‘How beloved he was’: Church plans sculpture to remember late pastor

A wooden sculpture in memory of the Rev. Kevin D. Rose is in progress near a prayer labyrinth on the grounds of Cumberland First Baptist Church. It's being fashioned from the trunk of a tree that died. Anne Durham Smith | Daily Reporter

CUMBERLAND — Over the years, the Rev. Kevin Rose gathered quite the collection of bow ties. He sometimes made long ties into bowties, a colleague recalled. He had a knack for tying them, too.

After Rose died in 2018, there began to be more bowties seen in the congregation on Sunday mornings at Cumberland First Baptist Church. They’ve been a quiet tribute to Rose, a pastor who served in various roles on the church’s staff for nearly 30 years.

“It has created kind of a culture of bow tie wearing,” said the Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, “which is another symbol of how beloved he was.”

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Another remembrance of Rose is taking shape on the grounds of the church at 116 S. Muessing: a wooden sculpture not far from the outdoor labyrinth south of the church building. A virtual event Sunday will offer viewers the chance to remember Rose, learn more about the sculpture, and donate to help fund it.

Sunday’s virtual “Carve the Tree” event will be livestreamed at 4 p.m. Sunday on the church’s Facebook page. Sally Perkins of Storytelling Arts of Indiana will emcee the event, which will feature musical performances by some of Rose’s friends, joining the event via Zoom or recorded performances.

Perkins met Rose in 2003 when she and her family moved to the area. Her sister, like Rose an American Baptist pastor in the area, set up a monthly dinner group to cultivate some new friendships. Perkins remembers the robust conversations the group would have and how intently Rose listened to everyone.

“If he had a thought, he did not have to express it in that moment,” Perkins said. “When he did, it was the kind of thought that was so deeply meaningful, so well thought out — it was so deeply formed and formulated.”

During Sunday’s event, Perkins will share some stories she had shared with Rose over the years. Artist Phil Campbell will discuss the sculpture’s design. Organizers hope to raise $7,000 to fund the sculpture.

After a walnut tree on church grounds died, all but a section of trunk was cleared away, and “We began to envision that trunk as a cylindrical canvas,” said Watkins, minister of worship and outreach at the church.

Watkins came to the church in 2001 but jokes he hasn’t been there long by the standard for longevity Rose set. He and Rose agreed to be co-pastors, dividing various facets of church leadership between them in a portfolio system.

Watkins said Rose was integral to everything the church was doing as a faith family. Lessons he prepared were well-researched. Work Rose helped oversee on the building was made more cost-effective by his willingness to meet with one more contractor or make one more phone call, Watkins said. His children’s sermons were engaging and brilliantly rendered, Watkins recalls.

“He just understood how to connect with really young people and how to bring something alive. He would often enlist people in the congregation to be part of it,” Watkins said.

“I always knew the children’s sermon would not only be in line with (the adult sermon), but would illuminate it. Adults loved it too, and they could relate to it.”

Another facet of ministry Rose led was missions. The church has long been part of Church World Service’s annual Crop Walk to raise money to fight hunger. Rose also brought the church into some other interesting projects, Watkins said, such as the Interfaith Hunger Initiative; the church was a site for a Thanksgiving service and meal that brought together Protestant and Catholic Christians as well as Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews.

Also part of Rose’s portfolio was the building and grounds. He was part of establishing the labyrinth south of the church, a project that also included work by an aspiring Eagle Scout.

On the walnut trunk near the labyrinth, Campbell is carving various symbols that express facets of Rose’s life, symbols chosen from a long list of ideas suggested by church members. Comedy and tragedy masks represent Rose’s love of the theater, particularly Broadway shows. A big knot will become a baseball, symbolizing his travels to various ballparks.

Perkins said Rose is the last person who would want a statue to himself, but to instead have a piece of art in a place of reflection is fitting — “to create a sacred space for quiet and contemplation,” she said, “and Kevin was the epitome of quiet and contemplation.”

Watkins said Rose was compassionate, inclusive in spirit, loved people, and exuded a kind of authority even while being a great listener.

“He was a dear friend and just the best colleague anyone could hope to have in ministry,” Watkins said. “This is a perfect place to commemorate someone as remarkable as Kevin Rose.”

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A livestream event at 4 p.m. Sunday will incorporate music and things loved by the Rev. Kevin D. Rose, a late pastor at Cumberland First Baptist Church.

Emceed by Sally Perkins of Storytelling Arts of Indiana, it will mix stories with musical performances by the Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, Paulo Castro, Jan Aldridge-Clark, Danielle Hartman, Brianna Holt, Jen Midkiff, Seth Staton (Watkins) and Corby York. It will also highlight the memorial sculpture in progress by artist Phil Campbell.

Organizers hope viewers will donate in a variety of ways such as monetary donations, silent auction of some of Rose’s personal items and the chance to sponsor one of the images being carved into the tree.

Information: Cumberland FBC on Facebook, 317-894-2645