Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A History of Christianity in 15 Objects

The series at Deddington Church, run in association with the Faculty of Theology, reaches its end this September, with Objects 14 and 15.

 Admission is free to both talks, and refreshments are available.

September 6th, 7.30pm, Object 14: The Church of the East Stele or the ‘Nestorian Stone’, presented by Martin Palmer.

Presented by the broadcaster, theologian, Sinologist and environmentalist Martin Palmer, this stone dates from 781 AD and tells the story of the arrival and spread of Christianity in China in beautiful Chinese poetry. In terms of Christian history, the Stele is deeply significant. It conveys a form of Christianity that taught Original Goodness not Original Sin. It was a non-power based form of early Christianity unlike the Roman Empire and Christianity and as such offered a completely different way of being Christian; it had women ministers, was largely vegetarian and refused to own slaves - unlike, for example, Buddhist monasteries in China. The Stele also has the best preserved texts from the Church of the East, which from the 5th century to the 13th century was two to three times bigger in terms of numbers than the Church of the West and spread at its height from present day Iraq through Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Iran, the Central Steppes, Afghanistan, India, China, Mongolia to Japan and Korea. Yet, its history is almost unknown in the West. Martin Palmer will explore the Stele's history, its theology and the radical challenge it presents to how we think about Christianity. Martin discovered the only remaining building from the Church of the East, built in 650 AD, and this is now to be the centre-piece of a new Chinese-Government funded 'Museum of Christianity in China' to open in three years at a cost of roughly £110 million. Martin will explore why the Stele, and this building, are of such significance to contemporary China.

September 20th, 7.30pm, Object 15: Statute of Christ the King, Swiebodzin, Poland, presented by Daniel Inman.

Completed in 2010, and 33 metres tall (108 feet), the statue of Christ the King towers over the small town of Swiebodzin in western Poland and claims to be the largest statute of Jesus in the world, even beating its more celebrated peer, Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro. The local priest Sylwester Zawadski who championed its construction, claimed the statue would bring many pilgrims - and economic revival - to the town. A mighty edifice, it speaks of the strength of Christian life in post-communist Europe. With weak foundations according to some structural engineers, and likely to collapse in a matter of decades, does this statue also speak of the precarious future for Catholicism and Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe? Taking the statue as our final object, the Curate of Deddington, the Rev Dr Daniel Inman explores the recent fortunes and future of Christianity in twenty-first century Europe.

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