Synod of Scotland Residential Synod 2013

Friday 01 March - Sunday 03 March

This started on the Friday night as people were gathering.  I began drawing the chairs in front of me with people pulling into tables and beginning conversations.  In the opening worship, we were reminded of the exiled people, being led in the desert by the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.  So the top right was filled with wandering people and their leading pillars.  Then the candle was lit and came into the centre of the picture, close to the tables of gathered people.  I filled in people with colour as they spoke and as I did, I had a sense of all those people who weren’t in the room – the saints of old and in present who allowed this particular group to be gathering. So they appeared without definition to the left of those gathered in the room.

The Synod of Scotland has been using a methodology to consider its future called the Road Map.  So of course, there had to be a map in this drawing.  As people spoke I realised that there were shadows of worry and concern in some voices whilst there was much light of hope in other voices.  Then the map under the chairs had to be three dimensional and green, the well tended lawn of the God garden, a firm, yet gentle foundation.  On the Friday night, the Finance and Property report highlighted the astonishing good news that some buildings which the church owned were able to be used for the wider community.  That’s when the buildings arrived, one of them green showing good news and growth.

On the Saturday morning, with fresh eyes, I saw first the two pillars, one of flame and one of cloud and reflected that we are all lead both by light and by dark, by clarity and by shadow. Then I saw that there were two clear sources of light in this drawing – the pillar of fire and the candle.  So I started drawing the shadows which would have been created as a consequence of that light, making competing radiating shadow lines from each chair leg and object.  To me, this became a realisation that there were some people whose focus was on the long held story and with memories of what had been (the pillar light), whilst others had more focus on the present light and the presence of God with them now (the candle in our midst). Then I realised that the shadows had to be long shadows (recalling the darker voices of the previous night), like those of Spring and Autumn, reflecting those of times of the year with the most rapid change in light.  So, at times of greatest change, there are the most long and well defined shadows.  Such long shadows also appear at dawn and at dusk and I reflected that some in the room were seeing the church in its dusk days, whilst others saw the dawn of a new time. And I reflected that the shadows were not negative, just a presence.  We frequently need shadows to see clearly, as too much direct light can make us almost blind.  [These refinements and reflections come to me during the Link meetings where, as I couldn’t be in four places at the same time, I decided to stay in the main conference hall.]

On Saturday afternoon, the Scottish College meeting was convened and we heard a story of journeys to new places.  During this came the new foliage on the right, planted in the map, but rising up out of it.  It has leaves of no known plant indicating a new kind of church, one we have not been able to envision.  It’s leaves have destinations for some journeys from the desert on the bottom left, up to the residential street, though a leaf of light, to a tiny mountain/lake scene and down on the right to an urban industrial scene.

Toward the evening, with the Church and Society report, I heard such a sense of wholeness – of wanting wholeness for so many people.  I heard a painful and welcome inclusivity. This is when the green and blue celtic-ish shape came at the end of one of the roads.  Green with blue is a documented colour pairing of peace, the legacy of our hunter gathering ancestors.  Their settlements were often by inland waterways, and after a long day of work, people would settle for rest by water.  The peaceful place is where land meets inland water.  Modern research proves this calming effectiveness, naming it the green/blue effect. So here it is, a pool of peace below the journeys to be travelled.

Fresh eyes again on the Sunday morning showed me the spirit shape now encompassing the journey foliage.  Rather like Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, this is one very large bird of flight (!), the journeys now looking rather like her livery.  She is open with the road map, ready to carry her passengers on their way.  The Pentecostal red is her colour of choice.

Final reflections from looking at the whole piece made me see that the purple people between the Exodus story and the present meeting could be people either coming into this present time from the past or going to the past from this present time; another reflection that some in the group want to go to past times and others want to go forward.  I also noticed that some of this final work is two dimensional and some three dimensional.  Yet another ‘view’ that some people want the simpler answers and some are ready for more complexity.

Yet for all that – the competing light sources and their competing shadows, the looking back or forward, the desire for simplicity compared to the pleasure in complexity – for all that, all these images are on one sheet of paper.  This is an important message to me.  When I have done my art theological reflections in the past, I have frequently arrived at a range of images as I have here, but on different pieces of paper or on different canvasses. They have often come together to a whole work, or sometimes not. I tried to use different paper, and no matter how much I reached for more, I couldn’t.  Somehow, no matter the differences of viewpoint or hope between people in Synod, they were all still together.  All still talking, laughing, worrying together.  Somehow, this group is a group.  I was deeply moved and almost overwhelmed by the quality of respect, support and patience amongst this gathering of the United Reformed Church in Scotland.  Of course not all members were in the room and in any organisation, there are moments of real tension and tales of respect gone missing. And I was not present in the Link meetings or in all the workshops.  But in the main conference space the togetherness was compelling. It not only held, but affirmed, the reality of difference.

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Final Photos »

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