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St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Displays The Saint John’s Bible Through Feb. 20


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St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Displays The Saint John’s Bible Through Feb. 20

News Story by Annemarie Frohnhoefer

This news story was made possible by contributions to FāVS from readers like you. Thank you.

In 1998, the monks at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, chose to bring in the new millennium by imagining the 2,000 year old (or more) words of Scripture in a way that would capture the zeitgeist of modern times without losing the concept of anno Domini. The result is The Saint John’s Bible, an illuminated bible reminiscent of the ancient texts that were transcribed across abbeys throughout Europe during the last millennium. 

Now that Bible is on display in Spokane.

Kathy Chase, a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church of Spokane, visited St. John’s Abbey and saw the texts first-hand. 

“It was amazing to see the calligraphy and the original tools used,” she said. 

She explained that the artist responsible for the work, Donald Jackson, used quills and other traditional tools to create the volumes and prints.

Chase is one of several docents who are enthused to show 10 prints alongside the sixth volume of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition at St. Mark’s (316 E. 24th Ave.). The volume is one of seven. 

The volume on display at St. Mark’s includes the Gospels and Acts. The artwork is on loan there from Saint John’s Abbey until Feb. 20 as part of a collaborative effort between St. John’s Abbey and the Collegeville Institute. In 2015, St. Mark’s applied for a grant with the institute and was one of 14 selected congregations to participate in a Communities of Calling experience. 

Tom Fallquist is a member of St. Mark’s vocation team and passionate promoter of The Saint John’s Bible and all things related to finding one’s spiritual call. 

“After five years, this is where we are…[appreciating] God’s word in the Holy Spirit, to see and hear this divine sacred work on display,” he said. 

Fallquist said that finding one’s calling and vocation are personal and that the experience and outcome varies greatly depending on each person’s individual talent. Finding one’s place requires a great deal of reflection and spiritual imagination. As part of its commitment to and participation in Communities of Calling, St. Mark’s is providing a safe space for spiritual reflection and artwork that can ignite inspiration and ideas.

Fallquist asked the Rev. Martin Wells, former bishop of the Northwest Intermountain Synod of the ELCA and former pastor of St. Mark’s, what certain images from The Saint John’s Bible evoked for him. 

“It was a prompt of the imagination for me,” Wells responded. 

Members of the public, as well as church groups, scholars and artists are invited to view the artwork. Docents are on hand to answer questions, but this isn’t a typical art exhibit. Artwork is primarily placed throughout the church in a manner that encourages reflection and spiritual imagination. 

The Rev. Edwin Weber explained that the purpose of the exhibit is not to proselytize, but rather to give viewers a chance to deepen their own personal connection with Scripture and calling. 

Wells led the docents in a prayer of blessing and guidance. He asked God to help St. Mark’s and the docents to provide a space for those “ground down by life and seeking hope.” He continued to pray and request open-mindedness and guidance when seeking answers to “questions of wonder.”

Twenty years into the new millennium, there are many individuals who are “ground down by life and seeking hope.” A recent New York Times opinion piece dissected the causes of mass shootings and came to a singular conclusion: people are in despair. The Saint John’s Bible doesn’t shy from despair. There are images of chaos alongside images of light. There are paintings of destruction and swirling cosmos. However, images of despair are accompanied by words and images of hope. There is an image of a very human-like Christ, in blue jeans, scattering the seeds of his words across the text. 

The final print displayed in The Saint John’s Bible exhibit at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church / Photo Contributed by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

The final print in the exhibit is an illumination inspired by the Gospel of John, “The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” 

The collection is transcribed from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, which was compiled in 1989 by the National Council of Churches to provide the widest possible, most-inclusive, version of the Christian Bible. Alongside this text, artist Donald Jackson provides marginalia and illumination. A viewer will see elements of Eastern religions, kente fabric patterns, and within a section of text that is full of genealogy (the famous “begot, begot, begot” of the Old Testament) a careful viewer can see DNA strands working their way through images and text. 

Wells explains that the Lutheran tradition retained “the colors, robes and sacredness of the liturgy” and that St. Mark’s has a tradition of infusing its services with art in all forms, be it music or visual arts. 

Wells cites the influence of Ignation spirituality, put into practice by Ignatius of Loyola, on bringing all of the senses into Scripture. It isn’t simply knowing that Jesus traveled the roads from Nazareth to the Dead Sea, but getting a sense of what it felt like to climb up and down steep and narrow roads of the dusty desert spreading the seeds of the word.

Fallquist is taken by the Parable of the Sower and what the imagery evokes. It was the first artwork he had seen from The Saint John’s Bible, and he said he realizes now that this was not an accidental introduction. The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible isn’t meant to be under glass, he explains. 

“It’s not about a university or text, it is about direct ways to see or hear how God is speaking to us,” he said.

Find out more information by calling St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 509-747-6677.

Viewing Times:

Office Hours without DocentM-Th 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Fri 9 a.m.-12 pm.
Mondays with Docent (Jan. 30; Feb. 6; and Feb.13)12-3 p.m.
Wednesdays (Feb. 1; Feb. 8; and Feb. 15)4-7 p.m.

This news story was made possible by contributions to FāVS from readers like you. Thank you.

Annemarie Frohnhoefer
Annemarie Frohnhoefer
Annemarie Frohnhoefer is a writer, editor and ghostwriter based in Spokane. Their work has appeared in High Desert Journal, The Inlander, The Spokesman-Review and other publications across the U.S. They are a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and a baptized Roman Catholic.

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