Book: Using Art in Sunday Worship

Eileen Gurak. San Jose, California: Resource Publications, 1990. 76 pages. $7.95.

This book includes simple, basic principles, clearly stated, to serve as an introduction for the people who plan liturgy and design worship environments. The guidance in the small book is direct. It is based on contemporary Catholic practices, many of which are also applicable to currently used Protestant liturgies.

How do liturgies and the sensual qualities of sound, sight, touch, and movement in space tell of faith and love? How do we use ritual in ways that help us meet with God in communal worship? What visual elements assist us in recognizing God's presence? That which cannot easily be verbalized or rationally explained can often be understood intuitively, says Gurak, through the use of symbols.

The traditional church year, baptism, funeral practices, and communion are areas in which Protestants can adopt from what Gurak suggests. For example, she notes that "the purpose of banners is to focus attention and create a mood, not to state a theme, bear a slogan, or teach." She points out that liturgical furnishings are most meaningful when handmade, because they speak of an individual's concern for the "stewardship of nature and the nurture of a community." She encourages worship planners to consider liturgical colors, simple principles of visual design, and the use of plants in ecclesiastical environments. And she notes that objects used in the worship space ought to be real; false things have no place where people struggle to live authentically. Her basic patterns and elementary directions will appeal to artists new to creating church art.

The title of the book, Using Art in Sunday Worship, is a bit misleading. The contents actually describe worship that may extend beyond Sunday and even beyond the church sanctuary (into the home, for example).

Nevertheless, Gurak offers some valuable ideas that may inspire both research and creativity.

Helen Joldersma Bonzelaar is professor of art at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 23 © March 1992, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.