31 May 2023

A second chance to view
sculptures on the campus
of the Open University

The Open University outdoor art collection is set around the grounds of the university (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I was back on the campus of the Open University in Milton Keynes for the second time last week. I thought I was about to receive my fifth Covid-19 vaccination in the Michael Young Building, but there was a misunderstanding and I must go back on a later date.

But once again I had time to wander around the campus, this time in late spring or early summer sunshine, with another opportunity to appreciate some of the modern architecture and sculptures on the campus, including the Wolfson Buildings, and to visit Saint Michael’s Church – this time I managed to get inside the church, which was closed when I first visited last November.

The Open University outdoor art collection consists of 16 permanent pieces set around the grounds. The one that probably stands out for most visitors is ‘Contemplation’ by Tom Harvey is on the Cedar Lawn. The sculptor created this piece in 2010 from a dying 250-year-old cedar tree, enabling it to live on to be enjoyed by students and staff at the Open University. The tree died due to an infestation by the Small Cedar Aphid.

The university decided to make good use of what remained of the tree, and in 2010 Tom Harvey designed and carved his sculpture, depicting learning in its simplest form by observing the world around us.

‘Star’ by Anthony Hayes, outside Wolfson Building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘Star’ (2007) by Anthony Hayes is in a shaded corner outside the Wolfson Building). It is in a simple shape of a six-pointed star, an awkward form which never seems to stand up but always seems to have been cast aside or fallen at random, incongruous and surprising in the natural environment.

Anthony Hayes is attracted to exploring the mass of large, abstract forms that seem to exert a powerful presence, particularly as they approach human scale. He is interested in showing different ways of showing form and his work has been deliberately rusted to enhance texture and shape.

This star appears to have fallen from the sky. It was bought by the Artwork Group in 2008.

‘e = mc2’ by Scott Forrest outside the Christodoulou Meeting Room (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘e = mc2’ by Scott Forrest is outside the Christodoulou Meeting Room. Scott Forrest is fascinated with contrasts, between finished surface texture and raw quarried stone.

This sculpture represents Einstein’s theory, first articulated in 1905, carved into Jurassic limestone from 150,000 to 200,000,000 BC. It encapsulates an intellectual energy releasing from the unrefined mass.

On the back it reads: ‘The mass of an object warps the geometry of space time surrounding it.’

Roland Lawar is among local sculptors display their work on the campus for a short time period (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Local sculptors often ask to display their work on the campus for a short time period. The current display includes work by Roland Lawar, who says his sculptures are conceived as ‘seen’ by himself, as shapes, textures and colours, and the arrangements of these elements in a three-dimensional form.

He says they are inspired by his personal journeys, observations of daily life, and the colours and textures of nature. He is also inspired by his African origins and ideas that have blended into the way he creates his works.

Roland Lawar tries to make his sculptures highly viewer-interactive. His concepts are usually stirred by the shape of some found object and the dialogue that follows his contact with the object, or from some memento that he has held on to since childhood.

‘Contemplation’ by Tom Harvey on the Cedar Lawn of the Open University (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (3) 31 May 2023

The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-45) … a panel from the 19th century Oberammergau altarpiece in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Fifty days of Easter season came to an end on Sunday with the Day of Pentecost (28 May 2023), or Whit Sunday, and Ordinary Time resumed on Monday (29 May 2023).

Today is the Feast of the Visitation (31 May 2023). Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. In this first week in Ordinary Time, between the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday (4 June 2023), I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at an image or stained glass window in a church or cathedral I know depicting Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, or the Feast of the Day;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

‘The Visitation’ in a stained-glass window in Saint John’s Church, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church today recalls the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Saint Elizabeth, as Saint Luke’s gospel records.

The celebration of the feast first occurred at a Franciscan Order General Chapter in 1263 but quickly spread throughout Europe. Since it is a celebration clearly described in the Gospel, the churches of the Reformation were less inclined to proscribe it than they were other Marian feasts, particularly as it was the occasion for the Virgin Mary to sing her great hymn of praise in honour of her Lord and God.

Just as Saint Luke sees Saint John the Baptist as the last of the prophets of the old covenant, he uses Saint John’s leaping in Saint Elizabeth’s womb as the first time Saint John bears witness to Christ as the promised Messiah. In this way, he links the old covenant with the new. He seems to be saying that just as the old covenant clearly points to Jesus, so does its last prophet, yet to be born.

‘The Visitation’ in a stained-glass window in Great Saint Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 1: 39-56 (NRSVA):

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

46 And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

56 And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

The words of the canticle Magnificat carved on the wooden screen at the west end of the monastic church in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Pentecost.’ USPG’s Chaplain, the Revd Jessie Anand, introduced this theme on Sunday, reflecting on Pentecost and languages.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Wednesday 31 May 2023):

Let us pray for those who are unable to communicate through speech. May we be attentive to their ways of communicating and find paths to inclusion and community building.


Mighty God,
by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary
and greeted her as the mother of the Lord:
look with favour on your lowly servants
that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name
and rejoice to acclaim her Son our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Gracious God,
who gave joy to Elizabeth and Mary
as they recognized the signs of redemption
at work within them:
help us, who have shared in the joy of this Eucharist,
to know the Lord deep within us
and his love shining out in our lives,
that the world may rejoice in your salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Visitation depicted in a window in Saint Ailbe’s Church, Emly, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org