Historic Churches 2022

38 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 29TH ANNUAL EDITION sound composition helps connect the sculpture of the moon with the surrounding architecture: “For me, the music in the space shapes the atmosphere of the experience [and] guides the interpretation of the artwork.” The concept of combining the moon exhibit with music was extended by St John’s to include two services during the event: ‘Moon Sung’ Eucharist and Evensong drew audiences of up to 150 people. The church also hosted a piano recital with voice accompaniment during the exhibit. Reverend Neil Traynor, Associate Priest at the Holland Park Benefice said: “It was standing room only with an entirely new audience being introduced to classical music to rapturous applause and hugely positive feedback.” It is the inclusive, welcoming nature of the exhibits alongside the obvious draw of their beauty, that brings people of all ages and backgrounds into religious spaces they may never normally visit. Luke Jerram offers that “different cultures around the world have their own historical, cultural, scientific and religious relationships to the moon”, and it is clearly a universal symbol that people from all sections of society and across cultures can connect with. The installation at St John’s attracted, members of the Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Hindu and Christian communities, including teenagers and young families. There were many conversations about the building and its decorative scheme and many positive comments about the church itself. Many visitors fed back that they had passed the building for years and had never been inside, had thought it closed or had no idea what was inside the building. Others said they could not believe how amazing it was. Social media plays a key part in attracting visitors to exhibits in historic places of worship. Their striking visual qualities lend themselves easily to Instagram. The moving images of Luxmuralis are perfect for YouTube. Reverend Traynor reported that one TikTok video had over 40,000 views. Use of social media, and more importantly, the platforms that younger visitors are likely to use, is key to reaching a more diverse range of social groups. Historic places of worship are often ideal places for art exhibitions and performances, particularly for music, light projections and large works of art. Secular events like these draw people together from a wider community, benefitting the congregation and the neighbourhood as a whole. From a religious perspective this is a crucial aspect of outreach, promoting involvement with the faith community and engagement with the place of worship on many levels, not least as a place of sanctuary, peace and quiet contemplation. From a conservation perspective, very few congregations are able to support the repair and maintenance of historic places of worship without the support of the local community too, and if the local community are already stakeholders in the use of the building, the burden of maintenance can be carried by far more people. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, and the threat of closure is increasing, there is greater urgency for the need to diversify, so churches can continue to be used as places of worship, if not exclusively. Many of our finest churches have a unique opportunity to pivot and offer something different, that speaks to all members of society. Housing artistic and musical exhibits that offer meaning to all is a unique way of celebrating the space they occupy, and the community who come to be part of them. JESSICA TOOZE is Editorial Assistant at Cathedral Communications and a journalist by training. This article was prepared by her with the help of PETER WALKER (www.peterwalkersculptor.com ) and LUKE JERRAM (www.lukejerram.com ). Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram, Ely Cathedral 2019 (Photo: James Billings)