White Rock Community Church works with tattoo artists for unique depictions of Stations of the Cross


Tim Nichol, above and Chelsi Nichols, below, from Taboo Tattoo work on images for White Rock Community Church’s Stations of the Cross for Lent.

JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

A Christian ritual around for centuries is getting a fresh take at a local church.

For Lent, White Rock Community Church is displaying the Stations of the Cross, a set of 14 images depicting of Jesus’ last day on Earth, in a non-traditional way. Artists from Taboo Tattoo and Tigger’s Body Art in Deep Ellum are using ink on paper to produce their own unique versions of those images that will be on display in the church’s sanctuary every Friday between Feb. 12 and March 18.

The Rev. Douglas Shaffer, White Rock’s pastor, will guide congregants and visitors through the images for a time of contemplation, prayer and observance of Scripture.

“People who aren’t tattooing may think it’s a radical stretch [to use tattoo artists for a holy observation]. There’s a lot of preconception about tattoo artists and the communities they serve,” said Shaffer. “If you think about it, tattooing is a highly spiritual experience.”

He would know. He doesn’t hang out at his church all day, conducting weddings, tending to paperwork and church hierarchy. He gets out out in the community.

Musicians, performers and tattoo artists in Deep Ellum are among his flock outside of the church.

Shaffer explained that it was a White Rock deacon who first suggested a fresh take on the Stations of the Cross ahead of the holy season.

“He asked how we could depict the Stations of the Cross in a different way. He wanted images that hadn’t been used,” Shaffer said. That’s when Shaffer decided to reach out to tattoo artists.

Chelsi-NicholsThe Stations of the Cross ritual is not just an isolated Christian practice, but also an opportunity to reach out to the marginalized.

Wanting more than mere imagery, Shaffer wanted to reach out to a community that might be misunderstood by his congregation.

The artists didn’t hesitate for a moment. In fact, a number of them clamored to participate.

“The collaboration quickly fell into place,” Shaffer said.

“It’s really not that dramatic a shift for our artists; they tattoo crosses, Bible verses and religious icons more than most people would ever know.

This time, they don’t have to ask their canvases to sit still,” said Sharon Flatte, who owns the two tattoo shops.

One of the artists, Cody Biggs, has a personal passion for religious artwork. He organized the distribution of the panels among his coworkers.

“Most traditional Stations of the Cross are done by one artist. This project is an opportunity for us to work together. It’s a rare chance for our individual work to be part of a larger collection,” Biggs said.

Shaffer noted, “Lent is about listening to God in different ways. With this ritual, you go to each of the images and reflect on what you see.

“We’re also making space for listening and different types of religious encounters,” he continued. “We are called as a community church to be open and available for all people when they need it.

I hope the images provide solace and contribute to a personal journey.”

Some congregants and visitors may be deterred by the unconventional approach to a longstanding tradition.

But the White Rock pastor encouraged everyone to keep an open mind.

“Tattooing may be macabre,” Shaffer said, “but so was Christ’s struggle and death.”


The Stations of the Cross images will be on view on view at 6 p.m. every Friday between Feb.12-March 18, followed at 6:30 p.m. by observances in the sanctuary of White Rock Community Church, 9353 Garland Road. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. For more information visit Whiterockchurch.info or call 214-320-0043.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2016.