Reader Writes, June 2018

One of the most wonderful things to happen in May, apart from the turning of the weather and the coming of the swifts, was the glorious Festival of Makers. Walking into St Mary’s Church and seeing it filled with glorious craft and art with celebratory shapes and colours was a wonderful experience. My own special acquisition was a jumper of Celtic pattern knitted from brown local Ryland wool. Not only that but the wool had been selected in Leominster, washed and combed and carded, then spun and wound, and over the course of weeks and weeks knitted into this natural magic of warmth and hand-craftiness. It joins the many other objects and fabrics in our home that have been made by hands with skill and love. There are bowls with coloured slip, mugs cradled for morning tea, hand woven blankets from a Transylvanian village, prints and paintings on the wall made by members of the family. All made with care and enjoyed with delight reflecting the creativity set deep in our nature.

Whilst various galleries and public places hosted works of art and craft, it was a joy to see the church turned into a vast and beautiful gallery; and the new lighting was a work of art in itself. Perhaps here lies some theology. God made us to be creative; he threw the spark of divine genius into the human mix. But it seems to be his light that allows us to see his creation as if through divine eyes. We delight in our own creativity and we delight in the artistic works of others in their myriad expressions. Our new splendid lighting made the displays shine and speak. The writer of Genesis tells us that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”. It’s our destiny to be creative, and it makes us restlessly fiddle, make, write and perform raw material into new worlds.

Seeing the church full of this mix of craft and art also displayed another truth. A church, lovingly looked after for so many centuries, is a sacred space; but it has no meaning without the community around and within it. Funerals and weddings display that gathering of community into a sacred space. But here for our festival we celebrated the mingling and combining of secular and spiritual in another part of our lives. The town came into the church and the church opened itself to artists and town together. It is how it should be, symbolic of the spiritual wholeness of things.

Artists and craft-people make us see beyond the visible, which is why they are so important and to be celebrated. But poets, philosophers and musicians do the same. With their help we are reaching into space we need to explore. To understand who we are and to find ways to respond to a changing world requires this exploration. And for my part I happily celebrate God’s artistry and genius in the same grateful breath. Walk from church, especially if you go uphill into Hergest Croft Gardens or across the park, and you find yet another endlessly playing stage of the natural creation streaming out before your eyes. Bird song, passing hobbies, flowers coming, the screaming swifts; they compel us to see and to celebrate brilliance.

Robert MacCurrach