Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Liturgical Calendar

I couple of days ago I posted the schedule for Holy Week from our local Episcopal Church, St. Paul's. Several people posted comments about the full week within the higher liturgical traditions. This whole flurry of liturgical activity was a surprise to me also until a few years ago and began to explore the riches of higher liturgical churches. Im no expert and maybe I am just a sucker for symbol and ritual, but the rhythms and cycles of the church calendar have quickly reshaped the way I think about my faith, witness and means of worship.

While there are many people my age climbing the proverbial liturgical ladder, there are many who are simply unaware of these liturgical traditions, and likely some who may reject them altogether because of their perception that these are Catholic things (Steve Harmon's recent article for CT is a good example). Though perhaps I underestimate folks, and a livelier Lenten liturgical tradition is thriving in low churches. I grew up in the Reformed Church in America (a mid ladder liturgical church) and can remember going to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Morning Services. Perhaps it was my age or perhaps my general inability to understand spiritual things, but I never came close to living in the narratives of this week.

Anyway, today I ran across a great little site: churchyear.net. It has very basic information on the various seasons and special days within the liturgical calendar. It mentions history and symbolism needed to live into the depths of the narrative as embodied in higher liturgical traditions. The section called All About Lent will be especially helpful for those who might be looking at going to some of these services.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Empty Spaces and Prayers of the People

Recently Bill Caraher and I briefly discussed a possible project on the idea of abandonment and what seems like a contemporary growth of interest. As my part, I am hoping to photograph abandonment across North Dakota and the region at large.

In preparation for this work, I've been doing a little web and Amazon surfing. Yesterday I ran into this amazing website on trekking the lands surrounding Chernobyl and the devastation that has been marked upon the land. While many sites of abandonment are ambiguous in terms of emotion and meaning, there is no doubt of the horror and sadness left in its nuclear wake.

As I looked at these images and considered the toll this accident took on this place and hundred of thousands of lives I was brought back to the words of the Book of Common Prayer and the prayers of the people. I encourage you to take some time and look through her site. Consider the effects of humanity on this place. Consider the place's effects on humanity.

Form IV
Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may
be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal
your glory in the world.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the
ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another
and serve the common good.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant
that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he
loves us.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or
spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and
bring them the joy of your salvation.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will
for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share
with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Week Schedule

Holy Week is upon us. St. Paul's Episcopal in Grand Forks is offering a host of additional services this week. See below...

Sunday - Palm Sunday Service @ 10.15 am
Wednesday - Holy Eucharist @ 5.30 pm
Thursday - Maundy Thursday Service @ 7.00 pm
Friday - Good Friday Stations of the Cross @ Noon
Veneration of the Cross @ 7.00 pm
Saturday - Holy Saturday Service @ 10.30 am
Easter Vigil @ 8.00 pm
Sunday - Easter Breakfast @ 8.15-9.45 am
Holy Eucharist @ 7.00 & 10.15 am

Friday, March 26, 2010

NDUS Arts and Humanities Summit Proposal

April 1st is the deadline to submit proposals for the NDUS Arts and Humanities Summit being held this year at Dickinson State University. Recently UND Department of Art & Design faculty member Patrick Luber and I have been discussing our submissions and decided to create ones of similar topics hopefully to be cobbled together into some form of panel on religion and art.

Since the deadline is rapidly approaching I decided that I should pull something together. Below is my first attempt.

Embodying Theology: Theological Reflections and Artistic Practice

Whether it is the artful transmission, recording and subsequent translations of its central narrative, or those narratives embodied in art and architecture, Psalm and song, or the wit and Word of preachers and theologians, the arts have played a vital role in the ongoing life of the Christian faith. And yet, this relationship, particularly for the visual arts, has been a tenuous one throughout its history. The Church’s anxiety of the artists’ freedom of expression is matched only by the artists’ anxiety of censorship and misuse by ecclesial authorities.

Following the continued splintering of the post-Reformation church, each denomination has cultivated its own, both implicit and explicit, aesthetic traditions. For many reasons, the pitch and pace of recent conversations concerning the arts and Christian tradition has continued to grow across Protestantism, particularly within Evangelicalism. As these conversations continue to expand and mature, they require an increasing nuance and thoughtful articulations of praxis from both artists and theologians.

By reflecting on my own recent academic and ecclesial pilgrimages both as a trained theologian and an artist-in-training, this paper will attempt to reconcile the woof and weft of my own artistic practices in the light of current theological trajectories.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Altera Civitas and Health Care Reform

Once again this year I’ve taken to praying the hours (in a modified form) for my Lenten discipline. Whether it’s the pattern, routine, challenge, new insights, it’s a practice that I have greatly enjoyed in the past. There are times when I find myself sleepwalking both literally and figuratively through the ancient and contemporary words. But then…something sings…words glitter and begin to pull me back to proper attendance.

This year I’ve been using Phillis Tickle’s Eastertide: Prayers for Lent from her larger series The Divine Hours. By weaving traditional prayers, collects, hymns, and Psalms the prayerful pilgrim is led the way of self examination leading towards the celebration of Easter. But two nights ago, a single repeated line stood out. The following morning a similar line dug deeply into my consciousness. It’s not as if I had not read or heard these lines before, but it was the context into which they were read which reminded me of their great power and our condition as the church.

The refrain for Monday night was “Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.” Twelve hours later, the morning refrain came from Psalm 145.13; “Your Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.” Both images imply a political and alternative reality. The first suggests a military image while the second implies the stability and endurance of earthly rule. The fitting context into which these fell of course is our country’s ongoing debate over healthcare. This contentious debate spreads even through Facebook, where I witnessed a friend attacked by a complete stranger for her questions and support of what he called a socialist agenda. To which she replied that she was done with conversation because this country had lost its civility. She retreated to Barry Harvey’s Another City (Altera Civitas) which reminds us that while we are earthly citizens our means being are formed by another set of practices. Regardless of how we interpret the recent developments of the health care issues, we do well to recall these two refrains that our trust should not be in the governments power, but rather the Name of the Lord our God. We also do well to recall the fragile and fleeting reality of this thing we call the United States. It is a temporal…meaning earthly and temporary reality. Our hope is to be set upon God’s everlasting kingdom, which is not synonymous with American or any other political aspirations.

I wanted to end these rambling thoughts with my friends Facebook status from the other day. “The Christian community should always remember that as the altera civitas it is on pilgrimage toward a very different realm, that its allegiance and mode of practice is vested in this other city, and that in this world those who love as God loves will frequently, and perhaps invariably, meet with a similar fate to that... which met the divine love incarante.” -- Barry Harvey, Another City

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conference Schedules

This spring has already proven to be a hectic one with 2 conferences out of the way, Ive got 2 more to go. In just over 3 weeks I present at the Upper Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion. This meeting, as every year, meets at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. This is my 3rd paper at this conference, which tends to be a collegial and fun affair. I am also excited about UND's presence at the conference. Patrick Luber, one of my committee members is presenting his research on the Viewmaster right after my paper (which ironically is in part wrestling with his wife Jennifer Nelson's artwork). But there are a few others from the religion department that are either presenting or chairing a session.

I will also be presenting at College Theology Society annual meetings this year. We will be traveling to the University of Portland for the conference which runs June 3-6th. You can see the conference details here and the presentation schedule here. Our theme of Religion, Economics, and Culture in Conflict and Conversation should be an interesting one.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dan Attoe Visiting Artist

Two weeks ago (yes I am behind in my posting) Dan Attoe visited UND as part of the Myers Foundations funded Visiting Artist Series. Dan's visit stood out as one of the more significant for us as students. His generosity of time, energy, and encouragement were remarkable for us all. I was thankful for the connection to the printmakers so I got to spend a little more time with Dan as we printed 2 prints for him (a larger 11x22 and a smaller 10x10) for Sundog Press.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Causing Trouble in New Jersey

Earlier this year I entered the members show at the Print Council of New Jersey, a wonderful group of artists and programs for printmakers. I entered a show and was accepted last year and so I thought I would join them this year. My piece Contesting Cyprus was chosen for their annual show entitled "Where have we been" or something along those lines.

The other day I received an email from the director saying that one of the venues for the show had deemed my work as "inappropriate," had been removed, and I was expected to make arrangements to come pick up the work. The County of Somerset Cultural & Heritage Commission sent us both letters notifying us of their decision. Hers got their faster since PCNJ is 10 minutes down the road while the time to get the letter to North Dakota took a little longer.

Ive attached a picture of the letter. I've gone back and forth with my emotions between thinking its funny and then being angry, and yet understanding. I don't deny that the piece is controversial. Its meant to be. I understand that the piece taken literally might be offensive...hey its got the F bomb in it. I understand that it might not be appropriate for all venues. I get that. But its what the letter insinuates about me and what that suggests about their utter failure to understand the piece that makes me angry.

"The [SCCHC] will not permit the C&H Gallery to participate as a platform for individual's political protests, promote hate speech or allow the display of obscenities. Your artwork has been removed as inappropriate for this venue."

It is the misguided assumption that these are my particular views rather than my effort to document graffiti as a sign of the many political, religious, and ideological contests marked upon place.

Along with the entry, I was asked to write a small statement on the work. This is what accompanied this particular print.

"The print takes two urban landscape images; first, of the Turkish North and one of the Greek South and placed them next to each other as in a diptych. I then used Photoshop to cut and paste the copious amounts of graffiti that covered most city blocks in both the North and South. The graffiti represents literal plurality of contests marked upon the landscape."

Now, I dont know if this statement was hung with the work or not. If it did not accompany the work, it makes their decision perhaps less offensive to me. Perhaps my current location within the safety of a university has heightened my idealism and I've forgotten to think about the impact that the literal words and statements might have upon and individual or community.

Oh well...Im still putting it on my C.V.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Red River Valley History Conference

This week Friday I will presenting some of my research on the New Topographics at the Red River Valley History Conference. At the encouragement of Bill Caraher I decided to submit an abstract for the conference. It was accepted and further filled my already over full plate. Oh well, it really has taken only a few days to merge the research into an acceptable format for the conference.

The paper proceeds with a brief overview of the New Topographic photographers and their work. It then transitions to set the group within an art, and particularly photo historical context. It then turns to the social science of Human Geography to explore the disciplines simultaneous emergence and focus on topics of place/space. Within that group of scholars I mention the work of Edward Relph to explore ideas of placelessness that may function as a subtext embedded within the work of the New Topographics. I then turn to several contemporary photographers to explore how these shared tendencies have continued on. All this within 20 minutes.

The highlight of the conference is the keynote address given by Dr. Robin Jensen on "Living Water: Rituals, Spaces, and Images of Early Christian Baptism."

Check out the conference schedule here...or here.