Sophia – Goorambat Uniting Church, Victoria

A few months ago, a friend wrote that she had “just returned from a five-day trip to see the silo art in the Wimmera/Mallee and Northeast Victoria. Wonderful work, and such a boost to the towns that arranged for their people, fauna and flora to be presented in such a wonderful form”. What caught my attention however was the note “A highlight was a mural of Sophia in the tiny Uniting Church at Goorambat”, near Benalla and Wangaratta, Victoria.

She added “The portrayal of Wisdom as female brings to mind the references to Wisdom in the Apocryphal Book of Wisdom”. And observed that that quality of the work is “equal to the portraits viewed in the Archibald”.

There is little information about this wonderful painting of Sophia, painted by well-known street artist ‘Adnate’. The information board at the church reads:

“Sophia came into being in 2017 when the Uniting Church community in Goorambat was approached to host a mural inside the church itself. The mural had to be relevant to the culture and ethos of the church community and of a quality that would enhance the church precinct. The Goorambat congregation looked at some concept images by Adnate before it was suggested, inspirationally, that the subject might depict “Sophia” the female aspect of the Holy Spirit. This tradition draws on the spirit of God as it manifested in Old Testament times and the post Pentecostal period.

“Sophia by nature is wise, nurturing, comforting, inspirational and ever present. Such characteristics have always been associated with a female depiction of this aspect of God”.

If we understand the idea of God, especially the Holy Spirit, being like a breath or wind, we can grasp the meaning of the Hebrew word “Ruach” or “Ruah”. This word refers to God as a breath, a wind, or a life force that sustains all living things, including human beings. Ruah is the Hebrew word translated as God’s Spirit. The corresponding Greek word is “Pneuma”.  In Latin “Spiritus” is used for “spirit” or “breathing”.  Ruah, pneuma and spiritus are commonly used in passages referring to the Holy Spirit. Ruah is feminine, Pneuma is neutral and Spiritus is masculine. So in Christian theology we have the three Persons of the Trinity named as masculine: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Many eastern theologians refer to the Spirit as Sophia, the Wisdom of God.

“The Uniting Church Community in Goorambat is small and yet vibrant. It was an act of faith that a work of art such as Sophia be contained within the walls of our church. This act of faith has proved enriching to our members and the many visitors who come to see Sophia”.

The Goorambat ladies who provided my friend with a lavish morning tea in the little Goorambat Hall explained that Adnate’s silo murals and Sophia are bringing thousands of visitors to the town – pre the murals and Sophia the traffic through the tiny town was about one car in half an hour; now they were catering for three tour coaches a week”. The correct name for the Goorambat mural artist is Jimmy Dvate. This beautiful piece of artwork is not to be missed and well worth the drive to see in all its glory.

Ursula de Jong – member National Liturgical Architecture and Art Council (NLAAC)