I've been exploring different modes of spirituality for many years. I've researched different religions, had many friends from all over the world and visited many different types of spiritual grounds. My travels have opened an entire spectrum, from large, beautiful Catholic churches, to a week's stay at a Buddhist center, to the place I'm about to introduce... Scum of The Earth Church. You read right, that's the name and no, it doesn't refer to a congregation of evil, in fact, the church is far from it.
I came across this place during a short stay in Denver, Colorado, United States. That stay was lengthened and only for the purpose of shooting photos at the church. Why? Take a look. The visuals are the one reason I can actually show you, the rest has to be described and imagined unless you find yourself in Denver, taking my high recommendation to visit.
The two above images are of a beautiful, steam-punk-style mobile, alight and spinning in the front lobby of the church. The one below is, yes, the bathroom. (of the three, only the top image is available in my public galleries).
I found this church by doing a search engine dig for "best churches in Denver CO". Apparently, Scum of the Earth Church has been featured in quite a few articles and videos. As soon as I read their website, their mission statement and watched the documentary it hit me, this is exactly the kind of crowd I want my baby daughter involved in.
Why? Why would I want to expose my little girl to church-going folks that have a chain dawning, long haired, heavy metal style? I'll give you the same reason Jesus would, because the world and spirituality don't just belong to those who fit any kind of mold. Over the course of my own life I've mingled many times with mistake makers, the homeless and people of their own style. It's not because I prefer a life of unsavory behavior, I don't.
After seeing too many examples of what doesn't work, I've run my own personal, persistent war against becoming what God doesn't want. It's my own experience that makes me want to join hands with others like me, those who fight for renewal. Simply put, there's no one better to make earthly improvements than those who know how badly they're needed. There's no one better to know how badly they're needed than those who've been immersed in negativity and suffering, that is, many from the crowd you'd find at a place like Scum of the Earth Church.
God has a system. That system works when it's allowed to run freely. That system includes forgiveness and a need for information from, and for... everyone. Ask God if you don't believe me. It's not just about the person who appears to have a clean life. It is truly about everyone.
This is the philosophy that Scum of the Earth Church embodies, Agape love... unconditional, compassionate and forgiving. They believe in bringing people to the spiritual experience no matter what judgement others have tossed their way (human judgement, of course). My daughter, this is what I want her to understand because you can raise a child to be anything, surgeon, artist, engineer, but without acceptance the full benefits of any profession, any life become exclusive. And when we shut out others, no matter who, we shut out useful connections and useful information. I wanted to shoot photos at Scum of the Earth Church because they're fighting those closing doors and I want to promote that. They say it well with a bible quote posted on their website...
1 Corinthians 4:11-13...
"To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the Scum of the Earth, the refuse of the world."
Service times, checked and chosen. GPS programed. Driving to the church, done. Walk up to the building...
Above, left: The window at the front entrance. Above, right: A mural found on the side of the building. Neither of the above are available in public galleries. Apologies, I didn't have much time to shoot and the two images I had of the entire building did not turn out presentable.
I was a bit shocked considering the slew of information that's out there about this church. It was smaller than I expected, a nice kind of small, comfortable and cozy. I still expected to see something as big as the persona this church has on the web, but was in no way disappointed. This place immediately struck me as an artist's dream world. The mural pictured above was a scene straight from the bible with a bit of a twist of course, reminiscent of the 144,000, God's special forces that is. Art is everywhere in this church, absolute art, absolutely everywhere. Everything from the stage to the bathroom is adorned with thoughtful details. Check these out...
The two above are floors. The two below are inside the chapel.
The service was more personal than I expected. The crowd was flecked with a mix of different people, some as previously described, some looked like folks you'd see in your average neighborhood.
The music was inspirational and the sermon was well done by a woman (a nice change from my own experience). It was a great piece about the Biblical story of Paul and the amount of traveling and hardship he endured to spread the word of God. It fit the genre of what you'd expect from a church trying to light the fire of God in the hearts of the community. As usual, as with the messages I've gotten from any spiritual place, the information felt well placed in my life and I'm sure it would with anyone who can get past the unusual.
People moved the chairs around and laid out a slew of tables. Everyone formed a line and slung it through the back door behind the chapel. Oh yeah! Grab a setting and load it with some seriously good home cooking. We sat for a nice meal and some enlightening conversation with regulars and those passing through. What you learn from understanding where people come from, that is the point of the sit-down. Sure there was small talk, but there were some really nice, welcome conversations about who was traveling where, who was at their home base and why each was each... exactly what I want my daughter to hear.
Then came my request to shoot photos, granted. Out of that, one of the photos I love most. It was simply a light in the back room...
And more of course. This was sitting on top of a wall in the chapel...
This was one of the shortest photo shoots I've ever done and yet one of the most impactful in my own life and in Grace's and my daughter's. It wasn't so much about the visuals, but what they represent. As I say in my About page, everyone is an artist, everyone is an interpreter of art. This means anyone of any belief. But for me to join my connection to the spiritual with art and to be lead to a place that embodies that in their own practice, it was a great gift. The community this church embeds itself into is a fair one, not exclusive. That's the way I like to create images.