BY BOB LEITNER
The Stations of the Cross have been transformational for me over the past few years—one story evolves into another story and then into a third, weaving people and places together. Let’s start with the first story, the summer of 2010.
I was on a FUMC pilgrimage with my wife Cece and twenty other members. The pilgrimage was organized by Cherri Johnson through the Ministry of Spiritual Formation. We journeyed to Taos, New Mexico. We used Taos as our base to experience and explore Christian spirituality of this area. From Taos we traveled to San Luis, Colorado, a small arid town in the southeastern corner of the state. In the center of San Luis there is a hill known as La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia or the Hill of Piety and Mercy. The hill contains a winding path with bronze sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. The path winds up the mesa to a small chapel located on the top.
The Stations, magnificent and inspiring bronze sculptures in 2/3 size, were designed and created by renowned local sculpture, Huberto Maetas. Incredible detail reveals compassion in the face of the Christ; you can clearly see the tear drops on Christ’s face and mercy and compassion in his eyes. During my prayer walk, I received a clear invitation to follow Christ on a deeper and more committed level. That fall I enrolled in the Louisiana Conference Academy training program for Spiritual Leadership and Spiritual Direction.
Meditating on individual Stations of the Cross and walking the Stations became an important part of my prayer discipline. In the fall of 2013, while walking my dog, Jackson, along the Mississippi River Levee, I began having a vision of leading others through the Stations, portable Stations handmade of Louisiana cypress. The Holy Spirit spoke to a deep desire in my soul and I began to make the portable stations that next week. I completed them shortly before the following Easter and have since been able to lead small groups through the Stations on Men’s retreats, Spiritual Directors retreats, at University Methodist Church and during Lent on our own campus.
The Saturday after having my vision on the levee, I encountered Pam Voelker at Goodwood Hardware. To my surprise, Pam asked if I would be interested in assisting her efforts to place Stations of the Cross in the Aldrich Chapel. Wow! An immediate connection was made and through Pam’s leadership and persistence, FUMC’s Aldrich Chapel now houses a magnificent replication of The Stations of the Cross.
BY PAM VOELKER
Did you ever hear a knock at the door and hesitated to answer it? Usually, whoever it is on the other side will knock a second time. What I have found out over this past 2 years is that when it is the Holy Spirit knocking it never stops until you answer it.
My journey began with the “Academy for Spiritual Formation, FUMC” a 9 month commitment of learning and exploring including weekend retreats, small groups, study and prayer. At the conclusion of the program Cherri Johnson, Director of Spiritual Formation and Adult Education, challenged us to act on our Faith. Not to sit back and let things happen but to be the one to make things happen.
In the summer of 2014, I was not answering knocks at the door from ‘the stranger’ but as fall approached they could no longer be ignored.
Opening the door to the Holy Spirit, I was called to explore the significance and everyday relevance of the biblically based “Stations of the Cross” or as we like to call them “The Way of the Cross.” I began a journey of Faith that continues to this today. I saw that Faith in action through the support and guidance from staff and members of FUMC was life-giving and very productive. Faith in action from working with a local Baton Rouge artist, Deborah Luke, who has the gift from God to express her faith in extraordinary pieces of art to Faith in action by not giving up even when the project seemed just too daunting and complicated.
I am still on this journey turning the corner to now guide small groups toward the wonder and majesty of “The Way of the Cross”. Maybe my journey will encourage someone else on their own journey. I look forward to Lent and I can’t wait to see what the Holy Spirit has planned next.
BY DEBORAH LUKE, ARTIST
As I reflect on my life as an artist, I find myself continually drawn to the mystery and beauty of the human person. The human face was my first muse. In my youth, I drew and sculpted faces I knew and loved best – mother, father, sister, brother. A purely physical likeness was never enough. I sought always to capture the intangible, the essence, the spirit of my subject, that which distinguishes him or her from any other person.
Shortly after a trip to Rome in 1996, nearly twenty years ago, a new impulse appeared. Moved by the beauty of sacred images so abundant in the cities in Italy I visited – Rome, Florence, Assisi – I began to sculpt images of Jesus and Mary. Initially inspired by Italian masters, I turned to the pages of sacred scripture for my own, more personal expression of the truths revealed therein. I have discovered in the Old and New Testaments a nearly inexhaustible source of inspiration.
My favorite medium for over forty years has been clay. From a clay model, molds are made and then cast in a variety of more permanent materials, such as the hydrostone reliefs recently installed in the FUMC Aldrich Chapel, or more recently, in bronze. I love the sensitive nature of clay, the way it responds to the slightest touch, the play of light on its surface as the clay is molded and worked. I have often felt that the form of prayer which is truest to my own nature is the prayer of clay in my hands.
In summary, there are certain things without which my own art would not exist. The first of these is time and space to work. The second is silence and prayer. And the third, perhaps the most elusive ingredient – call it inspiration, or grace – is indispensable. I can create conditions conducive to the making of art, but I cannot without grace accomplish works that speak the language of the human heart or call another to prayer.