Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Who Ya Gonna Call? (Saints for All Times)

The icons of St. Gregory of Nyssa church in San Francisco raise all kinds of questions about sainthood -- ours, the people the icons depict . . . everybody's.

Five of ninety saints celebrated in icons on the walls of St. Gregory
of Nyssa church in San Francisco. (Artist: Mark Dukes)

Yesterday was the annual USA "celebration of us!" -- the Fourth of July.  It is a day when I usually find myself pondering what it will take for this country to recognize how far it still has to go . . . . 

I was grateful that, on this particular Fourth of July, I had some profound material for reflection fresh in my mind. The previous day I had attended worship at St. Gregory of Nyssa church in San Francisco. There is a lot to say about worship at St. Gregory's, but the place to start is the icons.

St. Gregory of Nyssa's walls are adorned with stunning images of ninety saints, created by the artist Mark Dukes. They are joined in a dance, and these icons invite us to meditate deeply on so many lives lived in the pursuit of good for the many.

What is particularly marvelous about this group of ninety saints is that they were selected for portrayal by the people of the St. Gregory of Nyssa community: "We celebrate those whose lives show God at work, building a deep character to match the godlike image which stamps them as God's own from the start."

The image above shows several of those icons -- the saints Bartolomé de las Casas, Miriam, Origen, Malcolm X, Queen Elizabeth I, and Iqbal Mashi.

You can see more on the St. Gregory's website and this Flickr page.  And you can read about the ninety saints selected by the St. Gregory's community here.

The array of saints on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa raise a fascinating question for all communities of faith: who would you select to memorialize and celebrate on the walls of your church? Even if you are not fortunate enough to have the services of someone like Mark Dukes available to you, how might you share your selections with others?


Filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu
Musician Ravi Shankar
Scientist Rachel Carson
Liberator Harriet Tubman
Author Harriet Beecher Stowe 
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning
Whistleblower Edward Snowden
Political leader Chief Seattle
Choreographer Lin Hwai-min

Related posts

Perhaps what makes a book good for a discussion group is that it combines startling candor, brevity, and the courage to leap again and again into the middle of mysterious questions.

(See Finding Accidental Saints in Berkeley)

To be sitting in Berkeley and seeing in front of my eyes the spreading of this idea that started in Texas and was nurtured in Philadelphia and got agitated in Chicago felt like a real Pentecost moment.

(See Decolonize Lutheranism -- A Northern California Installment)

Ravi Shankar is a great example of someone bringing a special point of view to pierce the bubble of "normalcy" in which a vast number of people live, and to agitate for tectonic change.

(See Thanks, Ravi)