How does a church make the poor visible? This one immortalized them in a fresco

Religion News Service | 9/19/2019 | Staff
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (RNS) — Poor people have often told pastor Brian Combs that the hardest thing about standing at highway intersections holding up a cardboard sign and begging for money is not watching the windows roll up or hearing the click of automatic doors locking.

It’s seeing people avert their eyes.

Combs - Pastor - Asheville - Haywood - Street

So when Combs, pastor of Asheville’s Haywood Street, and his friend artist Christopher Holt began talking about collaborating on a project, they envisioned a fresco on an entire wall of the sanctuary featuring images of the poor and downtrodden.

When completed later this month, the 27-foot-by-10-foot composition will illuminate in bright colors the faces and gestures of the people who visit Haywood Street Church’s principal ministry — The Welcome Table, a dining room with a reputation as one of the best places to eat in this mountain town known for its creative spirit.

Combs - Hundreds - Meal - Week - Fresco

To Combs and to the hundreds of poor who stop in for a meal each week, the fresco is intended to make the invisible visible.

“The primary intent of church, in my opinion, is to communicate something about sacred worth,” said Combs. “In God’s sight, you are anything but a throwaway. You’re priceless. You’re royalty. That’s one task of urban ministry we take seriously.”

Fresco - Composition - Beatitudes - Blessings - Jesus

The fresco’s composition is loosely based on the Beatitudes, the nine blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

But unlike traditional frescoes that have often offered visual representations of God, Jesus, Mary or the saints — think of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation” in Florence or Giotto’s “Adoration of the Magi” in Padua — this one puts the poor front and center in a style known as Classical Realism.

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(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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