August 2003: Greenbelt - Moments of grace
Grace celebrated its tenth birthday in November 2003. To mark the occasion, they created a set of installations examining the concept which gave them their name. What is grace? How does it operate? How do we receive it? The intention was not to present a complete theology of grace, but to capture some aspects of it and help people be more aware of God's grace in their own lives and the world around them.
An introduction to the exhibition, something to get people in the right frame of mind etc.
Grace for you? Which of these
Is or Isn't?
A set of drawers with possible everyday examples of grace for people to explore and agree/disagree/don't know that they are grace
LED Grace logo
A Grace logo appearing in LEDs when you are not quite looking at it! reminding us of the mysterious quality of grace. [copying a lighting effect seen at a Massive Attack concert, using persistence of vision to 'wipe' a logo across your retina as you move your eyes across a line of LEDs.]
Pursued by grace
Leave me alone. Go take your 'unending kindness' elsewhere, take it to those sick to bursting with your sweet goodness. Leave me to my alienation and despair. Let me walk around the tombs, and make my home in the dark streets within. Pad, pad padding ceases, when I stop to take a look. Darting into alleys and shadows, I long for escape, but fail to shake you off. Overwhelmed by the exhaustion of the struggle, we sit silently, simply staring at each other. My urge to run is tamed by a strange desire to stay. Your hunger for embrace is contagious, your craving for communion irresistible, and the one pursued yearns only now for pursuit.
[God as a persistent cat - the camera pursues someone at cat's eye level down a street]
God accepts us because he's decided to. It's not about being religious or doing enough good deeds. God isn't impressed by how well you keep the rules. It's not an exclusive members-only club where you have to know the regulations to join (and stay in). God accepts us because he's decided to. There's no small print.
How do you try to impress or gain credit with God or other people? Draw or write it on a badge. Stick the badge on the [velcro'd] sleeves.
Grace turns the odds in your favour,
pays back what you didn't put in.
Grace replaces luck with gift.
Play the machine with the old 10p coins
'One arm bandit' machine altered to show only Grace logos instead of fruit. The winnings are therefore delivered unpredictably. The coins came with the machine, it's from the 1970s and uses old coins that aren't legal tender any more. This station was amazingly popular with children.
Grace on the edge
Out on the edge where the space and possibilities lie - grace is there. Painting by Moya Ratnayake.
Grace to be seen
Grace comes to us through the senses. We touch it (or it touches us) in an embrace. We smell it in freshly baked bread and morning coffee. We hear it in the ocean or Massive Attack. We taste it in a strawberry or a cold Belgian beer. We see it in the eyes of a child or the lines of an old person's face. All our senses together, like a huge neon sign saying 'LIFE IS A GIFT!' This is how grace comes to us, in the ordinary stuff of life, the everyday. Yet in our numbness it's easy to miss this most simple of gifts and go round with our eyes closed. Slow down, look around you. Notice details that you normally miss, amazing things in your everyday world that you often walk by. Maybe God is in the detail we normally miss.
You don't need eyes to see, you need vision
Grace is not always easy to see. In places of evil and times of suffering God's grace seems absent... but grace may still run through.
God's absence may be God's presence.
God's power may be God's victimhood.
God may not be the doer, but the done-to.
Densely set texts on boards were coloured to reveal the word 'grace' repeatedly when seen through the special glasses. Some pairs of glasses had red lenses, some green, and some red and green to create a 3D effect. The texts are the crucifixion narrative Matthew ch. 27 from verse 28, and Psalm 22 which Jesus was quoting in saying "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Grace in the making
Graffiti on concrete slabs and card by Joel Baker
"What is grace for you? When do you sense the presence of God? When do you feel most alive or full of wonder?" "Creativity! When I make things..."
Creativity and imagination are divine gifts. They get to the heart of what it is to be human, God's image-bearers. It is of course possible to deny the gift or grow out of the habit or recite the mantras "I'm not creative", "I haven't got the gift" or "I haven't got time", but such denial won't wash. It's the road to numbness.
So cook a meal plan a pilgrimage make some music form a garden pull off a skateboard trick tell a story take a picture make a web page write a prayer... Grace is in the making!
Door with unopened mail piling up
Are you out when grace comes calling? Or just hiding behind the sofa? Are messages from God piling up on your doormat? Do his personalised special offers go in the bin, unopened? What stops you reading them? Have you heard it all before? Do you think it's a con, to part you from your money? Trick you into buying some flaky product that'll fall apart? Does a loan you don't have to repay sound too good to be true? Does 0% interest get no interest? Are you scared there might be high-pressure sales talk? Cold calls from reps chasing their commission? Hidden costs that come later, when it's too late to back out? The envelope's pre-paid. Why don't you reply?
You've already won a prize. All you have to do is claim it.
God's love isn't blind. He knows what we were like, what we are like and what we will be like. Have a good look. Nothing in your conscious or unconscious self can make you unacceptable to God. Grace makes self-knowledge bearable.
Punters moments of grace