You Know this Painting?

 

"What did you say about that painting, Simon?" I ask from across the small wooden gallery.
"It was painted here."
"REALLY?"
"You know this painting?" he asks in surprise.
"Of course!" Hugh and I exclaim together.

I join them over by the stairs for a closer look.  I know the painting well but I have never stopped to look closely at the architectual details but when I do, my jaw drops to the floor.  It WAS painted here.  Oh my gosh.  Are you kidding me? How amazing is that?  All the details are there, down to the spindles on the back of the bench.  Simon suggests going downstairs for a picture and that perhaps, when we develop the film, Christ will be seen standing beside us.

Hugh, who is from Ireland, Emily, who is from London, and I take our places on the facing bench looking out into the room just like in the painting, trying to look worshipful while grinning inside.  After taking the photos, we actually do sit there for a while in quiet before heading outside, to take in and try to hear the voices of all those who had worshiped there throughout several centuries including many of George Fox's original followers. It felt rather like stepping through some magical doorway into a world you have only dreamed about but is now very real.


Being one of the oldest meeting houses, just think of all the words those walls have heard.  At the time we were there, there was a talk going on in another room about how a building is infused with what has gone on within it, that there is an unseen memory.  What kind of memory does Jordans Friends Meeting have?  To me, it felt sacred, hallowed, as if I was entering into a larger circle of living fellowship beyond what my hands could grasp.  The Friends there must feel the same way because that belief is illustrated in how they laid out their graveyard.  The gravestones may be very simple, but the truth they stand for is simpler still,  yet it reaches down to the depths of living testimoney.



The gravestones are set up as in meeting, the people burried there are still listening to the voice of God.  Alive in a deeper sense than we are, we sat with them in meeting, hoping to catch a bit of what they were hearing, the words that were transforming them so they might transform us too.  Can you imagine the reality they live in?  They are listening to God far better than we.  Seeing the gravestones like that tells me that death doesn't stop us from being in God's presence.  It doesn't stop their community nor the holding of their light together.   They may not be present in the meeting house as they are pictured in the painting, gone from the building and moved outside, but they left behind truth and love that will never leave, that you can almost sense around you when you sit where they have been. 

They may be there in the graveyard, but the truths of their lives rise far above the grass that covers them, it goes on sharing with us that we are all in a cirlce, a community going far beyond denomination, beyond being Quakers, reminding us of a deeper commonality of all being in relationship with God and thus in relationship with each other, smaller circles inside larger circles.  Maybe if someone painted us in the graveyard, they could paint all the people sitting in the circle with Christ in the center, smiling at this wide community of friends.

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Walking the Sea: You Know this Painting?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You Know this Painting?

 

"What did you say about that painting, Simon?" I ask from across the small wooden gallery.
"It was painted here."
"REALLY?"
"You know this painting?" he asks in surprise.
"Of course!" Hugh and I exclaim together.

I join them over by the stairs for a closer look.  I know the painting well but I have never stopped to look closely at the architectual details but when I do, my jaw drops to the floor.  It WAS painted here.  Oh my gosh.  Are you kidding me? How amazing is that?  All the details are there, down to the spindles on the back of the bench.  Simon suggests going downstairs for a picture and that perhaps, when we develop the film, Christ will be seen standing beside us.

Hugh, who is from Ireland, Emily, who is from London, and I take our places on the facing bench looking out into the room just like in the painting, trying to look worshipful while grinning inside.  After taking the photos, we actually do sit there for a while in quiet before heading outside, to take in and try to hear the voices of all those who had worshiped there throughout several centuries including many of George Fox's original followers. It felt rather like stepping through some magical doorway into a world you have only dreamed about but is now very real.


Being one of the oldest meeting houses, just think of all the words those walls have heard.  At the time we were there, there was a talk going on in another room about how a building is infused with what has gone on within it, that there is an unseen memory.  What kind of memory does Jordans Friends Meeting have?  To me, it felt sacred, hallowed, as if I was entering into a larger circle of living fellowship beyond what my hands could grasp.  The Friends there must feel the same way because that belief is illustrated in how they laid out their graveyard.  The gravestones may be very simple, but the truth they stand for is simpler still,  yet it reaches down to the depths of living testimoney.



The gravestones are set up as in meeting, the people burried there are still listening to the voice of God.  Alive in a deeper sense than we are, we sat with them in meeting, hoping to catch a bit of what they were hearing, the words that were transforming them so they might transform us too.  Can you imagine the reality they live in?  They are listening to God far better than we.  Seeing the gravestones like that tells me that death doesn't stop us from being in God's presence.  It doesn't stop their community nor the holding of their light together.   They may not be present in the meeting house as they are pictured in the painting, gone from the building and moved outside, but they left behind truth and love that will never leave, that you can almost sense around you when you sit where they have been. 

They may be there in the graveyard, but the truths of their lives rise far above the grass that covers them, it goes on sharing with us that we are all in a cirlce, a community going far beyond denomination, beyond being Quakers, reminding us of a deeper commonality of all being in relationship with God and thus in relationship with each other, smaller circles inside larger circles.  Maybe if someone painted us in the graveyard, they could paint all the people sitting in the circle with Christ in the center, smiling at this wide community of friends.

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8 Comments:

At April 17, 2011 at 1:35 AM , Blogger Janelle said...

That is so amazing. Thanks for taking a 21st century photo for us. And now some portion of your DNA and spirit is part of that meetinghouse as well....

 
At April 18, 2011 at 6:22 PM , Blogger Dale Graves said...

I had that exact same reaction when we visited there! And, yes, I felt the presence of the Spirit of the Living Christ.

 
At April 18, 2011 at 7:01 PM , Blogger naturalmom said...

Oh my, as I scrolled down to the photo of the graveyard, a chill went up my spine and tears came to my eyes. What an amazing testimony. I can only imagine how sacred it must have felt to sit in that circle. Wow.

 
At April 19, 2011 at 3:25 AM , Blogger Simon said...

My younger sister was married there and I have been many times over nearly half a century but Jordans is always a very special place for me and it was wonderful to see and experience it anew with such an appreciative visitor!

 
At April 19, 2011 at 4:27 AM , Blogger Simon said...

As you say I also hadn't realised that the painting is as well known to American Friends. Its by an Irish artist James Doyle Penrose who married an English Quaker and lived in Watford. His son was a more famous artist and art historian Sir Roland Penrose, a leading figure in European Surrealism. I've also made a connection to Gareth who you met on the Saturday evening, who is a descendant (not sure how directly). So thanks for breathing new life into "The Presence in the Midst" for me, possibly underrated by British Quakers as belonging to a more "literal image" era for liberal Quakers and Christians in general. My googling also finds that it was painted in 1916 and J Doyle Penrose lived from 1862 to 1932...

 
At April 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM , Blogger Micah Bales said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. My wife, Faith, and I have a copy of that painting hanging in our room!

Micah Bales
The Lamb's War

 
At April 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM , Blogger Iris said...

Loved reading your reflections on the site of the painting and seeing you in that same spot. I continue to think about sacred spaces, knowing that any place can be holy and at the same time believing that the intention that goes into a specific place causes molecular changes. I know I've been affected profoundly spending time in such spaces, and it sounds like you were, too.

Blessings on your travels, and please give my greetings to Friends at QUIP; I'm glad you'll be there.

 
At April 23, 2011 at 6:42 AM , Blogger Quakercore said...

When I was at Earlham, I took a class in Quaker Architecture where we looked at Meetinghouses of various branches all through Indiana and Ohio. The only thing we found in common was that painting was in every single one of them.

 

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