I have always had a thing for art. When I was a kid my mom would take me to her downtown Atlanta office during summer breaks, providing me with new experiences and keeping me out of trouble during summer break. I loved the city and exploring its culturally rich landmarks. Always a favorite stop was the High Museum of Modern Art, where my love of art was curated. In The High’s permanent collection are masterpieces from Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir alongside modern expressions imagined by Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol. Elaborate sixteenth century statues carved from marble by master craftsmen served as docents on a journey leading to the abstract structural works of the post-modernists. I would get lost in those halls for hours.
During my college years at Georgia State, the High reached an agreement with The Louvre which featured a three year rotation of some of the world’s greatest works on loan from Paris. In order to accommodate such an exhibit, The High added on to its already impressive Peachtree Street facility additional space called the Wieland Pavilion. For the next few years, the streets of Midtown Atlanta felt as if they had been transported to the banks of the Seine. It was a very special time.
When the agreement with the Louvre concluded, a bold decision was made to use the newly created space to showcase the works of local and international installation artists. Contrary to a painting which is hung on a wall and viewed from a distance, installation art is meant to be a multi-sensory experience. Such art is three-dimensional in nature and often created with the intention of being traveled through and experienced in different ways on different points of that journey. As you might expect, works of installation art can be quite large, and artists put a lot of thought into the space they use for such work. The goal is to create an experience which reflects the greater museum collection, its history, and desired future, all installed into a particular time and space. Oftentimes these projects use diverse materials, repurposed elements alongside modern technology fresh from production, grafted together in ways not easily removed.
I have recently come to imagine of the role of pastor as that of installation artist. In the epistle to the Ephesians we read that “we are God’s masterpieces, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10). Knowing that, we pastors come alongside a particular collection of masterpieces, curated by the great Museum Director, and consider how we might be installed into that space to create an experience which reflects the past while also dreaming for the future. Just as installation art is intentionally placed in relationship with what is already present, it declares a message that there can and will be more to come. Such is the work of pastoral ministry.
On Sunday August 28th at 10am, we will hold a joint service of installation at Bayshore. This is an old Baptist tradition practiced by fewer and fewer congregations, but something I would like to reclaim in these early days together. After all, I think Bayshore is such a special place because of our willingness to embrace older and new expressions of church life together as one. Traditionally, pastoral installation services occur within the first six months of a new pastor’s ministry and is a chance to introduce the new minister and that minister’s vision to the community. It is also an opportunity for the new minster to welcome mentors and colleagues who have shaped that vision in hopes of sharing a bigger picture of the new minister’s life with the church. Joining us on August 28th will be Dr. Bill Leonard, professor of Church History and Baptists Studies at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. An old-fashioned potluck lunch will follow in our fellowship hall and I welcome everyone to consider bringing a favorite dish to share.
It is my prayer that this time will be a celebration of my intentional commitment to life at Bayshore as pastor, installing myself in this very special time and place. May we honor our past, and reach for our future, together.