We are fortunate to have an artist in our congregation named Mary Hill who is generous with her time (see her website here). As Advent 2014 approached, we were looking for: 1) new banners to line our walls, and 2) a way to engage the congregation through visual art in worship. After conversations with our worship team and with Mary, we did the following:
- We chose one Sunday during Advent to have Mary paint a banner during our morning worship service. (She had prepped the banner ahead of time and sketched out her design. She then positioned herself and the banner on our chancel so that her painting would be visible to the entire congregation.)
- From beginning to end, during announcements, prayers, silences, sermon, even Holy Communion, Mary painted and painted. Also, during the children’s message we invited the children to come forward, talk with Mary, and ask her questions about her work.
- When the service was over, the banner was only about half painted. So Mary took the banner home and finished it up. She then hung it on the wall and during the next Sunday morning service we celebrated its completion. Here is what it looks like:
This project was fun, engaging for all ages, multi-sensory, memorable, popular, worshipful, and we got a new banner we now use every year! It also demonstrated art-making as a spiritual practice and an act of worship. There are many artists in many churches and I can imagine many ways that this simple and effective model could be adapted:
- I have heard of a church that brought in a tarp, a pottery wheel, and a potter who made a pot as the pastor preached on Jeremiah 18: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
- How about a weaver and a loom on a Sunday where unity, or community being woven together, is the theme?
- I am a woodworker and one Advent I led a manger building workshop for children in my wood shop. Maybe next time I will ask the children to bring them the next Sunday for a demonstration and blessing.
- Our church borrowed an idea from a church near us who handed out drawing materials so that worshipers could draw during the Scripture reading and sermon.
So what do you think? Is there a place in the life of your church for painted (drawn…potted…woven) worship? And who are the artists in your congregation who just might love being asked to help lead worship through art?
© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016