This morning I went to the National Cathedral with Beth and a couple of prospective seminary students she had volunteered to take to see the glorious building. I’d never been to Sunday services there, so today was a first. I don’t go as often as I would like, and I should try to make it a point to go more often, even if just to roam the building and grounds.
The stained glass in the Cathedral is absolutely amazing. Even on a cloudy day (like today), the light is filtered by millions of pieces of glass that paint the pillars and piers of the church in ever-changing colors and patterns.
The Cathedral is a community — one for visitors from all over the country and world; one for the weekly churchgoers that worship there; one for national events and ceremonies; one for international exhibits.
One of those international exhibits is the Keiskamma Project exhibit, which I had the pleasure of seeing today. It was beautiful and moving. 130 South Africans, mostly women, hand-made a massive altarpiece in the tradition of the Isenheim Altarpiece, an early 16th century masterpiece that depicts suffering and death at a level not often seen in that type of liturgical instrument. The Isenheim Altarpiece was made for a monastery that treated people dying of an illness (St. Anthony’s fire, or ergotism), which was caused by eating bread that had a deadly fungus –but at the time no one knew what was happening. The Keiskamma Altarpiece was made by people who live in a village that was nearly annihilated by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. In this village, no one knew the cause of the sickness that afflicted them either. The project was envisioned and made possible by a doctor who had come to the village to help, and who found deep parallels between the plight of people 500 years ago and today. The altarpiece is gorgeous, and made almost entirely out of textile elements plus some stunning beading. I had read about it somewhere and was glad I got to see it today!