What happens at the crux of faith and knowledge? Where childlikeness invades academia and historicity?
Perhaps…building blocks take over a church.
What are we going to do? It’s pretty simple really.We are going to erect tiny villages of wooden building blocks inside Glastonbury Abbey’s church sanctuary, enjoy them, and then disassemble them – all in a period of a few hours on March 9th. We'll then give the blocks to Boston children's charities so that the play can continue beyond our art experience.
Why are we going to do this? That’s a more nuanced answer. My husband and I moved to Boston four years ago for his PhD program; and our minds, hearts and family have grown here in this peculiar city. It is a city full of paradox. Historically grounded. Academically progressive. Founded by people of faith, yet strangely humanistic. The city is also replete with staid buildings, over 200 years old; while the people are more transient than in any other place I’ve lived, leaving communities constantly splintered. The Boston area seems to be place you pass through in order to gain knowledge before moving on to your destination.
A theologian and artist by trade, I have been enamored with the number of magnificent historic churches in and around the city; all the while intrigued by the declining population of worshippers to use the spaces. Boston is a city of knowledge, and this priority has slowly seeped into spaces historically designated for faith.
So, back to the building blocks. This experiment in intentional play, as I call it, will seek to discover what happens at the place where faith and knowledge meet. It will call a very distinguished city into a place of light-hearted tinkering. It will encourage a childlike embrace of the things we can’t quite wrap our minds around. And who knows…We may find ourselves building real community together as our experiences in this magnificent city intersect for this short time of intentional play. I have a sense that the tiny blocks will somehow surpass the stately space that encloses them. Will you join me in this experiment?
The blocks will be consistent in style—natural wood blocks, standard sizes and a variety of shapes. The church sanctuary will be a worship space near to my heart, the Abbey Church at Glastonbury Abbey in the southern suburb of Hingham, MA. This abbey has been a mainstay for my own worshipping community, Church of the Cross Boston, as we visit the site annually for community-building time together. The blocks will “grow” in structural stature as you near the center of the sanctuary. Walking in the entrance, the visual impact will draw the eye upward and find its apex at the Communion Table in the center of the space. Blocks will congregate on the floor and pews, and climb toward the Communion Table. Members of our congregation, hailing from a multitude of neighborhoods in and around Boston proper, will be invited to participate in the installation process in an act of playful community. I will serve as the “foreman” for the project and will focus my efforts guiding and shaping the block placement.
After the hard work—er—play, the installation will culminate in a communal time of reflection in and among the block-filled space. A photographer will capture the space built with blocks, as well as the experience of building. Others from the community and all project backers will be invited to the experience. All guest stackers will be invited to take a block home at the conclusion of the project. The transitory little cities will be dismantled and give way again to their beautiful foundations—but I believe they will have left a significant impression. The blocks will be donated, primed for play, to Boston-area children's organizations.
Risks and challenges
The most challenging part of our installation - I suspect - will be working within our time frame. We have approximately three hours time between mass services at the abbey in which to install the blocks and then remove them. This time constraint is, in my estimation, a benefit and a liability. It provides a bit more of a playful construct, in that the installation becomes more of a "sport" as we seek to build towers of blocks that are pleasing to the eye, but quickly! I want to honor the generousity of the monks at Glastonbury that have allowed us to use the space. To help the process, I'll tape out "diagrams" on the floor to guide our community as we stack blocks. I'll also encourage, and maybe even assign an enthusiastic demolition crew when the time comes to remove our towers from the space. We will build quickly, and we will have fun doing it! In many ways, I think the transitory nature of the project will make it even more lasting in our memories, and more fun to engage.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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