Contemporary Christian art in churches

In a guest blog, Revd Jonathan Evens,  Priest for Partnership Development  at St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Stephen Walbrook,  writes about commission4mission, which commissions contemporary Christian art in churches.

commission4mission was launched in March 2009 by our patron, The Rt Revd David Hawkins, then Bishop of Barking, to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches ‐ as a means of fundraising for charities and as a mission opportunity for churches.

To enable this, we have a growing pool of artist members working in a variety of media and styles. Through art, we support churches in their ongoing mission, and also charities, as each year part of the proceeds from commissions is donated. From 2014 we have made Oasis our charity of choice, meaning that our charitable giving will be exclusively to Oasis for the time being.

Completed commissions

Our 13 completed commissions provide marvellous examples of what can be achieved when artists and churches share a vision for creativity and mission. They have involved nine of our artists and include etched windows, fused glass windows, a holy water stoup in oak and brass, mosaics, paintings, textiles and wooden reliefs.

In the time that commission4mission has been in existence we have:

  • built up a significant pool of creative artists able to deliver a wide variety of work to fit a range of budgets, making the commissioning of contemporary art viable for churches of all sizes and contexts;
  • gained and completed 13 commissions (most recently a Trinity window at All Saints Goodmayes, pictured below) including works at All Saints Goodmayes, All Saints Hutton, Christ Church Thames View, Dagenham Park Church of England School, Queens Hospital Romford, St Edmunds Tyseley, St Johns Seven Kings, St Margaret of Antioch Ilford, St Pauls Goodmayes, and St Peter’s Harold Wood;

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  • organised a programme of exhibitions and events, including venues such as Chelmsford Cathedral, the Pentecost Festival, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Stephen Walbrook, and the Strand Gallery;
  • organised study days on commissioning and public art;
  • published several collections of images, meditations and prayers;
  • initiated an Annual Service celebrating the Arts;
  • set up Art Trail and Olympics-themed projects; and
  • developed a website profiling our artists (http://www.commission4mission.org/) and a blog giving news of our activities (http://www.commission4mission.org/blogs/).

Latest exhibition, September 2016

Our fourth group exhibition in the setting of St Stephen Walbrook (39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN) will be held from Tuesday 6 – Friday 16 September (Weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm, Weds 11.00am – 3.00pm). An exhibition reception (6.30pm) and commission4mission’s AGM (5.30pm) will be held on Tuesday 6 September.

The theme of the show will be ‘Reflection’ and, as in previous years, will feature a wide variety of work from longstanding and new members. ‘Reflection’ is intended as a broad theme open to wider interpretation. Our artists showcase their individual engagements with this theme and we hope that the range and variety of work, both in terms of content and media, will give pleasure and prompt reflection. Exhibiting artists include: Hayley Bowen, Christopher Clack, Valerie Dean, Jonathan Evens, Terry Ffyffe, Rob Floyd, Maurizio Galia, Michael Garaway, John Gentry, Clorinda Goodman, Tim Harrold, Anthony Hodgson, Janet Roberts  and Peter Webb, among others.

commission4mission’s Chair, Peter Webb, says: “We are very fortunate to be able to exhibit regularly at St Stephen Walbrook. The exhibition always attracts a great deal of attention in the City. As before, interpretation of the theme is up to individual artists, and no doubt we will have the usual amazing variety and originality in the work submitted.”

A gift of 10 per cent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the charity Oasis.

Become a member

Full membership of commission4mission is by annual subscription (currently £30.00 per annum) and is open to artists, of any discipline. Artist Members benefit from having a page and a presence on the website with the possibility of attracting commissions. Members are invited to exhibit work at commission4mission exhibitions, and have opportunities for other involvement as we develop. Through their support of commission4mission, Associate Members help to promote Christian art.  They may represent a church or join as an individual. Associate Members are kept in touch with all commission4mission activities, invited to exhibition receptions and our Annual Service celebrating the Arts, and to take part in other related events. All Artist Members and Associate Members receive regular news and updates, usually by email.

For more information, contact Revd Jonathan Evens, on tel: 02076269000 or email: jonathan.evens@btinternet.com.  

Thomas ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ Gray’s Tercentenary

One of Buckinghamshire’s hidden gems has been brought to life by the Thomas Gray Anniversary Project.

Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and academic. His Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is arguably the most famous poem written in the English language and is believed to have been written in Stoke Poges, a village with which Gray had a close association throughout his life and where he was buried. 2016 marks Thomas Gray’s Tercentenary.

240px-Stoke_Poges_Church

St Giles’ Churchyard, Stoke Poges

Started in 2012, the project worked to restore Thomas Gray’s tomb in St Giles’ Churchyard, Stoke Poges, carry out conservation work on the Monument and introduce a new generation to that much-loved poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

Although nearly 5 metres high, the “plain, square block of stone of good size, without ornament or embellishment” which lies at the heart of the Thomas Gray Landscape in Stoke Poges is often overlooked.

This has now changed with the installation by the National Trust of the Thomas Gray Landscape board which welcomes visitors to the site and draws their attention to the legacy of this unassuming poet who penned one of the world’s most famous poems, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

On 9 July 2016, the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt. Revd Alan Wilson came to Stoke Poges to unveil the board and engage the attending audience with his explanation of the importance of this poem and its message concerning the contribution of every individual to the common good and the transitory nature of celebrity.

The Bishop of Buckingham studies the new information-board about Thomas Gray in Stoke Poges

The Bishop of Buckingham studies the new information-board about Thomas Gray in Stoke Poges

Diana le Clercq, a key player in organising the Stoke Poges Village Thomas Gray celebration was delighted to welcome volunteers who had worked on improving the landscape around the Monument and several of the children from Stoke Poges School who had participated in the Thomas Gray School Expeditions started in 2012.  Alex Kurtis who was there with his sister Sarah and their grandmother Pam Oliver is now a student at John Hampden School, founded in the name of a famous Buckinghamshire man who is mentioned in the Elegy.

“Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood”.

 

The Thomas Gray memorial

The Thomas Gray Memorial, Stoke Poges

Visitors enjoyed picnics by the Monument where the Burnham Concert Band played, tours of the Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens where teas were served by the Friends and visits to the Bell Tower after the bells rang out to invite people to attend the unveiling at 3 pm. The afternoon finished with a short programme of music and readings in St. Giles Church.  The day was the culmination of a project that started several years ago.

Readers interested to learn more about the Thomas Gray landscape are invited to attend the Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens Heritage walk which will take place on 11 September as part of Heritage Weekend.

More details

How to brand a church

Hugely influential and a signpost for future Anglican liturgy, St Paul’s Bow Common is widely regarded as the most significant post-War Church in Britain.  In 2013 the building won the National Churches Trust Diamond Jubilee Award and was chosen as the UK’s Best Modern Church.

Since then the church has started a major restoration project with the support of the National Churches Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders.

Another aspect of the church that is being updated is the visual style used on notice boards, letterheads, signage and other marketing and communication materials.

This work was carried out by Paperjam, a Belfast based branding agency which has worked closely with faith based organisations including the Diocese of London, the Bishop of London and the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Paul Malone, Director of Paperjam explains:

“Our task was to create a brand worthy of this iconic church building, so we set ourselves the aim to create a visual style that sits with the personality and age of the structure.”

“Having such an iconic and unusual building to work with was a real pleasure – we quickly discovered the beauty in the Brutalist minimalism and the play of light on concrete structure. The origin of the building had to be reflected in the new brand, so we looked to the era of its conception the 1950’s – 60’s for inspiration.”

“As such, we decided on using the Univers typeface family. This is one of the most prolific grotesque sans-serif typefaces of the century. The cool, systematically designed font family appealed to the rationalistic style we thought suited the building, giving written documents a clear and punchy feel.”

st paul's bow common

A new visual brand

“Additional to the typographical Logo, we also created a new visual brand for the church. This was  created with geometric shapes which are drawn from how the light strikes the angular surfaces the building itself. While the left part of the logo is an abstract illustration of the building, the right fulfils the symmetry with the help of letters. This has a more iconic feel, timeless and stand alone direction. “

“In today’s age of people being bombarded with brands. It’s ever more important that Churches evolve and adapt to convey a brand that reaches out to congregation and the local community a message that appears on all the platforms that are now available to them particularly social media. We are now communicating with a younger and younger market who not only expect but demand to be spoken to in a professional non pastoral manner. “

Watch Paperjam’s video on the Importance of Branding below.

 

Read more on Paperjam’s Website

And here for the thoughts of Creative Review

Looking forward to The Big Update?

We will, as always, be attending the Historic Religious Building Alliance’s The BIG UPDATE!

This year looks as exciting and informative as previous years, offering the chance to keep up to date with what’s happening to secure the future of historic religious buildings, and to meet others with similar interests and concerns. All are welcome.

There will be short, informative talks with space for questions and discussion, and time to network.

 

Speakers include (not in order of appearance):

* Keynote speaker: Sir Laurie Magnus, Chair of Historic England (a body which came into being when English Heritage split into two earlier this year)

* Philip Arundell talking about grants offered by the AllChurches Trust

* Ingrid Greenhow, talking about the ‘Taking Stock’ programme for Quaker Meeting Houses – a survey of these buildings to obtain a strategic overview of their importance and future opportunities.

* Rachel Harden, Deputy Director of Communication, Church of England, talking about effective ways of publicising a church project

* Shahed Saleem talking about the British Mosque, based on his survey of mosques and providing a foretaste of his forthcoming book

* Andy Warren of Natsol – everything you have always wanted to know about installing a compost toilet at your church

* John Winton, currently National Director of Churches Tourism Network Wales. This is soon to develop into Sanctaidd, a new organisation which will provide comprehensive support to all places of worship in Wales.

* CASE STUDY: Sara Loch and Chris Curtis on the Cupola Project in Blandford Forum

 

All are welcome.

The cost, including a full hot lunch and all refreshments, is £44.00 per person. Discounts are available to paid up members (see the booking form). Places are limited; paid up members receive priority. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries.

www.hrballiance.org.uk

Venue: St Alban’s Centre, Baldwins Gardens, London EC1N 7AB

 

See you there!

Churches – to close or not to close?

This week the Church of England issued a major report looking at the future of its 15,700 church buildings.

Writing on the Church of England’s Tumblr blog, Sir Tony Baldry, Chair of the CofE’s Church Buildings Council sums up the report as being about realising the potential of the buildings and not seeking widespread closure. He says:

A blessing?

“More than three quarters – 78% – of the Church of England’s 15,700 churches are listed. More than half of churches, 57%, are in rural areas, where only 17% of the population lives. The Church of England is responsible for around 45% of the grade I listed buildings in England and almost three quarters of these are in rural areas.”

“The review group is not putting forward a single solution to the challenges that some churches face but it is suggesting an approach that realises the potential of church buildings, rather than characterising them as a burden.”

Or a burden?

That’s the official view, but many do see church buildings as a burden. That view is summed up by Giles Fraser in a comment piece in The Guardian.

“The Church of England is the custodian of 15,700 churches. A whopping 78% of them are listed. And they are a millstone around our necks, sapping the energy of our wider social and religious mission, and transforming the church into a buildings department of the heritage industry. Indeed, I suspect that if every single one of them were blown up tomorrow, England would be a much more Christian country in 10 years’ time. Theologically, they are little more than rain shelters. And yet the C of E treats them with a reverence that ought to be reserved for God himself.”

Giles Fraser even suggests that the CofE takes an axe to churches in the same way that Dr Beeching did to British railways in the 1960s and closes those that are ‘underused’.

(For those who don’t remember those days, the Flanders and Swann ‘The Slow Train’ sums up the regret over that particular accountant led drive.)

Brought back to life

The irony is that now, fifty or so years after the closure of railway lines and stations, some of the axed lines are being re-opened. If churches are closed, in the future will we also be seeking to have them re-opened? That is in fact what has happened in Norfolk to the small church of St Mary in Forncett St Mary. The example is well worth considering when thinking about the options for church buildings. What is important is that the community has helped to bring the church back to life.

Forncett St Mary is a village in Norfolk, England. It is close to Forncett St Peter. The two shared a railway station Forncett on the main line between London and Norwich.  Ironically, it was closed as part of the Beeching Axe.

forncett st mary

St Mary’s Church, was originally mentioned in the Domesday Book, but rebuilt during the 14th, 15th and 19th centuries; the church was closed in 1980. A former rector of St. Mary’s was Revered John William Colenso, who later achieved fame as the first Bishop of Natal.

A successful friends group was formed and has over 100 members. Their aim has been to restore the church and graveyard. Enough work had been carried out to enable the church to be taken out of redundancy on the 26th June 2012 to become a chapel of ease to St. Peter’s Church, Forncett. The church has already held several services, including Carols by Candlelight, a Colenso Celebration service and talk, a Tenebrae service at Easter and has held its first wedding service for 43 years. Services will continue to be held as well as many more community and fundraising events which have been very well supported.

If you’d like to visit the church there is more information here

Eddie Tulasiewicz – Head of Communications, National Churches Trust

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