Church harvests its own bread for the eucharist

23 October 2015

Dancing for bread: Divya Umakanth performs a Bharatanatyam dance at All Saints’, West Dulwich, in south London, as part of its harvest art project

Dancing for bread: Divya Umakanth performs a Bharatanatyam dance at All Saints’, West Dulwich, in south London, as part of its harvest art project

IN A harvest project with a difference, wheat was planted in a churchyard, winnowed, threshed, milled, and then baked into bread, as part of an art installation at a church in south London.

The artist-in-residence at All Saints’, West Dulwich, Sara Mark, worked with members of the congregation, schools, and members of the L’Arche community, on the journey from planting the wheat to eating the bread at the harvest eucharist and lunch afterwards.

Ms Mark, an installation artist and poet, began her residency last year with a “palette” of eight everyday materials and objects. These included half a bushel of wheat, which was sown after the Sunday morning service at the Spring Equinox. The planting, during the service, was accompanied by a performance of Indian Bharatanatyam dance by Divya Umakanth, to the song “Now the green blade rises”.

Ms Mark said: “It was very moving, as the wheat was blessed and danced out of the church. Everyone joined in. Wheat was taken to be grown in local schools, and by the L’Arche community, and it was all brought back and taken down to London’s only remaining windmill, in Brixton, to be milled.

“The project has been an amazing experience. It was conceived as a way of engaging the community in a shared activity, and connecting us to the seasons of the natural year; but the growing of wheat is also rich in symbolism, and graphically illustrates what is involved in ‘giving us our daily bread’.”

All Saints’, Dulwich, has had three artists-in-residence. Ms Mark’s approach has been to take everyday objects, and study how they are changed by use and experience. A black bowl brought into the church has held a baby in Advent, carried water from the river, and will turn gold for All Saints’ Day.

“I have been changed by this experience myself,” she said, “and I hope others have. My work is about place, and how it becomes soulful.”

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