|The Lighthouse in Petergate|
The Lighthouse is the home and studio of artist and print-maker Gill Douglas. It’s an appropriate name given her passion for painting the sea. But her house was named long before she moved in on account of its architecture – five rooms on five floors, linked by a tightly-twisting spiral staircase. Gill’s studio overlooks the narrow channel of Stonegate through which surge waves of tourists.
|It is finished|
As we chatted, I discovered that the year Gill moved to York – 1976 – was the year I made a kind of pilgrimage to the city, and in particular to St Michael le Belfrey. The vicar at the time was David Watson (1933-1984), a hugely influential figure within the charismatic wing of the Anglican Church.
I had read Watson’s work, and felt that he had something which I was missing. Too shy to make contact with him, I walked round St Michael’s and visited The Mustard Seed, the coffee shop in Petergate which the church then ran where I was served by young women in long flowing 1970s dresses, and listened to gentle music, and hoped that somehow God would zap me.
Gill showed me some of her paintings and prints, through many of which the sea swept. Some were of the Scottish Highlands, where Gill feels completely at home. She visits the West Coast, sketchbook in hand, and later, back in her sky-line studio, crafts finished works.
Gill tells me that though she’s not aware of having family links with the area she wonders, on account of her deep affinity with our Scottish land and seascapes whether she has some ages-old ancestral connection with the Western Highlands.
|What is man that thou art mindful of him?|
Back in 1976, I left York, disappointed, without having encountered in a deeper way this God whom I believed loved me, without having been liberated and empowered as I believed David Watson and the Mustard Seed girls and countless others had been.
I would learn in the coming years that, in my case, what was needed was not ‘something more’ from God, but a realisation of what was already true of me – I was God’s man, blessed and supported by that grace and love in which we find significance.
And later still, I would realise that the fact I experienced questions and pain, and times of darkness was not a symptom of my failure as a Christian. There’s a song with the chorus ‘The cross is still there.’ The writer meant that the effect of the cross, the freedom and forgiveness which the risen Jesus offers reverberates down through history, a spreading wave which lifts our lives.
But also the cross is still there in the sense of the cross Christ calls us to carry. There will be times when we struggle, when all we sense of God is his absence. Times when we sustain ourselves with the thought that we are loved, that we belong in another country, God’s own country, a place we know is our ultimate home in the way Gill’s heart is drawn to the west coast.
York is far from the Summer Isles. Yet as Gill sits in her studio working, she is there in imagination, there in heart. And so as Christians we are to live as those whose hearts and imaginations are inspired by God’s own country. We are to help people here see what that invisible dimension is like, to inspire them to seek in this country the values of that place, to follow the footsteps of the great Apostle. Lighthouses in Petergate.
Gill Douglas’s web site, which has many other examples of her work is www.gilldouglas.co.uk Her Facebook page is here.
(Christian Viewpoint column from the Highland News dated 25th April 2013)