Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and my art work of Restoring Jesus

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Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and my art work of Restoring Jesus
For my Blog followers you have read of my newest project that I have been working on.  The project of “Me and ‘Jesus’”.

I have spent 12 hours alone with ‘Jesus’ this past week.  It has actually taken a bit longer than 12 hours to get the job done.  I have been painting Jesus – at least a statue of Jesus at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Peterborough, Ontario – at Romaine and Aylmer streets.

The Sacred Heart Church was built a little over 100 years ago.  Either at the time it was built or shortly after that time this ‘Jesus’ was installed as a sacred image to encourage the congregants in their worship.

Marriage after marriage, ceremony after ceremony and all the Mass conducted, this statue of Jesus was the welcome guest at all the services held I the church over the years.

Somewhere in the renovation period of the church a few years back it was decided by someone that ‘Jesus’ should be white.  It was a modernizing attempt that made this happen.  Perhaps it was one person or a few that had decided to have ‘Jesus’ painted all white.   But when it happened, it took place during the time the walls were being painted and the updating was taking place.

The short stories that have been shared with me about the shock that people had when they saw their blessed statue of Jesus coming back to its place in the sanctuary completely white – are many.  This one decision likely caused a number of faithful people to react.

Undoubtedly some were for the change because it signified the possible changes that they wanted in their faith practices.   But from what I heard there were way more that felt this was almost a desecration of what they considered Holy.  The beautiful statue that their Great Grand Parents had been married in front of was gone forever. The statue that had presided over their own Baptism, marriage, and the following Baptisms of their own children was not the same.

Though it has taken me more than 12 hours to carefully paint the statue in the original colours, it would take less than 2 hours to completely cover ‘Jesus’ in white paint… and that would include two coats.

How do I know these things?  Well I have been with ‘Jesus’ for the better part of a whole week, starting on Monday and working a half day at a time.  While doing this the people who regularly are involved as volunteers in the church service or that take part in some of the preparations for the congregation have stopped by to take a peek.  Some of these folks shared a little bit about what the statue has meant to them over the years.  The stories touched my heart.

You may ask how I knew what the original colours were.  Well the thick white paint that was covering the statue was easy to chip away to see what was below.  Then with the help of a few colour swatches that the paint department offered I found the exact colour match.

The problems that I encountered along the process of the new paint job were many.

The greatest problem was to get ‘Jesus’ to shine with a gold colour that had been originally there.  The shiny gold was hidden below the white paint and there was lots of it.  But that shiny gold colour, which likely contained real gold(not sure of this), is not sold today.  The sign painter’s gold is too shiny and would look terrible.  What should I do?

By applying a coat of paint that was kind of a ‘mustard yellow’ colour and then the metallic paint from a craft store… the old shine came alive again. ‘Jesus’ now has just the right amount of gold on his cloak.

Getting inside of the crevices and unusual areas of all the different parts of the statue was another hard part. Longer paint brushes were need and thin brushes as well to reach inside carefully and keep a straight line with the contrasting colours meeting.

A big problem was his eyes as well. If they are too big in the pupils he would look like he was shocked to see the people at the Mass.  If the eyes were painted too far one way or the other he would be looking away from people.  And the worst part if one eye looked to the right and the other to the left – well it would almost be sacrilegious… let alone if both eyes looked inward… which would break up the poor folk receiving the elements each Sunday.

As I worked hour after hour I thought about this congregation and its history. Through the hard time of losing men during the First and Second World Wars they had endured it all.  They had lost many special people and suffered the times when tragedy had struck.  The church and all its Masses plus its ceremonies over the years had supported its people and blessed them over and over again.

As time went on, the church changed.  People had left for one reason or another. The congregation had been shrinking just like the other churches in our city have as well.

Father Ervens Mengelle is the parish priest at Sacred Heart church.  And it was through Father Ervens that I was brought into this project. 

I know this one big factor – Father Ervens is a great man or faith.  How do I know this?  He invited and has encouraged me as I took on this task.  He was the one that asked me, a PROTESTANT MINISTER(now retired artist), to take on this huge task.  And he has trusted me that I will do a good job for him.

Father Erwens believes this small action of restoring Jesus to all his glory, the way it used to be, will encourage his congregation.

Father Erwens is young and a dynamic man – who in all likelihood will be moved someday because of his great potential of working to encourage his congregation.  I see the potential in this man.

For myself, at 68 years old and life zooming by… my promotion will come as well and I will no longer be painting or carving in this life.

If all goes well this weekend with more and more people taking a peek at the new statue there will be a growing joy in their congregation as they get ready for the Christmas season.

I love the new – old look… and gulp… I sure hope they do.  If someone complains that they don’t like the old look… YIKES!  And as an artist I suffer that pang of horror each time I present hat I have done.

But if they don’t like it… it can be made white again… in about two hours.

Fingers crossed and holding my breath… I pray of the dear people of Sacred Heart congregation – God richly bless them all!

~ Murray Lincoln ~
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