A highlight at the moment is the Methodist Modern Art Collection, most of which is on display for Lent in the Cathedral Chapter House (we went to see it last week), five pictures from which are the basis of a Lent Course provided jointly by the diocese and the Methodist District (which we begin this evening).
The Lent Course is astonishingly poor. It is clear it has been cobbled together at the last moment. At the beginning, the front cover of the booklet has four pictures only one of which is used in the course, while the three others remain unidentified and unacknowledged. At the end, the last session hasn’t been proofread (for example, where it says that ‘there is something First World’ about a picture, I’m pretty sure it means ‘something First World War’). And there is much more like this in between.
But the main concern is that the course evidences an alarming distrust in the power of the pictures and neglects the importance of allowing the participants to respond to them – the pictures are not available in any size, there is no suggestion in the study material that participants should take time to look at the picture at all let alone with sustained attention, and two thirds of the discussion questions could actually be answered without reference the pictures at all.
So I’ve been working away at trying to develop and design something better to use in this parish. I enjoyed working with the Youth Group on a trial run short while ago getting them to pay real attention to Eularia Clarke’s The five thousand which is the first chosen picture (and the origin of which the study material misrepresents, probably having misunderstood the official guide to the collection’s reference to a different picture of hers commissioned for the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Southampton).
Part of the discussion material turns on the way all four Gospels say ‘five thousand andres’ (andres or males - hence androgynous or ‘male like’) not ‘five thousand anqrwpos (anthropos or people - hence anthropology or ‘the study of humans’). Matthew alone adds ‘not counting women and children’. So the early statement in the study material ‘to feed... five thousand people appears in all four gospels’ is another careless mistake. It is possible that three of the evangelists did think no women and children were present, but it is much more likely that they didn’t think they ‘counted’, in which case saying John ‘omitted’ them (as the study material does) isn’t quite what was going on and distracts from the potentially interesting question about those we overlook and devalue even when they are under our noses. We’ll see in which direction the discussion goes this evening.
I note that the title of the painting is not ‘The Feeding of the Five Thousand’ at all and the Youth Group noticed that the person possibly speaking and presiding doesn’t look like Jesus at all – so discussion might go quite another way.
Meanwhile, my own level of incompetence is also pretty close to a diocesan level at the moment: I have posted my camera’s memory card apparently irretrievably through the wrong (large) hole in my computer. So the picture is an old one: a stone from Barlings Abbey built into the wall of the church at Southrey which we visited last September.