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Madai Taylor’s Journey

Story by Jim Duncan, photography by Paul Gates

"We are dust and shall return to dust . . . Dirt is timeless and of the soul."

Addressing his congregation in Fort Dodge’s Agape Church Kingdom Dominion Ministries, Madai Taylor stands upright, quoting literally from Holy Scripture.

When he creates art, however, he works at ground level, first excavating his media from the earth, then scratching out abstractions on his garage floor.

Taylor knows these contradictory postures can be misinterpreted as a conflict between the sacred and profane.

“I do wonder how people embrace the duality of my being a non-subjective artist and a preacher. I even question it myself sometimes,” he says. “Do the two things complement or combat each other?

Outsiders can be confused by the abstract works, and religious people sometimes are unable to embrace abstraction at all.”

Even the church, which Taylor founded with his wife, Mia, in 2000, is named after an abstract concept. Agape is a Greek word for the highest form of love.

“It’s the love that is not earned, the love that is grace, the mysterious grace of God,” explains Taylor.

“People think that love must come from something physical. I believe that love comes from understanding one’s self. When you do that, when you understand who you are, then you are able to receive love because you are able to give it.”

His ministry is not a typical of Iowa. Church services draw about 40 regular members, evenly mixed among African-Americans, Hispanics, and European Americans.

Drums, tambourines, keyboard, and piano add an old-fashioned gospel rhythm. “We’re a grassroots church. That means we’re intentionally nondenominational,” says Taylor.

Nondenominationalism is essential to his message. “I am not really religious in the way that most religious people perceive religion.

I do not do ritual because I believe it restricts intimacy with the Spirit,” he explains. “No denominational ritual is the true path to salvation, and too many believe it is.”

While Taylor believes ritual restricts an individual’s spirituality, his own daily routine is rather ritualistic.

(Read more Mining the Spirit)

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