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Steeple Newsletter

Gallery Corner: Soul Village

by Caryne Eskridge on May 06, 2020

Soul Village 

Throughout the time I have been staying at home, I have tried to take time to remind myself of my favorite works of art (this is likely a surprise to none of you). I have been reading my favorite books and poetry and, last weekend, I got the chance to introduce my friend and apartment-mate to one of my favorite movies of all time, A League of Their Own. A lot of people are doing the same it seems, and I have been excited to see so many writers and journalists discuss their favorite pieces.

This is how I found Martin Wong’s “La Vida,” a large (8 feet by 9 ½ feet!) mural depicting the buildings that stood across from Wong’s New York City apartment, at Stanton and Ridge Streets in the Lower East Side. If you take a close look at the mural, you can see people doing a variety of things: poking their heads out to watch what is happening out on the street, playing music from a boombox, and sitting and talking to people on the balcony. Interestingly, though, the people shown in the windows are not Wong’s neighbors but close friends, colleagues, and people close to him. I love this idea because, especially now, I imagine how wonderful it would be to have loved ones and friends close enough to be able to wave to across the street, and to sit out on balconies and fire escapes on a beautiful day and see one another. 

One of my closest friends from seminary calls her group of chosen family and mentors her “soul village,” a term that I have started using, too. Who would be in your soul village/Wong-style windows? I can start naming people quickly, and I bet you can, too. While lacking the ability to gather in groups is difficult, and I am with you on that, works like this painting give me a chance to think about the theological idea of the communion of saints. This is an ancient Christian concept that has been interpreted in various ways through the years. What this means to me is that our togetherness, and even the closeness of ancestors who have gone before us, is never bound by physical proximity or distance. Love and spiritual presence transcend the laws of physics, and amen for that. This week, I invite you to take time to feel the presence of those in your soul village, even at times when you are not able to call, text, or write. 

(If you would like to read the Washington Post article that introduced me to “La Vida,” follow this link.)
Caryne Eskridge, YDS Intern 

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