revelation in clay

This is a newsletter message sent to my congregation in February 2020. I came across it today and, for some reason, decided to post it here as a reflection.

Beloved Community,

Brother, Give Us a Word – Revelation, by Br. Geoffrey Tristam, SSJE

“God creates with love and tenderness and in God’s image. The imprint of God’s very hand – the divine potter – is on everything he created. This intimacy between creator and created is very important, because the created world – the trees and flowers and birds, the sunshine – even the snow! – have the power to reveal God to us.”

When I was in college – I can’t remember if it was my first or second year – I took a pottery course.  Although longer than 40 years ago, I still remember so much about it.   The art building was in an old barn on the beautiful, hilly campus in the Berkshires, surrounded by wonderful expressions of God’s grace in creation.  I remember walking the paths from my dorm to the barn.  I feel the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet.  I see the structure – a traditional New England barn, wooden and red, with large doors that were inviting me to enter. I feel the warmth of the space on the chilly days and the warm welcoming feel of the hard wood interior that did not feel at all cold or harsh.  I see the warm lights of the space beckoning me back after dusk for some time of comforting quiet.

The feel of the clay is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.  At first solid- hard even- it gradually becomes more pliable as it is worked with a bit of water.  It has a smell, too, which I realized many years later while visiting family in northeast Texas is of the earth.  And the messy process of molding and shaping, of sometimes pounding the clay down to begin all over again, is one that I found deeply meditative.  More than a few times since those days I’ve thought working with clay is something I might like to do more of, though I’ve yet to make the time to do it.

Reading Br. Geoffrey’s words this week brought all of these memories flooding back.  With the wisdom of hindsight and of many more years, I realize that this one course did more for me than satisfy a requirement for an elective. It showed me something of the beauty and power of creation in hands that are not divine.  It makes more grateful each and every day for the divine potter, who reveals so much more than a teenage girl’s somewhat clumsy attempts to create something beautiful.

Copyright 2022 The Rev. Paula J. Toland

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