Covid-19 has closed down so many churches, including mine. Sunday mornings had been my time to meet up with the faithful for services and community. I heard sermons that guided me throughout the coming week. We shared handshakes and hugs. Relationships grew during Coffee Hour. Then came the shutdown. Morning worship changed as did so much of our lives.
My church quickly set up a Zoom account for Sunday services. The online change, though, played havoc with my sense of Spirit. The sound of church didn’t ring with the multitude of signing voices. Gone was the heavenly organ music that tied the service together. Prayer wasn’t communal. It made me acutely aware of my separateness from the community. My focus was no longer on the altar and our priests. Now it was on an array of little boxes, the shape of screens. These were the new pews. The sanctuary became glimpses of living spaces a skewed by the odd angle of devices…And, that there was my way into Spirit. For what is a sanctuary if not one’s home? This realization brought comfort.
Church is so much about building community. It’s about increasing the spiritual size of your immediate family. This was my chance to learn more about this family from the living spaces they’ve created; their personal sanctuaries. With whom, or not, did they share the space? What have they brought into their homes? Did they present themselves lying on bed, seated in a home office, surrounded by a garden? What was their taste in art? Or, did their walls show a leaning towards minimalism? Did they share my love of pets? Were they readers? Did they prefer a cup, mug, or insulated, stainless steel tumbler? Did they close their eyes when they prayed?
That last observation probably gives you some insight into me, the artist that is so easily distracted by the visual, especially by human faces. Those Zoom “boxes” pulled me away from the liturgy, yet open up another sermon, or maybe, a prayer. If you believe one word can be a prayer, then how much more of a conversation can you have with God when you study a face He’s created?
So I admit, embarrassingly, I began taking random screenshots when we met up on Zoom. I’d take the shots before the service begins. I’d take shots during Coffee Hour, church book club meetings, adult education sessions, vestry meetings, and church dinners. Yes, we met on Zoom to enjoy a meal together. Their quite joyous! A lot of laughing when we so need it. So, any time we gathered, church was on, and screenshots happened.
So I offer this art project as an open prayer of gratitude. I’m grateful that church is still happening. I’m grateful for this time to come together as a community. I’m grateful for this chance to see my church family in a new way and get to know each person more. There is no “amen” to this prayer because it is a developing project. I’m starting to translate my screenshots into paper cut portraits. Each one is a prayer of appreciation for the individual. I’ll be posting them as I complete them. The long range goal is to combine them into a single artwork that I’ll share with the congregation. So stay tune to see how it develops.
It’s challenging working so small. A slight change in my sketch can have a big effect on whether the portrait is recognizable or not.
I was much more successful with my second attempt.
Here are the portraits I’ve cut so far. More to come!