One sunny day a few years ago I was travelling with my girlfriend Rebecca from our home in Earlsdon to Leamington. The bus route took us past Earlsdon Methodist Church, which I had been going to for a few years, around the roundabout and up the road to a café where a clearly brilliant artist had painted sunflowers on the wall, and then on towards Kenilworth. It occurred to me that I always looked forward to seeing the sunflowers and I realised that, on this bus route, all you really saw of EMC was the brick wall facing the church hall. In fact, since the bus stop was directly opposite, you sometimes had quite a long time to look at it. Why not, I thought, approach the sunflowers artist, and ask her to do something for us? Maybe for the hundredth anniversary? Something bright and positive – a symbol of God's love for the community and the world.
I asked people around the church and, if I am honest, was surprised to find very little resistance to the idea. I had expected people to be sceptical or even dislike it but in fact there was general approval.
We convened a meeting with the frankly brilliant Katie O' Art, whose artwork I had liked so much, to discuss the idea. She seemed up for it but was not quite sure what exactly we had in mind. The trouble was, at that point, we didn't either.
We had a meeting, where various different ideas and possibilities were discussed. We agreed we wanted something positive, something that looked good, something that reflected the history and, oh, could it be brilliant? A bit like John Piper's Baptistry Window in the Cathedral? Katie listened with extraordinary patience as we asked her if she wouldn't mind coming up with a quick masterpiece.
After a few minutes Alison Lawn suggested something like a stained-glass window – perhaps in the shape of the cross which adorns the windows facing the Albany Road.
This was an excellent idea and, as the idea developed, it began to take on more aspects of the building and Coventry's wider history. Yes, the colours did look a bit familiar to anyone who has been in the cathedral. The cross was rendered beautifully and around it windows reflected the passing of time with a corner devoted to Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.
Maybe, I thought, the cross beams were like the arms of a clock taking us through the seasons of the year? Suddenly, the cross, the eternal symbol of God's love for us, and his ultimate sacrifice, was at the centre of time itself.
As Lois Talbot pointed out later, this is appropriate for a church which faces a large clock on the nearby roundabout.
In time, Katie produced a brilliant design which was quickly approved by the Centenary committee, and she started work in early April. It was finished in time for our anniversary service and the Rev Doreen Koffie-Williams, our Minister, blessed it shortly after the service.
By that time, the cross had begun to appear on social media and congratulations, quite rightly, began to flow towards Katie. Many people commented that from a distance they thought it was a stained-glass window and on a sunny day it does glow in exactly the same way.
There were also positive comments from local residents and people began to take pictures on their phones and even selfies. Katie and Doreen were interviewed on BBC Coventry radio and an article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph proclaimed that 'Hundreds were 'flocking' towards the new mural'. We all made our own variation on a 'Good shepherd' joke.
We hope that if you have seen the mural – in person, or perhaps from the bus – you will enjoy it and that it will brighten your spirits. If so, perhaps you will come inside and say hello to us. Soon you will find, in the corner of the building, a photographic collage showing the stages of Katie's work.
You will also find a warm and friendly welcome.
By Tim Jefferies