In the end over three hundred names and/or initials of those we love but see no longer were stamped into copper leaves for the project titled “Called by Name.” An earlier post described how the project was inspired and featured some progress photos: https://stalbansparish.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/untitled-as-of-yet/ The title of the piece was eventually derived from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you…”
The biblical passage that inspired the title was perfect for a liturgical piece of art that utilized an oil lamp for the Lighting of the New Fire at the Easter Vigil at St. Alban’s parish on Saturday night. The piece hung from a tree a few feet from the ground and after the oil lamp was lit the sphere was raised and the oil lamp illuminated the copper leaves which glittered in the in the darkness. Ideal metaphors – both visual and biblical – on a night that we celebrated the Easter Vigil, baptized two infants and celebrated the First Eucharist of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, remembering the promise of God that those who we love but see no longer are ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven; and who now dwell in the heart of God. Bravo Leo and Sandy. And thanks be to God.
Parishioner John Thorne took some beautiful pictures at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Saturday – thanks, John – and in addition I’d like to share a few things that “happened along the way.”
When creating anything “out of nothing” there is risk involved… will it work? What if it doesn’t? What if the idea fails? What if it’s ugly? Making a sphere out of thin copper wire proved to be more challenging than we thought. One day the wind was whipping on my back patio and the piece fell to the ground and was crushed by the 48″ diameter piece of plywood that I had used to carefully bend about 125′ of hammered copper wire into near-perfect circles… so much for a near-perfect sphere. I reshaped the piece but was never able to restore it completely. But with any act of creation, there were also plenty of what artist Robert Henri called “Happy Accidents” that occurred along the way; when the unexpected happens and beauty appears in the midst of the artist’s wrestling.
There were two things that surprised me most while making this piece. The first were all of the lovely words that people wrote in e-mails when submitting names. A hundred or more e-mails full of thank you’s and “family trees” with names for leaves. Every single e-mail and submitted name was an unexpected gift. One woman called the church to submit a name after the deadline for submissions. When learning that it might be too late to submit a name a conversation led to her offering the gift of a new frontal for the church altar in memory of her husband… amazing! His initials are stamped onto a leaf, too. Every name that was submitted, the last initials given the day before the vigil, were stamped onto a leaf.
One of the best surprises came on a day when Leo, Sandy, Bob Pettit and I were walking around in front of the church scouting the best place to hang Called by Name for the Vigil. We had spent the afternoon stamping and attaching the leaves to the piece which was suspended in Nourse Hall. A young couple approached us and asked if we knew if there were candles in the church that they could light. Apparently we looked a little puzzled. The young man said, “I don’t know if you are religious but some churches have candles that you can light in memory of a loved one…” At that point the four of us looked at each other with smiles on our faces and Bob said, “Well, um, he’s a priest and we are all members of St. Alban’s parish… we totally get it!” I asked the young man who he was hoping to remember and said that we’d pray for them. He said, “Oh, wow, well, it’s my Grandmother.” I told him that there wasn’t a votive candle stand like he was looking for at St. Alban’s, but that there was at the Cathedral next door. The young man replied, “Actually, they have just closed the Cathedral for an event and they sent us over here.” It was then that Leo piped up: “Should we show them?” The four of us grinned at each other, nodded affirmatively and then asked, “Do you have a minute to look at something inside the church?”
We took the young couple into Nourse Hall and Sandy described the purpose behind Called by Name. I asked the young man what his Grandmother’s initials were. “M.H.,” he said. I pointed to a leaf saying, “The letters M.H. will be stamped right here, on this leaf.” He nearly fell to the ground like the guards at the empty tomb when the angels rolled away the stone. He sighed. Tears fell from his eyes. He leaned on his girlfriend’s shoulder.. “Oh God.” Then he kissed and hugged her.
You can imagine how we all felt at that moment. Each of us walked in little circles to wipe the tears from our eyes. We left the church and as the couple walked away I looked at Sandy, Leo and Bob and said “God might have conjured this whole project for that very moment.” Holy moly. God is so good.
As we left the church after the Easter Vigil two nights ago, having celebrated the light of Christ in the world, there was a full moon. Called by Name was illuminated with LED lights and shone throughout the night. In loving memory of JCQ & FBQ, NV & YV…
Happy Easter Monday,