St Barnabas Church, Joydens Wood

Vicar’s Letter May 2018

Just after Easter, I went to Tate Britain to see an exhibition – ‘The Impressionists in London’. I had arranged to meet a friend there; she lives in Suffolk, and to meet up in London every so often for a theatre trip or to visit an art gallery is a good way for us to spend time together.

We had booked tickets for this because she had suggested it.
It wasn’t until I was waiting for her in the gallery’s coffee shop, that I idly looked up the online reviews. These were rather negative in their assessment of the exhibition. Oh dear!

I did not despair however, because one of the things that I have learned as a very amateur artist myself is how drawing and painting helps me to see things with new eyes. When you are sketching something, you focus on the object or the scene in a completely concentrated way. So, sitting over my coffee I determined to ignore the negative opinions of the critics and try to see each picture as a window onto a scene that the artist had seen for himself (no women artists were represented!)

My friend duly arrived and we made our way around the exhibition. The most striking of the rooms of pictures was the final one, a collection of paintings done by Monet, depicting the River Thames around Westminster, capturing the distinctive London light in a pearly, misty glow. For three consecutive winters in 1899, 1900 and 1901, Monet had stayed at the Savoy Hotel, and devoted himself to his ‘Thames Series’, in the end working simultaneously on almost a hundred canvases. They were stunning. And when I was walking back along Millbank, and as I returned on the train from Charing Cross, I was able to see the familiar river-scape in a very different way, appreciating, as perhaps I had never done before, the play of light on the turgid water, and the grey luminosity of the overcast sky.

The bible talks a lot about eyes and sight and vision. The healing of the blind is a metaphor for the way in which God can heal us of our spiritual as well as our physical lack of vision. After the Resurrection, when the risen Jesus walks with companions on the Emmaus road, it is not until they have ‘broken bread’ that their eyes were open and they recognised him. We too need to find new ways of seeing the world, and so find God ever more present in familiar scenes, and in our everyday realities.
God bless
Reverend Ren Harding
contact me at The Vicarage, 6 Tile Kiln Lane

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