The first funeral held in the chapel of St. Matthew’s Pray.Think.Love. House in Uptown Westerville was for Jacob Marley. Complete with moans, rattling chains and small audiences of 15 people who collectively became “Scrooge,” the funeral was part of “Uptown Scrooge,” an original play by Kristie Vuocolo.
Traveling through multiple businesses (coffee shop, flower shop, antique store, collectible shop, ice cream store, restaurant and metaphysical parlor) the 90-minute production conceived, adapted, produced, directed and performed by Vuocolo, along with a host of other characters, taught Scrooge to groan and say “Bah Humbug” on cue, and deny all requests for charity. Led by the traditional ghosts of Christmas Present and Past, the audience hears much of the traditional dialogue of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” as well as presentation of contemporary ideas. The play ends at the Parlor, a metaphysical and holistic center next door to the Episcopal House, with an exploration of redemption and an invitation to commit to being better people.
Over four weekends (four performances each on Saturday and Sunday) over 500 people came through the PTL House. While there was no attempt to determine church affiliation or inclination of the participants, we at St. Matthew’s considered it an opportunity to “lower the threshold” of the traditional church experience. This type of soft evangelism can have a significant positive impact on those who have been wounded by previous church experiences, have never been to church, or who are seeking a faith community where they feel comfortable.
In the tradition of great cathedrals and parish churches, public art presentations have been part of sacred spaces for thousands of years. St. Matthew’s is committed to participating in as many collaborative efforts with the arts community as possible. The Rev. Joseph Kovitch, Priest-in-charge, serves on the Westerville Arts Council. An art teacher in the local school system also offers Art Camp and classes at the PTL house, drawing children from many of the area elementary schools.
During Lent 2016, Fr. Joseph collaborated with the Rev. Karl Stevens to develop an interactive art exhibit, “A Refugee’s Lenten Journey.” Stevens’ paintings were staged at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus, and using the moving pictures as a focus, participants followed an adapted Stations of the Cross liturgy to consider refugees’ journeys through life and Lent. St. Matthew’s is also thankful to have a collection of Stevens’ paintings from his Florilegium (little flowers) collection, which hangs in the chapel at the PTL House.
Considering that we are co-creators with God across time and unique contexts, the people of St. Matt’s believe that exploring the arts in all of their many forms can open minds and hearts in the exploration of relationships with God. Cultural Arts in all expressions, from spoken word, art, music, dance, etc., offer such an accessible expression of transcendence and spiritual connections, that a church can build relationships through new and innovative pathways.