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St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
PO Box 7416
Salem, Oregon 97303



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On Wednesday, March 11, 1998, a young man entered St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Salem, Oregon, ostensibly to pray and read the Bible. Ten minutes later, the parish secretary observed the man running from the church. In his hands was an icon, the Icon of Christ the Teacher that had hung directly over the tabernacle at the center of the sanctuary. A couple parishioners who were working at the church that day pursued the thief, but he escaped, and with him the large, golden icon that had occupied quite literally the center of liturgical life at St. Timothy’s for almost nine years.

Chris Hefty, a long-time parishioner, had commissioned the icon in 1989 as a memorial to her late father. The parish contracted with Thomas Howard, a Portland iconographer and member of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Mr. Howard met with members of the Art and Architecture committee, shared his philosophy of icon writing, and asked our prayers on his behalf as he sought to create this window into heaven for us, this visible prayer. After several months of continuous labor, Mr. Howard delivered the icon, and it fast became a cherished part of our life of worship. It occupied its place above the tabernacle so emphatically and yet naturally, that it seemed in a very short while to have always been there.

But in a few minutes on that March day, an anonymous young man had torn the icon from its mounts, fled across the open field behind the church, and absconded with not just a valuable painting, but a work of beauty, a memorial to a loved one, and in a sense the emotional and aesthetic center of our liturgy. Or so it seemed.

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    © 2002 The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts