God of Hope

"Portrait of Herbert Clifford" by Andy Collis.

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It would be easy for an entity like Sydney Adventist Hospital (the San) to provide nothing more than health services—as it does so well, with state-of-the art technology and staff. But this community-loved organisation is going above and beyond expectations by putting on an art show.

Originally envisioned by Adventist artist and graphic designer Shelley Poole, “God of Hope” is an exhibition birthed from a collaboration between the San, the South Pacific Division (SPD) and Adventist Media.

“Our main priority is to use art as a catalyst for spiritual dialogue,” says Mrs Poole. “We want to make sure it’s obvious that there is a Christian ethos in the hospital when people walk through.”

The exhibition will feature more than 14 artworks, displayed in the hospital’s highest-traffic spaces including the new reception area, Clark Tower feature wall, Clifford Tower foyer and San Chapel. Temporary participatory displays will also be featured on a wall outside the cafeteria.

“Impacting patients is the priority,” says Mrs Poole. “Only just over one per cent of them are Adventists, but 60 per cent have a religious affiliation that acknowledges the existence of God. We have to be sensitive to this diversity while still being authentic and honest about our faith. We’re not trying to preach; we’re trying to tell stories.”

“Immanuel” by Felicity Thompson.

As part of this storytelling approach, production staff at Adventist Media have created a documentary that follows the journey of three photographers featured in the exhibition: Felicity Thompson’s San baby photography project entitled Immanuel; Heath Bennett’s Resilient Hope—a series of five images of Open Heart International patients in Tonga post-surgery; and James Bennett’s ethereal depiction of Jesus among sand dunes and water.

“Behind-the-scenes footage of these photoshoots symbolically tracks the journey of Jesus—from His birth, to His ministry, to the heavenly ascension—interspersed with testimonies from patients and loved ones talking about their perspectives on hope for the future and prayer,” says Mrs Poole.

Among the exhibitors, fine artist Andy Collis was commissioned to paint two portraits: one of former San superintendent Herbert Clifford, and one of former director of nursing Rose-Marie Radley. Both artworks feature rich symbolism reflective of the hospital’s God-infused history.

“San CEO Brett Goods specifically requested Rose-Marie to be painted once Bert’s portrait was commissioned. Brett told me the two of them were ‘thick as thieves’ during their tenure at the San,” says Mrs Poole.

Multiple other artists and art installations will also feature as part of the exhibition—Karl Lindsay’s God is Able photograph, musician Blake Robinson’s composition “Eternity”, interactive temporary murals outside of the cafeteria, as well as Glonaida Quiapon’s Bible verse illustrations themed around hope and prayer as part of a volunteer-led art cart. All of these artworks have been curated by Mrs Poole to communicate the power of prayer, authentic journeys of faith and to portray the character of God.

“God is Able” by Karl Lindsay.

When asked about her motivation behind the project, Mrs Poole expressed her intentional decision to base the exhibition on the SPD’s harvest ministry model.

“The exhibition aims to spark a desire within patients and visitors to learn more, and to put them in touch with the San’s Spiritual Care Services. We’re installing iPad stations around the exhibition to catch people as they leave, with an option to ask for prayer or chat with a chaplain.”

The exhibition isn’t just a discipleship mechanism, however. Mrs Poole is deeply motivated by personal experience and seeks to extend compassion to patients and loved ones walking through the hospital’s doors.

“My mum had a brain tumour about 10 years ago; it was all very sudden when we found out. . . . I don’t remember being able to pray words myself because I was in shock with it all. But I remember that there were friends who came to Mum’s hospital room and prayed with her. It meant the world to us. Even though she’s okay now, even 10 years later, I still feel an ache and tension about the whole experience. And it’s helped me understand what it is like for the patients and their families.”

“God of Hope” officially opens to the public on December 12. To register your attendance, please visit tinyurl.com/godofhope.

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