stepping inside a church, for the first time in a long time. Being Jewish, I tend to stick to a familiar ground unless I am invited elsewhere. I was here for an incredible reason. My Rabbi called me to ask if I would take on a commission. He explained that this commission, this watercolor painting, was intended to be given to Independent Presbyterian Church–this is the really cool part. It was Temple Emanu-El & Independent Presbyterian Church anniversary. It was OUR 100 year anniversary. It was 100 years ago, that the Independent Presbyterian Church began in Birmingham, Alabama. Their beginning started in Temple Emanu-El. IPC used the Sanctuary for seven years before they had moved into their Church…a bit down the street, though still on Highland Avenue in Birmingham, Alabama.
First & foremost, i should say i was incredibly honored to be offered this amazing commission. Thank you, Jan Blitz for thinking of me & Rabbi Miller helping me pull it off.
The first thing i needed was photographs of inside the Church. I asked Rabbi Jonathan Miller how I would get in.
He said, “Just tell them Rabbi Miller sent you.” He can literally open doors.
I had called the church to tell them the when & the whys i needed to come…the “when” was supposed to be early afternoon. I arrived at 4:00. It was serendipitous. The reason i was so late was because the church wanted me to see it at its finest. The golden hour broke through their stained glass, splashing color everywhere. I was lucky enough to find the two nicest women to give me a tour & tell me a tale of its history. AND i arrived while the organ played.
I walked in feeling nervous, as though i hadn’t the right to trespass on their place of prayer. But i am a lover of light, of dancing color, music surrounding me. I am a lover of art & in this place, i found it everywhere. The architect made the bones, the straight stones, and curved the wood…perhaps to make the music dance around the room? The designer brought in the lights (art!), chose the color of the walls. An artist told stories in glass, the glass, invited the sun to splash the color about the place. The pipes for the organ were sculpture in & of themselves AND they delivered music throughout & within, powerfully.
I walked in this Church thinking only of labels, labels that divide us. I thought that i am a Jew standing in a Christian’s holy place. During the time i spent walking around this building, the labels, in my mind, fell away…i didn’t feel as though i trespassed, i felt as if i was intended to be there, invited to be there & very welcome. I walked out of this Church feeling the same as I do at my Temple… touched deeply, by the history, the art, the music, the sun’s golden light, human kindness & i was completely at peace.
If you live in Birmingham & have yet to see Independent Presbyterian Church on Highland Ave…GO!!! you would be welcomed.