The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Cross your heart

and keep a secret

It wasn't easy keeping a secret, but Chris Mendola and four others — including his wife, Sally — pulled off a doozy of a surprise in Ocala, Fla., last year.

The secret was revealed on All Saints' Sunday at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. That morning, members saw what had become of the flatware they had been bringing to church for months. They collected more than 2,000 forks: spares from around the house, from friends and from thrift shops. Mendola, a retired industrial arts teacher and principal, and his helpers transformed them into a Celtic cross for the church's memorial garden.

Chris Mendola provided the idea and
Chris Mendola provided the idea and labor for a Celtic cross that graces the Memorial Garden of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Ocala, Fla. But he can also provide statistics: 2,000 pieces of silverware, a 6-foot cross, seven months from idea to completion, and 25 pounds of stainless welding wire.

He's quick to call it "a labor of love," and with patience and detail describes the labor that went into it.

The idea was planted a year before when the Mendolas visited an art museum in a small town in Mississippi. There he saw an angel wing sculpture made of spoons. "It was just stunning," he said. "I thought, what a neat way to use common things and do something beautiful." Since he wasn't allowed to take a photo (and he'll tell you he tried), he drew a sketch.

An unfinished painting by his son-in-law also inspired him. He couldn't get the image out of his head: an angel just waking up, stretching her wings to meet the day. It, his sketch from Mississippi, and all the Celtic crosses he'd seen on trips to England, Wales and Scotland stirred him into action when a shrub in the church's memorial garden needed to be replaced. He volunteered to create a focal point for the garden (something that would withstand the Florida weather, including a hurricane) in time for the congregation's 50th anniversary.

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February issue


Embracing diversity