Midlands man's 'painting table' touches Newtown families

For Columbia man Roger Hutchison painting is more than a hobby or talent, it's a time to pray.

"As I begin to paint, it's like a conversation that I have," said Hutchison.

His words are replaced with colors and each stroke is an offering of deepest thought. "I don't ever know what I'm going to paint when I sit down here at the table," he added.

But his table serves as his steady altar, one he's known all his life. "Our family would gather around the table," said Hutchinson as he reminisced about his grandmother's kitchen. "There was color everywhere…fresh fruit, tomatoes…blueberry cobbler."

Hutchison says he was given the table when his grandmother passed away. "Her art was cooking," he added. "She loved to cook, and so her kitchen table was sacred."

Sacred still, Hutchison says it was 12 years ago when he realized he was doing more than painting at his favorite table.

"I was frustrated…I was painting with brushes, and I was not able to do what I wanted to do," said Hutchison. "So I threw the brushes away and at that moment I put my hands directly into the paint on the canvas."

He says he's only used his fingers to paint since. "I really felt like I saw God that night," he added. "I began to experience great hope and anticipation really for the future.

Wanting others to experience the same, Hutchison has detailed his experience in a newly released book entitled "The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy."

"My table is real… it's a wooden table. But that's not really what the book is about," said Hutchison. "It tells that story, but it's more about how can we take this into our communities and form a painting table."

In May of this year, he was invited to take the table to families in Newtown, Connecticut. They lost 26 of their own on December 14, 2012 when a lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"What those people experienced was unreal," said Hutchison. "These were family members of the victims by way of church, school and their neighbors."

Together they gathered around their own painting table. 'There were parents painting with children, children painting with children, and some of the paintings were quite dark."

But in the midst of darkness, Hutchison says in their paintings there was a light. Like the one a mom painted with twenty-six stars in the night sky. "The darkness is part of what the community faced, but they're a people of light, a people of hope, and that's what I got that night," he added.

It was a night much like the one when painting became Hutchison's time to pray. Even when words are few, hands surrendered to hope, tell a different story.

Hutchison has been invited to go back to Newtown in July of 2014 to paint with the families again. He serves full-time as the Canon for the Children's Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia and often works with children at local schools.

The painting table is available on Amazon, and also can be ordered through any bookstore. For more information visit http://www.thepaintingtable.com/.

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