Yesterday I was at St Francis, West Wickham, to celebrate 75 years of the church being there and to dedicate a window. The word ‘dedicate’ matters. At a conference the day before, when I was asked what I was doing on Sunday, I said I was ‘opening a window.’ Naturally, this drew derisory remarks about whether such basic activities really demand a liturgy.
It reminded me of a society we started at Trinity College when I was studying there in the mid-1980s. Some of us were (a) bored with some elements of Pauline theology and (b) spotted the gaps in the curriculum. So, we set up a group called the ‘Eutychus Society’ in honour of the man who fell out of a window in Troas when he fell asleep listening to Paul preach. I typed up and edited the journal (on an Amstrad 8256!) which we called The Window. We designed a logo of an open window and then realised we needed a Latin motto to complete our credibility. Unfortunately, none of us knew much Latin; so, I came up with ‘Nils fallem ex fenestra’ (‘let us not fall out of the window’) – which survived until some cleverer and more literate member of staff cried with horror and translated it properly.
The new window in West Wickham is simply wonderful and needs to be seen. Designed and made by Andrew Taylor, it replaces a 1970s depiction of a rather effete St Francis indulging his usual predilection for fluffy animals and birdies. Which, of course, misses the point of the bloke. The new window opens up the heart of Francis’s response to God – looking at the world through Francis’s eyes. My picture doesn’t do it justice, but it brings nature and city together around the cross and the fire of God’s love. The wording at the bottom of the second panel is taken from Micah 6:8:
And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
The wording on the sixth panel is taken from the Prayer of St Francis:
for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
The workmanship is stunning, the design beautiful, the effect simply to draw us through the images to the reality of Francis’s discipleship – one that took Jesus with the utmost seriousness and cost him everything. Nothing romantic here.