Three years ago, Ali Thistlethwaite started on a large art project. For most of this time she pursued her vision in her studio near Cirencester, almost unknown to the wider art world, either Christian or secular. She received little encouragement, apart from occasional prophetic words along the lines “this could be big”. Her motivation was a desire to communicate the experience of the presence of God, in a style that she hoped would be widely accessible to people with or without any form of faith.
Yesterday was the launch event of her first exhibition of these paintings – in the nave of York Minster! For the next month thousands of people will be able to walk past and admire her artwork. This is a wonderful fulfillment of her calling – and a testimony to God’s faithfulness. (Go to her website.)
After the event, David & Ali invited me to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant and, as tends to happen when we chat, we ranged widely over many topics of life and faith. Ali’s own journey towards faith took place in the mid-1970s – and involved meeting a bloke in Cambridge called Nicky Gumble – more than a dozen years before his involvement with Alpha began!
I don’t know much about what it takes to plant a new church community – particularly in a challenging situation – but I do know that one ingredient is essential: prayer. We can only do what we do because we depend on the presence of God in us and shaping all that we do. There is much that I am learning by being part of the community church in Stockton, but it’s the dependance on God for everything that is the most striking part of it. Every Thursday the leaders meet at 3pm for three hours of prayer, worship and seeking God’s presence, prior to the meeting starting at 7pm.
This last Thursday I arrived part way through, having had a long meeting with the vicar, Alan. We were conscious that the prayer meeting going on at the same time was particularly lively! Not long after arrving there, and having a camera to hand, I realised this was an event worth recording.
Strange things have been happening on the B wing in Cranmer of late. I’m not sure what’s got into Woody – whether the ordination training has been bugging him, or whether his recently becoming a father is bringing about the transformation that nothing else could – but there he was, in the corridor, ironing!