NOT every church will go as far as the people at St Alban’s, Romford, have, but others may be emboldened by their example after the setting up of a new Christian arts organisation in the London-Essex borderlands of the diocese of Chelmsford.
It is called commission4mission, and aims at encouraging the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian art in churches, both as a means of fund-raising for charities and as a mission opportunity for the churches involved.
The idea for the organisation originated with the artist Henry Shelton, a member of the congregation at All Saints’, Goodmayes, who has been supported by the Vicar of St John’s, Seven Kings, in Ilford, the Revd Jonathan Evens.
Its Patron is the Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd David Hawkins, who took part in the launch event at St Alban’s, Romford, earlier this year.
Mr Shelton’s idea took shape after the Bishop dedicated the Goodmayes church’s new etched-glass memorial windows by the artist, who says: “The purpose of the society will be to promote modern Christian art in all its forms (i.e. painting, sculpture, music, etc.), and by doing so to raise money for charity, particularly children’s charities.
“I want us to be offering quality work and craftsmanship rather than mass-produced work, to continue the legacy of the Church as a great commissioner of art.”
St Alban’s, Romford, was the venue for the launch on account of its more than 20 separate commissions, which have led to 12 Diocesan Advisory Committee Design Awards. Among them are Stations of the Cross by Charles Gurrey, a Christus Rex by Peter Eugene Ball, seven stained-glass windows by Patrick Reyntiens, and a chancel-ceiling mural by Mark Cazalet.
The Vicar of St Alban’s, the Revd Roderick Hingley, who has transformed his church through these commissions, gave a tour of the works of art, and described how they had helped to transform the building in terms of light, space, and welcome.
The organisation is planning other exhibitions and events, including a showcase exhibition and study day at Chelmsford Cathedral in November.
Bishop Hawkins, in a keynote address, suggested that commission4mission would need to be a support to the special people that artists are in their creativity, but also find ways of revealing and developing the creativity of all.
Membership is open to any Christian artist (of any discipline) or supporter of Christian art. Commission4mission promotes the purchase of artworks by churches with donations in memory of the departed, who are subsequently commemorated in plaques placed (wherever possible) on or near the artwork itself.
All commissions undertaken by commission4mission involve the donation of a significant proportion of the overall cost to charity.
For more information, phone the Revd Jonathan Evens on 020 8499 2170, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.