A Special Wreath

wreath of discarded clothing hanging on the southwest tower of Holy Trinity - photo by W. Whitla

Oliver and Mike speak about their Advent Wreath at Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity has been blessed in many ways during the past 9 long months, and we have been a blessing to others too, feeding and caring for many in our space. We had a moving display of aboriginal art on the walls outside during part of the summer, and then Jerry Thistle’s wonderful mural of the Great Spirit hovering over the Church to shelter us and our guests in her grace and peace. And now, thanks to Dianne, the Worship Committee was asked to sponsor another artistic project, a large Advent wreath to be hung outside on the west end of the Church, made by some of the residents of the encampment around the Church, expressing the sense of waiting they are undergoing—for housing, for acceptance, for food—and beyond that for the gifts of Advent: hope and love.

As Oliver and Mike wrote in their proposal, “It is our intention to use the materials of encampment living as a means of both celebrating and commemorating this phenomenon, both in Trinity Square and around the city. Advent is a season of both waiting and preparation. It is also a meditation on celebration. Encampments and other iterations of the beloved community remind us that there is a hope beyond the domination of Empire that exists in downtown Toronto. It is our intention that the wreath echoes these sentiments and acts as semiotic marker for their conditions.”

The wreath in place on our southwest tower. Photo by Zachary Grant.

      Now it is shining on the west wall of the Church, glowing with abandoned clothes and rain gear, glimmering and flaming with the reality of discarded shirts and hoodies, made inside the nave too large to pass through the doors to get it outside until it was cut in half and re-assembled, symbolic enough, as though our friends’ lives could be cut in half and be reassembled, as though the encampment could be cut down to size to be re-shaped somewhere else. Instead, let it stand as a sign, as Oliver says, for this Advent of waiting and hope and beloved community.

     At Sunday Worship on Advent 3, Zach interviewed Oliver and Mike, and this is what they said (you can see it live in the video of the service on the HT website):

Zachary: Okay, so we’re at the Church of the Holy Trinity and we have just installed a new work by Oliver [Roberts] and Mike. I was hoping that you guys can tell us a little bit about what you’ve done here.

Mike: What I would say is that we pretty much cut out the pieces of wood and we had some pretty much fun in picking up the canvases and everything else.

Zach:   Where did you grab the materials?

Mike: Well, I turned around—that’s an old tent, something that is a canopy of mine and everything, and I thought it was pretty cool.

Zach:   For the people who are watching this, perhaps you could tell them a little bit about why

all of this ephemera is so ah … [important?]

Mike: We decided the thing is that it would be a different type of Christmas, where you turn around and build a wreath instead of ordering what an original wreath would look like, and you know, I decided you might turn around and help us homeless people out, and we can actually feel the spirit of Christmas and everything.

Oliver: Exactly. Me and Mike were talking and we’re asked to make a Christmas wreath, an Advent wreath for the Church, but because the Church is in such a location and such a part of the city—we’ve got  a beautiful encampment here [he indicates the tents behind him]. Mike lives in an encampment down in the Rosedale Valley.

      We thought why not, instead of making a wreath out of traditional elements, we’d use tents and discarded clothing, objects, and artifices of life out here, you know, life at Trinity, life around the city, the true faces of what the city is going through right now.

      You’ve gotta remember that there’s still beauty in all those things, too, right.

      So me and Mike over a couple of days collaged, and the purpose of that was the different things that he brought from his camp, and the stuff from here—an Advent Wreath for a different kind of Christmas, you know, a Christmas of the beloved Community that we have here in Trinity, and that we have all throughout the city of Toronto.

      Let’s think about it this way. Christmas happens every year, you know. But this particular year and the year of the pandemic, this 2020, more so than ever, we’re going to have to bear witness to the different kind of forces in our society and what they do to us, all different members of our community. So I think that this Wreath is a symbol of beauty, it’s a symbol of community, it’s a symbol of coalition between different kinds of people, and using the objects and the materials that we find all around us in great multitudes.

       So I think if I had to say to a city official, I’d say, enjoy it, but also, you know,  take it with a grain of salt, because it really bears witness to what is going on every day, every week, for months, for years, perhaps a decade, you know. It’s gonna go on tomorrow, it’s gonna go on the next day.

Zach: Thanks very much, guys.

Oliver and Mike: Peace/ Peace.