St Michael and All Angels church in Berwick (East Sussex) is most well-known for its extensive Twentieth Century paintings by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell, which were commissioned during the Second World War by Bishop Bell.
It is a unique example of the complete decoration of the interior of ancient parish church by modern artist of repute and is of national importance. It is situated in the beautiful South Downs National Park with spectacular views of the escarpment of the Downs to the south.
Our vision is twofold;
1. to offer the church as a place of sanctuary and retreat and to share with others the natural beauty of the environment, the creativity of art, the historic continuity of the building and spirituality of the church.
2. to enable people to understand and experience the essential contribution that the contemporary artists can make to the life of the church today.
We offer this in four main ways; art, faith, community and environment.
The Bloomsbury paintings at Berwick Church are a result of the conviction of Bishop Bell that the contemporary artist has an essential contribution to make to the life of the church. We continue to promote and facilitate that vision and offer new ways of enabling the contemporary artist to engage with the life of the church. We have two new commissions in 2019-2020, one by Julian Bell (grandson of Vanessa Bell) and one by letter cutter and memorial artist Thomas Sargeant. An audio-visual system is being installed which, as well as providing sound reinforcement for services and talks, will also provide another medium through which the work of artists, composers and perfomers can be experienced. In 2020 work by Brighton University and Sussex University students will also be displayed in the church.
We welcome church groups, those from different faiths and those with no faith background. The setting of the church lends itself to contemplative spirituality and creative activities. We hold services each week – Please see Worship and Services.
We welcome groups and particularly want to find ways of enabling those who visit who may not have had an opportunity of experiencing art, church or the countryside before. Please see our Outreach and Activities for more details.
The church sits on a rise within the South Downs National Park with spectacular views of the escarpment to the south. This natural resource provides the opportunity to teach about the environment and the importance of our relationship with the natural world. The context allows the exploration of a spiritual dimension to this relationship.
For a number of years the churchyard has been managed to encourage the diversity of wildflowers and bird boxes have been put up to encourage nesting. Guided walks provide the opportunity for bird and plant identification.
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In Spring 2019 the church was awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant providing 63% of the cost of restoring and conserving the paintings in Berwick Church. We still need to raise more funds to complete this urgent and challenging project. Please make a donation. For more information see 'Saving Berwick'