On 22 November 2014, the Parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church, Canterbury came together with friends and visitors from different parts of the world, to celebrate The Canterbury Project, entitled: Burgate our Canterbury Home with an adaptation of a Vespers of St. Cecelia by candlelight.
The project created by Fr. Valentine Erhahon celebrates Canterbury through the lens of a parish church with the written word and art. It is a project that celebrates how the parish church brings people together as one family under the love of God and invites them to celebrate their gifts and talent for the building up of the church, in a spirit of co-responsibility.
During the Vespers, extracts from the living history based on the interviews of nine parishioners born between 1933 to 2014 written by Liam Faulkner was read. The 6ft by 5ft oil on canvas painting of the nine parishioners and a dog by the artist Ohimai Stephen Areguamen, was unveiled by Canon Anthony Charlton and Mr. Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable.
Fr. Valentine mentioned at the introduction of the project that he realised three days ago he had made a mistake by calling the project: The Canterbury Project, instead of Our Canterbury Project, because the use of our would serve as a constant reminder of what the project intends to achieve: “it is a celebration of us as a pilgrim people in a Church we can consider our family and in Canterbury we can call our home.”
In his homily during the Vespers, Canon Anthony Charlton mentioned that in Canterbury, over the centuries, there have been many saints, and St. Thomas church has even got a Saints chapel with a mural of all the saints associated with Canterbury. The painting, entitled Burgate our Canterbury Home, represents the diversity of the parish community and the nine parishioners who have been painted, represent saints in the making.
The painting is temporarily exhibited in the Saint’s chapel in the Church. The curator is Art Historian, Mr. David Felton who said about the painting: “They look out directly at us, the viewer, and each individual demands close attention, yet they are also welded into a powerfully compelling ensemble, with a distinct communal force and identity.”
All those who worked on the project did so voluntarily, and the artist offers the painting as a free gift to St. Thomas church. It is hoped that the painting will serve as a link between the church and the local council. For example, the painting could be used to raise money to support charities in Canterbury who look after the needs of homeless people.