Icon Painting Course - Emmanuel Church West Hampstead

I am leading an icon painting course starting January 2017. It will be held in the recently renovated Emmanuel Church West Hampstead which now has wonderful new community space and underfloor heating!The class begins the 28th January 2017 and is for adults with any artistic ability or none! Cost is £250 with all materials included.Book your place by emailing reganenquiry@outlook.comscreen-shot-2016-12-23-at-18-51-52 Map to Emmanuel Church West Hampstead.screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-15-33-04 

Long Island Residency - The Gift of Hospitality.

13055517_1228801243814114_3374296422881208214_nOn my first Sunday at Trinity - St John Church, in the Diocese of Long Island a little girl from the congregation gave me a dandelion after the morning service.   It was a simple and beautiful gesture one which I found rather moving.This little act of kindness reminded me of a sermon preached by a Methodist Minister friend on hospitality. She recalled a situation witnessed years previously when a young woman passing a church had been drawn inside by the activity of people taking their Harvest offerings up to the altar. The young woman looked around for something to offer. Having no produce or foodstuffs she plucked some dandelions from the edge of the pavement, entered the church, walked to the altar and lay her offering down on the altar steps.   The minister and his helpers continued to receive the congregation’s offerings creating a lovely display in front of the altar. The dandelions were ignored and left on the steps.A sad tale reminding us that a failure to give thanks for even the smallest of offerings can sometimes be caused by a lack of empathy, creativity or hospitality.Back in London after three months in Long Island I reflected on my time in the U.S. It had been a busy residency with lots of travelling, workshops, collaborative art projects, preaching, finally concluding with an exhibition.   One of the most memorable experiences was being invited to the Annual gathering of the Unkechaug Tribe.  The Chief Harry Wallace asked that I open the ceremony with a prayer/invocation, a great honour. I witnessed on the Poospatuck reservation an openness and acceptance of people which crossed boundaries of race, creed, and social status. A wonderful example of hospitality.  Indeed during my time in Long Island  I experienced much goodwill, hospitality and enthusiasm.   I also felt supported in the ministry I led.   The Diocese and the Mercer School of Theology along with the parish of Trinity - St John supported and funded the residency. My flights, my accomodation, studio space, expenses, materials were all provided and I received an honorarium.   Similar to my residency in the Diocese of Ontario in 2014 I felt appreciated.  People respected what I did, they understood it as ministry and responded positively.It isn’t always like this though.  Self employed  I seek commissions, work and funding to support myself in what I am called to – an art ministry. For me, being an artist and a priest is intrinscally linked, they are one and the same thing.  Understandably not all people appreciate or respect this but there have been times unfortunately when I have come up against fellow clergy who have not only been openly dismissive and negative but also sometimes blatantly undermining.  For example a fellow priest who commissioned me to write an icon for their parish became extremely indignant when contacted about payment particularly when asked why this was going to take six to seven weeks even though the finished (discounted) icon  had been delivered two weeks previously. The same priest who also knew I sometimes live off each cheque and who in delaying payment was ultimately denying me the ability to pay my rent and buy food.   Sadly this is not my only negative experience with regards payment!  Thankfully though there is a law which protects the self employed which states invoices for work done must be paid in 30 days.  However this still doesn't stop it happening.  I have come to learn that when a poisonous dart is directed my way, a lack of professionalism or simple common courtesy, it motivates me to strive and move forward rather than be downtrodden and impacted by toxic behaviour particularly when it comes from other priests.Canon Mark Oakley once said to me, priesthood is not defined by parish ministry and he is right and yet I wonder if some parish clergy are not just creating their own little kingdoms where they can feel safe and wanted and in some cases superior. It is well known that some parish priests are highly dismissive of self-supporting priests like myself and that our ministries in their eyes are not valid. Bishop Richard upon hearing my musings responded, “of course some priests do make idols out of their parishes.”To temper all this I thank goodness for colleagues who have shown collegiality and encouragement over the years.   The Bishop of London has been a wonderful support both morally and practically, directing commissions my way, writing references and letters of support, giving grants and even offering studio space in his home!   Most of all it has been his words of encouragement that have meant the most. Then there are the colleauges and friends who have opened up their homes asking only for affordable sometimes, nominal rent.   The priests and teachers, who have invited me to their parishes, Diocese, and schools to lead art workshops and residencies.  I am incredibly grateful.In a months time I am flying to Australia where I have been invited by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne, The Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe to lead an art residency as part of the Cathedral’s 150th anniversary celebrations.   Part of the residency will be the chance to exhibit artwork I have created over the years, a little retrospective in a way.   This will also be an opportunity to reflect on a ministry that has granted opportunities and taken me to places I would never have imagined.  May I always be thankful for these opportunities, the hospitality and generosity I experience and for the spirit which these things are given, including the simple things, the little gifts, the dandelions.Episcopal Journal articleLiving Church article

Do you hear the Tui call the Huia in the trees

In the weeks before she died my grandmother saw a Ruru in her room, an owl I believed this was a good omen a messenger.  My grandmother also saw lots of people come to visit her, people that most others didn't see.  But it was the Tuis heard by my sister around our grandmother's house and in the trees that seemed to have the clearest of messages. Waking before dawn still adjusting to a new time zone and re-awkening to an old world I too would hear them call.  Their song a melodic chorus reminded me of their visits to the Kowhai tree which grew outside my childhood home.  An iridescent blue black with a white tuff around its neck it is easy to see why the early european settlers called the Tui the Parson Bird.   The Tui though has much more to offer than religious platitudes.   My grandmother was going blind so hearing their dawn chorus must have been a comfort and a soothing sound to wake to.

The Tui is endemic to New Zealand.  Other native song-birds include the Kokako, the Piopio and the Huia the latter two both now extinct.   The story goes the Huia was the first to sing the dawn chorus.  Once it had called out to the rising sun the other birds would join in.   We can only imagine what the sound must have been like.   Today we hear a fraction of this song and it is the Tui which has taken the role the Huia once claimed.

My grandmother was impatient to die declaring that neither God nor the devil wanted her but she still had things to do and tasks to complete so she lingered longer than anyone imagined.   People from the past and present sought her company knowing that the old woman would soon be travelling on.  Before I returned to New Zealand she came to visit in my dreams.   In one she called out in fear of the dark but was soon comforted by a beautiful light and the arrival of a large ship.  In another we sat in my great grandmother Rongoheikume's wharenui while my grandmother sat reminiscing with my grandfather who had passed many years previously.  In the last she came just before I woke to say goodbye.

My grandmother was superstitious.  Once when we gathered in her dining room upon hearing of the death of a family member a Piwakawaka flew in and circled above us chatting before flitting out.   She didn't like this.  Nor did she like peacock feathers as she believed they brought bad luck.  And as she got older her home became a place of memories of people who had died and she became a little afraid.   Afraid of the dark.

The Tui's call at dawn must have been a heart warming sound for a woman whose world was becoming smaller and darker as her eyesight failed her.   Refusing to move out of her home, she dwelt in a place which must have felt desolate at times but for the blessing of her carer a devoted and loving woman and the visits of family and friends.   My grandmother persevered.

When I visited earlier in the year I could see she was getting ready to travel light.   Letting go of hurts and giving thanks for life my grandmother was ready to die.   Philosophical and with a wicked sense of humour  she had journeyed through a life at times  treacherous and dark but she carried on.   She was tough, her mind and heart ticking over with a steady beat.  Even close to death she requested she be woken if a visitor came to see her.  She loved people and in her last few months she had a steady stream of visitors.  I believe she also found the visits of the Ruru and Tui a blessing but more than anything it was the song of the Huia I hoped and imagined she  would wake to.  The song of a gatekeeper to the seventh heaven the Huia would be the guardian which when the time came would carry my grandmother up through the trees and beyond to a place where she would rest and laugh and be.

On an overcast day we gathered.   The women of the family carried her coffin out of the house and the men carried her into the chapel.    I stood before them as a priest and a grandson.  Family spoke and sang, cousins offered beautiful words and prayers in maori, a poem written by my brother  inspired and an Irish blessing was shared.   And as we lowered the coffin into the grave on the day that was also my birthday I imagined her, glint in eye with a glass of vodka in one hand regaling all with rude stories and naughty jokes and I smiled.

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BEANNACHT (Irish for blessing) by John O'Donohue 

On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you. 

And when your eyes Freeze behind The grey window And the ghost of loss Gets into you, May a flock of colours, Indigo, red, greenAnd azure blue, Come to awaken in you A meadow of delight. 

When the canvas frays In the currach of thought And a stain of ocean Blackens beneath you, May there come across the waters A path of yellow moonlight To bring you safely home. 

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, May the clarity of light be yours, May the fluency of the ocean be yours, May the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow Wind work these words Of love around you, An invisible cloak To mind your life. 

Photo of Lake Taupo by Hana Ransfield.

"Do you hear the Tui call the Huia in the Trees"   Words from the Song "Reconnect" by Maisey Rika.

Wharenui - House

Piwakawaka - Faintail (type of bird)