On Sunday 25th June 2000, the Bishop of Southampton dedicated to the Glory of God our "Millennium Window" by the renowned Fellow of the Guild of Glass Engravers, Tracey Sheppard. This window can be found on the South side of the church. Now, by the generosity of a member of the congregation, twenty-three years' later we are able to contemplate a second, companion window to a design by Tracey Sheppard,, to complement and extend the Christian messaging of the first.
The brief was to produce a design for a new window to complement the Millennium Window, which should include relevant Christian symbolism, some imagery related to the patron saint- St John the Baptist, and some flavour of the setting of this beautiful place of worship. The window would be a memorial to, and celebration of the life of the late Sally Rowley. The design should draw inspiration from her photography which was her observation, connection with and celebration of creation.
The Design Proposal:
This proposal is designed to celebrate God’s gifts to us, the gift of life, the wonders of the natural world, and the greatest gift of all - the promise of eternal life. The central motif is a large sun. The sun is symbolic of the risen Christ, this interpretation being based on the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 ‘But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.’
The shape, style and detail of the sun form are drawn from an image of a sun-like structure found in Sally’s portfolio. In bright sunlight specks of dust and floating seeds can often be caught in brilliant light creating a shimmering spectacle. In this design those ‘specks’ are represented by lenses containing symbolic images.
These images are:
- Boldre Lane in the snow: Pathways are symbolic, and this particular path leads to the church of St John the Baptist. ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ Proverbs 3:5,6. The shape of the lane echoes the shape of the river flowing through the original window.
- Blossom: The simplest of flowers are filled with remarkable structure and detail showing the hand of the Creator. They symbolise various virtues such as faith, hope and love.
- Tortoiseshell Butterfly: This design, like the original window features a number of butterflies. Due to their life-cycle they have become symbolic of the Resurrection in Christian art.
- Sweet Chestnut leaves: This tree (which grows abundantly in the Forest) and its fruits have been used as a symbol of chastity because the nut is surrounded and protected by thorns.
- Oak leaves: An echo of the original window which features a large oak tree. This is a Christian symbol of the strength of faith and virtue, and the endurance of Christian against adversity.
- Moon and stars: There are 12 stars at the head of the window (another echo of the existing), they represent the twelve disciples and also refer to the lighting of the heaven at night signifying divine guidance. The combination of sun and moon in this design also references their use in Christian art as a symbol of the sorrow of all creation at the death of Christ. Emblems of day and night, they remind us of God’s omni-presence.
- The Trinity: At the pinnacle of the design sits an ancient symbol of the Trinity, the encircling, never-ending, protecting God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.
- Birds in flight: Symbols of the soul, these birds fly above the sun. A swallow, symbol of pilgrimage, is included in the small flock. The robin is often referred to as a symbol of the Passion, as he is believed to have acquired his red breast when he was marked by the blood of Christ on the cross.
- Holly: A reference to the patron saint, holly is found in paintings of St John the Baptist, who, by acclaiming Christ the Lamb of God, foretold His Passion. It is also said to have been the tree of the Cross.
- The Stag: The original window features a stag. Famous in the New Forest, this creature takes on symbolic significance from Psalm 42:1 ‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so my soul after thee, O God.’
- Sunflower.: Sunflowers famously turn their faces towards the sun, just as Christians turn their faces to their Risen Lord.
- River and Reed bed: This reminds us of the local waterways, but more significantly of the waters of baptism and the life and mission of St John the Baptist. The small cross carried by the saint is commonly made of reeds. The shape of the river echoes the river flowing through the existing window.
- Grasshopper and Ladybird: The smallest of God’s creatures, tiny, exquisite, remarkable. True cause for celebration-Sally Rowley focused her lens on a ladybird. The Baptist was said to have fed on grasshoppers (locusts).
- The feather: Psalm 91:4 ‘He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge’. The presence of this single, beautiful feather suggests that nothing in creation escaped the notice or attention of God the Father.
- Honey bee and thistle: The existing window features thistles one of the symbols of the Passion of Christ, it is associated with the crown of thorns. The bee, because of its industrious habits, has become the symbol of diligence, work and good order. Its presence in this design is a reference to the fact that the patron saint is said to have existed on locusts and honey.
The words, ‘This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it’ Psalm 118:24 divided into two phrases sit on either side of the central sun. The ‘day’ referred to might be every day, or specifically, the day of entry of into everlasting life.
The design is a celebration, not only of all the gifts God has given us, but also of the gifts that Sally Rowley’s observation, clarity if vision and creativity have left in the world. The Parochial Church Council seeks the support of the congregation and community for the installation of this new window - which is of contemporary design, but also so well-rooted in an apprehension of the Christian mystery and church tradition.
Tracey Sheppard studied English Literature and Fine Art at the West London Institute of Higher Education for a London University BA Hons. She began engraving at evening classes in 1980 whilst studying and was elected Fellow of the Guild of Glass Engravers 1987, of which she became Chairman (1998 – 2002). She lectures on behalf of the Guild and has exhibited in all Guild National Exhibitions since 1983. She teaches at Edward James Foundation, West Dean College and in local adult education.
Her commissions include pieces for Ampleforth College; the BBC; Chelsea Physic Garden; Civil Aviation Authority; Eton College; Hampshire County Council; Hilliers; Winchester College; the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral; the World Meteorological Organisation and the Royal Horticultural Society. Her work has been presented to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the Sultan of Oman and the Duchess of Gloucester. More recently,, the Historic Royal Palaces commissioned a piece to present to Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony to mark the Tower Hill Improvement Scheme. [ http://www.traceysheppard.co.uk ]