Once upon a time, a man sowed a tiny mustard seed in the ground. From it grew a tree, so large that the birds of the air came and made a home in its branches. (Matthew 13v 31-32)
This picture shows a community installation artwork called Flock, which I helped make with Shine Charity, Bradford. What strikes you most about the art piece? Its size? Colours? Mixture?
The art piece symbolised the work of the charity, being a small grass roots organisation and then growing into a welcoming place for all. Each person who came to the community centre was given the opportunity to make a bird to symbolise themselves. The birds were very individual, ranging from sparrows and robins to a bird of paradise, a peacock and other exotic birds which refugees remembered from their home countries. The final artpiece represents both individuality and community. By working and being together we do not lose ourselves but enlarge ourselves.
This is a time of isolation and yet in some ways, we are becoming more connected. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we can sing with a choir or join our pilates class on zoom, we can skype our families and friends. And many of us are in touch with those we haven’t talked to in ages. The aloneness has reminded us of our connectedness. But most of us will testify that we are feeling lonely too. Perhaps this is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we need each other. Yes, that technology is a wonderful means of communication. But that it isn’t enough and is no replacement for human contact. I have lost count of the number of times that I have watched people in a pub sat together but each on their mobile. Apart together.
At the start of this time, I thought that maybe we need to learn what we value, what we realize we value, what we miss and what we don’t miss. And one of these things I hope we recognise is our need for community. Let’s hope that apart we will learn to be truly together.
The second picture is on an art piece called ‘Winged’ by my artist friend Rebecca Strain. She made it with a church congregation that was struggling with its identity as a community. She invited each member of the group to cut a feather out of an old church newssheet – which is the way that they communicated with each other. Each feather was then collated to make a huge pair of wings, a sheltering presence, which was suspended in their church building.
Take time to look at the two pictures and consider these questions:
Where and who are your community?
What makes you feel isolated or lonely?
What keeps you connected?
What are you going to value more because of this time?
What might you change because of what you have learnt?
You will need an A4 sheet of paper. Ideally a recycled piece, perhaps a newsletter or community action sheet or something that has been sent as a communication to you, and scissors
- as you make the feather, think about the questions you have been considering
- fold the A4 sheet in half vertically (making a thinner and longer rectangle)
- cut in from the centre of the fold in a curve to the outside (see diagram below) at both ends
- cut straight chops from outside edge in
- open out to reveal your feather.
- Perhaps you would like to send your feather to someone else through the post