Rector’s Letter – 4th February 2021

Dear friends,

Jeanette and I have been overwhelmed this week by the response we’ve had to the video reflection for Candlemas which was shared with you and on the St Mary’s website and Facebook page. A number of you were in touch on Sunday to say how helpful you had found it and how much you had enjoyed the choice of songs and images. And then on Monday morning, out of the blue, I received a phone call from Lorna, a retired headteacher and Church of Scotland member in Edinburgh, who had stumbled upon the video by accident while searching for another St Mary’s church. She had been so blessed by the prayers and reflections that she just had to get in touch! She must have sent a link to Joyce Watson, the Episcopal priest on Iona and a friend of mine, because yesterday and email arrived with a request from Joyce for a copy of one of the images we had used. She loved how we had chosen portrayals of the scene in the Temple from different cultures but it was the contemporary Dutch picture by Jan van tHoff with the faces of Simeon and Anna lit by the light of Christ which had touched her. ‘A lovely picture to share, and probably to keep for myself as reminder of how precious old age is’, she wrote.

Today came another request for a copy of another picture. Peter Lee who had lived and worked in Africa in his youth wanted to know more about the image which depicts the characters in Luke’s story as African people. I had to admit to him that I had failed to find the name of the artist but promised to look again. I decided to investigate the term ‘Jesus Mafa’ which accompanied one copy of the image and found that Mafa is the name of an ethnic group in Northern Cameroon and surrounding countries. Further research led me to a series of more than 70 paintings and a fascinating story …

The Vie de Jesus Mafa collection is a response to the Gospel by a Christian community in the Cameroon. In the 1970s, a French Catholic missionary, François Vidil, worked with Mafa Christians to build a resource that would help them teach others about Jesus in a way that connected with their culture and way of life. As the local people acted out scenes from the Gospel set in their own environment, Vidil and his team would sketch and photograph them. These became the basis of a vast collection of paintings depicting almost every story in the four Gospels, made by a team of French artists and returned to the community. You can explore the collection by searching for Mafa Jesus Series Images on the internet.

I wonder if there is an image that has been helpful to you during this difficult year? You are welcome to share it with us by sending me a message on rector @
Looking forward to hearing from you,