Spiritual Life column

Jonathan Evens has written a ‘Spiritual Life’ column about commission4mission for the current edition of the Ilford Recorder:

“Last week the artist Henry Shelton’s new Stations of the Crown of Thorns for St Paul’s Goodmayes were featured on the Faiths page of the Recorder. Henry Shelton’s ‘Stations’ complement other existing artwork at St Pauls Goodmayes, including stained glass by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and Leonard Evetts plus a Madonna and Child by Jane Quail, to create a feast of visual art for worshipper and visitor alike.

The commission to paint these new ‘Stations’ was gained through commission4mission (c4m) which aims 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 the churches involved.

c4m has recently responded to a national consultation by Arts Council England on the arts saying that faith communities are part of the wider community of engagement with the arts and it is important that they are recognised in the matrix of how and why people value and enjoy the arts.

Members of faith communities may enjoy art which (although not exclusively) touches and nurtures their spiritual lives. Members of c4m (as both artists and audiences) talk about the value of art in their spiritual growth and understanding. Art has been an important medium through which communication about faith and belief has taken place over centuries, and as a result the church has enjoyed a long partnership with the arts, though this seems to have eroded in recent decades.

Churches can be significant as: spaces in which artworks are and can be displayed; venues for community art initiatives; places for accessing community members for consultation and/or participation in community arts initiatives; holders of significant arts collections; and as a continuing source of inspiration and encouragement for artists. The recent trend of placing significant art work in church venues (e.g. Antony Gormley, Flare II, St Paul’s Cathedral), and the development of church-based arts spaces (e.g. Wallspace) and mainstream artists drawing on Christian themes (Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo) has to be seen in the context of this.

At a time when the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that “the church needs more artists”, the church, Christian organisations and faith communities need to be seen as valid partners for the arts.

And, as the Bishop of Barking has said: “History can demonstrate that it is the Arts that have often provided the prophetic lead that society then follows. At a time in our national life when our society is in danger of losing its way and has been cut loose from its historic Christian values there is a role for the arts to be prophetic in re-establishing in contemporary ways the values that made our nation the great society that it is.”

At c4m we hope to increasingly play our part in that vision with Henry Shelton’s Stations of the Crown of Thorns being an exciting, current example of what the visual arts in Churches can contribute and reveal.”

Other current journalism by Jonathan includes a obituary for the artist John Reilly in the Church Times, a review of the Resurrection exhibition at Bury St Edmonds to be published in the next edition of Art & Christianity, a response to an Artz Ville article on the Arts Centre Group website, and an interview with Catharine Pusey (then of the Employer’s Forum on Belief) in the current edition of the Faith in Business Quarterly.