FLIGHTS of angels have appeared across the country as churches offer messages of hope after a year of crisis.
They have adapted the traditional image of angels into different forms, ranging from human-size figures to knitted versions and graffiti — all drawing on the nativity story in which angels brought “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds.
In the Wellington and District Team Ministry, in Somerset, the Pioneer Curate, the Revd Richard Kelley, crowd-funded Angels of Hope: a project to install 120 illuminated angels around the town. Schoolchildren made lavender-bag angels and cards, which were taken to care-home residents. A Team Vicar, the Revd Selina Garner, also awarded an Angel Prize every day in December, for someone doing good works in the community.
#angelsoverhoxtonAngel wings in Hoxton, in London
Mr Kelley said: “Congregation members have found this year as hard as everyone else. This is a reminder that their church community is still there, able to work with God to reveal the light in the darkness, both to themselves and to others.
“For the community at large, this is an offer of hope through a gift of light-hearted joy. The churchyard at St John’s [Wellington] is filled every evening with families taking photos and children playing amongst the angels.”
In Atherton, Greater Manchester, St Philip’s C of E Primary School joined four congregations to make 800 paper angels, which have filled the church, and more than 100 knitted angels, which were given to care homes near by. “I’m super-thankful to the creativity of a small group who turned an idea into something incredible,” the Team Vicar of Atherton and Hindsford with Howe Bridge, the Revd Tracy Marshall, said.
In London, St Anne’s, Hoxton, teamed up with Grace Church Hackney, which meets in the same building, to launch an “angel-bombing” of the district, encouraging people to place angelic figures anywhere they could.
More than 1000 angels have appeared: spray-chalk stencils in alleyways; wooden cut-outs in doorways, tied to lamp posts, or tucked between railings; and drawings on windows. One of the first, reflecting an aspect of inner-city life, was placed over a bullet hole in a shop front next to St Anne’s, where there had been a shooting days before.
#angelsoverhoxtonOne of the small wooden angels spread around Hoxton streets
People have also posed for pictures in front of a pair of golden wings outside the church. An Instagram account, @angelsoverhoxton, gathered more than 500 followers in its first week, and the project has attracted international attention — even inspiring an Indonesian version: “Angels over Jakarta”.
“It’s been wonderful to see families and friends walking around the streets on ‘angel hunts’, spotting small angels tucked in nooks and crannies,” the Vicar of St Anne’s, the Revd Ben Bell, said. “The hope embedded in the Christmas story is found not in the warm glow of fancy places, but in a manger out the back of a Premier — we assume — Inn.
“To be deprived of the opportunity to belt out a mulled-wine-infused rendition of ‘Hark! the herald’ is obviously devastating, but perhaps this year we are afforded the opportunity to heed these words, ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’.”
The Minister-in-Charge of Grace Church Hackney, the Revd Andrew Jones, said: “Understandably, there is a lot of fear around at the moment. The Hoxton angels help us not to be afraid. They remind us that God in Jesus Christ has lived among us, and is with us”.
In a similar project earlier this year, volunteers decorated Ripon Cathedral, in North Yorkshire, with 10,000 origami angels as a way of showing support for the community through the coronavirus pandemic. Many included prayers sent in online.