The bishop of the Oregon Synod, Rev. David Brauer-Rieke (under whose auspices I serve), has preempted my plans to turn collaborative art into worship!
This past week he led a vespers service at Holden Village (a hippie Lutheran village in a remote area of the Washington Cascade Mountains above Lake Chelan that is almost entirely self-sustainable--seriously, they have their own mini hydro power-plant, farms, and complex waste/recycling/compost system). I've compiled the following from emails that he sent me along with pictures:
"Last night we did Vespers. I [Bishop Dave] had this great idea a few months ago of a kind of artistic/poetic improve deal where Sandy (Roumagoux) would do some drawing live during the service and I would kind of vamp on a biblical theme (the Holden theme - clay jars.) It seemed like a good idea at the time. So, Sandy brought charcoal and a huge role of paper. We had one of the Mavericks [a type of staff worker] make her a 4' x 16' easel (two sheets of plywood end to end on 2x4s) and sort of took over the place. We also found a cool guitar player, so for about 15 minutes - 4 segments of 3 minutes each - he played, I made up poetry on the spot (sort of tone poems, more like the Desmond Tutu poem - repetitious, staggered words) and Sandy drew four images.
"The service began with a very brief explanation of what we were going to do - the four themes idea around the Holden summer theme, earthen vessels/treasure. I had Sandy take a moment to explain the "gesture drawing" that she was going to do. It is a very fast, emotive sketching - suggestive more than precise--it is not necessarily intended as a performing art, in fact it can be rather personal. She was nervous about attempting it in front of a large audience (unnecessarily, of course!!). Then the congregation stood for a hymn (noting the gift of artists, poet, painter, hymn writer) and then they sat for our "homily."
"Sandy and I had plotted out an idea, variations on "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." First was we being the earthen vessels, human beings, creatures of clay - and the treasure was just life. Sandy sketched me during this first part.
"Secondly, the idea was that our earthen vessels were cracked and we are losing the treasure - sin/fall, whatever. I rambled on about putting a mock treasure in plastic jugs or 55 gallon barrels. Sandy sketched an image of a man dropping pots in front of him. I believe it had some relation to a old painting.
"Thirdly is was scripture scrolls (the treasure) in clay jars - Qumran, the synagogue. Sandy sketched a bunch of pots.
"Finally the "earthen vessel" was the Church, a community of living, clay, stones and the treasure was the Gospel proclamation. Sandy sketched a parade of people, led by a woman carrying a pot on her head. Each segment was three to four minutes long. Anthony (the guitar player) played different music to go with the mood of each segment. I had some sense of interplay with Anthony - eye contact and inter-relationship. Sandy says she could hear my poetry and that was cool for her.
"When we were done there was a closing hymn, prayer and dismissal so the congregation was fairly passive in a physical sense, but I think mezmorized in another sense.
"As I had hoped, Sandy sketching live on a 4'x 16' easel was pretty engaging. The congregation had very little eye contact with me. When I would look up (which was not often) they were all glued on Sandy. We were all really nervous and felt out of comfort zone, but people REALLY seemed to like it. We've been getting a lot of positive feedback. Nadia (that tatooed pastor) said afterwards that she totally forgot to get her knitting out she was so enthralled. (Tonight she was knitting and looking bored again.) So that was fun, but I'm glad its done. Tom, one of the directors, said that in the 1000s of vesper services he's been in here at Holden he's never seen anything like it. (That was a compliment.)"