By Stephen Wilson

A hay wagon trailer is parked in what would be the grassy outfield of a baseball diamond that’s part of Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church. The fieldstone monolith, whose cornerstone was laid in 1840, looms silently. Its sanctuary and fellowship hall have remained quiet over the months.

But worship, having been disrupted by the pandemic, is still finding ways to flourish.

SUVs roll into the parking lot. Some parishioners stay hunkered in their warm cars, while others in winter gear form tiny clusters of lawn chairs. All wear masks.

The trailer is resplendent with a lectern, altar, and pulpit, but the stiff breeze continues to tumble over the flower vases. An organ on an elevated platform sits nearby. Lawn signs tell car-worshippers to tune their dials to 88.3 FM.

A folding table in front of the hay wagon pulpit holds a tablet on a tripod, capturing the Facebook Live feed for those watching from home. 

The church service begins with a welcome. Introductions follow.

Two Lafayette students are among them: Jane Ferguson ’21 and Kymble Clark ’22. They stand alongside the trailer next to easels. A table between them holds tubes of acrylic, water jugs, brushes, and cups.

These art majors will paint throughout the service.

An invocation, opening hymn, and prayer of confession lead into passing of the peace. Car horns blare while those in lawn chairs flash peace symbols to their neighbors.

Ferguson and Clark get to work, each taking a different approach as Clark reaches for a brush, and Ferguson uses her hand.

Today’s scripture lessons and sermon examine wrestling, literal, figurative, and metaphysical. Jacob wrestled an angel. Jesus labored with the path before him while praying at Gethsemane. Old Greenwich Church just finished the work to find a new pastor. Guest preacher Rev. Jim Verser has attempted to reconcile the choices of his ancestors.

While parishioners contemplate all they are hearing, the painters make it manifest as dark pigments swirl and shards of bright light emanate. 

Ferguson adds layers and shades with strokes of her fingers. Clark, meanwhile, drops her canvas to the ground and starts to pour, drip, and flick paint, and then tilt and tip the painting in various directions.

Image of Tom in maskMusic swells as Tom DiGiovanni ’96, who collaborates with the music and theater departments, plays the keyboard and accompanies a vocal soloist. He and church members helped create a series that invites area artists to perform as part of the church service. 

Ed Kerns (head of the art department) and I have worked on numerous projects together over the last 20 years, and he was able to recommend two fantastic artists to help with this church ‘experiment,’” says DiGiovanni. “Kymble and Jane brought an energy to the service that opened a line of communication—a connection—between the spoken word, the music, the congregants, and their own experiences. Art has a way of reminding people that we live in the physical, intellectual, and emotional worlds all at once. Kymble and Jane were able to bring that recognition to our congregation through their creations.”

Lafayette connections at the service are deep. Amy Ahart ’97, Tom’s spouse, is running the broadcast as her mother, Catherine P’97’03, wife of former board chair Ed Ahart ’69, reads at the lectern.

Even deeper, the church was constructed under the leadership of pastor David Junkin. His brother, George Junkin, was the College’s first and third president (1832-1840 and 1844-1848).

As the offertory leads into a blessing, the artists conclude their work. They pose for pictures and receive praise from people who were moved as they watched bright colors arise from the dark surfaces.

Seems symbolic of the times and blessings that befall those who finish their wrestling.

Categorized in: Alumni, Art, News and Features, Students, The Arts
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