Episcopal seminary cancels 5-hour crying performance after backlash

The Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the campus of The General Theological Seminary, a seminary of The Episcopal Church that dates back to the early 19th century.
The Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the campus of The General Theological Seminary, a seminary of The Episcopal Church that dates back to the early 19th century. | Screengrab: YouTube/General Seminary

An Episcopal Church seminary has canceled an event that would have featured a performer weeping for five hours. The decision came in response to extensive social media backlash.

The General Theological Seminary of New York City announced in an update last week that it was canceling a performance by artist Lia Chavez scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18.

Titled “Water the Earth” and cohosted by the Foundation for Spirituality and the Arts, the event would have featured Chavez sitting in the campus chapel and weeping for five hours.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

In its update, the seminary explained that it was canceling the event due to “the strength of feeling” that it caused, as well as “the concerns of our community.”

“While we still believe the arts provide rich opportunities for exploring our faith and bringing people to the Close, we apologize to those who felt this particular performance was inappropriate for the sacred space of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd,” stated GTS.

“Our intentions were good, and we believe art should be part of the urban worship experience, but in a season when so many people are shedding tears, both the nature of this performance and its timing should have been taken into consideration.”

According to an emailed press release from the Foundation sent out before the cancellation, the crying event was going to be “a durational performance that considers the expression of tears as a sacred act — making the invisible, visible.”

“Seated alone in the seminary’s Gothic chapel, a space resonant with a long history of devotion, Chavez will weep for five hours, acting as a conduit for divine energy and healing,” stated the Foundation.

“In addition to her extensive preparatory practices of fasting and meditation, Chavez draws inspiration from her substantial global research on goddess icons and the Divine Feminine, drawing upon Mesoamerican ceremonial statuettes, and Medieval European representations of the Virgin Mary as the Seat of Wisdom — as they relate to the numinous universal figure of cosmic Wisdom.”

The press release quoted Chavez as calling her performance “a Pietà of sorts,” referring to the famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her recently deceased son, Jesus Christ.

“It tells the story of the birth pangs the Divine Mother experiences as humanity undergoes the immense spiritual birth which is demanded of us in our time,” said Chavez.

Several clergy and others denounced the event on social media, reported Episcopal News Service, with comments calling the event “embarrassing” and “superficial virtue signaling.”

“This is a profoundly unserious event, and as a theological educator it makes me really sad. Please do better by your students and the wider church,” commented the Rev. Kara Slade of Trinity Church in Princeton, New Jersey, as quoted by ENS.

“Just tragic that the seminary so many of us loved has been reduced to whatever this is … which seems like a mockery of the genuine weeping that is occurring globally for human tragedies,” remarked the Rev. Laurie Brock of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky, also quoted by ENS.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.