The office-wide notice began with “Looking for Banners: Those hangings of biblical themes that were quite popular in churches a couple decades ago, but now not so common. I’d like to use one or two to add some flavor to my office.”
This notice pained me a little—OK, maybe more than a little. My reaction was more like the internal cringe you have when your kid mentions they now make slacks without pleats and that maybe you should consider getting a pair.
I suspect that if you’re reading this, you know of a church closet full of beloved “hangings with biblical themes” that are getting less wear these days because they’ve been replaced by large digital displays, or because the fonts and colors seem dated, or perhaps because sanctuary decoration is simply too much to think about in post-COVID worship.
Whatever the case, if you’ve poured your heart, soul, and artistic talents into these banners, it probably hurts to see them in a closet unloved. But sometimes pain—or even just a whisper of doubt—gets us moving. Here are some ideas for upcycling or otherwise rethinking your congregation’s banners. Consider this your call to action!
Reuse, Recycle, Rethink
- Honor the past: One option has to be to keep using the banners. Dust them off, repair what needs fixing, and display them in a different spot. Unapologetically put a date of construction and the names of the people, living or dead, who were involved in creating them on cards next to them. Vintage has a place.
- Assign a new version: Take one of the old banners and assign a visually-inclined youth group (most are) to interpret the idea in a new way. Display them side by side.
- Create something new: Cut existing fabric banners into strips and use the strips for weaving into paraments or maybe baskets for use in worship, perhaps to hold communion bread or to collect offerings at the sanctuary doors. (Before cutting, it might be wise to talk to the folks who made the originals. But you already knew that.)
- Go digital: This is a tough one because, short of well-done video, I’ve yet to see something on a flat screen that moves me like physical art does. (Convince me I’m wrong—my email address is below.) Something that might hold potential for redeeming the big screen is to use it to highlight smaller visuals elsewhere in the worship space.
- Look elsewhere: Fabric banners worked for a long time because it allowed artists to create inexpensive visuals at a scale appropriate for large worship spaces. Large LED displays and LED walls took their place because they became affordable enough (or did we become rich enough?) and allowed for visuals to be changed easily. But some large spaces might be well served by more permanent artwork. I traveled by air recently and was struck not only by the number of digital displays in airport terminals for information, but also for visual relief through some great digital murals. Pictured here are some ideas found online. I intentionally chose murals that weren’t clichéd biblical themes. We can do better than that.
If all of these are still too much, take some inspiration from my office friend and at least pull these treasures out of the closet to use on walls (or tables) in offices and rooms in the church that need a little extra “flavor.”