St Stephen's reveals Reconciliation Reredos

First published 1st February 2011

On Friday 21st January a piece of art history and hope for the future was unveiled in St Stephens Church, Bristol, with the Reconciliation Reredos.

The Reredos is the culmination of five years of prayer, reflection and hard work that began in 2006 when Canon Tim Higgins arrived at St Stephens and uncovered the Reredos which had been hidden since the 1870s. Painted by Graham Mortimer Evelyn, founder of the Jamaica Street artists collective in Bristol, the image seeks to express the twin themes of hope and healing. St Stephen's was the harbourside church during the slavery era and the Bristol Reconciliation Reredos seeks to respond to this complex legacy inspired by themes of hope and healing.

Kwame Kwei-Armah reflected on his own experience of entering churches as a young man when he felt alienated and a stranger because all the art and iconography came out of a different cultural experience.

Now that has changed. The juxtaposition of the ancient window and the modern reredos, joined by a common thread of colour into a single whole has created an iconography that includes us all. This will be part of the new Bristol, of the new Britain, of the new world we are trying to create a small work of art with a big vision.

Voice of Hope Choir introduced the evening. Its members (drawn from different races, ages and genders) reflected the rich cultural heritage of Bristol in rich gospel tones. The choir formed from members of St Stephens church during a series of workshops in November 2010 is one of the fruits of work aimed towards embodying greater integration and reconciliation.

Moussa Kouyate on Senegal Kora, Ben Baddoo on African xylophone and Saint Stephens musical coordinator, David Mowat, on trumpet provided us with a back drop of African rhythms. Peaches Golding, High Sheriff of Bristol, and Tim Pemberton, of BBC Radio Bristol were invited guests.

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