Telling Our Stories- Jim Smith

photo: Jim Smith with a piece from his upcoming exhibit, Closet Christian: Christian in a Secular World

photo: The Rising by Jim Smith, PJ Burkhalter, Robert Kermitz, cross beam recovered from 2007 HAB Sanctuary fire 

You see it every time you drive by Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church or stop by the church office—an intriguing sculpture, simple and elegant.  Perhaps you've heard that this dramatic piece of art was built from a metal beam that rose from the ashes of our sanctuary when it burned over 10 years ago. But did you know that long-time member and accomplished artist Jim Smith is the one who designed it?  

Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Jim about this sculpture, called The Rising, and how he uses his gifts to help HAB connect with and expand our community.

As Jim recalls, on December 23, 2007, he was driving to church—he likes the early service—heading down Hendricks Avenue on his way to participate in worship, as he does most Sundays.  As he approached HAB, he noticed smoke and officers re-directing traffic AWAY from his destination.  At first he thought it was a road accident of some sort, but as he got closer, the stunning realization hit him.  HIS church was gone and in its place was a smoldering shell where the sanctuary once stood.  As his car approached the officer diverting traffic, he simply exclaimed, “That's my church!” The officer, previously quite business-like in his demeanor, directed Jim to continue ahead to join the other HAB members and neighbors gathering, crying, and staring in disbelief.  As a member, Jim was devastated along with his friends, but as an artist, he began to see something as he looked at the rubble—a metal beam, bent and curved, dripping with water from the fire hose, yet reaching out of the ash and smoke, rising.  This beam would become the sculpture that now graces our front lawn.  Using his talent as an artist, his love for his church, and the skills of other members like P. J. Burkhalter and Robert Kermitz, Jim sculpted The Rising to remind us of the ability to overcome, the perseverance of God's grace, and the endurance of our members through the time of sadness and rebuilding of our current sanctuary.   Another piece, entitled The Phoenix, made from the remnants of the grand piano that once stood in the sanctuary, graces the campus of The Bolles School, where Jim has been teaching art for 46 years.  


Jim’s long-standing involvement in our church community also extends to our Art Ministry Team.  He has been part of several exhibits at HAB and continues to support and encourage our art ministry volunteers in pursuing excellence in artistic expression in our narthex gallery that supports their mission of displaying art that praises and art that teaches.  You can go online to find out more about the HAB art ministry here or read about the current exhibit here. 


At HAB, we are blessed by our members in so many ways.  Jim is just one example of how God uses our gifts and talents to reach others.  We would love to hear how you think God is using you to expand community and connect with others.  Tell your story in the comments!   


If you would like to see more of Jim Smith’s work, check out his upcoming exhibit, Closet Christian: Christian in a Secular World, at the Riverside Fine Arts Association on Friday, December 14, 2018, at 7:00 p.m.