Rev. Joe Hill, Conference Superintendent assigned to the Nine Rivers District is the artist of the sculpture of Bishop Sandra. Below is his reflection on this work of art. 

Every January, the Bishop and Cabinet begin the year with a retreat to get spiritually grounded for the work of discerning new pastoral appointments. In 2021 we had to organize the retreat as a virtual experience in which the Bishop and Cabinet could participate remotely.

One of the exercises we planned involved the use of clay as a prayer aid. The exercise incorporates the physical action of kneading the clay with the spiritual effort of prayer.

During the pandemic I had renewed the hobby/spiritual discipline of sculpting. It occurred to me that the clay prayer exercise could become a unique gift for our Bishop: A sculpture infused with prayer from each Cabinet member.

I prepared clay for each cabinet member and mailed it to them. Among other prompts that I asked cabinet members to use while kneading their clay, I asked them to the spend some time in focused prayer for Bishop Sandra. I asked that each person mail their clay back to me after finishing the prayer exercises.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what I would shape from the clay. I stayed open in prayer to inspiration for a direction to take. As we continued into the work of the year, I considered the many demands upon the Bishop as our episcopal leader. Just looking at her schedule calendar was overwhelming to me.

We were also approaching the time when Bishop Steiner Ball would take on additional episcopal responsibility shared with Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koi Koi. What surfaced in me was a hope for Bishop Sandra to have moments and space to step away, be still, and find renewal in God’s love and presence.

As I carried that feeling with me, I also noticed times when we gathered that Bishop Sandra came in especially bright-eyed. Sometimes that shine was sparked mid-meeting as we shared ministry celebrations or leaned into challenges that opened into new possibilities. Seeing that, I understood that Bishop Sandra knew how to find what I had hoped for her, even sometimes in the midst of the work. Perhaps more importantly, God’s renewing love and presence knew how to find her.


Typically when I sculpt a figure, I rework it several times and paint the piece. For reasons beyond my ability to explain, it just felt right to leave this piece unrefined. I would have described it as “unfinished’, but it is finished. It felt like it was time to release the piece from my intentions for it.

Thinking back, I wonder if I had “finished” the piece to my own satisfaction, would that have made the whole effort more about me instead of this ultimately being a gift of prayer offered by the cabinet?

May that’s the point. Maybe it isn’t. Looking at the piece now, I’m sure the way it currently appears and feels is the way it is meant to be.

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