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North Lambeth art trail prompts reflection on loss

26 March 2021


The cross created by students of St Gabriel’s College, Camberwell

The cross created by students of St Gabriel’s College, Camberwell

INTERACTIVE art installations on a nine-mile Passion Trail from Clapham to Waterloo on Saturday provoked reflection and quiet engagement on the pain and loss suffered in the pandemic.

Created by 14 churches and schools in the Lambeth North deanery, the nine-mile, self-guided discovery trail embraced the communities of Brixton, Clapham, Stockwell, Oval, Vauxhall, Kennington, and Lambeth, and followed the Stations of the Cross, the First being St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, Stockwell.

Participants were invited to reflect not only on the experience of the pandemic at this anniversary time, but also to view issues such as racial injustice through the same prism. In a video at the Tenth Station, St John the Divine, Kennington, parallels were drawn between Jesus stripped of his human dignity and those facing racism stripped of theirs.

The organisers could not have foreseen that, as the trail went from the Third Station, St Paul’s, Clapham, to the Church of the Holy Spirit, Narbonne Avenue, it would take in the makeshift memorial to Sarah Everard, on Clapham Common (News, 19 March). That had been “extremely powerful”, the Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, and the instigator of the trail, Canon Giles Goddard, said.

Students from St Gabriel’s College, Camberwell, produced artworks reflecting how human beings stumbled and fell in life. At St Matthew’s, Brixton, a trellis cross covered with winter vegetation and borne by a prone Christ-figure symbolised the cross of the afflicted earth.

The bringing down of Christ from the cross, at St Anselm’s, Kennington, demonstrated the agony of loss, but also the qualities of gentleness, care, and love demonstrated throughout the pandemic. Here, participants were asked to complete a floral display recreating a Rubens painting.

Churches had been very creative in the things that they had done, Canon Goddard said. “One of the best, for me, came from the very small congregation of Christ Church, Brixton Road, where we could read the reflections every member had written on how Covid had affected them, and then light a candle.”

Children there hunted for angel wings, one of many dedicated activities for them on the trail. From St John’s, Waterloo, the Fourteenth Station, they took away seeds to plant as a reminder of the new life of Easter. “By retelling the Passion of Christ in different art forms, we hope to plant the seeds of reflection, renewal, and revival in local communities scarred by the grief, anger, and loss of the last 12 months,” Canon Goddard said.

This was not a walk of witness — participants took the trail, or sections of it, at their own pace — but it drew the attention of passers-by where the church was in a prominent place. At the Twelfth Station, St Anne and All Saints’, Vauxhall, people stood to look at a powerful image of Jesus nailed to the cross, and put up prayer flags.

The Area Dean of Lambeth North, the Revd Caroline Clarke, said in advance of the trail: “Over 500 people have died with Covid-19 in Lambeth over the last 12 months, and hundreds more have experienced grief and fear not just from Covid-19 but from climate change and racial injustice.

“We hope that the trail will give people an opportunity to explore the persistence of solidarity, love, and hope amid the darkness of injustice, pain, and despair of the last year.”

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