Methodist Cross (II)
Methodist Church Cross
The brothers John and Charles Wesley lived with their father, the rector of Epworth Church in North Lincolnshire, England. Their evangelistic revival movement in the Anglican Church led to the foundation of the Methodist Church and the name 'Epworth' has since given its name to many Methodist institutions. One such church is the Epworth United Methodist Church in Matthews, Indiana, USA (www.matthewseumc.org).
For many years there has been a small cross there, mounted on a plaque. A few years ago the church was refurbished and it was thought that the plaque might have been upside down. Therefore when re-fitting, it was rotated 180 degrees.
The question then arose as to what the symbolism of the cross might be. There is no writing on the plaque to indicate the intended orientation by the artist, so we are left to conjecture.
The current orientation of the plaque is similar to the emblem of the United Methodist Church: a cross and flame. This has been the official insignia of The United Methodist Church since 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren joined the Methodist Church. The two tongues of the flame represent the union of these two denominations and this church is currently the third largest Christian denomination in the United States.
However, this plaque was there long before 1968 - they have been established in Matthews since 1901 - so it is not a copy of that emblem. (It could still represent a flame, of course.) The background shape of the plaque could represent a gothic arch or the wings of a dove. Both the Dove and Flames are commonly used to symbolise the Holy Spirit.
The stylized version of the Chi-Rho makes it look a bit like a sailing boat. And the allegory of course is that the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is as a vessel, to carry us across the stormy sea of life.
The Bible-shaped shield gives us another clue to the artist's thoughts when the piece was made. The cross, with its 'P', looks a bit like the handle of a sword pointing downwards, together with a warrior's shield. A sword in this position, indeed any fighting weapon in this downward position, implies that the fight is over. Through his sacrifice, Jesus conquered death.
The above guesses may be wildly off the mark but that doesn't really matter; the meaning of the Cross is completely unchanged.
There are many fun things to see with inverted illustrations. An example of an 'ambigram' is the word 'up'. Rotate those two characters 180 degrees, and you see 'dn', the abbreviation for 'down'. Whilst our perception of the characters' representation might have changed, the actual lines of those characters have not altered form at all.
Similarly with Jesus. Where some people might see Christianity as little more than an excuse to spoil ourselves at Christmas, that doesn't change the character of Jesus Christ at all.
For more fun with 'up', see Marriott Edgar's Up'ards