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Bristol church holds competition for design to replace Colston stained glass

27 May 2022

St Mary Redcliffe

The original four Victorian windows at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, which were replaced with plain glass in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020

The original four Victorian windows at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, which were replaced with plain glass in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests...

A CHURCH has launched a design competition for stained glass to replace panels in memory of the 17th-century merchant and slave trader Edward Colston.

The original four Victorian windows at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, were replaced with plain glass in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, during which a statue of Colston in the city was torn down and thrown into the harbour (News, 12 June 2020). Window panes in Bristol Cathedral that commemorated Colston were also covered up or removed.

The windows in St Mary’s were part of a larger design in the church’s north transept illustrating the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a lawyer tests Jesus by asking him: “And who is my neighbour?” They bore Colston’s name, his emblem, and the personal motto that he took from Jesus’s response: “Go and do thou likewise.”

“The story has many messages, but one of them is that the lawyer’s concept of ‘neighbour’ needs to be challenged, broadened, and expanded,” a spokesman for the church said. “That lesson is as much a challenge for 21st-century Bristolians as it was for people in Jesus’s time.

“The competition offers us the opportunity to open up this question once again within the context of this window. Rather than the four panels at the base of the window quoting the conclusion of the story, we will use them to provide the context of the story, and allow the window to provoke the contemporary viewer with the same challenge to broaden and expand our understanding of the question ‘And who is my neighbour?’ just as Jesus provoked the lawyer.”

BRISTOL CATHEDRALWorkmen in Bristol Cathedral remove panes that include references to Edward Colston, in 2020

The competition is open to anyone of any age. Shortlisted entries will be displayed in an exhibition at the church and on its website, stmaryredcliffe.co.uk, from 20 August to 18 September, so that the judges can consider public opinion before their final decision. The winner will receive £1000.

The Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, Canon Dan Tyndall, said that he was “very much looking forward” to seeing the designs. “Rather than hurriedly create new stained-glass panels, we wanted to take the time to reflect, consult, and design a solution that is well-considered, represents our worldview today, and will stand the test of time.

“The successful design will help us to remember our past, enable everyone to experience the gospel, and leave us all feeling a sense of hope in our shared future.”

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, said: “It’s an excellent idea to go out to the community to seek ways to re-imagine what the stained-glass panels might look like today. I am so pleased to see St Mary Redcliffe engaged in this work, as it aligns strongly with my personal commitment to racial justice and my desire to see positive change in the diocese of Bristol.”

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