The Rough with the Smooth
The artist who created the communion table and lectern at Millmead Chapel, Guildford Baptist Church, has won a prestigious award
Stephen Owen picked up an Art and Christianity (A+C) award for Art in a Religious Context (permanent category). A + C is the UK’s leading educational charity in the field of visual art and religion.
Stephen was a member of the church's congregation before moving back to Wales to set up as a full-time artist. This was his first commission.
The lectern/ cross
The bottom of the lectern speaks of the harsh reality of the Cross. The large nail, made by blacksmith Chris Yeomans, is driven through the rough wood at the base. This piece serves as a stark reminder of the price Jesus paid at Calvary. At the bottom of the ‘tree’ there are slits in the wood into which written prayers can be tucked. The crossbeam at the top indicates the open pages of the word of God, and the shape is almost wing-like. From here, God’s Word takes flight - and will not return to him void.
The communion table
The table is a visual reminder of those words, “He is not here - He is risen!” Its base contains an off-centre, circular hole. The disciples’ shock at the empty tomb, the power of the risen Lord Jesus - all are echoed in the ruptured wood. The grave could not hold him. Death will not have the last word.
The base of the table is made from one solid piece of 120 year-old green oak and will therefore move (shake) with time. Lest we be in danger of becoming too familiar with the drama of the cross and resurrection, these artworks can shake us from complacency and help us see redemption afresh.
As your eye travels upwards, the wood of both pieces changes, from rough to smooth. Reflecting on this for Radio 4’s Daily Service, Professor Ben Quash comments:
'Christ became like us for a purpose. He became like us so as to change us into his perfect likeness. As they extend upwards, the wood of both objects becomes smoother and more finished. As we are to do. For God is working on us, in word and sacrament, in places of encounter like this little chapel—and is transforming us from one degree of glory to another.'
The chapel is open for private prayer and all are welcome to join in the monthly ‘rhythm of prayer,’ which includes Scripture meditation, the Healing Hour, Workplace Prayer, Sound Pictures (portraits painted through music and art) and the Daily Office.
Radio 4 broadcast their Daily Service from the Millmead chapel on 21 November, which can be listened to here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000bgf9
The artist, Stephen Owen, now has his own woodwork studio in Wales. Visit www.stephenowen.com for more details of his work.