Creating Meaning & Casting Out Fear

I’ve tried to use my time during the COVID crisis to create artistic pieces of loved ones and places that others find meaningful. It’s helped me find peace and let go of some of the fear I’ve had during this time.

I want to share a painting I did a while ago of a place that holds special meaning for me. It’s the chapel at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC, where I spent my high school days and where my grandfather grew up.

In the 1920s the Bishop of North Carolina (my great-grandfather) resided at a house on the property of this school. My grandfather had fond memories of growing up on the campus: walking his pet duck the two blocks down to his elementary school, sleeping outside on the “sleeping porch” during hot summer nights with the rest of his family, and playing with his two older brothers.

My grandfather eventually became an Episcopal priest and I believe he would have loved Emmanuel. He encouraged me from a young age to draw and paint and was also an artist himself, frequently sketching illustrations in the linings of the notes and letters that he faithfully put in the mail each week to family and friends.

The chapel is also the place where I got married 13 years ago and, though he hated participating in weddings, my grandfather performed the “blessing” of our marriage ceremony there (my husband still laughs at the memory of my grandfather mischievously knocking him on the nose with the prayer book as we kneeled at the altar).  Being married in this chapel on the grounds where my grandfather grew up gave me an additional sense of symmetry to using this a location to get married.

My school holds an annual auction each year and because the school gave so much to me as a young woman I donated this painting as a way to give back. 

The painting of Saint Mary’s Chapel was created using lightfast watercolors and pencil to prevent fading over time

— Hayes Willingham, May 2020

— Hayes Willingham, May 2020

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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