Earlier this spring, I attended a graduation open house held at a century-old church that had just been completely renovated. After the obligatory meet-and-greet, my friends and their three young daughters joined me on a self-guided tour of the sparkling new sanctuary that had been carefully fused to the original church building.
It was beautifully done—a nice blend of the fixed and flexible. Plenty of space for movement below and soaring space above for sound and light and large visuals.
Our eyes and hands moved slowly over the smooth wood and steel and stone. We stood in the empty space and tried to imagine what it might be like to worship here. The girls, however, were drawn to something rough and unfinished looking towards the back. Curious, I joined them.
Leaning against a wall on a low table, was a rustic loom for weaving of the simplest kind. Strung vertically were rows of light twine. Woven horizontally, and only partially complete, were one-inch wide strips of rough burlap. On these strips were written words. Studying them, we could make out phrases. They appeared to be sentences. Prayers maybe?
A member of the church soon joined us and gave us the rest of the story: members of the congregation were invited at any time to write the words of their prayers on strips of cloth (cut to length and provided near the loom) with black permanent markers. These strips were then woven together—apparently without regard for legibility or readability.
It was a beautiful expression of our often tangled and plain-spoken prayers, and it perfectly symbolized the connected but individual thoughts and feelings of believers talking with their God.
What a draw this simple visual was in the midst of such a carefully planned and beautifully constructed space. It was a good reminder of the value of contrast to catch our eyes and imaginations.
One Step Further
My interpretation takes the roughness a step further. I used solid tree branches for the vertical sides of the loom. Brass screws in the top and bottom crosspieces hold the vertical string in place.
By itself, the final weaving is not stable enough to hold its own. A sewing machine stitch around the edges, though, works wonders to keep the pieces together. Once the weaving is complete, remove it and string the loom for another. Hang the completed weavings in your prayer room or narthex.
If you use projection technology in your worship, you may want to take a close-up photo of the finished weaving and use the image as a background for prayer time projection during your worship service. Or simply use the weavings in layers to cover the table on which the loom is placed.
Like prayer itself, the process is more important than the final product.