Redemption - Reflection by Canon Myles


Read Canon Myles' reflection for Tuesday, 6 April, 2021

It is all too easy not to encounter ‘Redemption’ when you visit Liverpool Cathedral. What on earth am I writing about? ‘Redemption’ is a work of art which has been in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit for the last 25 years. It was planned originally only to be there for twelve months, but happily it is still with us. It has a fascinating history.

It is the work of two very different artists who in the course of their work, struck up a most unlikely friendship. Arthur Dooley is known for his sculpture, including the Black Christ on the Methodist Church on Princes Road and St Mary del Quay in Liverpool Parish Church.  He lived an eventful and colourful life, and was once described by Nicholas Frayling as a ‘rough, tough, large adopted scouser.’

Ann McTavish came to Liverpool to study at Liverpool School of Art and became one of the world’s most talented embroiderers, who produced work on an epic scale.

The two became firm friends, and Arthur became convinced that they should produce a religious work together, using metal, stone and textiles. Ann took a considerable amount of persuasion, but eventually agreed. The theme was to be either a Resurrection or Crucifixion figure of Jesus combined with the veil of the Temple being rent in two at the moment of the Crucifixion. It was to be called ‘Redemption.’  By 1993, Ann had begun work on the veil of the Temple.

On Christmas Eve, 1993, they attended Evensong together at Liverpool Cathedral and agreed to meet up early in the new year to take forward their planned collaboration. Sadly, this was not to be, for Arthur died in the first week of January 1994. Ann was deeply saddened by the death of her friend, and her thoughts were that the project must now be abandoned, as Arthur had not created his figure of Christ before he died.

She and Arthur’s mother went on a tour to see Arthur’s work, and at the Swedish Church on Park Road, there were two pieces by him. One of them was the figure which now forms part of ‘Redemption,’ and it was clear to Ann that this would enable her to complete this joint project. A short service was held in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in January 1996 on the second anniversary of Arthur’s funeral.

‘Redemption’ remains there after 25 years, still proclaiming the power and joy of the Risen Christ, and with the good news that the barriers between God and humanity have been torn down. When the curtain was divided, Mark tells us that the Roman Centurion – a gentile pagan – declared ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God.’ The Easter hope is now open to us all.

When you are next in the Cathedral, which we hope and pray will be soon, take a moment to visit the Chapel of the Holy Spirit,  remember both Arthur and Ann, and, with their help, ponder our world’s redemption.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Canon Myles

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