10 September 2012

story images

As part of my theological training with the Church of England I was fortunate to be able to visit the Norwich Synagogue (the visit was part of our module on "World Faiths"). As beautiful and interesting as their worship space was, what really caught my eye were some pillows on benches in the lobby. The pillow covers illustrated stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (or, as we sometimes call them, the Old Testament). I had not brought a good-quality camera along, but these were so striking and beautiful that I asked a fellow student to photograph them for me so that I could share them with you.

pillow illustrating the story of Moses in the Bulrushes
photographed at the Norwich Synagogue

pillow cover: a whale with a huge, gaping mouth showing Jonah inside
photographed at the Norwich Synagogue

Visually, I judged these images as simultaneously simple enough to catch the eye and complex enough to hold a person's interest (you can just see a tiny little fish in the corner of the Jonah pillow, for example). Being myself a person who enjoys "white privilege", I was briefly startled but also very pleased to see that the figures in these images were clearly non-white. And as a Junior Church leader, I immediately rejoiced that the pillows would provide an easy point of contact and recognition for children. Young children entering the synagogue would be drawn to these beautiful yet non-breakable objects which were placed so as to be accessible to them. And yet they were not something which adults might dismiss or de-value as being "merely" for children. Wonderful.