CULLMAN – In the Arnold House on Arnold Street behind Grace Episcopal Church is a community prayer room that is open 24 hours a day for members of the Cullman community to utilize. It is a small room with six miniature pews, two rows of three, and on the walls is Ben Johnson South’s artistic contribution to the room.
There are four panels hanging on the walls. Covering the panels are pages of religious texts, from the Common Book of Prayer to the Qur’an, and it is on those pages that South has painted his art. Each of the four panels, every one representing one of the four prayers found in every religion according to Johnson – ‘thanks,’ ‘gimmie,’ ‘oops,’ and ‘wow’ – has a rose painted on it.
Each rose is painted to portray the prayer it represents: for instance, the ‘oops’ rose is wilted and appears crestfallen. “I think it’s good because you’re using playful wordage,” South said as he explains the titles of the prayers.
“I don’t want to be ponderous or anything. It’s just how I live my life, looking at life in that slant of light.”
South, ever one to, as he says, “puncture pomposity,” always wants to veer from insulting or exclusive behavior when it comes to religion. “I’m looking for a religion that doesn’t damn other religions,” he said.
The prayer room at Grace Episcopal is always open to everyone. It is a quiet, solemn place to be alone, to pray, and, thanks to South’s addition, a work of art.