chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 18

By Kay Carney
C
harles Wei has two things to be proud of: He just
graduated from San Francisco Theological Semi-
nary with an M.Div. He also just completed a
stunning mosaic art mural located in Holy Grounds, the
campus student lounge and coffee shop.
Wei embarked on his three-year creative journey to
complete the mural in order to fulfill his passion for art
and to leave a legacy of love. He says he wanted to show
that God’s love can be displayed visually and described in
nontraditional ways. “What started out as a small project
for the Program in Spirituality concentration,” he says,
“evolved into a 33-foot mural that tells the story of the
baptism of Christ.”
Wei, whose talents encompass various artistic media,
says he was touched to receive so much support from the
SFTS community. Students and friends supported his cre-
ative work by providing porcelain, glass, tile, and other ma-
terials used to create the mosaic. It became commonplace
for Wei’s supporters to deliver “the goods”—from bro-
ken plates and mugs to stones and shiny trinkets. The
artist would break the items into various shapes and
sizes to fit with precision into the mural.
“Anytime someone broke something, instead
of throwing it away, they would bring it to me
to become a part of the wall,” Wei says. “I have
pieces of slate from the re-roofing of Montgom-
ery Chapel and pieces of broken SFTS mugs.
People would go on vacation and bring me back
pieces of tile and glass they found on the beach in
Mexico or along the streets of Italy. There are a lot
of memories incorporated into the mural. It is truly a
global piece of art.”
For many months, a standing joke circulated around
the SFTS campus regarding Wei, the mosaic, and gradua-
tion. Beth Liebert, academic dean of the seminary, report-
edly told Wei that if the mural wasn’t completed by the end
of the academic year, he would not be allowed to graduate.
Though the joke was meant as a loving gesture, Wei became
a little anxious when he calculated that he needed about
30 more hours to complete the mural. Friends chipped in
to help during the final hours, completing the 33-foot
mosaic just in time for graduation.
Wei believes his calling
is to use his art in ministry.
He plans to travel across the
country looking for small
churches where he can create
mosaic murals while gaining
hands-on ministry experience.
“I hope to parlay the experience I
gain into establishing and managing a
café ministry,” he says.
“One of the ways that I would like to address
the changing face of the church is by offering
people a different way to come together to wor-
ship,” Wei explains. “A café ministry would be a
space that is not like a traditional church—there
are enough of those—but would be another way
that people can have the experience of the divine.”
This type of ministry would give people a place to
gather to share good food, to listen to good music,
and to worship throughout the week as well as on
Sunday, he says. “A café ministry gives people an-
other worshiping option.”
Wei looks forward to returning to SFTS as an ac-
tive alumnus. He anticipates visiting Holy Grounds to
reminisce about the years it took to complete the mosaic
mural, his labor of love. “SFTS is a very special place,” he
says. “I recall stepping out of my car when I first arrived
four years ago and thinking, ‘I’m going to school at Hog-
warts!’ The beautiful stone castles on the hill, the peaceful
and welcoming environment, and the fact that SFTS is
the only Presbyterian seminary on the West Coast was all
that I needed to affirm my decision to attend. I knew this
was where I wanted to be. I didn’t apply anywhere else!”
As Wei prepares for the next steps in his walk of faith
and ministry, he praises the strong academic program he
completed at SFTS. “The faculty helped me to look at the
Bible in a different way and to understand who I am and
what I bring to the text that I’m reading. They’ve taught me
how to incorporate my learning in a way that I can express
to others,” he says. “I’m ready and prepared and blessed that
I will be able to use my art in my ministry.”
9
Kay Carney is SFTS vice president of
communications.
Holy art
in Holy Grounds
16
SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013
STUDENT NEWS
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