At the Foot of the Cross

This column has addressed the “cross/screen” dilemma once before (“There’s an Elephant in Our Sanctuary,” RW 79). Here you’ll find another proposed solution to the problem.

An artist I worked with some time ago said he would never include a cross in his art in any form. It was simply too powerful a symbol for him. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond. His reverence humbled me and changed the way I think about this most-recognized symbol.

Although there are lots of misuses of the cross symbol (and it’s tempting to feature them here!) I do think it is rightfully the most prominent visual in our worship spaces. But that prominence is sometimes threatened by projection screens that also need to be front and center.

Temporary Solutions

We’ve been struggling with this issue at my church. Our initial (bad) idea was to simply project on the screen a photo of the cross that was now hidden by the screen. Although it pacified the people who missed seeing the cross, it always felt too convenient and a tad bit dishonest to me—like fake Christmas trees or plastic flowers at a gravesite.

Another (somewhat better) idea was to create a cross that hung from the ceiling. Unfortunately, ours was a cross printed on fabric. This felt as temporary as the projected photo. We needed something of substance. Something using metal or wood or glass.

A Better Way

One idea I’ve had—and as yet it’s only an idea—is to create a standing cross that would be substantial but also portable enough to be moved to different locations on the platform as necessary.

It would also be quite simple to design this stand to hold several different crosses. For example, during Lent a rough-hewn cross could be a powerful reminder of the painful reality of this killing device.

Of course, there’s some danger in giving any kind of cross too much significance. It’s a visual aid. That’s it. We worship a living God—best pictured in the hands and hearts and faces of the people worshiping with us. Not a perfect picture, of course, but better than anything made out of wood or metal or pixels!

Dean Heetderks (info@reformedworship.org) is art director of Reformed Worship and director of Proservices for the Christian Reformed Church.