published Monday, August 25th, 2014

St. Marks United Methodist Church's wall inspires congregation to live fully

Charles Googe writes a bucket list item on a "Before I Die" wall Sunday at St. Marks United Methodist Church in North Chattanooga.
Charles Googe writes a bucket list item on a "Before I Die" wall Sunday at St. Marks United Methodist Church in North Chattanooga.
Photo by Logan Foll.
  • photo
    Jerry Dale, right, and Jaden Kuberg write bucket list items on a "Before I Die" wall Sunday at St. Marks United Methodist Church in North Chattanooga.
    Photo by Logan Foll.
    enlarge photo

ON THE WEB

To learn more about the "Before I Die" movement visit, www.beforeidie.cc.

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives — at least not fully, Carl Greene told his congregation Sunday morning.

He began this week's sermon with a dose of morbid truth.

"The death rate in this sanctuary is 100 percent," he said. "None of us are exempt from death."

But he urged the congregation of St. Marks United Methodist Church to embrace their own mortality; to, as the Tim McGraw hit they had just sang suggests, "Live Like You Were Dying."

"It's one thing to just exist," Greene said. "It's a whole other thing to live."

If we lived more like we were dying, with a sense of urgency, he said, we would clear some of the clutter from our lives. We would slow down and savor, linger and relish those things that matter most.

While taking the present for granted would be an error, Greene said, the greater mistake would be to take eternity for granted. He read from the Book of Romans, where the Apostle Paul says:

"Wake up, for the coming of salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don't live in darkness."

While Greene preached, other church members secretly erected a giant "Before I Die" wall out front. With installments across the world, these chalkboard walls represent one of the more contagious public art projects in recent history. Like hundreds of other walls, St. Marks' will be constantly evolving as passers-by and community members add their own hopes and dreams.

The "Before I Die" wall was birthed in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang. Mourning the death of her close friend in 2011, she covered the side of an abandoned home with chalkboard paint. She wrote "Before I Die I want to...," leaving behind dozens of empty lines and some chalk.

Within a day, the wall was full.

The responses overwhelmed Chang:

sing for millions

plant a tree

hold her one more time

be completely myself

"People's responses made her laugh out loud and tear up," the project's website states. "They consoled her during her toughest times. She understood her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded her that she's not alone as she tries to make sense of her life."

Now, more than 525 walls have been created in more than 70 countries and more than 30 languages.

A Danville, Ind., hospital erected one last year to call attention to quality of life.

One stands in the main event hall at the Jerusalem YMCA in memory of artist Azriel Cohen.

And in January, a wall went up along the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway for bikers, pedestrians and joggers to use.

Before unveiling St. Marks' wall Sunday morning, Greene suggested church members create an "ultimate to-do list," a bucket list of sorts. People are much more likely to accomplish the things they write down, he said. He told them about the wall, how he had encountered one in Canada and how they would have their own right here on the corner of Mississippi Avenue and Liberty Street.

Within minutes, church members had nearly filled the wall with a mix of whimsical and serious goals.

help others more

buy a boat

be cured

marry my partner

bring peace

inspire someone

forgive

play

be a mom

Hannah McCahill wrote, "prove the doubters wrong." A female professional football player, she said she wants to show that all people are created equally and should have the same opportunities in life.

She said the exercise was motivating.

"It makes me face the reality that I don't have as much time as I'd like to think," McCahill said.

Jessica Kuberg simply wrote "live." She said she was inspired by the message and inspired "to not only exist, but to really live."

Her 9-year-old son Jaden wrote "go to Mexico," because he's interested in the country.

And her 15-year-old daughter Destiny was thinking of her favorite band, the boy band from Britain that in the last few years has become a teen and tween sensation.

So she wrote "meet One Direction."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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