Atlanta, GA (April 10, 2019). A 10-foot wide x 22-foot tall Ancestral Agan hangs in the atrium lobby on the second floor of First Congregational Church, UCC marking the history and the special legacy of the church and some of its former members. This mixed media tapestry is made of blue drapery with quilted panels displaying a myriad of historic images and other visual reminders of what the members’ ancestors were all about. The original Agan was dedicated on October 6, 2012, and it has been a point of pride for the members of First Church who have honored the heritage of the church and its members.
At the start of Holy Week, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019, a program of “Remembrance and Dedication” will be held at 1:00 p.m. at First Congregational Church, UCC to observe the dedication of two new panels to the Ancestral Agan. The Agan panel contains images of many former members of the church who were previous community leaders including John Wesley Dobbs, C.A. Scott, Jean Childs Young, Albert H. Watts, Reverend Homer McEwen, James “Ally Pat” Patrick, Rev. Dr. Norman Rates, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Reverend Henry H, Proctor, Thomas Askew, and Anne Cooper, to name a few. There is a mile-marker on Courtland Street that designates the location of this historic 152-year-old church.
The Visual Artist Lynn Marshall Linnemeier was first commissioned in 2011 by First Congregational Church to create a site-specific art work has recently stated, “I am happy to have shared this eight-year journey with First Church in this tribute to their ancestors; and I am again honored to present the second phase of this artwork.” At the top of the Agan is a painting of the famous First Congregational Water Fountain that was installed outside of the church so everyone could have a drink of water and be refreshed.
The Altar Guild of First Church helped shepherd the art work project and assisted the artist with involving members of the congregation in the creation of the Agan. Members supplied images of their family members and other historic photographs, and ephemera about their ancestor’s life, and church life, which the artist incorporated into each Agan panel.
The Agan is a costume that represents the return of ancestors in Ifa ceremonies. Ifa is a spiritual belief system practiced by the Yoruba in Nigeria as well as other African nations and throughout the African Diaspora. The Agan is worn during the Egungun masquerade. The word “Egungun” means ancestors. The masquerade is theater at its finest with the community actively participating in the procession as the costumed “ancestor” moves through the streets. The masqueraders perform for the crowds and the costume itself becomes a prop. Constructed of layers of fabric, the flaps of the costume, which represent the skirts of Oya (a female African Orisha (deity) who represents wind and change) fly out like a windmill as the performers spin around. The costume and performances are metaphors for time and change.
Pastor Dwight Andrews, the Altar Guild, the Board of Trustees, and the Church Council of First Congregational Church invite the Atlanta community and visitors to the city to visit the church and see this magnificent piece of memorable art. “Not only are we proud of the Agan, we are even more honored to add the two new panels, which we dedicate during Holy Week on this Palm Sunday,” says Reverend Andrews.