Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Fallen angels invited to land lightly at city church

Sculptor Nirmala Cooper's controversial statue of fallen angel Gadreel  will lie at St Matthew-in-the-City church during Lent in the hope of encouraging 'the fallen' back. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Sculptor Nirmala Cooper's controversial statue of fallen angel Gadreel will lie at St Matthew-in-the-City church during Lent in the hope of encouraging 'the fallen' back. Photo / Paul Estcourt

St Matthew-in-the-City is banking on a fallen angel - who some say is Satan himself - to help bring people closer to God.

The statue of Gadreel, one of the fallen angels in Enoch lore who reputedly led Eve astray in the Garden of Eden, was installed in the church's Peace Chapel next to the main altar on Friday, and will remain there for the period of Lent.

Vicar Glynn Cardy said the statue was to show that "even the devil would be welcomed in God's Kingdom".

"It's to show that no matter how distant you are, or even if you've fallen to your deepest depth - like Gadreel - you are still welcome to be in our midst," he said.

"Different people will feel differently when they look at this statue."

Mr Cardy said Lent was a time of self reflection and sacrifice observed by Christians and Catholics in the lead-up to Easter, and the statue is aimed at bringing "the fallen" back to church.

The 2.13m artwork is a creation of local artist Nirmala Cooper, who said she wanted to create a sculpture that showed levity and gratitude at falling, but landing lightly.

"I want small children to walk around the fallen angel, to create a sense of awe (and) recognise that we can fall lightly," Ms Cooper said.

"Gadreel has elevated his torso as he lands on earth ... one wing is broken, his face shows surprise, but he knows who he is and remains an angel."

Paula Wilson, who was one of the first to see the statue at the central Auckland Anglican church, also became one of its first critics.

"It borders blasphemy to bring an enemy of God into the church to be honoured," she said.

St Matthew-in-the-City is known for its controversial depiction of Christianity. Last Christmas, it put up a billboard depicting Mary with a positive pregnancy test, and in 2009, another that depicted Mary and Joseph in bed with the text: "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow".

- NZ Herald

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