Butterflies for All Saints

Thanks to the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Presbyterian Church (USA) for sharing this in their Nov, 23, 2020 newsletter.

Heartland Presbyterian Church of Clive, IA created a Butterfly Memorial to memorialize all Iowans lost to Covid-19. When member Julie Olson heard of a similar memorial of lights, created by artist Carl Holmstad for Decorah Congregational UCC, she brought the idea to her Worship Committee, which had earlier constructed a Mourning Fence, on which church and community members placed symbols representing losses experienced during the pandemic (a Great Idea in its own right). When that was damaged by time and August’s derecho, the Worship Committee wondered about how to replace it.

Children placing butterflies on stakes at a late summer (family, outdoor) funeral service, sparked the idea for the Butterfly Memorial. Just prior to All Saints Day, members of Heartland’s Worship Committee and friends placed 1680 butterflies – along with a sign reading “Iowa Saints Lost to Covid-19” – on their property, facing a busy intersection where 50,000 vehicles a day might see it.

“The butterfly is a symbol of radical change and the possibility of renewal”, the article reminds us. The creators hope their community will be reminded “of the value of every individual who has died, our shared grief, endurance, and hope”. Julie Olson and her husband continue to add butterflies for additional Covid-19 deaths; there are now 1845 butterflies on the hill.

Heartland asked a friend of the community to create a video of installation day (which can be accessed on their Facebook page); their music director composed and performed a new piece of music for it.

The Mourning Fence of symbols for the whole community to share; the Butterfly Memorial; the Light Memorial: all are beautiful ideas for creating space for the whole community to grieve both specific losses and ambiguous ones. All Saints is obviously a highly appropriate time to create and share memorials; The Longest Night, New Years Eve/Day, Quarantine Anniversary (in MN, March 15, 2021) or Lent might also be good options.