Thursday, May 24, 2012

“The Brothers of Clear Creek”

From the March issue of the magazine Oklahoma Today

“The Brothers of Clear Creek” portfolio by Tulsa photographer Shane Brown earns Oklahoma Today’s second Wilbur Award.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (March 9, 2012) – Oklahoma Today magazine was named a winner of a 2012 Wilbur Award from the Religious Communicators Council for the portfolio “The Brothers of Clear Creek” in its November/December 2011 issue. Tulsa photographer Shane Brown shot the portfolio during several visits to the Clear Creek Monastery near Hulbert, Oklahoma. Additional awardees this year include Entertainment Weekly, CBS News Sunday Morning, and the feature film The Help.

“What appealed to me about shooting at the monastery is that I was exposed to so much different cultural practice,” said Brown. “I’m an observer, and the camera is the perfect tool for that.”

One of the challenges Brown faced in photographing the Benedictine monks who live at Clear Creek, which is the only traditional men’s contemplative Benedictine monastery in the United States, was the monks’ de-emphasis on the individual. Many of Brown’s photos show the men’s hands engaged in various acts of work and worship―feeding sheep, creating icons, and stringing beads together for a rosary.

“We are honored to receive the Wilbur Award for Shane Brown’s beautiful portfolio of life at Clear Creek Monastery,” said Oklahoma Today editor Steffie Corcoran. “Shane’s photos speak eloquently to the quiet universality of faith.”

Brown holds a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of Oklahoma. He has been a professional photographer for more than twelve years and also has worked as a cinematographer. In addition to Oklahoma Today, Brown’s clients include The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and This Land Press.

The Wilbur Award is given to secular media outlets for excellence in communicating religious ideals, issues, and themes and is awarded by the Religious Communicators Council. Past magazine recipients of the award include The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and Playboy. This is Oklahoma Today’s second Wilbur Award; the first was in 1998. Copies of the issue and a .pdf of the article are available at

Oklahoma Today, the Magazine of Oklahoma since 1956, focuses on the people, places, and culture of Oklahoma. A paid circulation magazine, it has subscribers in every state and many foreign countries. It is published bimonthly by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department. For more information, visit
Clear Creek is a new monastery, and is still under construction.  I've written about the monks before; click the image on this page to see a video from about four years ago.  This is from the home page of their website:
Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey is a Benedictine monastery located in the diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was founded in 1999 by Notre-Dame de Fontgombault, a French Abbey which belongs to the Solesmes Congregation, as does Clear Creek. The Patron Saint of Clear Creek Abbey is the Blessed Virgin Mary under the mystery of her Annunciation. See origins for a complete history.

Like the other monasteries of the Solesmes Congregation, Clear Creek Abbey belongs to those institutes of religious life entirely dedicated to contemplative prayer, without apostolic works. A particular emphasis is placed on the solemn celebration of the liturgy.

It is part of the Solesmes tradition to cultivate a solemn, public liturgical Office. The monks of Clear Creek Abbey celebrate God's glory in Latin, so appropriate to give an idea of God's majesty, a sense of the sacred. Thus the monks exploit the riches developed over centuries in the Church's liturgy and cultivate Gregorian chant.

Clear Creek, which attained Abbey status in 2010, is also offering a chant weekend this fall.  You can listen to some chant samples linked from this page, where some of the monks' recordings are available for purchase.

Here's an mp3 of the Christmas Responsory Quem Vidistis; here's the sequence hymn Ave Maria.

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