Minister's Monthly Letter
We are very fortunate to have enough land around the church to create an attractive garden – we are also fortunate to have a skilled team to look after it so well! There are many folk – in the church and in the community – who find it an enjoyable place to sit, relax and perhaps have their lunch.
The other day, coming back to the church from a meeting in the village, I came up the steps near the war memorial and had a sudden thought about the tree stump by the benches. Would it be possible to have it sculpted to enhance the garden with a piece of art? Sadly my flight of fancy was dashed as the core of the tree is soft and decaying – definitely not the material for a sculpture.
However, perhaps because I had been thinking about churches and sculpture, I paid particular attention to an item on the radio about a piece that has recently been placed in the garden of a church in America.
The sculpture is in front of the Episcopalian (Anglican) church in Davidson, North Carolina. At first sight it appears to be a park bench with someone on it huddled under a blanket with head and hands obscured. In fact soon after it was put in place the local police received calls from drivers who thought they had spotted a homeless person. On closer inspection there is more to the figure. The crucifixion wounds in his feet suggest that it is Jesus himself.
Members of the local community – which is wealthy and up market – are divided in their appreciation of the new artwork. Some have protested that it is insulting to the Son of God and demeaning to the area. Others feel that it gives authenticity to the church and reminds the community of those who live at the margins.
The creator of this piece is a Canadian sculptor and Roman Catholic named Timothy Schmalz. The inspiration for the work came when he had an exhibition in a well to do area of Toronto and had to walk a long way to find somewhere to buy a reasonably priced evening meal. That walk took him past many homeless people sleeping under the canopies of exclusive apartment buildings. He found himself reflecting on the verse in the Book of Matthew,(chapter 25 verse 40) in which Jesus says to his disciples, "As you did to one of the least of these, you did to me."
Schmalz has produced several versions of the sculpture for churches to place in public view though a number of cathedrals have declined an offer to use it.
The piece offers a challenge but also a space for prayer – there is deliberately room on the bench for someone to sit at Jesus’ feet - and reflection.
What sort of sculpture, if placed in our garden, would challenge and connect with our community?
July/August 2014 Edition