by David Thornton, D.Min.
For some time, your Leadership Team has been considering identifying and deploying an image for our webpage and correspondence. We recently settled on the Celtic Knot with the three stars from the Tennessee state flag.
You might wonder why!
In looking for a distinctive ‘brand’, we hoped to find a symbol that would be inviting, inclusive, and subtle. Along with heightening our visibility in our ‘tribe’, there has also been interest in broadening the tent, to encourage and enjoy participation from pastoral counselors of other traditions. The national organization with which many of us are affiliated, ACPE, has membership including Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists; wouldn’t it be grand to see that embodied on a state level here in Tennessee!
For many today, the Celtic Knot communicates deep wisdom, old faith, gentle inclusion; it has been a powerful symbol for centuries! The knotted pattern appears in northern Italy and southern Gaul, then in Ireland as early as the 4th century AD, but is also seen in Islamic, Byzantine, Coptic, and Ethiopian art. Three interlacing arcs, with no starting or endpoint, carry the meaning of unity, protection in connection, and everlasting life. In the Celtic tradition, it also symbolizes the power of Three. St Patrick used the shamrock (three-leafed, not the four-leafed clover) to show the presence of the Trinity even in nature.
As a symbol for TNAPT, it offers itself as a three-lensed way of seeing: psychological/theological/personal, or clinical/pastoral/psychotherapeutic, or client/therapist/Christ. The three arcs with three stars also weave together into one symbol the three parts of Tennessee (East, Central, West), declaring that we are richer in our poverty, stronger in our weakness, and unified in our diversity.
Some voiced concern that this symbol, intended to be inviting, would instead provide some unwelcome signal, turning people away. Many of us serve diverse populations, and I offered to make gentle inquiries as to what the symbol meant to various people. A Buddhist client said it was on the pleasant end of things, reminding her of tattoos and rolling green hills; a Wiccan client said it made her think of acceptance, and of completion in the sense of things continuing and never finished; an aged Catholic nun – who was completely unfamiliar with it – offered that it reminded her that we are all connected, that everything flows together.
Our hope is that TNAPT’s image subtly issues an invitation – to life, to community, to meaningful and rich diversity, to interdependence – to rolling green hills, to acceptance, to everything flowing together – to all of us to work together for the glory of God and the highest good of all.
What do you see in the symbol? What does this logo speak to you?