Greetings to you! My neighbor’s lilacs fill the air in my back yard as I create this post and it is divine. I wanted to document and share a recently held dedication for the Baptismal Font Light Fixture at Wicker Park Lutheran Church, a long awaited commission and event installed earlier this year.
In the spirit of pictures being more valuable than words, I will share my words from the dedication below, immediately followed by Pastor Jason’s further symbology explanation found on the home page for WPLC.
“Welcome to all from my Wicker Park Lutheran Church family, my birth family, and friends – the family we choose.
I am honored by your presence.
I want to begin by giving thanks:
To the workings of the Wicker Park Building Committee and Church Council for working with me to make this light fixture happen.
My sister Jacquie Garrett and her bf Michael for helping bake the dove cookies.
Pastry chef and dear friend Stephanie Samuels for the other goodies.
Tammi and Emily for helping out today for fellowship.
I want to thank fellow artist, friend, and mentor Corinne Peterson whose piece, Cairn and Cloud was on view in this very sanctuary in the Before Times. That work, with tiny hanging porcelain works highlighted in gold symbolizing the light in us all, was a precursor to this work and I believe inspired Pastor Jason to look towards the font for a more permanent work.
I want to thank the fabricators:
Thomas Melvin Studios for their decorative painting.
Gabel and Schubert for their fabrication.
Tyrone Brock’s for being calm when we were both on the scaffolding
The electrician, Woody of Woods Electric, for his expertise and detailing.
Thanks to Jonathan Meyer for his fine tuning, opinions, and CAD drawings that only an architect can deliver.
Thanks to friends and family for listening to the drama of this process. You know who you are! Smile.
I thank my parents, Gene and Helen Schwalbe, for fostering the use of our hands and our imagination throughout our childhood.
Big gratitude to Pastor Jason for his patience, welcomed opinions, and inspiring the symbolic aspects of the work.
Lastly, I give thanks to our Creator. He/She/They know that creativity and spirituality have always been connected.
We artists and creatives are a strange and wonderful, sometimes stubborn, annoying, tenacious, and when it is done right we are reflectors of this beautiful and awful life. The arts, and therefore artists, answer a call to remind fellow humans to have that beauty, awe, and connection. Artists have been employed by religious spaces to foster that awe in the beautiful and yes, even the awful. It has been a pleasure and a learning experience to help with that effort. The Baptismal Font Light Fixture, in this beautiful and sacred space, God’s house, is in what I call one of my Third places. Wicker Park Lutheran Church.
What Is a Third Place?
The “third place” is a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book The Great Good Place. It describes a place outside your home or work where you can relax and hang out. There is other criteria for a third place = just give a google. Suffice to say that this community has been one of those third places for me, and maybe some of you.
On to the light fixture itself:
The seven components include:
The decorative paint mimics the historic renovation colors of the previous decade and a bit of tromp l’oeil giving the slight illusion of a dome.
The largest 5 pedaled ring, the only component that is lit, is a stylized version of the Luther Rose
The next three shapes also come from the sanctuary. The processional cross, and the four petaled quatrains, are seen in the stenciling and the stained glass window, are both sacred geometry seen world wide. The rain drops reminding us of our bodies make up of mostly water, how all living things need water to survive, and most importantly the water used at baptism. Finally, the hammered brass dove descending over the font recalls the image of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove at Jesus’ own baptism.
The loveliest thing someone said during the planning stage was the babies getting baptized will have the best view.
Again, Thank you Pastor Jason and Wicker Park Church, family, and dear friends. I thank you all for coming. ”
From Pastor Jason Glombicki:
Baptismal Font Light Fixture: Symbols, Meaning, and Beauty
Dedicated May 7, 2023
The Baptismal Font Light Fixture was commissioned by Wicker Park Lutheran Church to better illuminate the baptistry drawing on the existing historic elements of the worship space while expanding our understanding of God’s love in baptism. The artist Catherine Schwalbe designed an exquisite piece with seven components, which embodies the symbolic Judeo-Christian understanding of “fullness” or “completeness” as found in the Biblical creation narrative.
First, the decoratively painted ceiling reflects the historic color palette of the worship space. Thomas Melvin Studios painted the five petaled, stylized rendition of the Luther Rose. The rose is a widely recognized symbol of Lutheranism and was designed for Martin Luther in 1530. The gold, red, and sky blue create a domed-like view of the metal and glass components that descend below.
The first hanging part from the ceiling is a metal outline of the same stylized Luther Rose that is featured in both the magnificent Rose Window on the east end of the worship space and is painted throughout the space. This is the only ring with lighting that washes the ceiling and illuminates the baptistry with five small spots pointing down. It may symbolize that we have one God who illuminates our path to seek justice, peace, and love.
Further down the fixture are three metal shapes that may remind us of the Trinity or the Biblical representation of divine wholeness. Their forms are taken directly from symbols within the sanctuary. The shape closest to the ceiling is reflective of the processional cross that is carried for all principle services and processions as a reminder of God’s presence among us. The next two shapes are stylized, four-petaled symbols. One is taken from the stencil on the wall behind the baptismal font and the other from the stained glass in the baptistry. Both shapes are part of the sacred geometry seen and created throughout many cultures worldwide.
The rain drops–hung irregularly, like rain–symbolize our own human body, principally made up of water, along with our own need for clean water to survive, and most importantly, the water used at baptism. These baptismal waters are an outward sign that remind us of an inward grace freely given by God. In the Lutheran church, baptism is one of two sacraments, the other being Holy Communion.
Finally, the pounded brass dove descending over the font recalls the image of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove at Jesus’ own baptism (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32). The dove’s shape is taken from the Rev. Jason Gombicki’s contemporarily embellished stole–a liturgical vestment worn around the neck as a reminder of the pastor’s charge to proclaim God’s message.
Process and installation images. I love these sorts of images and I hope you will too.
Preparation for and dedication images from the week of May 1 to the dedication on May 7, 2023 at Wicker Park Lutheran Church.
I truly am thrilled with the feedback I have received. May the light fixture continue to inspire and serve those families and individuals that choose to observe and partake in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism for years to come.