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Pastor tells the story of Pia the Peacemaker troll

Speaking on “Caring for Community’ at the Nov. 21 Interfaith Council’s (IFC) Thanksgiving at Bainbridge Island, Dee Eisenhauer, pastor of the Eagle Harbor Congregational UCC, spoke of Pia the Peacemaker, “a new member of the community,” who arrived at Sakai Park in late August. The wooden troll is part of “The Way of the Bird King” troll story by Danish artist Thomas Dambo.

Pia the Peacekeeper is a gathering point in Bainbridge Island.

Photo coutesy of Dee Eisenhauer

Telling how the troll strengthened the community there, she said her church and council are two communities within the larger communities of Bainbridge Island/Kitsap County, within the larger community of Washington State, the U.S., neighbor nations, “the global society of trees and other living beings, the good green earth, the assembly of planets in this solar system, and on out to infinity and divinity.”

She sees the communities nestled together like Russian dolls from smaller communities to the largest.

“All are a blessing in their own ways,” she said, inviting gratitude for “our overlapping, interlocking communities.”

The story of how Pia came is “as magical as the finished piece,” said Dee, “Her existence is a parable of community.”

Pia is one of 10 troll sculptures from New Jersey to the Northwest which has six—Bainbridge, Vashon, West Seattle, Issaquah, Seattle and Portland—built from Aug. 1 to Sept. 17.

Dee said the artist hopes the sculptures “not only showcase the beauty of repurposed materials but also inspire people to reconnect with nature, spark their imagination, and foster a greater sense of environmental responsibility.”

The artist has collaborated with each community where the trolls have been built. 

Dee said Bainbridge Island Park Commissioner Dawn Janow coordinated the effort to bring Pia, when nearby Poulsbo was unable to. Their parks people called Bainbridge Island so there would be a troll in Kitsap County. 

Even though much effort was needed to plan and raise funds, the parks department offered a place, but no funding beyond lead funders, Scan Design Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

“So the Friends of the Bainbridge Troll formed. A group of seven gathered community partners to make it happen,” said Dee, listing those responding.

Arts and Humanities Bainbridge would receive the funds. Eight media partners spread the word. Thirteen businesses became donors and sponsors, 18 other organizations and businesses became partners.

Friends of the Troll took Pia’s head to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art 10th anniversary to build support.

Refashion Bainbridge made “Way of the Bird King” T shirts with leftover clothes from the Rotary Auction and sold them at the festival for donations. 

A coin drive means individual donations to the troll ranged from one penny to $10,000, meaning many people participated. 

“All of us involved with nonprofit communities know the importance of people donating money as a tangible emblem of support, and know that the penny people are just as indispensable as the thousands-of-dollars people when you’re building a community,” Dee said

Given that the trolls encourage recycling and re-using materials, Ace Hardware collected and donated most of the pallets for Pia’s body.

“Her hair came from apple tree branches given by a Poulsbo neighbor, so there’s a bit of Poulsbo in her even though she lives here,” said Dee.

The construction crew included professional troll builders and volunteers who helped for eight days. Some came from Seattle—including a person experiencing homelessness who has taken part in several troll creations traveling on the ferry. 

Some Boy Scouts camped in the park on “troll patrol” during the build to make sure materials and tools were protected until she was all put together.

The day she was awakened, Scrappy Art Lab provided festive decorations and the Bainbridge Youth Symphony came to play “The Troll King.”

“What a fantastic embodiment of so many interlocking communities Pia ended up being,” she said. “We hope she will continue to be a place to embody community,”

Dee then announced prayers for peace would happen at Pia’s feet Sunday, Dec. 3. Dee planned that with two other women clergy.

Dawn, who Dee calls the “troll shero,” said that early in the process of planning to bring a troll someone in a Board meeting raised a reasonable question: “What is the point?” Dawn talked about bringing something joyful to the community that would bring people together.

She recalled the story of Stone Soup—the story os a community that slowly but surely gets involved in making a big pot of soup for the village, as everyone does their part.

“The troll process has been very much like that. Pia the Peacekeeper is even more beautiful when we know how many communities, nested and linked together, cooperated to bring a thing of beauty and a source of joy here,” Dee said.

“As we live in a secular age and a fairly non-religious part of the country, I suspect many people outside religious communities wonder, “What is the point?” about those of us involved in spiritual enterprises,” she commented. “Our inherent value might not be obvious to those who aren’t involved.  How might we answer someone who wonders what is the point of assembling in spiritual communities?

“Our answers may be about intangible things. We speak of compassion, love, peace, prayer, hope, justice, faith, help, connection and joy,” she continued. “Christians speak of our sacraments as visible signs of an invisible grace. That’s what our spiritual communities are—visible signs of many an invisible grace that is embodied in our gatherings and in the gathering places some of us labor mightily to maintain.

“We hope that people who see us take form in tangible spaces and speech and action would stand before us with the sense of delight and even awe that Pia the Peacekeeper inspires,” Dee said.

She sees Pia’s visible form, made of 160 recycled pallets, as a metaphor for what the spiritual community is made of.

“We are, like pieces of pallets brought into the world for service—not the beautiful people, the celebrated or the popular. We’re humble folk. We’re serviceable. Some of us have even been recycled through more than one faith community on our journeys,” she said, “but put us together and just look what living art can emerge from such humble parts.”

Dee pointed out that in North Kitsap County, the Interfaith Council is like the scaffolding inside Pia that holds disparate communities together. 

“We assemble to work, pray, learn, cry, organize, create, make music, celebrate, give thanks and laugh together, making connections that may not be obviously visible but are a significant part of the interlocking communities in which we are nested,” she reflected.

Dee then told another secret about Pia the Peacekeeper.  She has a heart. 

During the build, troll shero Dawn asked one of the builders if she was going to have a heart inside.  It wasn’t part of the original design, but they made one out of wood and installed in her.

“Our spiritual and nonprofit communities don’t always get attention or respect. We can even feel practically invisible at times, but we are meant to be the heart inside the larger community in which we have been built,” Dee pointed out.

“Folks don’t always perceive it, yet at our best we function as the heart of this community: to bring more compassion, peace, justice, love, hope and joy to this place,” she said.

“We don’t have to be headline news if we are engaged in being good news in our communities. If we do what we are called by Spirit to do, individually and collectively, perhaps one day nobody will ever need to ask about our Interfaith Council, ‘What is the point?’ Everyone will know: the faith community is our heart, Dee concluded.

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Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24


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