This past weekend, August 16th and 17th, I was showing icons and doing some painting at the Glenwood Ave Arts Fest. This is the second time I’ve done “live art” at a festival and been painting icons in public. I’ve shown my icons at the Glenwood Ave. Fest for several years now. Not surprisingly the public display of art that is of a particular spiritual and religious tradition leads to conversation, allowing people to see the process also elicits conversation.
Not sure why, but this year I noticed a change in tenor and tone of those who approached me to talk to me about icons and why I paint them. In the past the conversations tended to revolve around the juxtaposition of religious art (or the act of painting religious art) in a public and “secular” art space. Most of these conversations centered on people’s troubled or antagonistic relationship with Christianity. This year the conversations settled mostly around how each persons own spiritual journey connected up with an icon, or icons, or my presence at the festival painting icons. While I did speak with a number of Christians, the majority of those with whom I spoke weren’t identifying as Christian or identified as post-Christian in someway, as in past years. However, this year no one I talked with had stories of their struggle with Christianity or how Christians or the church had hurt them. Also, no one seemed terribly taken back by “Priestly Goth”, well except that to some I had to explain what Goth was, which was new. Not a single person asked how I could be a pastor and a goth. Though, most did comment with surprise when it came out that I was a pastor.
Here’s a few pictures from the weekend:
The Feast of all Saints is the Anglobaptist’s anniversary of his ordination. This All Saints He reflected on that day and the sermon preached at his ordination. I was there and heard Trevor Bechtel preach. At the time we were still in the last stages of starting Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, a month after his ordination we began our first public services in a room of a café, Chase Cafe, in Rogers Park.
In seven years I have moved from having services in a café to a gallery. I first perused the above post as I was preparing to lead a Vespers and Eucharist at Gallery B1E, for the soft opening of the Day of the Dead Exhibit. At that service were three people, an artist and member of a Lutheran congregation and two estranged( I guess would be one way to say it) Catholics(also artists). None of the current members of Reconciler made it that night though a couple came out the next night. Some how I saw my standing in a gallery turned chapel praying the psalms linked to that moment of Tripp’s ordination and Trevor’s sermon. Trevor used the metaphor of the ruins of the church and here I was in a gallery celebrating the feast of the church, here we were sifting the embers, taking from the ruins, finding the grain of the universe.
Even now I can’t describe the experience of All Saints and All Souls services in the gallery turned chapel. But there I was in ritual and word proclaiming that the hope of the dead is the crucified risen and ascended Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God in human flesh. And I was asked to do so by a person who says he’s not really religious, among a group of artists who have among their number some who are often very critical of religion (and they have good reasons for it).
We prayed psalms that talked about the righteous being generous in lending and managing their affairs with justice. Praying such things among a group that is in varying degrees involved in Occupy Chicago was more raw as the sin and the pain and the longing behind the anger and frustration of the movement echoed in the words of the psalms.
God is gathering, calling, and waiting, even in a world where much obscures God’s act of reconciliation in Jesus Christ, even by those who name the name of this God. The ember is there, and people long to work with the grain of the universe. So much gets in the way including Christians. So, there was an ordination, and a congregation started, and then one goes off to a Ph.D in liturgy and one lifts bread and wine in a gallery full of longing.
I have a new album of Gallery B1 E turned into a chapel. this exhibit features the Gallery owner’s shrines or offerenda both in the gallery turned chapel and in the Sculpture Garden. Other artist are showing Day of the Dead themed art. The opening was on November 2nd for Dia de Los Muertos.
November 1st we had a soft opening opened the gallery for a couple of hours and I lead a Feast of All Saints Vespers with Eucharist service. Then last night we had the Opening reception with Mexican hot chocolate, life music and Feast of All Souls Vespers and Eucharist that I also lead. I created the altar and the altar piece is a mural I painted in 2010 for another event. My icons are also being shown as part of the exhibit. The idea of turning the gallery into a chapel and having me lead services as part of the exhibit were all the idea of the owner of Gallery B1E, Andy De La Rosa.