Whispers in the sand: images of diaconia
One wouldn’t necessarily think that there was a parallel between the historical lives of diaconal ministers and those of artists. Yet Terrie Chedore found one, which she explores in her latest solo exhibit, Whispers in the Sand: a brief history of diaconal ministry, currently on display at Galerie du Séminaire at The United Theological College in Montreal.
The exhibit encapsulates six key periods in the history of Diaconal Ministry. The icon-like images were originally developed for a ‘work of art integrative theology paper,’ a final requirement for a degree in Diaconal Ministry. In her paper, Colouring Outside the Lines: Parallels in the Histories of Diaconal Ministry and Religious Art, Chedore explores “the complex and confusing history of diaconal ministry through the eyes of theologians, artists, art therapists and historians”.
The project began with the question, Is there a parallel between the work of the artist and the work of the diaconate? Chedore explains, “I believe that both diakonia and the arts were influenced by the same theological debates: 1) the equality of women, 2) the divinity of Jesus, 3) the meaning of graven image, and 4) the definition of heresy. Juxtaposing seemingly disconnected streams of history reveals the systemic suppression and control experienced by both deacons/deaconesses and artists.”
She then incorporated seashells, sand and sunlight in a Zen-like process to symbolically work through her own doubts and fears while spiritually breathing life into each character and revealing new aspects of diaconal ministry.
The shell images, originally created in a sand tray, were photographed and dismantled. The digital photos, later printed on 18” x 24” gallery style canvas, include:
- Jesus Cloaked in Mystery
- Phoebe – an ordained deacon of the 1st century church
- From Equality to Imbalance (4th – 6th centuries, deacons in the developing church)
- Jesus the Christ (based on a 6th century Byzantine Trinitarian icon)
- Idolatry, Heresy, Iconoclasm and Inquisition (8th-9th C and again in the 15th-16th C)
- 12th through 15th centuries (a secular movement outside the church)
- Hope on the Horizon (the 19th century renewal of the diaconate).
Chedore describes the development of the image called Idolatry, Heresy, Iconoclasm, and Inquisition (If one member suffers, all suffer, 1 Cor. 12:26.): “The icon grew slowly over a period of days. Finding the Skate [ray] egg sacks [in the Gulf of Mexico following a massive oil spill] triggered emotions that connected deeply to my sense of dread and sadness over the brutality that we inflict on each other and on the world in which we live. My own internal psychological pain is also made visible. [The] bitterness and anger and frustration with the system is embedded in this image.”
Phoebe, Romans 16:1 (I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae), walks proudly with hair flying in the face of Paul’s later comments on keeping the hair covered. Phoebe is an important link, says Chedore (2104), “first because diaconal ministry since the 19th century has largely been a women’s ministry, and second because locating role models of women in leadership in our Christian scriptures is not easy. Phoebe, the deacon, was an integral and vital part of the developing church. Acknowledging her existence encourages and strengthens my own position. I am able to boldly proclaim her presence.” Chedore describes the icon saying, “Her luxurious hair flows wild and free, unrestrained; she is earthy and alive, pregnant with hope and promise, engaged in life and love. She exhibits a calm, confident attitude.”
On the other hand, the image of the 19th century deaconess, is “heavy with rules and boundaries including the need for uniforms and limited roles.” Wrapped in a ‘fighting whelk’ shell shawl, she is determined and courageous. The pink barnacle that represents her hand points to hard work; and the bowl she carries is filled with life-giving abundance. Chedore elaborates, “Although these deaconesses were strong women who pushed against societal and ecclesiastic limitations, they nevertheless experienced strict boundaries, stifled growth, and somewhat limited opportunities.”
Like any creative process, the icons emerged randomly following Chedore’s healing journey rather than any logical, historical pattern. First came the flames of fire searing through her pain; then the Christ icon forced a re-visualization of her own Christology; the Phoebe image affirmed her call to a role as diaconal artist; the Secular Deacons reinforced the diversity of diaconal ministry; the 19th century Deaconess allowed her to release her sadness; and finally, the two Deacons propelled her in a new direction). An addition to the exhibit, Jesus Cloaked in Mystery, representing Jesus preparing to wash the feet of the disciples, was not included in the integrative paper.
The thesis was pivotal in Chedore’s decision to continue her journey as a diaconal artist. This current art exhibit, just months after being approved for commissioning in the UCC as a diaconal minister, is an affirmation of her call to diaconal ministry.
La Galerie du Séminaire warmly invites you to a vernissage featuring the artwork of Terrie Chedore: “Whispers in the Sand: A brief history of diaconal ministry”.
The vernissage will take place from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM on Friday, February 15th at the United Theological College in Montreal.
Terrie Chedore, a diaconal artist, studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Ottawa School of Art. She holds a Bachelor of Theological Studies in Diaconal Ministry from St. Stephen’s College and a diploma in Diaconal Ministries (Studies in Transformation and Action) from the Centre for Christian Studies. Terrie will be commissioned as a Diaconal Minister in June 2019.