Celebration of Lent this year certainly has to be chalked up as "different". Social distancing means the familiar traditions which typically expect the physical gathering of "two or more" is simply not going to happen. No Palms waving in unison with the music of majesty, no holy communion on Maundy Thursday, no Easter sunrise with all it's glory.
But being alone does not, should not, necessarily mean loneliness. It is important to remember that the church building is not essential to our faith, nor the traditions we anticipate and celebrate together. What is essential is the love of our Creator, the assurance of salvation as promised by our Lord, and the continuing presence of a Holy Spirit that can be found in every breathe we take, every thought we harbor, every song we sing, every word we speak.
It's nice to offer or receive a hug, or to hold a hand in friendship or in prayer, but not essential. Even facebook and the internet are bursting with new suggestions to glorify God. Listen, and let His name be praised!
Mass media has always been a two edged sword. There was a day when reproducing remarks was the duty of monks sitting at big tables rewriting what had been written or stated.
That day changed when the printing press came into use to more accurately and quickly reproduce these remarks.
Everyone who could read suddenly had the same information from which they could form opinions, share discussions and make decisions. Of course the process of sharing information provided effective filters; the other side of the sword.
As capacity to reproduce information was increased, couriers began carrying dispatches across distances, then wires carrying the same printed dispatches, then electronic transmission via satellite, and now the world wide web. Information seems to gain credence when it can be read and understand by an informed population. Today, information can be spoken or written by a speaker and absorbed instantly by the listener! However the effectiveness of filtering seems to be impeded by the speed and volume of information transmitted. Enough said about that.
My fourth Spotlight Blog is being published today by the Moravian Church. This examines the time in the 1400s when the pre-reformation message began to be spread in Europe by the Bohemian Brethren. Bishop Luke creatively used this new technology. My artwork illustrates that process of getting the word out. Recorded history illustrates how the word was received. If you want more information, either look at Spotlight Blog BCM, or ask me and I'll be happy to direct you.
There are a number of artists in our church (First Presbyterian Church of Marietta) who mostly keep to ourselves. This year, however, we've been asked to make a contribution in the form of a piece of art to be used on the front of the Sunday worship bulletin during Lent. Each of us are creating a piece which reflects our impression of the scriptural text for that day.
Tomorrow is the Fourth Sunday in Lent and my art represents the blind man gaining his sight at the hands of Jesus. This scene is especially poignant for me since I spent my professional life as a Rehabilitation Counselor, responsible for helping disabled individuals find fulfillment despite their functional impairment or despite the view of a society unable to see potential even in those tagged with the title "disabled" .
Unfortunately, many of our churches will be quiet tomorrow, stilled by fear and reality of pandemic effecting normal styles of life and worship. If you are spending some time tomorrow in quiet contemplation, and if you happen to turn you eyes to John 9, I'd encourage you to keep in mind Who is really in charge! We are being distracted by what we see on the media, hear on twitter and newsfeeds, speak (or don't speak) in fear of creating awkward discourse.
Whatever your faith, your world view and/or sense of spirituality, I think it may be helpful to think and pray in the simplest of terms and not get bogged down in details. All that we're going through individually, together and worldwide, I believe has a much larger purpose. We may not be able to see it yet, like the blind man, but it helps to know that this too will end someday and offer new opportunity.
Are you ready for some sunshine? We saw this scene while traveling up north on a Sunday morning, work horses at rest, light summery breeze in the air, "sunshine on my shoulder" like John Denver would sing.
This picture is on display and for sale this month at Kennesaw's Big Shanty art house along with 2 others from me and loads of "masterpieces" from other Acworth artists. Reception is tonight. The rain is forecast to be gone but wine should be flowing.
Then Saturday afternoon another opening reception for art is on display & sale at Acworth Art House.
Get out of the house. Come join us!
In the New Testament, John 1:1 begins with the poetic statement "in the beginning was the Word..." Actually I take some exception with the author because it seems to me that mankind probably started communicating with grunts, followed by a lot of pointing, then pictures drawn with sticks on the ground then onto the walls of caves with charcoal. Words came much later.
But, I yield to the authority of St. John and the impression that words (whether inspired by God or spewed forth by man) are important!
One instructional technique used by the early Roman church for christian instruction required listening to lessons taught in Latin. Only a few in northern Europe could understand. Most everyone would sit in church and observe images found in carved statues, stained glass windows or icons on pictures. Only when common people began to read in their own language was a movement ignited intent on reforming the church.
Another blog is being published today by the Moravian Church. The art supplementing this blog is a very VERY simple sketch, meant to illustrate the beginning of the reformation by reading to the children.
I had planned to refine this sketch with much more detail. But those who saw it and heard my description say "don't you dare!" They argue the scene, obviously not yet fully formed, perfectly describes the intent of the moment and the beginning of the reformation." Perhaps you agree.
I've been invited to exhibit my art at two different venues.
Beginning March 5, 3 pieces will be exhibited at Art Station - Big Shanty (in Kennesaw) for one month.
Beginning March 7, 2 pieces will be exhibited at The Art House in Acworth, remaining until April 28.
As a bonus, my note cards illustrating 5 scenes for Kennesaw's Smith-Gilbert Gardens which will be displayed and offered for sale at a reduced price.
So let me share two pen and ink drawings which will be exhibited and, hopefully, will summon dry weather and spring flowers.
This drawing represents "the Chalice".
Of all the misrepresentations that the Catholic Church offered to disenfranchised Christians of the 14th Century, the act of withholding the sacrament of wine during Holy Communion seemed a most blatant abuse to the believer. Catholic champions for reform presented issues to argue the point. But when Father Jan Hus was executed for heresy, the Church of Rome realized they had made a major miscalculation in Bohemia. Popularity of Hus, the rise of nationalism and independent spirit among Slavic people had to be addressed, with force.
Bohemian christians who followed Hus went to war against christians who followed the Pope. They called themselves Hussites. On their battle flag was the image of the chalice.
This image is posted is a reminder to those who might be interested. My first blog and related art work is published today, February 9. It represents an imaginary conversation with Jan Hus. The next publication is scheduled for publication February 29. I will post on my website a similar reminder for that and subsequent publications throughout the year.
To those of you who take the time to look at these, I hope they bring you insight and enjoyment. I welcome your questions.
Beginning with the month of January and running monthly throughout 2020, my art (and the story behind each piece) will be published in blog format by a department of the Moravian Church in the Southern Province.
I announced this a few weeks ago. Now it is beginning to happen. This will be a history lesson of sorts, presented in a series of imaginary conversations over a cup of coffee with various men and women who influenced the Moravian Church. Time and location will run from the late 1300s in NE Europe (now Czech Republic) to the 1800s protestant mission to slaves in the West Indies and to indigenous populations of North America (specifically Delaware tribes in Ohio and Cherokee and Creek tribes in what is now Georgia and Alabama).
To find my blog, google the term "spotlight blog board of cooperative ministries" and then scroll down til you find "Coffee with Moravian Ancestors". I'll also mention this on my facebook page and might even provide a link if I can be taught how to do that. And I'll continue to announce on my website each month when I submit a new blog for publication.
For those uncomfortable with searching the web to find this information, I offer another option. I will send the monthly blogs to you via email if you send me an email request at billneeds@mindspring,com.
Regardless of how you find this blog, I hope you enjoy this format of presenting a story with my artistic impressions about spiritual development and service from the years preceding Martin Luther into the present.
The impressionistic art shown below represents the Bethlehem Chapel in inner city Prague where Jan Hus served as a priest, preached in Slavic language, painted hymns on church walls to encourage congregational singing, and dared to serve communion in both bread and wine, all forbidden by the Catholic Church.
What greater tragedy than that! Our first hours on the Galapagos Islands - our first walk among the giant Galapagos tortoises. I opened my backpack to find only an extra pair of shoes... I brought the wrong backpack!
So I began to shuffle along in a sullen walk destined only to observe and attempt to remember my impressions, while other tourists joyfully snapped away their visual record of our experience.
Finally I found a menu with a blank back page, borrowed a pen, and began sketching one solitary tortoise grazing on some of the foliage. This exercise lasted nearly 1/2 hour I think ('got lost in our time spent together) - just me and this ancient specimen of life, probably twice my age (160 years old?!), totally engaged with each other alone, away from the hustle of the other tourists.
A visit to the Galapagos Islands offers opportunity to ponder. For me, this was a lesson to stand back from the technical compulsion to snap that perfect Kodak moment and instead think about the creation story and recreation of life that occurs hour after hour, for animals and plants (and even stones as indicated by this lava rock in the middle of the Pacific), and the continual demand of nature to adapt in order to survive.
Here's my initial sketch from the back of that menu. Later I'll refine the image in a sketch, then maybe a final drawing with details.
The Moravian Church in the Southern Province has an educational wing that distributes weekly information to those who subscribe. I learned about this last year and started following it's publication.
Last Fall, they made a request for "blogs" from some of their readership. I bit.
Some of you familiar with me or my website posts know something of my Moravian upbringing. You may also recall Sara and I traveled to Europe to learn about the Roots of the Moravian Church. I occasionally post some of my art depicting scenes, real or imagined, inspired by our travels and teachings in the Czech Republic and Germany. I've concluded there is a story here to be told, and maybe the current social medium of "blogging" impressions with illustrations might be a way to tell it to Moravians, and others.
This month (January), my first blog will be published. 14 more blogs will follow throughout the year, all with related illustrations. Let me see how this starts, then I'll announce more details on my website or on email for anyone interested in following.
In the meantime, a sketch is attached to tease your interest: Greeting descendants of the Bohemian Brethren, formerly living in exile in Moravia, as they arrive in Herrnhut, Germany in 1722.