29 January 2016

Labyrinth At Rivendell

No. 1854 - 16 Nov 2011 - 16:46:02

26 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

In The Beginning*
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

     It was with this simple and powerfully clear phrase that William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) began the Gospel of St. John in his groundbreaking translation of the New Testament from the original Greek, published in 1526 using the latest movable type printing press technology.
     His focus was not on the turn of phrase, but on its purpose and accessibility.  He believed that scripture should be known "... even by the boy that driveth the plough."  Although he lived for the final twelve years of his life in exile on the continent, hounded and reviled by academic rivals and religious authorities (two kings and a Pope - and at a time in history when people were being burned alive for simply possessing a copy of the Lord's Prayer in English), he persisted in his dangerous and solitary work of translating scripture.  In his own words, he sought to "interpret the sense of the scripture and the meaning of the spirit."
     Tyndale was a gifted linguist with a genius for translating, and became fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew along with the under-valued Middle English of his homeland.  Influenced by the work of Luther and Erasmus, he translated the New Testament and the Pentateuch (first five Books of the Old Testament) from Greek and Hebrew into a precise, rhythmic, and idiomatic written vernacular now recognized as early Modern English.  F. F. Bruce writes that "Tyndale, working in the white heat of potential martyrdom, rises at times to a poetic glow, transcending the style of the original Greek" (The Book and The Parchments).

     Within months of his execution in 1536, his scriptural translations were legally published in England but not under his name.  Although expunged from the record, his language, skill and faith went on to live in the six versions of the English Bible leading up to the KJV.  In 1611 the committees of scholars, authorized by King James I to write a standardized English version of the Bible, used up to 85% of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament and 75% of the Old Testament that he was able to translate before his imprisonment (where he was denied pen and paper).  Remarkably, they retained the archaic endings of the early 16th century that were already falling out of use.  In doing so they created an authoritative yet highly readable version that would travel around the world to become a classic.  From The Book of Common Prayer, to the King James Bible, to the Wesleyan Hymnody and on into the twentieth century, the sacred language of Anglicanism has been essentially that of Tyndale.
     His impact on Modern English is historic and it is upon Tyndale's shoulders that Shakespeare, Donne, Milton and all the rest, under the sun, stand.  The lively and unadorned phraseology was - and has become - an inseparable part of everyday speech and vocabulary wherever people speak the language of the Book: I am the way, the truth, and the life ... Let not your hearts be troubled ... A small still voice ... A labour of love ... The writing is on the wall ... See eye to eye ... By the sweat of your brow ... Eat, drink, and be merry ... The salt of the earth ... Nothing new under the sun ... For everything there is a season ... and hundreds more.

Although his ability to translate the spirit of the Word is now legendary, his legacy is still not widely or sufficiently known.  However, it is unlikely that Tyndale would have worried about the outcome of his own reputation.  It was in the person of this brave, modest man that the Holy Spirit lived - and continues to live - in the presence of his life's work. 

* PAX: No. 23 St. John The Baptist © 2014 

17 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

No. 0979 - 31 Jul 2012 - 17:14:47

The Gate of Heaven*
     "The church is a house with a hundred gates 
and no two men enter at exactly the same angle."
                                                                                            -- G.K. Chesterton

      There is a transformative rhythm to the architecture of a church -- from narthex to tower -- that touches the senses from first sight to last sound.  In this sacred space, where deep-lasting spiritual change is an on-going process, my prayer is gratitude.  I bring a camera eye with me whenever I enter through its various gates, never failing to marvel at the physical beauty and emotional calm of the building itself.  Outside may feel like the valley of the shadow of death but inside is the knowing of sanctuary.
     To enter formally, through the front doors of St. James', from the bright light of day on the street corner and into the relative quiet and darkness of the narthex, is to walk immediately into another realm.  The pace slows as ones vision adjusts in the subdued light coming through the leaded windowpanes.

No 1103 - 25 Feb 2014 -m 15:11:14

     In fact the whole interior of the church is bathed in the light coming from its many narrow, arched windows.  It pulls the viewer out of the contained entrance, to the left and into the high, open expanse of the nave.  This is the main body of the church where the parish congregates out of a desire to know the Word of God, and it is from the centre of this space that the Holy Gospel is proclaimed.
     At the easternmost end of the nave, across the transept and up the steps to the chancel bar are the sanctuary and altar where parishioners and clergy give offerings and prayers and where all kneel to receive the Eucharist -- a statement of belief witnessed and shared.
     Overhead, the apse is the barrel-vaulted ceiling that rises up over and around the sacred space in a constructed embrace of acceptance.  It is protective of the altar, the Host and the rite of communion.
      There are, surrounding this procession of architectural details, a series of chapels that heighten the intentions of individual worshippers.  The Blessed Sacrament Chapel behind the ambulatory and the Lady Chapel to the right of the nave, provide more intimate and quiet places for daily prayers and masses while the Baptistry, to the right of the narthex, is an exquisite setting for the rite of baptism especially on a candlelit Holy Night.  And finally, the choir gallery over the west end of the nave is surely a kind of chapel to the choristers and organists whose spiritual offering is music.

No 6372 - 26 May 2014 - 20:39:09

     Under all of this is the crypt, the scene of the action where the work of the parish continues to maintain the edifice and its inhabitants.  Currently it is where the guilds and caretakers store their tools and supplies and where local children (Saint James Music Academy) learn to play classical music; it has also long been a home for festivals, fellowship, and community service.
     Lastly, and overhead all of this, is the bell tower that holds an eight-bell carillon and is the very expression of allowance it its purpose.  Whether calling the faithful to prayer or ringing out the exultation of a festival day, the sound of bells pealing is an invitation to the moment, an opportunity to let go of worry and experience a joyful feeling.
     The journey through a church can reveal the meaningful exchange between the physical, material world and the deeply cherished spiritual values at the crux of faith.
     A more comprehensive exploration of church architecture and the spiritual journey can be found in The Geometry of Love, by Margaret Visser -- a transfiguring study of "space, time, mystery and meaning in an ordinary church."

No. 3219 - 17 Mar 2014 - 18:49:46

*  PAX: No. 27, St. John The Baptist © 2015

15 January 2016

Barnacle Love Match

No. 6042 - 06 Sept 2010 - 13:39:52


12 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

The Sound of Sanctity*

     My neighbourhood is noisy, located as it is on a busy artery in downtown Vancouver, with its almost constant traffic, rants, fights, sirens and shrieking gulls.  Still, my home is comfortable and attractive and my neighbours are simply engaged in ordinary living under extraordinary circumstances.  But there is one notable sound that lingers purposefully and contemplatively, and it is made by the bell in the tower of St. James' Anglican Church at Gore Avenue and East Cordova Street.  Three times daily I have the opportunity to pause and listen with an open heart.  I am transfixed and yet mindful as the traffic sounds fall away and random dysfunction ceases momentarily.  Of course the scene at hand soon returns to "normal", but there is always another ringing promised, another respite.

      The bells were given to the church by the Reverend Fr. Robert Grange Harker -- Fifth Rector of St. James' from 1920-21-- twelve years after his return to England.  He was instrumental in the long-distance planning, financing, designing and building of the third church of St. James' (with the determined interest of the indomitable Reverend Canon Fr. Wilberforce Cooper who managed and drove the project on site).  By securing both the services of talented architect Adrian Gilbert Scott, and the matching funds necessary for the construction of the building, their vision was realized by 1935 although it would take another ten years to complete the work fully.  Fr. Harker's gift of the bells was meant to be anonymous, but it was a poorly kept secret.  He was said to be delighted with the inscription written by Fr. Whitehead and concealed on the small treble bell, very much like the medieval custom of punning inscriptions.  It reads: GOD BLESS THE MUSIC OF THESE BELLS AND TREBLY BLESS THE HARKER.

 Bells have been associated with religious rituals since the early Middle Ages in Northern Europe where the earliest bell-founders were probably monks.  Foundries have since sprung up wherever the founders have lived, and one of the oldest surviving sites is Taylor's of Loughborough in Leicestershire, England.  Here the bells of St. James' were cast in 1936, shipped through the Panama Canal and arrived at the Ballantyne Pier in November of 1937.  It was stipulated that, once installed, the bells could not be rung until the bills were paid and the bells were installed in time for a 1937 Christmas Eve ringing.

Fr. Harker believed that it would be difficult to find adequate bell-ringers on these "remote" shores, so he had the eight bells made into an instrument called a chime.  The 42-hundredweight ring of eight is set into an iron framework box, each bell equipped with a clapper attached to a wire cable which in turn runs down a rope and pulley system to the console in the corridor behind the high altar.  It has a diatonic scale from C to C with inner tuning that allows for fully harmonized music.  Our console specialists, Lesley and David Evans, have written that "although this ring of bells cannot be 'rung' in the true sense (that is by circle ringing), they can be played by a carilloneur, by a roll mechanism or by playing the eight white notes on the 'piano' keyboard."

   The sound I hear daily is of the largest bell, the covering C, the tenor, weighing over 2,000 kg and with a diameter of 60.5 inches.  It has an extra clapper attached to a rope that leads down to the church where it is rung for Angelus, Sanctus and tolled for the death and last departure of parishioners (possibly the last church in Vancouver to do so).  Its inscription reads SOUND SOUND THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL TO THE PRAISE OF GOD AND TO THE HONOUR OF ALL WHOSE WORDS AND DEEDS PROCLAIMED IT IN THESE PARTS 1881-1936.  It offers the sound of sanctity to this neighbourhood and gives me solace amidst the frequent chaos.

      Editor's note:  The console referred to above has recently been removed for restoration and repair -- at substantial cost, which is being partially borne by one anonymous donor, with the hope that others will offer help.  The bells and clappers in the tower are also being refurbished -- obviously in situ.

* PAX: No. 16 Michaelmas 2012

02 January 2016

23 December 2015

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

Dickens and Christmas*

     St. James' Victorian roots are splendidly evident at this time of the year with its Advent activities, greenery, music and especial focus on children; and yet we need to be planted in a goodwill beyond our immediate gaze and needs.  A recent re-reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens brought to mind the very people in our parish that our Bidding Prayer asks us to remember.
     Dickens is often blamed for inventing the material aspects of Christmas that hamper the season to ever elevated degrees.  But he was not working in a vacuum, and there were other forces contributing to the veritable saving of the Christmas festival which had been mostly diminished to one day out of a long year.  It was his understanding of spirituality and morality as dual participants in the older traditions alongside the re-imaging of holiday customs that made a lasting impact.  Together they included family, church, and charity, childhood memories and cultural nostalgia.  His sentiments as portrayed in A Christmas Carol contributed to the cultural tapestry we have all inherited and embraced.

     By 1840 and with a new young queen on the throne, Great Britain was at a confident stage of empire building and indirectly ruled the world through economic influence and control of the sea.  There were also numerous liberal movements gaining a foothold in the public imagination, including parliamentary reform, free trade, collective bargaining, Catholic emancipation, the Oxford Movement, abolishment of slavery, restraints on child labour and local government and postal reforms as well as developments in science, medicine, exploration, and the railroad.   
     A Christmas Carol is essentially a spiritual fairy tale about the value and joy of giving.  It was written alongside Martin Chuzzlewit and published in December 1843 primarily, if ironically, because Dickens needed to make money in order to support his growing family and tangle of extended relations.  It was an instant success although not as profitable initially as planned due to its high quality at a reasonable price.  Within ten years he was giving lectures and readings, which often included his best-loved Christmas tale, all of them very much associated with his philanthropic activities and his belief that literature could advocate for the betterment of all.

     Dickens remains an intercessor between an industrial, material, and increasingly secular time and the humanity that he wanted to uplift.  The focus on children and charity is especially and obviously reflective of Christ's continued presence in the season.  Every year his tale seeks to re-invigorate and maintain an important sacred and secular event.  His contributions to what we know as Christmas are now well established, and, in the words of G. K. Chesterton, we can note that "whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us."

     In his own words Dickens tells us that with regard to the rehabilitated miser, "He knew how to keep Christmas well."  The portrayal is effective because it is so visceral.  Christ is present within the redemptive power of kindness and charity -- that is the author's emphasis.  As a literary journalist, social reformer, and moralist, Dickens bids us not for just one day, but for all the days of the year.

No. 7373 - 20 Dec 2013 - 09:05:58

 * PAX: No. 28, Christmas © 2015

11 November 2015


No. 7576 - 12 Nov 2010 - 12:36:10

18 September 2015

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

     A Family Pilgrimage*

     A few years ago, while I was trying to explain my work to a friend of a friend, I was offered some unusual advice.  Calling me an "ancestral scapegoat," he encouraged me to continue the visual history project I was struggling to manifest.  He warned that my relatives might not always welcome the stories I would track and seek to share but that I must persist as the one of my generation who was driven to know the truth and willing to tell the tale.  He urged me to nevertheless continue the search for my creative and spiritual homeland.
     The yearning for a genuine and profound experience led me to formulate a pilgrimage - neither religious nor secular, but personally sacred and tied to a familial landscape I barely knew.  By undertaking a quest and vowing to complete it, I am participating in a universal tradition and practice: to seek and experience the presence of God while separating from the everyday.  
     "The only way out is through," according to Robert Frost.  Decide and the doing gets done, so I began to plan a road trip to what is essentially the middle of nowhere, drawn by a spiritual magnetism to the remarkable geographical landscape of Lake Manitoba.  In its centre is an intersection between two realms, a liminality called Manitoobaa in Ojibwa - Straits of Manitou, the Great Spirit - and known by the pounding of waves and pebbles on its limestone shores, like a spirit pounding a drum.

Cayer Beach (internet-anonymous, 2011)

     My mother was born in the vicinity and a few of her cousins who still live in the region join me on the gravel road journey from Dauphin and Ste. Rose du Lac to Cayer Beach on Lake Manitoba.  It is still several hours before summer solstice and within this liminal zone of time, place, and intention, we discuss the spiritual business of the family - from replacing the fallen gravestones of great-grandparents and finding a way to repair the church roof, to assorted graveside stories of kith and kin.  For a short while the impediments of distance are suspended and the improbable is imagined.  Here, in the smallest of communities and in the most remote of provinces, I find a tangible connection to my ancestors and their stories in the company of the family members who want to know.

     We turn away from the edge of the beautiful lake and the church our grandfather built and named St. Jean de Brébeuf.  We drive back toward the world of everyday, on the other side of an invisible threshold - but different.  We convene and celebrate over a late lunch at the Chicken Chef in Ste. Rose.  I commemorate these family rituals by vowing to return as I have done in four previous encounters with this meaningful place were every exploration reveals inner meaning.  Perhaps I will return again for the longest day of the year in June, or come back in August when it is good for camping and swimming, or perhaps visit in January because winter is my favourite Manitoba season and this is a special place in the cold.  Having a destination and making a vow to reach it fulfill the longing for a meaningful journey, a pilgrimage.

No. 1173 - 20 June 2013 - 13:42:52

PAX: No.19 St. James' Day © 2013

04 September 2015

Final Remand

No. 0834 - 26 May 2015 - 20:51:12

I have yet to count the actual estimated number of pictures taken of this project which I named PALIMPSEST but it probably ranges between 100 and 200 thousand images that rest quietly on an external hard drive.  The documentation of this public process was made possible by two DTES Small Arts Grants, generously funded by the Vancouver Foundation.  In it I photographed the conversion of the Richard Henriquez design for housing prisoners at the BC Courts into the re-design, by his son Gregory, of social/market housing for residents.
The three year project was located on the St. James' Anglican bell tower's western deck and utilized various handheld cameras and digital apps.  The image above was composed with an iPod camera, a landscape-stitcher with a final crop in iPhoto. 
The repetitive exposure to this particular point of view led to the development of additional perspectives.  The body of the edifice I perched upon became more significant, demanding inclusion in all of the images other than the standard documentary shots taken with an SLR camera at every session.  My own creative connection to the architecture notwithstanding I recognized the intrinsic pull of St. James' physical impact.  But it wasn't alone in affecting a view that includes the Burrard Inlet and North Shore mountains, the urban core, industry and re-development and the eternal components of wildlife, weather, seasonal flux and the sky itself.
The final piece of this project entails archiving PALIMPSEST to its own website.  By now, the residents have moved in and the building lives on its own again.  It now provides a positive opportunity for a neighbourhood that has too-long languished in aggressive obscurity.

26 May 2015


No. 0988 - 26 May 2015 - 21:51:22
No. 0980 - 26 May 2015 - 21:30:42
No. 0978 - 26 May 2015 - 20:51:12

24 May 2015


No. 0972 - 24 May 2015 - 20:44:52

20 May 2015


No. 0965 - 19 May 2015 - 20:20:37 

15 May 2015


No. 0964 - 15 May 2015 - 20:51:26