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Covering Our Tracks

Roberta Green Ahmanson


As long as I can remember, I have been looking for footprints left by Christians who lived before me. I wanted evidence that the faith I belong to had left a lasting mark on the earth, for proof that others had found this faith to be real. In short, I was looking for the artifacts of Christian memory, artifacts that began in the everyday lives of men and women who shared my faith in Christ.

Coming of age in a fundamentalist Baptist tradition in the turbulent 1960s, I saw little art that supported my faith. Though churches then still looked like churches, rather than the warehouse churches prevalent in Southern California, where I now live, art was absent. In fact, people in my tradition still considered art—sculpture or painting—to be suspect, idolatry rather than an aid to worship.

Inside the first church I attended, a stucco building with a square tower and a “Believe on Jesus Christ” sign in neon mounted over the front door, stairs led up to the sanctuary— a large rectangular room with a baptistery to the left, a stage with a pulpit in the center, a Communion table below in front of it. To the right of the stage, an organ sat off to one side of a choir loft. On the wall above, words in brown plastic letters read: “He that hath the Son hath life.” The room was painted Baptist buff, its own shade of beige with a little yellow in it. Ceiling fans brought a welcome breeze in summer. And there were stained glass windows—colors only, no images, surrounding translucent colorless squares. The pews were a warm maple color, curved to suit the space. I liked them. This was church

Category: Art & Culture,


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