Painting tells story of past and hopeful present

January 16, 2007

On November 30,  a painting titled ". .Marching On" by Jarrett Rutland was introduced at the United Methodist Center.  The painting hangs in the Episcopal Office and tells the story of Birmingham and North Alabama Conference churches as they have worked to move beyond racism to a new day.

The artist is both the grandson and son of United Methodist pastors - John Rutland Sr. and John Rutland Jr.

At the Janaury 6 event featuring Tony Campolo, Bishop William H. Willimon showed a slide of the painting and noted that Jarrett had painted it in memory of his grandfather and his committement to Civil Rights.

Each part of the folk painting helps tell the story. Below is the aritist's description of the piece.


Because of the individual this piece is given in memory of, it automatically holds a special place in my heart. It also made all the hard work of the piece seem effortless, due to the fact that I believe in what it portrays.
The two main concepts I was working with was the idea of the old and the new. The old being this particular conference of the Methodist Churchs past, and the new being its future. Folk Art influences can be seen by the handling of the people throughout the art and the flow of the water.
The sky was painted to represent both a sunrise and a sunset; the sunset being the past fading into the horizon, while the new day dawns. The church house in the top left foreground is our congregations of yesterday, walking to service on worn soles, into a place of crumbling wood and rusty panels significant only because it houses the Holy Spirit. The buildings behind the church and the old-time car are merely symbols to convey visually, time periods long gone.

The roots beneath the surface of the church tell us that if not for the faith of the people inside, we would not have the progress we have today.
The people marching are carrying our beliefs into the future, and you will notice the lines are segregated. However, when they cross through the water they integrate. The water of baptism, the thread uniting all Christians, brings everything together, and creates new signs, where old ones were seared into our memories.
It reminds us of one of the first buildings (left photo), constructed before the first class of Birmingham College  was enrolled, and later demolished to make Munger Memorial. Birmingham College later merged with Southern University to create Birmingham-Southern. The photograph in the middle is First Methodist Church of Birmingham; and of the top meeting churches for peaceful protests during the Civil Rights Movement, the number one Methodist Church was Saint Paul, which is the photo on the far right.
You will see the Bible in the bottom right, and next to it is John Wesleys pulpit. Slightly above the photos is a covered dish entre, and in the center, behind the wooden church is a Freedom Rider bus, on which Methodists rode.
The city in the top right is our tomorrow, but not a physical city, even though it has recognizable structures. It is our destination, our call. In it lives someone crying out for Gods word, his touch.
The trees are in Fall season, signifying a beautiful end that ultimately makes way for new life.
-Jarrett Rutland

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