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Gospel Oak Artwork

‘Gospel Oak’ by Jake Lever

Ink on paper with gouache paint

When I was invited to create an artwork for St Michael’s I was immediately drawn to the name of the area, Gospel Oak, which is likely to go back to medieval times. This was almost certainly a site, marked by an oak tree on the parish and manor boundary, where the Bible was read on days of solemn prayers and procession to ‘beat the bounds’ of the parish and to bless the crops (called Rogation in our English tradition and held in late Spring). A cross may have been carved on a significant oak tree at Gospel Lane, south of Leysdown Road, where a tree felled in 1846 was believed to be the Gospel Oak*.

This ‘Gospel Oak’ has been inspired by the idea of a cross-section through an ancient tree, revealing a pattern of uneven growth in terms of the width of the rings. In a tree this is due to changes in climate and conditions. In our human experience, we move through times of rapid spiritual growth (perhaps in the face of illness or other challenges), and times that are more barren, times of dryness. I wanted the cracks to be a central part of the image; in my experience it is often during times of brokenness that I feel closest to God, in touch with my own vulnerability.

I hope that this image creates a link with the generations who have lived, worked and worshipped in this area. I hope too that it brings you to a place of stillness and peace, drawing you to your core, to the still centre of your being.

Jake Lever

*William Dargue A History of Birmingham Places and Placenames from A to Y

In thanksgiving for the priestly ministry of Chris Aldridge, Vicar of St Michael’s 1972 – 1990