In 20011, renowned liturgical fabric artist Karen Brodie Archibald of St Paul’s in Golden said, “Oh, yeah, I should do that!” The “that” was the creation of her own version of The Stations of the Cross. She began by approaching different ministers to write reflections. These reflections inspired her artwork for each of the 14 Stations, which she worked on prayerfully every day during Lent over a period of seven years. “The process was transformative,” Karen says. Each Station now consists of a clergy reflection, a line drawing completed in colour pencil, and Karen’s own thoughts about the artwork. Only one station has been fully finished in fabric appliqué at the moment.
In 2022, people from Christ Church Cranbrook and Elk Valley Ecumenical Shared Ministry in Fernie had the opportunity to experience Karen’s Stations of the Cross firsthand during Lent. Barb Fenwick of Cranbrook writes, “I was drawn to the fabric piece, and was blown away by the artistry and technical expertise of Karen’s work. The subtle shapes and colours of the scene gave time for interpretation of the station without being forced into a typical westernized ‘realistic’ perspective. I found I was drawn into the emotion of the station as well as the event depicted.
“As someone who has walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, experienced Palestinian Stations of the Cross based on their lived existence in Israel, and walked various versions of the Stations of the Cross,” Barb goes on to say, “what was shared with a small group of us went well beyond my expectations…. The pictures and commentaries spoke to the diverse experience of those who lived Jesus’ route to the cross. All these elements supported a quiet meditative time to contemplate the events for which we were preparing ourselves.”
Sandra Barrett of Fernie agrees: “Together, these verbal and visual descriptions added enormously to my sense of powerful, prayerful contemplation. The experience was deliberately multi-sensory and was so much more than simply educational.” This was a surprise to Sandra, who grew up in the Methodist tradition in England, where the Stations were considered “a high church or Roman Catholic thing” and were not well known. “Karen’s interpretation(s)… changed all that. I found her original work resonated deeply within my soul.”
In 2016, in an Anglican Journal article on the Stations by Nandy Heule, Karen commented, “My hope was to make Jesus as undefined by my own preconceptions as possible, so that we all can come to see him as we need to see him.”
For Sandra and Barb, it appears that her hope has been realized. Barb remarks, “My belief that Jesus came for all of us, with each of our unique experiences of him, was supported and encouraged as we had time to contemplate the visual and auditory experience.”
Sandra comments, “Karen’s body of work began a conscious healing process within me. I was able to reconcile the recent death, by suicide, of my beloved husband and acknowledge my helplessness, as an intrinsic part of my own faith journey… a transformative experience. As [one of the clergy] wrote for the 6th Station: May we see the face of Christ in everyone we meet, and may everyone we meet see the face of Christ in us.”
You Can Experience the Stations, Too!
Karen’s “persistent and patient” process reminded Barb that nothing is instant and that her own spiritual journey is ongoing and ever-changing. As, of course, are all of ours. As part of your ongoing journey this Lent, consider walking the Stations yourself. You can do this on-line thanks to Karen generously gifting her Stations to the world in April 2020 on YouTube. Visit the Stations one by one or walk all the Stations at once in the Full Version (takes 90 minutes to 2 hours). For more, visit: https://www.youtube.com/@karenbrodie8959/videos.