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Tuesday November 7 1995

Believers find hope, comfort in their images
By Denise Barns

It lasted only 30 seconds but Ingrid Herrera will never forget that cold winter night. She remembers she was crying hysterically in her bedroom when a sliver of shimmering light caught her eye. She turned and standing before her was an angel, she says.

"He radiated light and warmth, like the far-reachings rays of the sun," Ms. Herrera says.
Reported visits by angels aren’t uncommon. Three angels visited Abraham in the Old Testament to give him the news that his wife, Sharah, would bear a child. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and, wisemen were visited by an angel to announce the birth of the child.

"I was looking for spiritual guidance, and asking God what I should do", Ms. Herrera says about that December night 11 years ago.

Ms. Herrera and about 250 angel aficionados gathered recently at "Angelfare 1995" to share their experiences. The two day conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Northwest featuring lectures by well-known authors, discussions by artists, workshops and exhibitions.

Ms. Herrera, 29 says her experience was "very special and , for a long time, very personal". She didn’t dare share her angelic visitation with anyone for many years for fear she’d be misunderstood. Now the wife and mother form Guatemala realizes that she’s not alone.

The Arlington resident says her angel visitation was enlightening. She says she’ll never forget the house call from God’s messenger sent to calm her misgivings. "I knew all the answers to my questions were within my heart," she says softly. At the time she says she had been grappling with her Catholic upbringings and whether to embrace the more contemporary New Age religious philosophies as some of her friends had done.

The celestial figure she saw with dark brown locks didn’t utter a word, but, she says, she felt him speak directly to her heart. "What stood out the most for me was the warm light that radiated from him. I’ve never seen him again, but when ever I get a warm feeling-I know he’s nearby," Ms. Herrera says.

Heaven’s messengers

If what the people at Angelfare say is any indication, angels are turning up everywhere in America. In the late 1980’s, polls showed more than 50 percent of Americans believe in angels. The Renaissance period was replete with guardian angel paintings and sculptures.

In the 90’s angels are flying high enjoying a newfound popularity. Gift shops and book stores devote sections to the ethereal beings. Other Angelfare participants, artist Andrew Lakey, Donna Terody, Gary Markowitz and Sharae Taylor, say they also were touched by angels. They travel from Hawaii, California and North Carolina to exhibit their heavenly expressions of the winged seraphims and cherubims.

"When times get tough, people seek spiritual guidance," Ms. Terody says. She knows. As a little girl, she says she was abused emotionally, physically and sexually by her father. She says the angels became a part of her life 28 years ago when she visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with her grandmother.

"I looked at a (Goya) painting and began to cry. A voice said, ‘You’re going to become an artist, and no matter what you do, you , must always paint. You’ll become as well known as Picasso, "Ms. Terody remembers.

"Picasso who?" The five year old wondered. From that day on, Ms. Terody asked for arts supplies as gifts instead of dolls.

"I started painting because it helped me to escape my problems. I knew painting was my gift from God and nobody could take it from me," says 33-year-old artist who paints multicultural angels.
"Peace," one of the paintings displayed at the conference, depicts a black angel with her eyes cast down looking at doves- the universal symbol of peace.

"I painted her as a statement of unity." Ms. Terody says.

Angel enthusiasts enjoyed a day of "angelmania" as sounds of lilting harp strings played in the background. Local angel boutique owners displayed rosy cheeked cherub T-shirts, angel greeting cards, dolls, fashionable accessories including, pendants, earrings and pins, and books of angels. There was even an angelic soap dispenser (squirt, squirt)- a must for the New Age set of the 90"s.

A little girl accompained by her mother stopped to admire some angelic wares at one of the numerous booths. Quite unexpectedly she received a gift from an earth angel.

Andrea Jacobsen gave the cherub faced youngster an angel pendant chain. The little girl’s mother says her daughter’s bedroom is decorated entirely with angels. Angels inspired Betsy McMahan, 30, to quit her job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield almost two years ago and open her angel boutique.

She named it Heavens to Bestsy. "Hope," an 8-foot-tall angel painting, is mounted on a base and stands on the sidewalk in front Ms. McMahan’s store in Ellicott City.

"She’s there to remind people that angels do exists," Ms. McMahan says.

The angels also are around to lend a hand when you ask. "The angels are unemployed and waiting for a call for help from us," she says.

When Ms. McMahan says she considered opening her angel boutique two years ago she put out an SOS to the angels for advice and guidance. They answered. During a company meeting Ms. McMahan jotted down on her letter of resignation.

"I knew that I was interested in opening an angel store, but I didn’t know if it was the right time,"Ms. McMahan says.
While driving along on the Baltimore Beltway en route to Ellicott City to look for shop locations, Ms. McMahan says she received positive confirmation that her idea to open her boutique was a good one.

"As I was getting off of the beltway I saw a vanity tag that read:’ITL FLY,’like ‘It Will Fly,’ she says.

"It’s stressful being an owner of an angel store, but knowing that I’ve touched so many people makes me fell good," she says before helping another smiling angel enthusiast at her booth.

At the conference there also were well-known authors such as Alma Daniel, co-author of "Ask Your Angels," and John Ronner, author of "Angels and Us," to lecture on books about angels.

The gathering of angel lovers was the idea of Cheryl Jones, who lives in Takoma Park. Ms. Jones, 47 , says she hasn’t been visited by an angel, but wanted to organize the conference for the public to introduce the heavenly beings to those who may not be familiar with the concept of angels.

More importantly, Ms. Jones says she wanted to provide a forum where people could come and express their angel experiences in a supportive environment-a place, where they could be at ease.

"There’s an ongoing community of angel enthusiasts and a growing spiritual emphasis in people’s minds-people are looking for hope," she says.

"Angel come to the forefront whenever people need hope."

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