Flight, An installation by Arabella Dorman, St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1, until 2nd February 2016
The inspiring war artist Arabella Dorman has created an installation which reflects the humanitarian crisis of forced displacement that affects our world. It is a sobering thought that more than three thousand, one hundred people have drowned to reach a potentially safer place than their own home.
In September Dorman went to the Greek island of Lesvos to work helping the refugees who arrived there in their thousands. The journey by rubber dinghy from Assos in Turkey to the island is some 10km but it is a rough sea and many capsize with loss of life. The salvaged dinghy hanging above the nave was designed to carry fifteen people but in fact this one carried sixty-two. Hanging from it are three life jackets – two adults’ and a child’s – worn by refugees. More of these life jackets form part of the traditional Nativity scene.
There is a traditional element in this display because it was customary to hang ships from the ceiling in some churches and the three life jackets reflect the Holy Family and their flight from persecution into Egypt. At this time of family celebration this is a fitting and I hope inspiring reminder that we should be helping our fellow man.
The Church’s rector the Rev Lucy Winkett makes the point eloquently “The real story of Christmas is of the child Jesus born in dangerous circumstances and a family fleeing a tyrannical regime. We are seeing this story played out in front of us today with family after family climbing into boats to escape violence and come to Europe. It’s therefore especially important for the church to reach out to people of all faiths and none who are experiencing displacement and danger as Christians mark the birth of Christ in similar circumstances”.