Rockford Lutheran Church Turns to Art To Bridge Community Gap

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, based in Rockford, Ill., is turning to art to help “bridge” the gap within the Rockford community. It was a move that was quite literal and figurative.

Art to Bridge the Gap

The church’s pastor, Scott Stolberg, said the inspiration for the art project came from two sources.

First, he disclosed that they have a spot inside the church they call the “bridge.” Stolberg explained that he found it fitting to use that same spot for the exhibition of various artworks from participants.

The second, he said, was an area in Rockford that served as a cradle of art in the community.

“Charlotte’s Web, which was a place in Rockford a long time ago, that did this kind of thing,. They would have different artists come in. Sometimes it was a poet, a lecture, and I thought, ‘what if we had a night that had all those things, music, poetry, art installation?” Stolberg told Northern Public Radio.

The pastor explained that when all the activities are over, they aim to ensure community members engage in discussions to connect. Stolberg said it is something many people ceased to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How do we get back into a place where we all feel safe expressing whatever it is we feel about? And that we can hear each other without violence, without anger, and we’re not making demands of each other?” the pastor asked.

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‘The Bridge: Events that Connect’

Pastor Stolberg and the leadership of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church took both inspirations to launch “The Bridge: Events that Connect.” The inaugural event occurred on Friday, whose theme centered on the annual International Artist Day held every Oct. 25.

According to church member Lou Larson, the activity aimed at promoting various means of establishing communication within the community. He said people could communicate ‘through poems, music, and conversations.’

Meanwhile, poet Dianna Tyler said Rockford’s community of artists could work together if given a platform to collaborate, like what “The Bridge” program offers.

Guy Fiorentini, whose band Milwaukee Hot Club performed for the night, talked about the need to “build a whole lot of bridges” so people can survive.

“It feels like our country is just coming apart at the seams. We’re facing unprecedented ecological and infrastructure problems,” Fiorentini explained.

Plans for the Project

Pastor Stolberg disclosed his plans for the ongoing art program.

He said they intend to hold similar activities every three months, hoping they could do them each month. He also clarified that they are not doing such a project to urge people to attend church.

“If somebody comes back and goes, ‘You know, I’m reminded I should get back with my church.’ We think that’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “Of course, being a pastor, my pastor’s heart says absolutely right. But the social justice part of my heart is saying first, how do we create community in a way that is purposeful?” Pastor Stolberg explained.

The website said the next Bridge event is slated for Jan. 13, 2023.

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