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  • Emily Bainbridge

Pastoral Letter - 26th June

Dear Friends,

Thank you to everyone who has responded over the past week to my invitation to let me know of things for which you would like to offer thanks during the past 3 months. I am busy compiling an Anthem of Gratitude, as promised. As someone who relies heavily on inspiration, I ask that you be patient with me until I am happy to send it out as a cohesive composition that does some form of justice to the thoughts you have expressed. I am grateful to you for the care you have taken over your responses which I have found moving, inspiring and some, even amusing... As well as the death of Dame Vera Lynn which I wrote of last week, statues and sculptures have been very much in the news recently. The appropriateness of (literally) elevating people and putting them on pedestals and the worthiness or otherwise of those depicted and commemorated are vexed questions being heatedly and quite rightly, discussed. In recent weeks we have seen the desecration and destruction of some sculpted forms and the protection and removal of others. I wonder whether this is partly to do with the secularisation of society? In earlier centuries some at least of the sculptures and statues which surrounded us were of those declared by the Church as saints, people who helped make God more real for us, showing us an example of discipleship and inspiration for living, people whom we could aspire to be more like. Pope John Paul ll famously declared more women and men as saints than all his predecessors put together. He said this was because people needed role models, people whose lives and examples stirred us up toward being more loving, compassionate, sacrificial, courageous, forgiving and serving of others. We all need such inspiration from fellow human beings who show us what can be achieved in our lives, people who redefine society's norms and values, break down unnecessary and unjust barriers and who allow for more creative and compassionate possibilities to exist. But I wonder if in the media, in celebrity shows and magazines, we are being presented with the calibre of people that are sufficiently effective role models, who can successfully stimulate us to strive to be creative in our use of the gift of life and innovative in our achievements, to bring about positive and constructive change within society and benefit to others? We need heroes and heroines, people who stir us up to achieve greater things and yes, perhaps we also need then to celebrate such people in stone or marble, bronze or terracotta. Most sculptors do most of their work to order, commissions pay the bills! They try to balance truth with flattery for those whose commissions are of themselves or of a loved one. Sometimes though, a sculptor choses the face, the body, to depict, to mould into being. Sometimes it is inspired by a photograph, other times by someone whom they have noticed on a bus, the train, in a waiting room, in a shop, whose face intrigues them, whose expression haunts them, seen perhaps in an unguarded moment which admits the onlooker into the secret world within. This image the artist allows to be imprinted on their imagination, to evoke later on when they arrive at their studio or reach for their sketch book. There are other occasions of course when their fingers insinuate themselves into the clay in a bright moment of inspiration and a face is formed, an expression realised and it is as though a new person has been born. One of the most wonderful human beings I have ever met was a sculptor named Karin Jonzen. I first encountered her through her work, at an exhibition in Cork Street and then, at the suggestion of the gallery owners, I visited her at her studio. She lived in Gunter Grove. She told me to get off the Tube at Earl's Court and to walk through Brompton Cemetery, that amazing oasis of wild, calm, reflective stillness in the frenzy of our city. I found the imposing, five storey house, saw the side door she had asked me to come to down a small passageway and went toward it to knock. I assumed she lived in, if not the whole house then a chunk of it. But no, her home was literally a lean-to at the side, a corrugated plastic roof magnifying the sound of the relentless rain, but admitting stark, pure light, essential for any artist. There was an island of chairs and a battered, upright sofa, surrounded by a forest of sculpted forms: torsos dressed and undressed, faces in repose, in surprise, in innocence, complete and incomplete. She, by the time I met her, was a wizened old lady, with claws for hands, riddled with osteoarthritis, but still they moulded clay and created wonder, celebrated truth, conveyed secrets, achieved authenticity in sculptured form. I believe that she had work accepted by the Royal Academy for their Summer Exhibition, every year for over fifty years. In the 1950s her name appeared in the same sentences as those of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, but whereas they pursued abstract form, she continued with the figurative, perhaps fading from public view but maintaining her artistic integrity. The photograph which heads this letter is of a terracotta Mother and Child which Karen did for the Festival of Britain in 1951. Apparently there were that year sculptures everywhere around our capital city, if not our country. This work was destined to stand outside the church of Saint Mary Le Bow, or at least, a bronze of it, taken from the original. The story of its making is significant. She told me, I don't think in confidence, that hers was not a good marriage, there was abuse, if not physical then certainly emotional and psychological. They had a young son and, as it was becoming difficult to remain, she left, taking her young boy with her. Together they moved into a small, bare, drab, unheated attic and there she was tempted to end it all. Instead, she told me, she poured all her fear, all her longing, all her pain, all her love, into the creation of this Mother and Child. To know her story, is to see her sculpture in a different light. Perhaps you can see from the photograph that there is a look of deep concern and yet serene strength in the mother's eyes. With one had she protectively cradles her child and with the other, relaxed at her side, she gives him the freedom to move away should he wish to do so. The child is looking beyond, toward something which is clearly fascinating him, a questioning look in his eyes, yet his hand is firmly placed on his mother's heart and his body is turned toward her. It is an honest, tender work, compelling in its emotional realism and convincing in its depiction of a close and loving relationship. For me, more than a Hepworth or a Moore, this work stirs my sense of wonder and rekindles warmth in my humanity. Other works by Karin Jonzen also claim my attention through their evocation of authentic human emotions, especially her reflective figures. She spent her life noticing people, celebrating in clay the truth of what she discerned beneath the surface of people. Hour by hour, day by day, week by week, year by year, she was caught up, as R.S. Thomas has it, "in art's neurosis," trying to get it right. I remember going to the Foundry with her once, eating cherries in the back of a Black London Cab. She was having two bronzes cast from an original terracotta, bought by Joanna Lumley at a Summer Exhibition, one for me, one for The Swedish Church in central London which she was donating it to, in memory of her beloved parents. When she saw how far they had progressed with the bronzes she noticed that there were the minutest defects caused by the inexact process, which she then asked to be corrected. "I don't think anyone will notice" said the Foundryman. She looked as though someone had slapped her across the face. "But that's what sculpting is all about" ,she pleaded, "getting those small details right. That's what makes the thing, that's what makes it work, that is what makes it beautiful". Her wide-eyed innocence shaming the man into complying with her wishes. Most of us are not sculptors, most of us will never have sculptures made of us, either to sit on a plinth in some celebrated site in our city, or to gather dust in the corner of a family drawing room, but each of us has a work in process, and that work is our selves. As society rightly questions the worthiness, the appropriateness of who to commemorate in public places, most of us are surely aware that all of us are compromised, we each have some shadow side we hope never gets disclosed, most of us are made of stuff that has blemishes, no one is devoid of some negative aspect of our character or past. Saints are those who, though acutely aware that they are not in any way perfect, ask that God perfect them in the crucible of prayer. They are people who, like Karin Jonzen in her artistic endeavour, keep on working to remove the blemishes, the roughness, the disharmony, the imbalances, the better to refine, redefine, who they are as people created, loved, called, compelled by our Creator, to be His friends, His disciples, His ambassadors, shining with the indwelling Holy Spirit, to be able to say as did Saint Paul: "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me". The work of art you and I are asked to craft every day of our lives, is our own unique self. It is always a work in process. It is for us a lifetime's work. But as we read in Jeremiah Chapter 18, God is Himself like a potter, and we like clay in His hand, whom He moulds into being, creating us, recreating us in His own image, breathing new life into us, that we may live in His strength, not in our own. This process of becoming more real, more whole, more complete as works of His art, offers us another perspective on Jesus' words from the Cross, "Into Thy hands O Lord, I commend my Spirit". Perhaps it is to His potter's hands that we too need to submit ourselves, ever to be moulded into His image, ever to become more truly the people He has created us to be. May He, the divine potter, take us, mould us, refashion us, smoothing out the blemishes, repairing any damage, perfecting us in His own image. May God help us and may we help God to achieve this work of allowing all of us to become more fully the works of art, the people, He has created and longs for us to be. This is my prayer for you. Please pray it may be so for me too. With blessings and best wishes Jeff


ZOOM SERVICE SUNDAY 28th June. Please join us for our Zoom service when we will also be joined by The Rt. Rev'd Dr. Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington. Our Collect: Almighty God, You have broken the tyranny of sin And have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts, Whereby we call you Father: Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, That we and all creation may be brought To the glorious liberation of the children of God. This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN. Our readings are: Romans Chapter 14 verses 7-12. Luke Chapter 6 verses 35-38.

Notices Our Church will be open for private prayer on Wednesday 1st July 10am-12noon and Sunday 5th July 4pm-6pm. Please note that due to Government Imposed Restrictions, only the first 20 people will be able to be admitted.

======== It has been brought to the attention of the Wardens that, because of building plans for the centre of Twickenham, further parking restrictions may affect people visiting St. Mary's for Services and other events. Anyone wishing to make representations to the Council should do so by Sunday 12th July. We understand that it is the number of individuals who write rather than the number of corporate entities that is likely to affect the outcome . All enquiries and concerns should be addressed to the Planning Department of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.


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