Last weekend, we gathered to explore and discuss the complex space between saints and sinners. Nestled between White Night and the darkness of Halloween was All Saints Sunday, which we renamed Grey Night. It seemed appropriate to use the cathedral like space of All Saints Church in Hove for our first ever event inside a church.
Large pictures of unfamiliar Saints with their surprising and eccentric stories adorned the pillars around the church. Visitors would consider each bizarre tale, then mark with coloured paper whether they believed it to be true or false. Of course, these mythical legends are all too fantastical to be factual; take for example, St Margaret who was supposedly swallowed by a dragon, but miraculously escaped through his stomach unscathed. Regardless of content, the stories are still upheld to be true - so this set the scene for our consideration of what constitutes a Saint. Floating somewhere between the black and white templates of Good and Evil, True and False.
To mirror the clean-cut distinction of these binary terms, our space was also divided in two. A large black circle lay on the floor at the back, with a white one at the front. Scattered upon these lay newspaper cuttings bearing unexpected stories of every day saints and sinners; the clergy arrested for genocide, along with the local community do-gooders. Sitting at the centre of the black circle on a plinth was a skull. The skull spoke to us for a full seven minutes, with the uncanny resemblance of Pastor Mark Driscoll's voice. The controversial leader of an American Mega-Church is known for his angry delivery whilst incessantly pointing his finger at his congregation. His shouts of 'God hates some of you, personally hates you', rang round the walls of All Saints, past the gentle Jesus crucified above the altar and into the concentrated silence that followed. Visitors stood in a mute circle contemplating the God of Love and Wrath, perhaps experiencing or wondering at this proclaimed hatred, like Jesus in his last hour of abandonment.
Small card figures on the black circle waited with the writing 'God Hates...' and visitors took one and filled in their own name. The aisle was strewn with written quotes from the Bible about Saints. People pondered these on their journey to the white circle, then filled out their name on another card figure after 'God loves...' before slotting the two pieces together to make one. A glittering silver pair of angel wings hung reverently in the space before the altar. Visitors were invited to stand before them to have their photograph taken as a Saint.
In one final act together, the large white circle from the front was hoisted up and carried to the back to be laid over the black circle. Laid out on a table were a number of cups, reminiscent of communion. Each person was invited to take one of the cups, which instead of holding wine, were filled with paint; black and white. Written on the cups were both negative and positive things that perhaps we all tell ourselves at one time or another, things that can greatly affect how we treat others as well as ourselves. One by one, we poured out the contents of every cup into the centre of the plinth which was sitting under the sheet. As the black submerged the white and the white overtook the black, we saw all of our pristine categories of saints, sinners and everything else, beautifully merge into one. We saw our boundaries, our classifications and definitions rolling, blending into one large grey mass. When this was later retrieved from the plinth, the significance of the grey puddle could not have been clearer as it had retained the form of the cross.