Roger Hutchison is Canon for Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC. In his vocation, he has been privileged to gather around the Painting Table with those experiencing grief in a diverse variety of ways – everything from temporary housing, drug addiction, job loss, and poverty to the challenges and blessings of childhood and the elderly. In May of 2013 he was invited to Newtown, CT to paint with the children and families of Sandy Hook. Roger’s book, The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy, releases December 1, 2013 from Church Publishing, Inc. He invites you to pull up a chair and join him at the Painting Table.
* Roger is giving away a signed copy of the book. Read on to find out how to get your name in the drawing for The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy.
The Painting Table
It’s the place where I go to pray.
It’s the place where I go to remember.
The simple oak table belonged to my grandmother. It was the place where she served us beautiful vegetables from her garden or fresh fish from Goodson Creek. It is the same table that I once turned into a fort by covering the table with quilts and blankets. I would peer underneath the edge of the draped quilt and watch the feet of those I love move around the kitchen. Meals were being prepared. Stories were being told. I felt safe. I knew love.
I remember seeing the feet of my grandparents standing side by side in front of the sink. She would wash. He would dry. It was a ritual as ancient as the stars.
He died before she did, and she’s been gone now for almost ten years. Oh how I miss her.
I also remember my friend Suth. As a child, he escaped to America from Cambodia with his family. I had no friends. He had no friends. We didn’t speak the same language, but we fished together, and pretty soon the friendSHIP set sail. We became best friends. We became brothers — the brown boy with dark, almond-shaped eyes and the white boy with a soft body and a soft heart.
I go to the table to remember my friend. He, too, has been gone now for almost as many years as he was alive. I miss him.
I am an artist, and my grandmother’s kitchen table is now my painting table. I received it when she died.
Late one evening, as I was struggling to finish a painting that I had been working on, I reached such a level of frustration, that I took my brushes and threw them into the trash. I took my hands and put them directly into the paint. I began to swirl and blend the colors in ways that I could never have done with a brush. It was a grace-filled moment that lasted deep into the night. I met God face to face that holy night.
The table has become a Eucharistic symbol for me. It is the place where I go to paint, pray, and remember.
Painting is the way I talk to God. I find joy when I move my fingers through puddles of color and across a blank canvas. I am always surprised – and blessed — by the conversation that takes place. It is as if a good friend has joined me for glass of wine and a time of catching up.
My painting table is an actual table, but the idea of the Painting Table is more than a wooden top with four legs. It is about the invitation. It is about sharing our own sacred stories. It is a safe and holy space where conversation, prayer, and healing can take place.
While there is grief, sadness, and loss, there is also hope. There is an opportunity for celebration as we gather together, break bread, talk, and are welcomed. Whether it is through cooking, painting, or Eucharist, we come together to remember.
What was ordinary has become extraordinary. The same simple oak table where my grandmother would serve us delicious meals from her garden was now my Painting Table – an altar of remembrance and healing, baptized with splashes of color and tears.
* To enter to win a signed copy of Roger’s book, leave a comment telling us about something that is a Painting Table in your life. You can tell us as much or as little as you want. I’ll enter the names in Rafflecopter to draw a winner. Below are some blurbs about the book.
– “With the playful spirit of an artist and blank pages with prompts Roger Hutchison gives us permission take time to dig deeply and let our very souls talk in a language beyond words.” – Jenifer C. Gamber, author of My Faith, My Life: A Teen’s Guide to the Episcopal Church and Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People
– “The Painting Table is a treasure for one person or a group experiencing the grief of loss and the sacred work of living beyond goodbyes. This book is beautiful in image and moving through word and silence. As a priest and a hospital chaplain, I have witnessed the multitude of emotions that accompany grief and loss. The Painting Table is a beautiful way to meet these unorganized and deeply personal emotions through art and reflection. Many people have experienced taking their own seat at a certain ‘story-drenched’ table, learning to grow as family through the sacred act of holding on and letting go – saying hello and goodbye. Roger Hutchison’s gentle, heartfelt telling of his own loss and treasured memories touches those deep and familiar places. A wonderful resource for all seeking a safe place to remember.” — The Reverend Carrie Craig, hospital chaplain