Tuesday, 14 July 2015

We drink from many wells

In September, The Church at Carrs Lane will host the URC's national "multicultural day" as part of which churches are invited to contribute an artwork to an exhibition, relating to the theme "we drink from many wells". In a rash moment I offered to lead the congregation in producing a communal work of art which we did during the service one Sunday morning. I was (and hope others were too) quite pleased with the result; but recognise that it requires some kind of explanation to make sense to anyone who wasn't involved in the process.

I know this kind of activity will have suited some of those involved, while for others it probably sent their hearts into their boots; but I hope that something of the symbolism of the process as much as the finished piece, proved a meaningful way to explore both the challenges and the beauty of creating community. 

Initially, everyone was invited to create their own image of a well on a square of paper. Each one was unique and beautiful. Stage two then required each person to cut up the image they had just created, symbolic of the ways in which, in order to come together with others, we sometimes need to break or destroy something which to us already seems very beautiful; to give up parts of ourselves that we have constructed with time, effort and care.

Keeping hold of one of our own pieces, we each reconstructed an image made up of parts of each others’ original creations. We saw only part of each image, just as we can only ever glimpse parts of the lives of those we encounter.  Making the selection allowed us to look at pieces similar to our own, as well as very different, at pieces we instantly understood as well as pieces we didn’t really get, at pieces the beauty or talent of which was instantly recognisable, as well as those in which we perhaps had to look harder to see the value.

Finally these newly reconsituted images were put together: the final creation is the sum of all our individual parts, but put together in new and different ways that probably none of us (not even me who was orchestrating the whole thing) could have imagined before we began.  

The following poem came later in response to this shared creative process and something of what it tries to say about the process of creating community ... Being here, living this life we are aspiring towards, I have experienced both fractured walls and healing waters.

And here I am
In this, the waiting place
Unfathomable depths
And the echoing of silence
A space, my space, of carefully constructing
A beauty all my own

By this the well
The dwelling place
Of fractured walls and healing waters

Watching, waiting, holding
Until a single drop
That shatters in an instant
That silent stillness

And yet
Is it not here
Through these
The cracked and broken shards
A spark may shine
To release the reflected rainbows
Of the beauty of our broken whole

In this the well
The dwelling place
Of fractured walls and healing waters

And when we dare
To turn our glance from depths to heights
This place of isolation
Transformed, transfigured
By an encounter with the other

And here
To find our place
A hidden beauty

An outstretched hand
That does not seek to understand
But offers trust

A space, our space of meeting with the other
That we might glimpse our God

At this the well
The dwelling place
Of fractured walls and healing waters

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