Randolph is a little village in the outer bounds of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York. On Monday morning, said sleepy village woke up to graffiti all over town. A bunch of is was profanity, as graffiti sometimes is. But on the light grey clapboard of Grace Episcopal Church in bright blue paint, there was a quote from a song, quite apropos to the building on which it was spray painted.
can i still get to heaven if i kill myself
Now whether this was done as an tongue-in-cheek joke based on the quote or whether it was a conscious cry for help really doesn’t matter, because it just created a very public forum and asked a question that cries out from our deepest and most profound fears – death, abandonment and absence of love.
The priest there, my colleague Tom Broad, and his team of non-clergy leaders took a deep breath and talked and prayed about what they should do. They decided that though they didn’t love the forum, the only thing to do was to respond in kind (yes, this means they spray painted their own church, but that’s how we roll) and to respond with the absolute truth as they knew it. (And this is what happens when one challenges an Episcopalian in a public forum.)
I love how the church responded.
And I wonder if it has the makings of public art, or at least a more positively fueled forum for the community. Take all the messages of despair, frailty, sadness, anger, doom, gloom, depression, and general misery and turn it into something else.
Write all the negativity on pieces of paper. Make pinatas. Tape all the notes, or use the notes as the papier mache. Fill the pinatas with all the positive messages and hope you want. Then grab and stick and go to town.
Well, this is the ongoing question that faces the congregation. The exterior of their church was due for painting in a few months and they haven’t yet decided what they will do.
But you make an excellent point – we can follow God’s example and use absolutely everything to convey love. (Because really, isn’t everything either an expression of love, or a cry for it?) And I love your piñata idea. :)
That’s a great response. I hope that the graffiti artist will find themselves surprised enough to think about it. :)
It was really wonderful to see how the church responded. :)