Linlathen Lectures August 2023
On Thirst & Water
Chelle Stearns & Erica Grimm
August 3-6, 2023
Since ancient Christendom, the fluvial baptism of Christ has been celebrated in the Feast of Epiphany, of Theophany: acknowledging that moment when disciples bore witness to the trinitarian revelation… in a river. The disciples knew well of the Spirit hovering over the waters whilst out of chaos came cosmos, knew that waters flooded Noah’s world and drowned Pharaoh’s soldiers, and knew of the bitter waters of Marah that were sweetened. A desert people so parched for the Water of Life… soon they would watch their teacher walk on water, still the sea, and -- like the prophets -- send wounded to water for healing. Yet the Godhead ‘so loved the cosmos’ that this immersion of Christ in the Jordan was not merely a moment for humans, but for all of Creation. Water of Life required by all. And so, in some art of ancient Christendom all creation strains in anticipation, in mutual participation of this watershed moment, in bearing witness to something that will change everything. Including the River itself: that body that holds, that washes over and around, the One Who Saves.
Is this something we have forgotten: that humans are co-recipients, co-participators? Are we attending, as the Psalmist urges, to the speechless voices that “go out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world”? or are we -- worse than not attending -- impeding those voices? How can humans better co-operate as co-creations, navigate an antiphonal way of worship in this diverse cosmos? How might we -- in a century of increasing flood and drought and pollution -- better traverse these increasingly urgent theological questions? How can art help us become better practitioners, better disciples, better witnesses to the God of all of Creation? Can it deepen our understanding of our commission, slake our thirst for inclusion, show us better how to gather at the river to remember what we’ve forgotten… so that we might love the Cosmos too?
Let everyone who hears say ‘Come’;
Let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes
take the water of life as a gift.
A Canadian artist of settler descent, Erica Grimm is a grateful guest on the traditional, ancestral, unceded, territory of the Stó:lō people. She is honoured to have held Canada Council and SSHRC grants, and to be a professor of art at TWU. Her material practice –rooted in drawing– explores the entangled connexions between embodiment and ecology. Recent research-creation has been collaborative large-scale installations and walking projects fueled by environmental urgency. Ever curious about saturated –inexplicable but ordinary– experiences, she practices attentiveness: drawing daily on paper and panels, in space with branches, and with words, objects, ideas and sounds. Creating what she describes as “material semiotic entanglements,” her work often includes scientific texts, maps, medical imagery, and sound. She was the 2002 Distinguished Nash Lecturer, received the Imago National Juried Art Prize, and was appointed U of R Distinguished Alumnae. Widely exhibited in museum, public. and community galleries, her work is found in collections such as the Canada Council Art Bank, the Richmond Art Gallery, and Vatican Collection of Contemporary Art. Erica's written practice considers the epistemological implications of the process of making. Her book The Aesthetics of Attentiveness is forthcoming from Wilfred Laurier University Press.
Chelle Stearns has a PhD in Constructive Theology from University of St. Andrews in Scotland (ITIA), an MA in Christian Studies from Regent College in Theology & The Arts, and an undergraduate degree in music from Pacific Lutheran University. Her academic work has focused on theology and the arts as well as how thinking through the lens of trauma shifts our perspectives on reconciliation and redemption. Her recent publications have included a book on musical space, unity, and trinitarian theology: Handling Dissonance: A Musical Theological Aesthetic of Unity. She has also contributed several book chapters and essays on lament in the works of composer James MacMillan, trauma & Christology, a musical theology of trauma, and music & prayer.
As a violinist, she brings with her a background in teaching violin and performing in chamber and orchestral settings. She also has a long history of serving in the Church as a musician, teacher, and worship leader. Chelle is a deeply interdisciplinary theologian and musician who enjoys exploring the Christian imagination and how trinitarian theology can enrich spiritual practice and life.
“let the brook sing to him till he loves it,
and he will find himself far nearer the fountain of truth…”