with God
June 16, 2006


"I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. ... I do not hide her wealth, for it is an unfailing treasure for mortals; those who get it obtain friendship with God, commended for the gifts that come from instruction."
(Wisdom 7:7-14)

Friendship with God: what does that mean? I once heard Br. Charles LaFond, SSJE (Society of St. John the Evangelist) compare God to a warm, vivacious, conspiratorial "great friend," who might enthusiastically peruse possibilities for our lives, rub His hands together happily, and say, "Hmm ... now, what can we do with that?"

I got to know Br. Charles' teachings in a workshop I was privileged to take with him at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., when the cherry blossoms were at their fullest in the spring of 2005. Later I distilled his teachings into a set of "Brother Charles' Rules," and have copied them onto the first page of every sketchbook since then. Rule One is: "Every choice we make is either toward God or away from God."

Seeking friendship with God would seem to be the ultimate choice toward Him. As the Apostle James wrote: "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." The English word "friend" has its roots in an Old English verb meaning "to love, to favor," and is "kissing cousins" with another word meaning "free." Love, favor, freedom – what's not to like? Is it really that simple?

In his last interview, a few months before his death in 1963, C.S. Lewis said, "... The most deeply compelled action is also the freest action. By that I mean, no part of you is outside the action. It is a paradox." But that doesn't mean freedom is easy. Jesus' most deeply compelled action for us, and also His freest, was arguably His death on the cross.

Friendship means being fully present to another; sharing his experience, walking a mile in his shoes. Jesus' willingness to do those things led him to live with us and die for us. Friendship is God's gift to us; can we reciprocate? That could well culminate in Jesus' admonition, "Take up your cross and follow Me."

King Solomon wrote that friendship with God starts with prayer. Prayer brings understanding and wisdom, Solomon said; and finally confers this holy friendship, which gives us "the gifts that come through instruction." Indeed, prayer is all about submitting ourselves to God's will and inviting His instruction. What mortal can know where that may lead?

The works of art in this exhibition explore the awe-inspiring idea of what it must be like to share "friendship with God" so far as we are able: to join in the experience of Christ; to engage in His world, to the extent that we may; to walk with Him.

Here you will see works that may seem controversial or difficult. That is not necessarily a bad thing; Jesus was marvelously controversial and delightfully difficult, too.

The Rev. Paul Fromberg's "Station One: Jesus is Condemned to Die" puts the Stations of the Cross on our terms, in our time. Fromberg pulls back the veil of two thousand years' passage and refuses to spare us the immediacy of the experience. "My Sinai," created by Shanna Paul and The Rev. Jim Quigley of Christ Church, Bowling Green, Kentucky, speaks for itself of the conflict, temptation, and yearning that must surely have torn a Son of Man who was fully divine, yet fully human. Laurie Gudim's "Christ the Compassionate" and Jan Neal's "Magdalene" pull at the heart with their eloquence and restraint. Camilla Brunschwyler Armstrong's "Bearing the Light of Being" makes concrete the paradox of the Holy Trinity: the "push-and-pull" of something we can almost grasp, yet never fully understand; the holy presence that is always with us, yet impossibly beyond our comprehension. And Victoria Logue's "Ichthus" evokes the mystery of early Christianity: a time when anything seemed possible, yet nothing was known.

I hope these works will bring you insight into friendship with God - an experience that, once we seek it, will surely forever define us.

Brie Dodson, Curator
ECVA Director of Communications



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2006 The Episcopal Church and Visual Art