‘The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.’
Roots and Shoots
This commission was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of St George’s Church, Leeds 1838 – 1988. The window was installed as part of the re-ordering of the church interior to fill a plain section of glass which was revealed once the Victorian galleries were removed. The design ‘Roots and Shoots’ expresses the theme of the anniversary year which was to look back in thanksgiving and look forward in hope. We retold the history of the past 150 years as well as the history of Christianity in Britain. We also gathered round a vision for the future mission of St George’s in the city centre and parish community, as well as the need for a new church centre and refurbishment of St George’s Crypt.
The window depicts the Tree of Life, with its roots reaching deep into the foundations of our faith, and its shoots pointing to God’s future for the church in Leeds. The tree is bearing the nine ‘fruits of the Spirit’ and leaves which are for the ‘healing of the nations’.
‘EarthWaterFireAir’ is one of the paintings commissioned to commemorate the opening of the St George’s Church Centre in 2005.
The work was inspired by the prayer of Anthony the Great, the Father of Monasticism. Anthony was a fourth century Egyptian monk – one of the Desert Fathers of the Coptic Church. His prayer calls on the Holy Spirit to inspire our lives by invoking the four elements of the natural world.
It is from dust that we are made and to dust that we will return. The fourth Beatitude of Jesus says ‘Blessed are the humble; they will inherit the earth’. The word humble comes from the Latin, humus. It reminds us to keep our feet on the ground. To be responsible stewards of the earth and, like Jesus, to have the attitude of a servant.
It is with water that we begin the Christian life, in the same way that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. Water is a symbol of being born again, of being washed, refreshed and having our thirst quenched.
When the Spirit encountered the disciples at Pentecost, ‘it was as if flames of fire rested on their heads’. Anthony’s prayer invites the Spirit to warm us, refine us and fire with God’s love so that we can live for Jesus.
The fourth element asks the Spirit to help us come up for air. To breathe spiritually as well as physically. Contemplation is about inhaling the breath of life. At Pentecost the Spirit came not only as fire but also as a mighty wind. Sometimes God comes to us with a whisper and sometimes with gale force, depending on our temperament and need at the time. The prayer and the painting invite us to wonder at the elements that make up our planet, and to call upon the Holy Spirit to inspire and transform our lives.
Prayer of St Anthony the Great
Christ the Lord
we ask you humbly
gather us under the
wings of your love.
Keep us alive
with the earth of humility
with the water of remorse
with the fire of love
with the air of contemplation
so that we may be worthy
of joining you who are life itself
with your help
who are blessed throughout
This commission was one of several paintings to commemorate the opening of The St George’s Centre in Leeds in 2006.