I’m continuing to process last week’s General Synod meeting, and there certainly is a lot to process; not just the very full agenda over long days, and not just the ongoing rumblings about the confusion during the elections to the Crown Nominations Commission, in which many of us were unable to vote on our iPads or phones and ended up using paper forms, and some people were apparently unable to vote at all.
As a person involved in creating the LLF resources, though, much of my processing is around the small exhibition at York University and the newly-unveiled art installation on ‘Fracture and Faith’ at the Minster. I’ve shared an image on the previous blog post but here it is again:
Readers of this blog may recall that, when LLF began, the logo showed a tree. We were given various interpretations of this; deep roots in research, the sap as the Holy Spirit, that sort of thing. I was never convinced by that tree. Its bare roots suggested it wasn’t long for this world. The identikit leaves suggested conforming to one view. The tree changed, becoming a little more relaxed with some leaves falling off, but when the LLF book came out it had been replaced by a stained glass window, as seen here:
I wasn’t involved at all in the discussions which must have led to that logo, but I wondered when I first saw it if it was more about seeing current questions through tradition and history (unlikely when history hadn’t had much of a look-in) or more about lots of little pieces of glass making up our picture, and thus different views on sexuality, gender identity and relationships as forming the church?
The York campus LLF exhibition, which can also be seen online if you register on the LLF hub, is a sample of the creative responses people were invited to make rather than, or in addition to, filling in the questionnaire. Among the photos of people sitting in the groups in which they had done the course, poems, a kneeler, drawings, a knitted rainbow and some tapestry, there are extra items for those viewing the exhibition. These include some stained glass window frames, shaped exactly like the LLF logo, with an invitation to viewers to add a piece of glass to the picture. So there it’s clearly an image of participation.
During the Minster service on the Sunday of General Synod, the new art installation was displayed behind the nave altar. The Archbishop of York mentioned it during the service and suggested a further spin on the stained glass window theme: that these chains of glass held together by steel looked like a window deconstructing itself – or, a dispersed window coming together. To me, though, it looked more like an almost-invisible wave moving through the Minster. I loved the shape, the colours, the way it changed depending on where you stood. At the start of the Minster service we were warned that there may be some demonstrators disrupting the worship, but that Security had it under control and if protests weren’t peaceful then they would get involved. In the event, there were no such protests, but I was told that one of the groups they had been expecting was of people opposed to the art installation. I was, and am, bemused as to why anyone would object to a thought-provoking and very beautiful piece of art being displayed in this setting.
Later on the same day, when spending an hour sitting in a hot portakabin with a group of other members each asked to speak for c.90 seconds on ‘what the Bible means to me’ – the LLF ‘group work’ set for this session of Synod – I wondered whether it wouldn’t have been more interesting to ask us for our responses to the art installation. And that’s not just because the idea that the real cause of division is how we engage with the Bible was mooted seven years ago, way back in the Regional Shared Conversations, when one of the resources had essays by Ian Paul, Loveday Alexander and Phil Groves on this topic. It’s still available here: so why reinvent the wheel, why act like this is a new approach? Those who chose not to attend the Minster service could – and some I think did – go in to see the display. I think that would have led to less of the sincere repetition of assorted clichés about the Bible, in which it was immediately clear from what tradition each of our members came, and more engagement. Sadly, it’s too late now, but perhaps this blog post will stimulate some thoughts on what the installation means for other people?