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Symbols of Faith

Posted August 08, 2012 in Community Featured, West Des Moines

Gary Keenan, known for his chainsaw carving demonstrations at the Iowa State Fair, created this sculpture at Valley UMC.

If you have driven westbound on Ashworth Road, just beyond the stoplights at 42nd Street, and wondered what the story is behind the two large wood carvings located on the north side of the road, then read on.

One is a set of praying hands. The other is a cross featuring a few words from scripture. Both symbolize the community outreach that Valley United Methodist Church has become known for over the years.

“My neighbor and I had to cut down one of the pine trees in the church’s arboretum because it had died. That’s when we came up with the idea to get a chainsaw artist to carve something out of the remaining wood,” says Richard Santi, a longtime member of the church and chair of its trustees.

Valley UMC hired Gary Keenan, who is known for his chainsaw carving demonstrations at the Iowa State Fair, to carve a set of praying hands out of the tree’s four-foot stump in February. To pay for the project, it collected donations from members.

“We gave Gary the idea then we let him run with it. He did a marvelous job,” says Santi.

A few months later, another pine tree located next to the carving suffered the same fate. So the church asked Keenan to carve “The Cross,” which includes the first few words from John 3:16.

“We didn’t have enough room for an entire verse, so we had him engrave the first few words. People who know the Bible can finish the verse in their mind. Those who don’t might pick up a Bible and find out what the rest of the verse is and how that ties in with the meaning of church,” Santi says.

The verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” says Santi, is symbolic of the church’s mission work and he hopes that it inspires members and non-members alike.

“It’s a reminder of what the church is about,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of interesting comments about the carvings, and everyone is amazed at how well they turned out. Everyone in church has fallen in love with them.”

Valley United Methodist Church
4201 Ashworth Road
Sunday worship:
8:30 and 11a.m.
Adult Sunday School: 10a.m.
Children and Youth Sunday School: 9:45a.m. starting Sept 9.

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