Our HeartEdge friends at St John’s Waterloo have their annual Arts Festival in May and June before closing for a major restoration, their first since 1951. The Waterloo Festival celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, a “return of hope”, for which St John’s, badly damaged by a war-time bomb, was restored and made the official Festival Church. Now, as then, out of a period of crisis and loss comes a fresh determination to make the world a better place.
The Festival is called Respair, the return of hope after a period of despair, a word that fell out of use many centuries ago but one they are reviving as we celebrate the brighter future that vaccines will bring and the rebirth of real-life creativity and shared experience.
Among the stories of hope being shared is that of Jewish émigré artists who used Christian iconography, worked for the Church and contributed to cultural life in post-war Britain. Hans Feibusch, for one, arrived in the UK in the 1930’s and received church commissions which enabled him to survive and thrive. He painted two magnificent murals at St John’s and came to be responsible for more murals in Church of England churches than any other artist in its entire history.
This is a story of effective interfaith dialogue and enjoyment of others creativity. It is a story where the Church is at the heart of welcome and hospitality combined with awareness of the immense contribution that refugees make to the culture and economy of the countries to which they travel. If it becomes a story we can reinhabit as a nation, then we will know respair.
Revd Jonathan Evens