The featured image is a sketch of the Church in Turnham Green where Vincent taught Sunday School and preached beginning in November of 1876.
In late October of 1876, Vincent delivers his first sermon, at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Richmond. On November 19, he is brought aboard as a volunteer worker at Slade-Jones’ Congregational Church in Turnham Green, where he preaches and teaches Sunday school. He becomes enamored with and enriched by hymnals and admits in correspondence he sings them as he walks alone and hopes to be able to one day creating paintings which inspire like hymns.
He also preaches in Petersham at this time. In December of 1876, he and Anna will travel together back to Etten from London for the holidays and be joined by Theo for the Van Gogh family Christmas gathering. In a letter written to his brother in November:
“Last Sunday evening I went to a village on the Thames, Petersham. In the morning I had been at the Sunday school at Turnham Green, and went after sunset from there to Richmond and then on to Petersham. It grew dark early and I wasn’t sure of the way, it was a surprisingly muddy road over a kind of embankment or rise on the hill covered with gnarled elm trees and shrubs. At last I saw below the rise a light in a small house, and scrambled and waded over to it, and there I was told the way. But, old boy,Acts V:14-16.12 Acts XII:5-17, Peter in prison, and Acts XX:7-37, Paul preaching in Macedonia, and then I told the story of John and Theagenes yet again. There was a harmonium in the church, played by a young woman from a boarding school that was attending en masse.
there was a beautiful little wooden church with a kindly light at the end of that dark road, I read
In the morning it was so beautiful on the way to Turnham Green, the chestnut trees and clear blue sky and the morning sun were reflected in the water of the Thames, the grass was gloriously green and everywhere all around the sound of church bells. The day before I’d gone on a long journey to London, I left here at 4 in the morning, arrived at Hyde Park at half past six, the mist was lying on the grass and leaves were falling from the trees, in the distance one saw the shimmering lights of street-lamps that hadn’t yet been put out, and the towers of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and the sun rose red in the morning mist – from there on to Whitechapel, that poor district of London, then to Chancery Lane and Westminster, then to Clapham to visit Mrs Loyer again, her birthday was the day before. She is indeed a widow in whose heart the psalms of David and the chapters of Isaiah are not dead but sleeping. Her name is written in the book of life. I also went to Mr Obach’s to see his wife and children again. Then from there to Lewisham, where I arrived at the Gladwells at half past three. It was exactly 3 months ago that I was there that Saturday their daughter was buried, I stayed with them around 3 hours and thoughts of many kinds occurred to all of us, too many to express. There I also wrote to Harry in Paris. I hope you’ll see him sometime.
It may well be that you too will go to Paris sometime. That night I was back here at half past ten, I went part of the way with the underground railway. Fortunately I’d received some money for Mr Jones. Am working on Ps. 42:1, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. At Petersham I told the congregation that they would be hearing poor English, but that when I spoke I thought of the man in the parable who said ‘have patience with me, and I will pay thee all’, God help me. At Mr Obach’s I saw the painting, or rather the sketch, by Boughton: the pilgrim’s progress. If you can ever get Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s progress, it’s very worthwhile reading. For my part I love it with heart and soul. It’s night-time now, I’m still doing a bit of work for the Gladwells at Lewisham, copying out one thing and another etc.; one must strike while the iron is hot and soften the human heart when it is burning within us. Tomorrow off to London again for Mr Jones. Beneath that poem The journey of life and The three little chairs one should write: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth. So be it. A handshake in thought, give my regards to Mr and Mrs Tersteeg and to everyone at the Rooses’ and the Haanebeeks’ and the Van Stockums’ and the Mauves’, adieu and believe me
Your most loving brother
To Theo. Isleworth, Saturday, 25 November 1876