You'll never sail alone - churches host poignant 'Love and Loss' exhibition
Published on 11 November 2021
Nearly 2,000 origami boats which each represent the memory of a loved one have been hung inside two East Lothian churches.
The congregations of St Andrews High Church and Northesk Parish Church in Musselburgh teamed up with members of the wider community to create a poignant installation called "Love and Loss".
Around 200 people of all ages, including pupils from two primary schools, made the boats out of different coloured paper with many writing heartfelt messages about their loved ones including family pets.
The project is part of a "Season of Remembrance" to recognise people who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the months and years before.
Around 1,200 paper boats have been hung on the walls at St Andrews High Church and about 600 at Northesk Parish Church where a special service of remembrance was held on the 31st of October.
Moira Taylor-Wintersgill, probationer minister at St Andrews High Church, said: "The reaction and community support for the project has been overwhelming.
"Losing loved ones has been particularly hard for people during the pandemic because restrictions meant they were not able to support each other in the way that they would have liked.
"People were in hospitals by themselves and not allowed visitors and funerals were restricted in attendance numbers.
"This exhibition acknowledges all the hardships that people were forced to endure and provides them with an opportunity to express grief."
"Love and Loss" was conceived by Rev Dr Leslie Milton, minister of St Andrews High Church, Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, and Rev Hayley Cohen, minister of Northesk Parish Church who came up with the design because Musselburgh is a coastal town with a rich fishing heritage.
The congregations received a grant from "Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief" as part of its annual festival of remembrance, "To Absent Friends", to buy materials.
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill revealed that she made a pale pink boat in memory of her beloved daughter, Caroline, who was tragically killed in a road accident when she was 18.
The Borders College student died after the car she was driving collided with a tractor near Chirnside in Berwickshire in June 2015.
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, who was living in Duns at the time of her daughter's accident and later moved back to the Portobello area of Edinburgh where she grew up, wrote some of the lyrics to a song called "She is so Beautiful" by the Waterboys on the paper boat.
The message read: "Caroline. She is so beautiful, light-filled, loving, and wise, with laughter dancing in her eyes. God hold you, my darling. Mum x."
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, a former mental health support worker said: "The boat design felt very apt because life is like the ocean - sometimes it can be calm and serene and other times you are battered by the waves and tossed around.
"For me, grief is like that because sometimes you are sailing along ok then a freak wave can crash over the top of you.
"I love taking every opportunity to say and write Caroline's name and for me the exhibition is a gathered representation of grief and Leslie likens it to the cloud of witnesses."
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, who started her probation in September, said getting involved in a project in the here and now that involves Caroline is important to her.
"One of the worst things about losing a child is you have no new photos and no new stories and the thought of her memory diminishing, and disappearing is hard to bear," she added.
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, who has two other daughters, Claudia, 25, and Maisie-Grace, 10, said the tragedy prompted her to properly explore a long-held lingering call to ministry.
"After Caroline's death I was in some pretty dark places but the sense of God's presence in the hospital where she was in a coma for two days before she died was indescribable," she recalled.
"There were moments in the weeks and months that followed when I just felt hopelessness and had no resources of my own left to keep going and it was at that point when I discovered a chink of light and hope in God that prevented me from sinking into complete darkness."
Mrs Taylor-Wintersgill, whose 15-month probation ends in December 2022, said the first funeral she conducted was for a young woman who was around the same age as Caroline.
"So much of what I had personally experienced helped me relate to her family and it is important to me that the life force of my child carries on in some way in the lives of others," she added.
"I have an unshakable faith that God loves his people, and he is light, love and hope in the most tangible way.
"If, as a minister, I can help people to see that this means that God loves them, whoever they may be, then that is what I want to do."
The exhibition runs until this Sunday.
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