A Lent reflection with a difference

,

THE Revd David Meara reflects on the creative way Kidlington Christians have creatively used Lent as a time of preparing for the mystery of Good Friday and Easter.

Christ’s seamless robe. Photo: Kidlington Church

Four years ago the Rector of Kidlington, the Revd Felicity Scroggie, invited people from the parish to gather to discuss what they wanted their Lent preparation to be like. The group wondered whether Lenten reflection could be helped through making things together in a practical group, as well as through discussing things in a more traditional Lent group.

Rosemary Meara, a retired art teacher and textile artist, volunteered to lead and the Kidlington Making Group was born. During Lent 2015 seven or eight people made prayer flags, and re-cycled metal crosses and explored photography. Since then the group has grown in number: 15 in 2016, 20 in 2017 and 25 in 2018. It has been joyous to see people grow in confidence and collaboration. To start with people thought you had to be skilled in practical/creative ways, but each year more and more people have joined and discovered that they can make wonderful creations and in so doing enter more deeply into the themes of faith, humanity, and theology.

One year we modelled in plaster our own hands in prayerful shapes and asked people to donate old shoes, which were laid from the Lychgate to the church porch as a symbol of our journeys through life. On Holy Saturday we put flowers in each to express the new life which Jesus brings to our journeying. Passers-by saw the avenue of shoes leading to the church and local people brought their own shoes too.

Last year we responded to T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘Ash Wednesday’ and created a huge metal eagle and small wire birds, an enormous robe which hung beneath the tower, and metal hangings suspended from the yew trees in the churchyard, which tinkled mysteriously in the wind. These installations formed a powerful the basis for the Good Friday reflections, so collaborative art contributed to liturgy and worship.

This year we follow the dramatic story of the Raising of Lazarus.  Taking up themes of illness, death, resurrection, grief, and release, we are making a ‘Lazarus’ quilt’, and an installation of medicinal tablets made of clay, both our response to illness and disease. We have also made a life-size coffin which will have prayer ribbons issuing from it, and painted fish made out of recycled wood to express the freedom and fluidity of resurrection life. Once again, our installations will provide a visual focus during the three-hour meditation on Good Friday, as we reflect on the path Jesus took through death to new life and the Easter promise of his abiding presence.

It is always extraordinarily moving to see how people blossom in the group and find satisfaction in creating something with their hands. In creating concrete pieces, we explore meaning in Scripture and in our lives. In helping each other we develop new confidence and relationships.

The creativity overflows not only into liturgy but also into mission as we also make things for installation in the churchyard so that passers-by can engage with them and can see the church as active, creative, challenging, and very much alive.

But the real value of the group is in the process of making itself, and in revealing to those who take part that using our hands, as well as our minds, is a valid and fruitful way of journeying through Lent, and deepening our response to the wonder and mystery of the Cross.