I used to be an RE teacher when I started going out with my husband, David Wilkinson who was then an astrophysicist turned Methodist minister. He was travelling the country lecturing on Science and Religion when I confessed to him that I always avoided teaching the optional Science and Religion module on GCSE RE, because I thought it was dull and I’d not be able to engage the class with such a dry topic. I saw science very much in the old way, if it moves its biology, if it smells its chemistry and if it doesn’t work its physics. What did that have to do with the important deep philosophical questions I explored with students in RE? Within months, he had helped me construct a scheme of work, and written all my resource sheets. (There was no access internet in 1990!) To my upmost surprise it proved very popular! For the past thirty years I’ve been on a journey of discovering that science asks deep questions too.
Perhaps it is to do with the way we teach in the UK that different academic disciplines are discreet areas of study, and they don’t overlap with other subjects. Each discipline is like an ancient explorer, who has planted a flag declaring this space belongs to Science, only to discover that indigenous subjects, Theology and Art have been there all the time. Perhaps if you are an artist you have always known that subjects don’t exist in splendid isolation from each other, but always butt up against each other, and have places where they overlap, and dialogue can take place.
One of our founding principles at SAW is that Art can integrate the whole of life, and there is nothing that faith doesn’t have something to say about either, so they are able to inhabit the border lands of any subject. I like that science has been a prophetic voice to faith communities around care of our planet, and I wonder if both faith and art speak powerfully into out current Covid crisis. It seems there is a greater awareness that human beings don’t just need food, water, and shelter to survive. We need joy and friendship, and to be touched and held. We need beauty and hope, as we grieve all the losses of this pandemic, and maybe Art and faith have always known that, but now there is a renewed understanding that human beings are so much more than the list of definable chemicals.
Science can describe the rising of the earth from the moon in mathematical and astronomical terms, but the sheer awe and wonder of the sight, is something Art and Faith have been trying to express for all eternity.
What contribution has Art to make in a Covid lockdown world? Does faith have anything to say? It’s not just graphs, tables, and the genomics of the virus, that matter in this crisis. How can we learn to have a more holistic view in our studying and understanding of the world?