Father, Virgin

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Father Colonel Lieutenant Francis Patrick Duffy is not the Patrick in whose honour the Irish holiday is named. The original patron saint of Ireland lived both longer and longer ago, but both he and the Solider (whose monument stands in the north triangle at Times Square in New York City) embody a common Catholicism. If the elder saint’s use of the shamrock as a Trinitarian theological model seemed progressive to the pre-Christian Irish, Father Duffy’s position as editor for the New York Review earned him a similar repute. To complement these clerical contributions, Duffy’s highly decorated military uniform speaks equally of civil sacrifice. And now a granite Celtic cross adorns 47th street with these very accurate, very truthful words: “In service of God and country”.

You have to wonder, though, with these towering gigapixel shrines to Capitalism fully illuminating the space on every side…. has that specific adornment been superseded? What kind of progressive theology is prepared to dialogue with the epic frivolity of names in lights? What does eternal life really mean in contrast to the momentary high of consumption? Does the red glass Perkins/Eastman amphitheatre (installed northwise-adjacent to Duffy’s statue) empower us to look him over, or does it invite us to overlook him? What is it about the impermanence of reflected pixels in granite that makes Coca-cola seem insignificant compared to the weight of history on which it stands? When Virgin Records employs two drunk sluts to bolster their image, is their disposition in honour of St. Patty’s day?

Although it is partly my camera whose adept lens dynamics have enabled me to ask “Where is God on Broadway?”, these and other questions have also been positively provoked by the intellectual, creative, and vibrantly visionary context of the IAM Encounter 2010 conference. My urge to dig deep into the nuances of nature and culture, and to creatively redeem the broken things around me is spurred on through the conference theme “10 Questions for 2010”, and the spirit of International Arts Movement’s vision to “create the world that ought to be.”

I’m grateful for the wonderful people in whose wisdom and joy I was able to share in New York City. Ron Kelsey is a”Non-profit Artist” and the liason for IAM in the US Military. L.L Barkat is the author of “Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places”, and the managing editor for HighCallingBlogs. Diane Collard is a speaker and writer, who has written about the role of visual art in the Church. Natalie Settles is an artist who aims to discover “new patterns in art and science”. Makoto Fujimura is the founder of IAM, who encouraged us this year to create in the loving spirit of I Corinthians 13. Christy Tennant is the host of everyone’s favourite podcast, IAM Conversations. Bethany Lynam smiles and ponders brightly. Tessa Boult is an art history student from Yorkshire, England. Annie Ling could teach me more than a few things about photography. Greg Veltman and Andrea Hensen are happily married. Spencer Imbrock was in my Bible study while I lived in the Paquis Geneva Switzerland, and it was really splendid to run into him at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Scott, Ryan, Keith, Kyle, my wonderful creative carpool from Ontario were also a tremendous blessing. And I’m sure there were more of you, whose facebook pages I’m bound to stumble upon one day.

The question that is currently on my mind is this: “How will we facilitate an encouraging creative community here in Ontario, spurring each other on towards meaningful forms of loving, artistic service?”

The answer, I anticipate, is only going to beg more (wonderful) questions.

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