The Greening of the Chapel
This Easter Saturday afternoon, Liz, our art facilitator, invited a few of our Easter Retreat guests and myself to assist her in the ‘greening of the chapel’. Easter Saturday is always a strange day of limbo and waiting after the passion and drama of Good Friday and before the joy of Easter Sunday so we were all keen to be involved in some practical activity.
I was struck by how collaborative the whole venture was. It began with George removing the gold papier mâché ‘bomb’ from the rafters and taking down the huge, black cloth which had covered the whole ceiling space. Liz then carefully removed the layers of gold paper from the ‘bomb’ and Wendy, our guest from Australia and I helped Liz cut out heart shapes from the uneven patches of gold paper. We sat together in the art room and worked in silence, drawing heart shapes again and again onto different sizes of the paper and trying to work out how to get a good heart shape. I found the process very meditative and noted how some hearts were tiny and others large and full. I tried to get the biggest heart shape out of each torn piece of paper so as not to waste any of the precious gold. These were then gathered up and brought to the chapel to add to our display.
Meanwhile, Liz, Kate and Joy were dismantling the Lenten installation; carefully placing the 40 clay feet which Liz had created, into boxes to be taken away and perhaps to be used in another installation at some point in time. It was poignant, lifting the heavy adult-sized feet and placing them side by side into the boxes and then slipping the tiny baby clay feet into the spaces between where they nestled securely. The blackened sacks were lifted from the foot of the cross, revealing spiders who scurried off to find a new home under the benches. Joy carefully swept the floor as Kate and Liz rearranged the slate tiles to make a broad circle. I took a wheelbarrow into the walled garden and collected the beautiful willow arbours of living plants created by Pamela and Gillian . Kate, being the tallest amongst us, managed to wrap a long, white cloth over the rafters and to hang down on either side of the cross. There was a tear in the fabric on one side and Liz wanted the other side to be torn too; this caused some dissension amongst those who like things tidy. Then blue and green coloured cloths were arranged around the large stones and the four large living arbors were positioned amongst the stones. The gold hearts were then spread around the slate tiles, placed on the window ledges and some were even nailed to the cross, below the paper flowers that Liz had created. There was laughter and discussion and positioning and repositioning till we were all happy with the final display. It was a wonderful afternoon of creativity and community, transforming the chapel from its sombre Lenten mood into the new life of Eastertide.
And all through the Easter weekend, a male chaffinch was pecking at the side windows of the chapel, wanting to enter the warmth and make his home there. His insistent pecking disturbed our services, his energetic fluttering against the window for hour after hour was distressing to witness. But it also caused me to reflect on the many people who feel excluded from church communities and from their relationship with Jesus; those who want to find a way into a place of shelter, community and connection but don't know how to get in or don't feel that they can be a part of it. Can we be Christ-bearers, bringers of the Good News to them? At the end of Mark's gospel, the angel at the tomb commands the grieving women to go and share the good news with the disciples in Galilee (Mark 16:6-7). Galilee is their hometown, where their ordinary lives take place. Perhaps there is an invitation for us to look at our communities, our workplaces, our neighbourhoods and see where we can spread some of our Easter joy?