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Praise emerges from a hunk of wood

August 19, 2011 No Comment

by James Morgan

Before and after

Wood is a material we often take for granted. Trees grow in our backyards and parks; wood products go into everything from furniture to the homes we live in. But what about turning an otherwise nondescript piece of wood into something symbolizing our praise to God? That’s exactly what retired Niagara-area wood carver Howard Bogusat accomplished.

Just after Christmas 2008, Mr. Bogusat, a member of Christ Lutheran Church in St. Catharines, Ontario and is heavily involved in the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, started working on what he describes as a “hunk” of wood in his shop. He had no specific plans for it, and at first he didn’t even know what kind of wood it was. It turned out to be eastern red cedar, known for its rich fragrance and colour and for lining cedar chests.

“The pivotal moment came on New Year’s Day [2009] in the afternoon. I had removed all the grey wood and dug out any large cracks and imperfections. I was sitting and just staring at my ‘hunk’ of wood. The bottom right suggested to me that it looked like one of those ‘Praise the Lord People’ in an abstract kind of way.”  

The result of the carving with no specific plan was a 34 lb., 33 inch high sculpture that abstractly resembles 18 people reaching high in praise to the Lord, reminiscent of illustrations found in the 1970s Good News Bible. While the sculpture is strong in Christian imagery, its carver says nothing in particular led him to create a religious work. “There was no ‘feeling’ as such, but once I had my theme I did feel ‘driven,” he recalls, noting that following plans is a thing of the past for him when it comes to carving. “I have a whole library of woodcarving books but don’t use them anymore. Most people plan their carvings but somehow, as scary as it is to just dig in, that is what now appeals to me.”

Mr. Bogusat, along with his wife Lorraine, were professional carvers from 1989 until 2004. They created several works for the church, including six crucifixes, three wall murals at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines and a 150th Anniversary gift from Lutheran Church–Canada to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Work on the carving took a lot of time and a lot of tools, resulting in a natural finish which shows all the golden streaks inherent in eastern red cedar. As to whether future carvings are possible, Mr. Bogusat isn’t sure. He says he carved this particular piece two years ago to “wile away the winter,” and notes that for the two winters since, he has travelled south. “Who knows when the urge will strike again or even if it will again?” he questions, noting he isn’t taking orders for more carvings. “That would be work, and I’m retired,” he adds.

Although Mr. Bogusat had several professional photos of the sculpture taken, don’t expect to see it on public display. He humbly says; “I don’t have any plans for it. It simply graces the end of my fireplace on a turnstile.”

Much like how the Lord chooses us as His own and leads us through our lives, a simple “hunk” of wood can be chosen and made into something that reflects our love for Him in response to His love for us.