Mural painting. I was an art major in college, but I have NO experience painting murals. Until now. Unfortunately, it’s not really the kind of hobby you can practice! When Pastor Karen came to me with the idea of painting St. Francis on the door of Luther Place Church, I must be honest and say that I freaked out. It seemed all too risky for my first ever mural to be on the old front door of a center-city church that’s on the National Register of Historic Places! But PK pushed me and said it was a risk that she would like me to take, so I did. A few weeks later, my first mural is complete, with all of the good and all of the bad, and I’ve learned many things. I learned artistic techniques and logistics, sure, and I developed a newfound love and respect for murals around the city, but perhaps most importantly, I developed some sort of reverence for St. Francis, as he gradually came to life on what was originally a piece of plywood.
Before I began, I asked PK what she was envisioning. Was there anything specific she had in mind, or was I on my own to interpret said mural as I pleased? Pastor Karen’s response seemed feasible…at first. “You can do whatever you’d like.” Sigh of relief. “But it must be whimsical, memorable, and distinctive.” Ahh! No pressure! A sketch finally resulted after days of reading stories about St. Francis and praying his many prayers each morning. I’m generally inspired by words, and I got stuck on a few that quickly became my favorite. St. Francis, while walking with a few of his compatriots, said: “Wait here while I go preach to my sisters, the birds.” I couldn’t help but smile while picturing this scene and remembering several distinct moments during my LVC year when a fellow LVCer would essentially say to me, “Wait here while I greet every dog that walks by.” At the time, I thought he was ridiculous…an embarrassment to say the least! But the more I thought about St. Francis loving each and every creature – even the smallest of birds, the more I realized how much beauty the rest of us are missing. In an urban setting like Washington, DC, it is easy to take one glance at the pigeons, the rats, the dogs, and curse them for making a mess of our home, our creation. But as Christa, one of my LVC housemates, challenged us last year during a spirituality night, why should we value ourselves as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?
It’s been over a week now since the St. Francis mural was “unveiled,” and I’ve already painted on one wall in my office and am making plans for the others! The peace that St. Francis brings even to every pigeon reminds me to look more deeply and listen more carefully to all that is happening around me, and to take every chance I get to help a blank wall or canvas mature into color and shape, sound and feeling. (see www.lutherplace.org for another article on the mural)