St. John the Evangelist, London: Creative freedom in a sacred space

By Ilona Bevan

What if you could enter a church in the quiet of a morning, or the still of an evening and instead of taking a seat in a familiar (or unfamiliar) pew or chair, you explored?

Would you walk closer to an object or stained-glass window that caught your eye? Would you walk inside that small chapel you’ve been curious about for months? Maybe touch the wood engravings or feel the stone structures?

What if you saw clay, canvas, paper, beads, yarn, paints, crayons, pencils, markers, and glue laying out on tables especially for your use, would it aid you in creative contemplation?

Founding the St. John’s Creativity Centre is one attempt to provide such a space for anyone who might find it helpful.

Opened in July, 2018, at the historic site of St. John the Evangelist Church in North Central London, the Creativity Centre strives to create the space and time to participate in creative activities that renew and refresh the soul.

Ilona Bevan (left) and artist Izzy Avola

The Centre offers book studies for adults that include creative activities each week, short camps and retreats for kids, and drop-ins for all ages. Whenever possible, the worship space or the natural beauty trees and flowers in the churchyard are used as the setting for creative activities. All programs provide at least some unstructured opportunities to explore and respond with materials provided.

Thanks to the generous support of the Diocese’s Jubilee Grant, received in the spring of this year, the creative group of people at St. John the Evangelist has been able to offer three different types of programs focused on using sacred space and creativity to help nourish the soul:

One-time events, called “Creative Drop-ins” are almost usually free, casual, require no preregistration and last about 1.5-2.5 hours.

Activities range from Yoga, to music, to art, to candle-making and floral design.

The 12-week “Adult Book Study” provides a balance between discussing an inspirational work (on the topic of using creativity for devotional purposes) and actual studio/creative worktime.

Finally, short programs, like Mini-Monk Summer Camp in August, have been designed specifically for children.

“The Artist’s Rule” participants created their own “Book of Hours” with short poems marking the times of day for prayer

The Centre has only been open for four months, but it has already shown what a powerful impact having space and time for creativity, in the context of spiritual practice, discovery, or exploration, can have.

We have seen people’s faith exploration deepen. People new to church have been welcomed into this space and today they are comfortable and eager to help and assist in the delivery of its programs. New friendships have been formed, and lots of creative art pieces go home as a reminder of the joy the Holy Spirit can bring to us through the work of our hands.

Ilona Bevan is a member of St. John the Evangelist Creative Centre team.


Ali, Beverly, Ilona, Heather, and Eileen in the chapel during our closing Eucharist that ended our summer/fall book study.