Tapestry puts new Orkney church in the heart of the community

Orkney tapestry
Rev David McNeish, Rev Andrea Price and her husband Neil celebrate the hanging of the tapestry in Orkney’s Milestone church.

An Orkney congregation has celebrated the donation of a beautiful tapestry specially commissioned to hang in their new church building. The project to build the Milestone Church in Orkney's West Mainland was a major undertaking for the then minister Rev Andrea Price. She has since moved on to St Columba's in London, but returned to Orkney recently with her husband Neil to see the tapestry take pride of place in the new building.

Neil, who is himself one of the General Trustees of the Church, said they raised the money for the tapestry through him reaching his own personal milestone - his 60th birthday in 2011. Instead of birthday gifts, he received generous contributions for the art work. With the help of gift aid on the donation to the church, they had enough money to commission local artist Leila Thomson to create a tapestry reflecting the church's special place in the centre of the community.

"Leila is in great demand, and there's a five year wait for her work." says Neil. "We left the design up to her, and I put it out of my mind. So all of a sudden in January, the phone rang and it had arrived. It's a marvellous design, and every time you look at it you can see something new - the wind, the clouds, the sky, the sea all represent other things in the community and Orkney. It's wonderful."

Andrea, on her first visit back to the building, says it's wonderful to see what three congregations coming together in the new church have achieved with the space. "Leila has put the icing on the cake with her interpretation of life and worship in Orkney. It stands out and hits you in your heart."

Rev David McNeish, who moved to Orkney in January to take up his first charge, says "It just manages to catch something of the beauty and the spirituality of this part of the Mainland. It's marvellous."

You can listen to an interview with Neil, Andrea and David on BBC Radio Orkney about the tapestry, recorded at the service.

You can learn more about the Milestone church here and hear Sunday's sermon, which mentions the tapestry in an interpretation of Psalm 8.

Leila Thomson is a renowned Orcadian tapestry artist whose work is inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney. The Milestone Tapestry is the first time she has focused a piece of work on the West Mainland and it captures the beauty, spirituality and history of the parishes whilst retaining her unique style and insight. You can see more of her work here.