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PRAYER TENT ARTWORK - Two new wood panel paintings for my church’s prayer tent, which will be set up this summer during our city’s “Rocking on the River” festival. The first is just a sort of exhortation piece, calling out God’s love towards those who walk into our tent. The second is a rose window that was inspired by an amazing piece that Banksy did awhile ago.


Stay tuned as my buddy and I are working on a large graffiti based installation piece for this summer’s Akron Art Prize…

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GOOD FRIDAY and EASTER ARTWORK - I am partnering with fellow artist, Susan Capps, to create a mini-exhibition of artworks based on some of the dominant themes of Holy Week. I created 4 paintings (two 30” x 40” works and two 24” x 30” works). The imagery for the “Pieta” and “Agnus Dei” paintings were inspired by my roots in Catholicism and two of my favorite artworks (Michelangelo’s “Pieta” sculpture and Francisco de Zurbaran’s “Agnus Dei” painting. All 4 were inspired by my research and reflection on the Passion narratives and the Easter section of an amazing liturgical resource called “The Companion to the Book of Common Worship.” 


It’s always a pleasure and wonderful spiritual experience creating artwork for use during public worship. An added bonus this year has been the opportunity to go through the process of discovering a bit more of my “voice” as an artist. I’ve always been compelled by street art and graffiti and what you see here are my first attempts at using spray paint, stencils and tagging markers as a central part of my work (you can still see my abstract expressionist roots in the base layers and backgrounds of each canvas). I’ve included some shots of the stencils I drew and cut, in case that interests you (also partly because they were such a time-consuming and delicate process it is satisfying to share them with you).


These pieces, as well as several by Susan, will be on display during the Good Friday and Easter services at my local church. 

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ADVENT DEVOTIONAL PROJECT - Over the last few months, I have been working on a new project for the Christmas season. When I was in seminary, one of my favorite classroom assignments was having to research and report on a historical devotional practice commonly referred to as the “O Antiphons.” In short, they are a series of seven different devotions traditionally done during the seven days before Christmas Eve. The focal point of each Antiphon is a different Old Testament Messianic title for Jesus. I’ve always wanted to create artwork based on these Antiphons and this year - inspired by the street art that an artist named Banksy was doing in NY during October - I was able to complete that goal. As I was doing the research for the art, I realized that the project needed to be more than just artworks; it needed to be something people could use to experience the fullness of the O Antiphon devotional. So, the project became an attempt to create a complete modern day O Antiphon prayer manual.


My hope is that this devotional will help someone draw closer to God during this Advent season. I’m inviting everyone who wants to have a copy of the devotional to download it and even share it with others.


DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT DEVOTIONAL FOR FREE:  Simply click on the link you see below, which will enable you to download the PDF file from Amazon’s cloud drive. 


https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/share?s=XMMdy1DTR4Uq8a4twaX3Vs

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MY ENTRY INTO THE 2013 AKRON ART PRIZE - Once again, I have the privilege of being included in the Akron Art Prize Competition, This year my work will be on display at the We Gallery located within a historic section of downtown Akron. My piece is a 48” x 36” Mixed Media Abstract Expressionist work entitled: Even Through The Darkness, My Heart Will Not Fall Asleep.

If you’re interested, you can check it out in person at the We Gallery located at 20 North High Street (on Wednesdays thru Saturdays) from September 7 - October 5. If you’d like to submit a vote for my work while you are there that would be stellar!

A little about my artwork… The piece is based on an exegetical paper I did a few years ago on Song of Solomon 5:2-8. It is composed of two 24”x36” canvas that are “stitched” together with a needle and red thread. I used acrylic paint and worked exclusively with plastic squeegees and palette knives, Here is the artist statement that will be included with my installation: “This abstract expressionist work captures the emotional struggle of trying to renew love that’s been lost. It’s multiple layers move between images of connection, dis-connection, and the fight for re-connection.

As I’ve said in other posts, it has been extremely rewarding to be able to do art exhibitions again. My artwork is often connected to a worship service that I am curating within the walls of the church, so this particular exhibition has been a great opportunity for me to display my work within a public space. My hope is that this piece could end up creating a sort of sacred experience for someone who happens to connect with my painting and the thoughts and emotions that emerged from my interpretation and study of Song of Solomon 5:2-8.

More information about the Akron Art Prize Competition and the We Gallery can be found here: http://www.downtownakron.com/enjoy/akron-art-prize-2013

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STATIONS OF THE CROSS ART EXHIBITION & WORSHIP SERVICE - Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church has provided me with many opportunities to experience the Stations of the Cross. Those devotional experiences made a huge impression on me and since then, I have always had a fascination with the Stations of the Cross—both as a devotional practice and as an artistic challenge.  For the last three years I’ve been considering trying to create my own depiction of the stations. Finally, this year I decided to do it. However, as I started to study and prepare for this challenge, it became clear to me that I should pursue two things: 1) trying to find a way to bring the Stations into my local church; and 2) trying to identify and invite other artists within my church family to help create the stations and curate the service. Both of these goals became reality and I was given permission to curate a Stations of the Cross Worship Experience for  my local church’s annual Good Friday Worship Service. I had the fortune of being able to work with a talented team of artists to create 10 stations based on biblical passages that depicted some of the major events that took place during Christ’s Passion. The works are posted in the gallery below, along with their respective Scripture references and artist statements.

The service itself began with an opening set of worship songs led by my wife and two amazing young worship leaders within our church family. The set was short but powerful and helped set the spirit of the evening—the culminating moment came as we repeated a refrain taken from  the third verse of Phil Wickham’s “Beautiful” that describes seeing Jesus hanging on the cross and bleeding, dying and rising again…all for us. My pastor—who is one of the best apologetic preachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to—followed up the worship set by giving a perfectly designed message on the Stations of the Cross that provided the historical background and ongoing value of the devotion, but also invited the audience into the stations experience in a way that felt challenging and safe at the same time. The community was then released to receive communion as a sort of entry point into the stations.

The Stations of the Cross exhibit itself was very simple in design. A small bar table with candles and a Scriptural “road map” handout served as the starting point for the experience. From there, each station consisted of one wooden easel that displayed a piece of artwork and a statement from the artist who created that particular station. The 10 stations were spread throughout a large open section of our sanctuary, and formed a path that each member of the congregation could journey along. One unintentional surprise came in the way people read each artist statement. We had to hang the statements low on the easels due to lighting and spacing constraints. This “planned” element ended up becoming a reason for people to kneel down before each station in a sort of genuflecting position of adoration.

The feedback I received from people who had attended the service and experienced the stations exhibit was overwhelming. It was amazing to hear stories from people of all ages that described to me how the stations of the cross challenged and moved them that night. It’s always a risk to do something out of the ordinary on a traditionally important and well attended worship date—but this alternative worship experience was definitely welcomed and embraced by my local church family. The feedback I received from the artists who participated was equally positive and I think they were blessed by the opportunity to utilize their amazing talents and share their voice artistically within our church.

I included my three art contributions in this post but be sure to check out the entire Stations of the Cross Gallery below, which features art from: Susan Capps, Abby Capps, Lynda Rimke, and Samantha Solan.
 

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ARTIST STATEMENT FOR EACH STATION OF THE CROSS

STATION I — Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane  (Matt 26:36-42)

There was a time in my life when I left everything in search of God. Nothing seemed worthwhile until I found more of Him. It led me down a path that became very dangerous. Finally coming to a point where crying out to God to either take me home with Him or get me out of the mess I was in, were my only options. I could not have foreseen the outcome at the time, but the majesty of God showed up in my life and has never left. That was my Gethsemane of feeling desperate, betrayed and alone … and then He saved me.

When we are desperate for God, drinking the cup of Gethsemane is our trial, but also our future destiny. While others lay sleeping, our life blood seems draining away. For Jesus, the fulfillment of every prophecy was about to be realized in this moment. Even so, our Savior had to ask “Father, is there any other way’?”

The cup is gold because of the many promises.

The flower is Hibiscus that can undergo great stress and seem dead, then suddenly it recovers to bloom again.

If you are experiencing a Gethsemane of sorts, be brave dear one. Hold on and rejoice in every day until your “and suddenly” comes.

– 20 x 16” mixed media on canvas by Susan Capps

STATION II — Jesus Before Pilate  (Matt 27:22-26a)

Of all the players in the Passion story, I’ve always felt the most affinity for Pilate. Here was a good governor who believed in the sane and logical rule of law, a missionary of sorts to an unruly and unfamiliar culture.

Jesus goes all mysterious, speaking of other-worldly kingdoms and “truth.” He won’t defend himself. The mob, incited by the Chief Priests, chooses freedom for Barabbas and not the Man who was their greatest hope only a week ago. “Crucify Him!” is their only response.

So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. See ye to it.” And all the people answered and said “His blood be on us and on our children!” — Matt 27:24-25

This is the moment I have portrayed from Pilate’s angle: his wet hands expressing “clean” in sign language. Jesus looks up with full awareness of the magnitude of the verdict: God’s verdict. The layers of meaning in the mobs’ words hang in the air.

In the Gospel of John, Pilate brings Jesus back to the crowd a third time: flogged and bleeding, crowned and robed. “Behold, I bring him out to you, that you may know I find no crime in him.” Pilate’s appeal is rejected twice more. The mob has him at last.

– 20 x 16” oil on board by Lynda Rimke

STATION III — Jesus is Mocked  (Matt 27:26b-30)

My four preliminary drawings of Station III, where Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers immediately after His flogging, were classic information overload of the worst sort. My best pen and ink sketches projected only a poor, comic, “Chick tract” effect that cheapened Jesus’ suffering. NOT what I was after!

But my research had drawn me to the Shroud of Turin. In particular, a golden, burning hologram image of the flogged back side of the mysterious “Man of Pain” would not leave my mind. Simply layering the elements of humiliation over the shroud image created a more accurate depiction and emotive experience for me.

In the gospel accounts, a similar crown was pounded onto Jesus’ head with a staff, after the flogging. There is no record that this crown was removed. It may not have been possible.

Matthew records a red robe, which could have simply been a Roman soldier’s cape. Red gives a better impression of the burning pain the robe must have caused.

In the Gospel of John, Pilate presents the flogged and bleeding, robed and crowned Messiah before the people a third and final time. They continue to shout “Crucify Him!” The soldiers remove the robe and put his original clothes back on Him and lead Him away to be crucified His seamless tunic would have been ruthlessly pulled over His thorn-crowned head.

crown and thorn images:
http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~brach/Jerusalem_Flowers/

lacerated back images:
http://shroud3d.com/findings/findings-in-the-three-dimensional-materials

– 14 x 10” digital photo montage by Lynda Rimke

STATION IV — Jesus Carries the Cross  (John 19:17)

Loneliness. Shame. Pain. Rejection. Burden. These words are what come to mind when I envision Jesus carrying the cross.

I can only imagine the abandonment and humiliation Jesus felt as people on each side of His path watched His struggle, with each step leading to His death. I am sure there were some who felt sorrow, but they were outnumbered by those who despised Him outright, rejecting Him with the gesture of hands out and heads turned away.

The pain was Jesus’ burden to bear, and His alone. Jesus, the only perfect man ever born, was in the center of all those who were sinful, being watched by them as He carried all of their blame.

This sacrifice, by which He would save humanity despite their guilt, reflects His purity and love, portrayed by a white cloth gently cradling a red rose bound to the cross.

Roses represent love, but soaked in the color of His blood as a foretelling of the blood that would be shed for us upon His death.

I cannot help but see darkness enveloping Him, as Satan was preparing to take the Light of the world.

— 15.5 x 10.5” digital photograph by Samantha Solan

STATION V — Simon Of Cyrene  (Luke 23:26)

As I studied and worked on this piece, I found myself wrestling with two questions that I think dwell at the heart of Luke’s story about Simon—the man who followed behind Jesus and carried the cross along the way of sorrows: 1) What is the cost of discipleship? and 2) Am I willing to pay that price?

I was talking to a friend about this particular station and he said that carrying the cross is really about learning to give up our rights. That comment stuck with me as the layers of this painting were emerging. What did it mean to give up my rights—my privilege, my comfort, my will—in order to follow Jesus?

I was also influenced by Henri Nouwen’s view that walking behind Jesus is a downward movement—that leads us away from the upward search for power, status, and wealth and towards the downward search for humility, sacrifice, and obedience. Nouwen’s idea draws me back into Simon’s story, because it forces me to examine myself to see if I am really doing everything I can to be like Simon—following Jesus down the long and often difficult road that cross bearers must take.

— 20 x 16” mixed media on canvas by Jason Miller

STATION VI - Jesus is Crucified  (Luke 23:33-38)

I consider myself an abstract expressionist painter. Since this painting is not like most depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion which tend to be literal representations of Jesus’ body being nailed to a cross, a few things might help you find meaning in this station.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you search for Christ in this station.

• Move back and forth between reading the Scripture passage and looking at the artwork.

• Try to interact with this painting emotionally rather than literally.

The cross was a slow, humiliating, painful way to die—an execution reserved for criminals. As I went through the struggle-filled process of creating the painting you see here today, I kept wondering how the God of Creation could suffer the horrors of the cross for my transgressions.

Jesus was innocent and yet chose to be punished alongside the condemned. He was mockingly called a “King” and taunted to save Himself. And yet, He obeyed His Father and drank the agonizing cup of death—revealing His identity as the true Chosen King who lowered Himself and offered His blood for the sins of the world. Jesus have mercy on us.

– 20 x 16” mixed media on canvas by Jason Miller

STATION VII — The Repentant Thief  (Luke 23:39-43)

I’m not sure what my 1978 college drawing assignment was, but I chose to render the scene with this thief. My gifted instructor had drawn more than one Crucifixion at a time when Kent State students and professors were recovering from the May 4, 1970 shootings.

My youthful Crucifixion contribution was a whisper. Most of my drawings were back then.

In the process of drawing Jesus and the repentant thief from my head, the face of the young thief became my own.

“Lord, remember me when You enter Your kingdom.”

— 12 x 10” graphite on paper by Lynda Sharp (Rimke)

STATION VIII — Mary and John Below the Cross  (John 19:25-27)

“Lord, why did You give Your Mother to John(at the cross)?”

“My Mother was holy from the start, but still a woman in a society that did not always honor women. I was first-born son, traditionally to care for My Mother without husband—a widow. To John, My most beloved friend, first-born of a spiritual awakening—a movement to change the world, I entrusted My most precious Mother, the symbol of ultimate surrender and trust in God for her life. John could understand the honor of this woman. He would now provide for her, but she will change his atmosphere. The Gifts.”

— 20 x 16” mixed media on canvas by Susan Capps

STATION IX – Jesus Dies  (Luke 23:44-49)

a friend so dear and so close.

trusted.

a shared heart and mindset.

when betrayal is uncovered the heartbreak is so painful, emotionally, that it becomes physical.

and all of nature weeps with you as you shatter from the inside out.

an abandonment so deep, a heartbreak so real that even the trees cry out.

— 20 x 16” mixed media on canvas by Abby Capps

STATION X — Jesus is Buried  (Matt 27:57-66)

The mystery of Jesus’ incarnation has always fascinated and challenged me. The God of Creation—who is fully divine—chose to lower Himself and become fully human just like us.

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son—sent to us, so He could be slaughtered for us. That’s how God orchestrated our salvation. If we were going to survive beyond the death our sins deserved, then the Righteous One had to be executed for the crimes that we committed. What kind of love would it take to make that sacrifice?

I tried to imagine what it would be like to cry alongside the women who saw the King of the World die. To see all my hopes crushed and thrown away…like trash. Death is so real. Death is so ordinary. Death is so final. And yet, death is not the end.

Jesus rose again, and God’s infiniteness overcame the finality of death. I am saved. I just don’t want to forget the cost that God paid to save my life.

Thanks to my friend Tim Meier who helped me wrestle with Jesus’ death and created the beautiful poem for this station.

— 20 x 16 ” digital illustration by Jason Miller

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NIGHT OF WORSHIP at C.O.B. - The Women’s Ministry at my local church just started up this really awesome monthly worship series at my church, with a particular emphasis on providing a corporate venue for in-house artists and worship song writers to share their work with the community. My wife Erin and I were asked to lead the worship music for the December 1st installment of this series…I was also given permission to curate the entire event. It was an awesome night and it felt really good to be able to return to leading worship with my wife again…we even shared some of our own worship songs with the gathering. Look for those to be posted at some point soon here.

As far as curation goes, the night was pretty simple. I set up a multi-sensory communion table on a side wall in the room. I created two pieces for the communion table - 1) a two-sided Art/Scripture Card for people to take with them as they left that night; and 2) a one-page communion liturgy for people to use as a way of taking communion with the night’s theme (“Abiding”) in mind. I also hung a painting I did over the table, and set-up a beautiful multi-media piece that my friend Susan Capps created specifically for the table too…I’m moving forward with trying to identify and connect with other artists in our church to collaborate with as I lean into this idea of curating worship and releasing art in the Church. Pictures of the individual pieces are above and the communion liturgy is below:



Welcome to Christ’s communion table. Feel free to perform the sacred act of receiving communion here at the table or you may bring your communion elements, this communion liturgy handout, and one of the “abide” Scripture/Art cards with you to another spot in the room.

READING/MEDITATION:

Tonight we are focusing on the concept of abiding. This term is used several different ways in the Bible, but this evening we are concerned with the way that the Beloved Apostle—John—uses the word abide to describe how God’s divine presence dwells within us and how we can choose to dwell in God’s divine presence. God abides in Christ, Christ abides in us (through the Holy Spirit), and we abide in Christ. Another great word we could use in place of abiding would be the word remaining, because often in Scripture, and especially in John’s Gospel, the term abiding refers to relationships that have a permanent and eternal quality.

 Read through the following Scripture passage and focus on the way John uses the word abide to describe our relationship with God.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ( John 15:4-5 NASB)”

The Beloved Disciple uses the beautiful image of a vine and its branches to help describe the abiding relationship we want—one where Christ dwells in us and where we dwell in Christ.

Now read through this verse from John 6:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains [or abides] in me, and I in them. (John 6:56 NIV)”

Sacred rituals are an important part of Christianity. They help us to symbolically act out and to visibly partake in the invisible spiritual realities of our faith. These acts help us to better understand and embrace the divine love and new identity that comes with being a follower of Jesus Christ. They also give us an opportunity to re-align our hearts and minds to His Word, and to re-commit ourselves to His service. Tonight, communion serves those purposes, as we symbolically partake of Christ’s body and blood—while allowing the Holy Spirit to redefine and reaffirm our understanding of what God’s sacrifice has provided for us.

Christ is the head of the table, and He joyfully invites you to come and abide with Him. Enjoy His presence and allow Him to reveal more of the Father’s love to you tonight—as God graciously shares His divine presence with you. God abides in Christ. Christ abides in you (through the Holy Spirit), and you abide in Christ. Amen.

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Me and Nate checking out our installation in person at Summit Artspace in Downtown Akron. The gaps between the panels are wider than we requested and the audio station is further away from the painting than we wanted…but it still turned out pretty good. It is still an amazing feeling to start being involved with art again and doing shows again.

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This is the song my buddy Nathaniel Su wrote and that makes up the second major component of the art work described in the post below on our entry into the Akron Art Prize competition. This song is meant to be listened to while looking at the painting posted below.

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MY PAINTING ON DISPLAY IN SUMMIT ARTSPACE - My buddy Nate Su and I have embarked upon a pretty cool artistic partnership where we are creating pieces of art that involve painting, photographic lifts/transfers, and originally composed music. Our first piece “For Momentary Light Affliction Is Producing For Us An Eternal Weight Of Glory” has been accepted into the first annual Akron Art Prize competition. Our piece is installed in the Summit Artspace located in downtown Akron, OH and the work is officially on display from September 1-22.

WE NEED YOUR VOTES! The contest is pretty unique in that it is decided entirely by public voting. So, if you’d like, please head to the Summit Artspace to see/listen to our work, and if you’re inspired use your smartphone or old school text-only phone to vote for our piece!

Here is a quick photo of the painting with 3 detailed looks at the photographic lifts that are included in the painting. If you’re interested, the entire piece is based on 2 Corinthians 4:17. PLEASE LISTEN TO THE SONG POSTED ABOVE WHILE LOOKING AT THE WORK to get the full story we tried to capture in this work.

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PAINTINGS PAST AND PRESENT - So, I’ve been really getting into reacquainting myself with fine art painting again. My buddy Nate Su and I have actually just completed a major collaboration involving painting, photographic lifts, and original music that is being curated and hung in the Summit Artspace in downtown Akron as I type this out. What follows is a gallery that shows some of my work - mostly past. I tend to work in a style best labeled “abstract expressionism” or even “post abstract expressionism” and my heroes include Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

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GLOBAL DAY OF WORSHIP at REGENT UNIVERSITY - The Global Day of Worship at Regent University was a really cool 24 hour live worship event I was fortunate enough to be a part of in November 2011. I designed and ran the Pro Presenter worship slides for the event. This is the title slide I designed which served as a repeating art element throughout the day in hopes of adding a point of cohesiveness to the many many worship sets we offered up over 24 hours. The job itself was a great experience - a major test was simply the immense volume of songs and amount of bands I had to interact with in order to produce artwork and slides for 24 hours of worship. I was able to work with local area worship bands from the surrounding Virginia Beach area, as well as some professional worship artists including: Andre Crouch, Aaron Keyes, Shelly E. Johnson, Katie Gustafson and John Hartley, Rick Heil, Phil Sillas and Mark Gutierrez, Le’Andria Johnson, Manifest, Adlan Cruz, and of course my mentor the amazing David M. Edwards.

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ARTWORK and ALTERNATIVE COMMUNION SERVICE: Above you should see two pieces of artwork that I designed for an alternative communion service I co-curated at my local church. The invitation is a front and back printed piece we handed out to each worshiper at the start of this particular service. The second piece is the title slide my buddy used before he preached the sermon that day. We tried to incorporated a lot of interactive “experiential” elements into that Sunday morning service. For example, we set up several communion stations throughout the sanctuary (my church typically has ushers hand out the elements). Each communion station was comprised of a small table holding the communion elements, as well as two chairs set up on opposite ends of the table. The first chair remained empty and symbolized Christ’s invisible presence over the table; the second was reserved for each person/family to come and sit down with Christ (signing their invitation and laying it down in front of the empty chair before receiving the elements). We also created these cool “take-out” lunch boxes that had “to-go” versions of the communion elements and a communion invitation card inside.

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ARTWORK and ALTERNATIVE WORSHIP SERVICE: These four images are a few of the artistic elements I photographed and designed for an alternative worship service that I co-curated at my church (PowerPoint slides, a “living water” art piece and prayer I created to be displayed within the sacred space, and a small take home benediction card).


We basically set up all these interactive stations that utilized the recurring image of a cup filled with water (i.e. being a vessel filled by the Holy Spirit). Each station had banners with Scripture passages hanging up (to root  each station in its Scriptural starting point). The spiritual journey began at the first station where each person picked up a clean cup and filled it up with dirty tainted looking water from a communal bowl. Next, the cup was carried into one of several individual candlelit confessional booths that we built. Inside the booth, each person had an opportunity to pray through a confessional liturgy that I wrote (highly influenced by the confessional liturgies found in the BCP). Following confession, each person took their cup of dirty water and emptied it into a large communal bowl that was set up next to a cross. The worshipers carried their cups to the next station where they could cleanse them in bowls of pure clean water and dry them off with “blood” red napkins. After that, they carried their cleansed cups into a separate intimate sacred space that we designed. The space was candlelit; had instrumental music; and displayed artwork and Scripture banners on all four walls of the room. Each worshiper prayed through another hand-written liturgy and took communion. They left with the benediction card art piece you see above.

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This is a refrigerator magnet I designed for my best friend who is serving as a missionary (now in Paris, France).