Come and See
For all of its significance in the church year, creating a visual for Ascension Day is a tough assignment. Christs work on earth was done and he returned to heaven to take his rightful place. The tricky part in representing this idea is the mix of tangible and intangible. We can imagine what it might be like to be among the disciples, but what about the part about Christ being taken into heaven and, as Mark writes, sitting at the right hand of God? Both ideas are critical to our understanding of what Christ did for us.
Picture Jesus Christ in your mind. What does he look like? A face gazing straight at you like the one in Warner Sallman's too-famous portrait? A cartoon character wearing a white robe and red sash (an image formed from years of exposure to church school papers)? A suffering body hanging on a rough wooden cross?
I love type. If youve been reading this column for any length of time, you have picked up on my infatuation with letter forms but also, no doubt, my resistance to traditional banner letters. So much can go wrong so quickly.
Lois Prahlow, one of the banner design workshop presenters at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, had such a clever idea that I couldnt resist passing it onand the inspiration it gave me for a Thanksgiving visual in my own church.
It was a typical, early winter day in Michigan. Cold and wet and gray all over. My schedule for the day was fairly light—only an RW staff meeting to attend. For some time, I'd been wanting to write something about the use of liturgical color in worship, and I was hoping to get some help by asking a few questions. Is using liturgical color in worship an idea that sounds right and logical and helpful? Or is it, in the end, just another worship gimmick? My friends didn't have the nice short answer I was looking for.
Banner block. I know you’ve been there. Your worship planning committee hands you yet another impossible assignment: “We’re having a series on the psalms of lament and would like something that reflects the somberness of the topic yet is bright and lively—after all, we don’t want to depress people” or “We’re having a special service on the quality and character of God.
It happens every time we use a new visual in our worship. One gentleman in my church catches me after the service and asks me what each part of the new visual means. We look at the banner, and I describe how the final piece came to be: what we started with, what problems we encountered while constructing it, and what pleasant surprises happened along the way.
The following is a possible note of explanation that could be printed in a bulletin to accompany the Epiphany banner shown here.
After returning from church a couple of weeks ago, I announced to my wife, "We will never cut another piece of felt for a banner again!" No, it wasn't my final run-in with the flower committee. I had just seen a demonstration of our new three-times-as-bright-as-the-old-one video projector! My wife was not impressed. "People don't want to look at that, they want something real," she said, in the tone I've come to expect whenever I'm on a technology rant.
If youve been following this column at all, you know that I am very interestedand sometimes successfulin setting aside my artists ego every now and then to get other people involved in the creation of a worship visual. As hard as it is sometimes to work with a group of people with varying opinions, the result is almost always worth the extra effort. (And from what I read in your e-mails, some of you are doing way too much of the work yourselves.) For this cooperative project, why not recruit a group who are easy to work with: kids?