Gail believes that justice exists when everything is in balance—and it never is. She feels this imbalance is most blatant in terms of economics and housing. So many people work hard—often at jobs that do not bring joy or satisfaction—and still struggle to maintain a roof over their heads, feed their families, stay afloat. Gail maintains that no one should work full time and not be able to live sustainably on that income.
Instead of struggling to make ends meet, Gail believes in rethinking those “ends,” and realizing how much more simply and affordably we all could live.
One source of this economic stress is our insistence on maintaining houses that too often are far larger than we need. Gail is fascinated by the Tiny House movement—a powerful melding of her training as an architect and her desire to see justice embodied in terms of truly affordable and livable housing for everyone.
She built her first tiny house after completing her architectural degree. She and John celebrated their honeymoon in that tiny house, building an outhouse. Their first home was 450 square feet. It was “freakishly freeing,” she recalls, to have a $250 mortgage, and a compact home that truly fit them.
She believes passionately that meeting the housing needs of those struggling economically is essential. “Housing First” works. “A house is an anchor and an investment in the community.” Tiny houses offer stability, privacy, dignity, an address, and a place in the social structure. “They allow people traction in their struggle to create a healthy, sustainable life. The tiny house approach is truly affordable housing.” Gail has a vision of creating a village of tiny houses in Duluth as a way for the community to address the ongoing injustice of homelessness.
Gail first came to Peace Church in search of the happiness that Christians seemed to have. She concluded that the source of that happiness might be God. She ventured into Peace when Pastor Kathy had just begun her ministry. Gail left knowing she had found a place where she fit.
Pastor Kathy has been a strong influence in Gail’s life. “She has made scripture real for me.” She has challenged Gail to explore her own creativity as a form of ministry. Gail particularly loves interpreting liturgical concepts into visible symbols. Creating banners has been a gift for Gail. “It has allowed me to interpret from my heathen perspective and convey hope to the community.”
Gail’s approach to spirituality is universal. Her focus is on what is common to all religions, not what separates them. She is drawn to those symbols that have meaning in all traditions. She is particularly drawn to the dove—a universal symbol for love and hope— as a Peace Church symbol. “The Peace Church dove embodies the pioneering spirit of this community—urging us to get out there on strong wings. It’s not a placid, falling-from-the-sky dove, but more a dove-meets-hawk image. It is vigorous.”
Gail also creates jewelry from Lake Superior rocks—jewelry that means much to many people. She meditates on the rocks before she works with them.
She needs time alone to allow her creative energy to surface. She is nocturnal, and treasures those hours of silence and darkness. “I absorb a different bandwidth.”
Gail reflects on how she creates meaning, hope, and beauty, calling the process “divining”: moving from words and ideas, and transforming a “chorus of meaning” into visual expression. It is a form of worship and of service for Gail. But she does not want kudos or praise. She appreciates the gift of being able to explore this aspect of her creativity. It is about the meaning and power implicit in the work she creates.
Gail is reluctant to call herself an artist. She believes that artists are people who work to convey an idea, to say something. She identifies herself as a craftsman—she loves the logistics of creating: the planning, the problem solving, the grinding, the building. She loves the intersection of hands and tools, loves using her creative juices to puzzle and ponder, figure something out.
Gail does not believe there is some great Second Coming in the wings. “We have what we need right now for harmony and peace. It is a matter of choice and commitment. There is a Rightness in the world that will be actualized.” Peace and justice are not abstract dreams. And artist or craftsman, Gail helps us visualize the power of that vision. ~ Interviewed by Pamela Mittlefehldt