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Jane L. Barron
27th September, 2010

Tim Pomeroy's sculpture is a life class in New Testament anticipation. It is chiseled in finest Italian marble, hewn from the same rock as Michaelangelo's 'David.' The chest-height egg-shaped font is supported by four graceful legs, two of which are engraved, one with prayer, the other with promise. The prayer incants, Lord, let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising of thy name. The promise reads, John baptised with water but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit. The bowl of the font will fill and empty continuously, reminding all, surely of Jesus, the Living water which never runs out. The marble is baby-skin smooth until nearer the lip. Here a delicate ribbon of biblical story encircles the stone. The lovingly shaped characters from Old and New Testaments form a cloud of witnesses making their harrowing and hopeful way to baptism and new life.

The order of things however, encourages us to think. In the beginning of this story we are shown the Baptist in the river baptising a man. The two figures stand a little alone and the banks of the Jordan frame the sacred act as if they are caught in a moment in time. However the figure being baptised isn't the Christ; the figure of Jesus is queuing down the line, taking his turn, alone. He appears almost anonymously, an Everyman save for the dove hovering overhead. To see the Christ waiting in line draws on a centuries-old mystery; the question of his humanity and/or his divinity. Tim's portrayal of the humanly patient Jesus, and his being anointed at the same time by the sacred bird of peace nudges both questions over his identity.

As your eyes follow the engraved story in-the-round, it seems sometimes that the encircling ribbon of life moves carousel-like; its myriad procession of people moving, limping, staggering, crawling, leaping of their own volition. As Tim says there are echoes here of the Palm Sunday procession, the bandwagon of humanity drawn to hope when there's not much else on offer. First century society in Palestine was oppressive not just because of Roman occupation, but worse - the nation's own minority elite, their own countrymen. They ruled over 75% of the population, stealing peasants' land, livelihoods and dignity. The dire consequences of foreign occupation and home grown theft are depicted in the stone; we see a wee flock of sheep with their shepherds immediately following Jesus who is the Loving Shepherd of people who have long had no such leader. Following the wee flock come women nursing babies, the tenderness of their clutches echoed in the affectionate touch of a man's hand on his wife's shoulder. A vulnerable group of stooped figures are next, their elderly plight shown mercy by another's kindness.

All of humanity is here, and next is Matthew the Tax Collector; memories of his greedy profession are tempered as it's clear he too waits his turn. The Baptists' disciples wait also, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. At first glance their infamous hotheadedness and impatience might clash with the mood of waiting - but they're here all the same. Next are amour-plated centurions, and we know some of them gentled and came to believe in the Patient Lamb of God. The Law Doctors are tall and fine, their appearance as ordered as their legal interpretations; are they angry or curious? Perhaps their position near Peter isn't a coincidence for he'll be the one to watch. There he is, with a rock beneath one foot. He's with Andrew and a pool of fishermen. A couple crippled with age receive a gesture of support and their fragility contrasts with the aura of connivance as men cast lots in the shade of a tree; echoes of Old Testament warning; crucifixion. Small children are near, captivated as little ones are by risky things. They are pulled away by older ones; evil always lurks when heaven is in danger of winning the day. Meanwhile a donkey plods pulling a flat bed cart; a prone woman too unwell to stand waits her time, but hope is near; the branches of an olive tree overhang, its peace-filled promise suggesting shade from too-hot sun. In its shelter a large boulder reminds the weary queue of miracles. The stone will roll.

Now here comes the tender sight of the blind leading the blind; tethered gently together like eager vulnerable lambs; a young child will lead them. Unnaturally motionless another seeking soul is stretchered, another wheelbarrowed; by who? The kindness of friends or strangers? By hook or by crook they're coming and why not in such a society?

Couples and children, women and babies, signs so tender; and what promise there is in the tired fox whose sleep-soft snout rests soundly at last beneath the olive-laden tree; no hunters here. Riches are borne here by the wealth of deepest peace. Will the rich man in his fine garments continue to stand aloof, or will he happily take his place with the halt and lame? The vineyard labourers stand with their ladders; finally they're grasping equality?

If meaning is to be found in this astonishing work I found it abundantly in the child who walks ahead of Jesus. If you visit the Royal Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow and see the font in situ, you will see Jesus not only queuing, but waiting behind a child. At the same time the beauty of sculpting this story in a circular telling is that it's hard to see who is at the head and who is at the foot. It's a Camelot inspired design, no topdown hierarchy here. But the depiction also unravels the idea that Jesus queues not only behind children but beasts of burden and field too; I counted more than one donkey and a slinky carnivore. There is more than one doctrine here. There is Sacrament and there is Incarnation; transcendence as well as full immersion into the stuff of life.

Hewing from the dust of ancient marble Tim Pomeroy has mothered passionate delicacy; a heart-filled searching and suggestion of divinity's relationship with creation; eternal, humble, beside us and beyond us; Emmanuel, God With Us.



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