the lowly.  Did you do the same, night after night, rocking chair revolutionary.  Is that how he became his Mother’s son?

I don’t go to Walsingham.  I stay home and nurse.  I think you’d approve.

  1. And is to come

icon

Icon of the Mother of God of the Inexhaustible cup.

And so this is this.  Time passes, and I am moulded, formed, softened by the love that has flowed through my ducts, toughened by the fire that burns in my veins.  Perhaps not tough enough.  Still.

I learn of loss, of fear and trembling.  I learn of trust and of acceptance.  I learn of laughter and of lament.  And I learn a little something of the mystery, and the wonder of transformation.  Of pain transfigured to strength, scars to art, nights of tears to mornings of joy.  And of the power that can transform blood, to milk, and to blood again.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for all of us who cry, who mourn, who are shamed, cast down, who carry heavy burdens.  And for all those who lift them. Now and at the hour of our deaths.  Amen.