In 2010, TGC put out a call for artists to create work inspired by the teaching series, which focused on a different “I AM” statement each week.
Around the same time, I joined a Missional Community in LIC. After a long season of doubting my faith and wrestling with God as an artist, as an imperfect person, I was hesitant to meet new Christians. I was worried I would be judged if anyone knew the real me. However, when I arrived in LIC, the people I began to meet openly admitted their imperfections. Each one was wrestling through their doubts. These people were real people. My story and my questions were simply some of many. I decided to dive in.
In the midst of forming these relationships, I saw the call for artists and reached out to members of this new community, Lauren Decierdo, Andrew Young, Cara Massey, Sara Benjamin, Sunday Ibok, and Bill Kerr to see if they’d be interested in putting together a piece. They all were interested and we held a brainstorming session at a Starbucks before church on the UES. The conversation slowly evolved into a realization that even in our struggles, God has fully redeemed us. That we are living in the tension between a fallen world and eternity. That eternity is right here with us but right now we can only see and know in part but one day we will see and know in full. We are already perfect but we are yet to be perfected. We were already, but not yet.
And that’s when the dreaming began. We decided that the piece would be a dance piece performed in the aisle of the church. It would take up the whole space. The choreography would be jagged and broken because it was a poor reflection of the perfect dance that God has instilled in our hearts. We also thought about how “seeing in part” is like watching TV in black and white and that ”seeing in full” would be seeing it in Technicolor.
We decided the best way to reflect this would be to paint ourselves grey during the live portion of the dance and to dress in gothic attire. We also thought that it was important to show the glimpse of redemption that was to come. We decided to film a beautiful version of the dance in full color. The piece would begin with just the live dancers, and then the film would begin in the middle of it, but shown at first in black and white. It would slowly come into focus and in color to reveal the beautiful version of ourselves dancing the perfect dance. In the performance, we the dancers would notice what was happening on the screen, and then decide to wipe the grey off our skins, revealing our own color underneath. This would lead us to worship because we would realize what God has done and invite the congregation to join us in that response. We had that general outline when we left the meeting but no song that quite fit what we were looking for. Afterward, we went to church where Eric Marshall was leading worship and he was teaching us a new song he had written. O Darkest Night began to play and that’s when Cara and I just looked at each other and said, “This is it”.
Then, we went to work to make it happen. We brought our all. (THWD) We spent hours in the rehearsal room, and hours editing. Sometimes we fought, a lot of the time we laughed and other times we would be struck by what God was doing by bringing us together for this project. It became bigger than us. We were learning collectively what it meant to choose to try again, to believe again, to look life in the face and have hope. This community and this piece were rare. That became clear as we performed. When the congregation joined us in singing the song at the end of the piece, the worship was incredible. After performances, many people would tell us how they wrestled with the similar questions of identity and living in the tension of already but not yet. The impact was wide and it was clear God was in it.
About a year later, our dear friend Sunday Ibok passed away. The words to the song and the ideology of the piece we had created rang truer than ever. We held a memorial for him where we showed the video of us performing the piece in Chelsea. But this time, watching it, we all knew Sunday was dancing only in full, bright color.
O Darkest Night became an anthem and a symbol of the season LIC had journeyed through. We had all seen a darkest night, our fears revealed but we were choosing to linger in God’s light and believe in what was to come. And we did it together, as a family.
So we raise our voice with angels
We follow after you
Though the shadows quickly fall
We still cry out
Lord hear our call