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. Can you do something that includes the symbols of the Trinity and with it, the cross, the hand of God (coming out of a cloud at the top), and a flame representing the Spirit coming up through the center? And then, in each of the three circles, we like the idea of a small . . .” and on and on. Sometimes we can make it happen and sometimes not. Sometimes the visual language we speak flows, and sometimes, like a seminarian’s first sermon, it gets stuck.
The Old Testament Way
If you are suffering from banner block, take a look in your Bible—especially some of the most liquid passages in the psalms—where it seems as though the author is at a loss for words to describe the greatness or power of God. Actually, the words just stream out and we know exactly what they mean.
Take a cue from these writers and—brace yourself—do something abstract.
Peace According to Psalm 23
The banner at left is my attempt to show the peace that we enjoy within the strength and power of our God. We could do this with lots of words or with overt symbols—a lamb and shepherd’s staff—but with a bit of explanation in the bulletin, most people will be able to identify with the pastoral landscape shown here. The immensity of a wide skyscape. How the fields and forests are small in comparison. That is what peace looks like. (In fact, knowing the cluttered spaces some of us worship in, a large expanse of simple color is visual relief indeed!)
Construction is simple: join together the large pieces of fabric—which you’ve sewn right sides together and then turned right side out and hemmed—with sturdy string to give this hanging almost a woven feel. Don’t worry if the sections don’t fit perfectly when you string them together—the uneven spaces add character and depth. If possible, use fabrics that have a tone-on-tone pattern.