Colours in Church

NEWS FROM S. MARY’S

As an interior designer I have often been told that I am obsessed with colour.  Although I would not consider myself a ‘fashionista’ I make no apology for liking colour.  In fact, I believe we should be brave and creative with colour, not just when decorating our homes or buying new clothes, but in our churches and especially in our worship.

100 years ago the interior of S. Mary’s was saturated with colour, and the murals bursting with pattern.  Statues of the saints, elaborate friezes of vines and pomegranates from floor to ceiling, all emblazoned in bright colours.  It would certainly have had the WOW factor, although even I would be tempted to say, ‘a little OTT’!  The recently revealed mural on the east wall, only provides a hint of what the original must have looked like.     

One afternoon during lockdown I carried out the daily security check at S. Mary’s and was amazed at the kaleidoscope of colours dancing across the walls of the Nave, created by the late afternoon sun shining through the west window and picking out the various colours from the stained glass – I wish you could have seen this spectacular sight.

Colour is not a new phenomenon within the Church.  The Church seasons are represented by altar frontals and priest’s vestments in different colours: Purple (changing to Rose Pink for one Sunday in Lent and Advent), White/Gold, Red, and Green.  Black can be introduced for funerals.  There are also many references in the bible, far too many to mention here.  Probably the most well known being the rainbow of seven colours (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet), sent as a sign by God to Noah, that He would never again destroy the earth (Genesis 9:13).  Then there’s Joseph’s coat of many colours, yes – that ‘amazing techni-coloured dreamcoat’! (Genesis 37:3)  Other references I have found (and I am sure you can find more), some with conflicting symbolism are: Red – for blood and wine.  Green – for new life/growth (also frailty and disease).  Blue – for heaven and all that is holy (I’m reminded that blue is my favourite colour), it also represents vanity, whores and idolatry!!!  Purple – for royalty and riches.  White – for purity and righteousness.  Yellow – for the colour of gold (also for leprosy).  Grey – for the beauty of old age (also for weakness).  Etc., etc., and to think that the Church is sometimes referred to as being bland and colourless.

The rainbow is the Christian symbol for hope and has been adopted as a symbol of support for the NHS during this period of the Coronavirus.  With this symbol and the colours represented, we hope and pray that we will soon be lifted from this Grey cloud that hangs over the world.  Colours make people smile and smiling is infectious.  I look forward to seeing you all in your brightest colours as we approach the season of Advent.                

Now the bright Red maple leaf has descended upon the rectory, we welcome Fr. Peter and his family to the parish.  I am sure they will brighten our churches and worship with their own splash of colour – or should it be color?

Colin Woolgrove.

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