Off the Wall

Using Banners in Unexpected Places

The large platform in the front of the church I belong to is made of wood. Recently, an hour or so before worship was to begin one Sunday morning, a large light fixture decided it had had enough and fell with a loud clatter to the floor—that is, we assume it was a loud clatter. No one was present to witness it. Because the area of the wood floor where the lamp hit had to be repaired and refinished, everything had to be removed from the platform. The platform furnishings were brought down into the worship space helter-skelter so the repair people could go about their business.

During the week when this work was done, as I walked through the collection of instruments and pulpit furniture and silk foliage that had been temporarily set down in the larger space of the sanctuary, I was struck by how interesting a large tree—I’m going to guess twelve to fifteen feet tall—looked when placed about a third of the way from the front in the middle of the pews. I was so used to seeing this huge space empty and open that anything that broke up the expanse was captivating. Two dimensions had suddenly become three.

When repairs to the floor were complete, all of the furnishings were replaced on the platform—but I couldn’t get the striking image of that tree out of my mind. What if we intentionally placed something or several things in this space?

Do You See What I See?

These designs are abstract, but their coloration and shape will likely suggest candles to many worshipers. I suggest that you begin with one on the first Sunday of Advent and add another for each Sunday of the Advent season. Think of this installation as a minor twist on the Advent wreath!

I found aluminum tent poles to be light and straight, and a touch more elegant than white PVC pipe. Using woodworking clamps made connecting them to the pews an easy task. Another idea would be to make or buy flag stands.

The fabric for the banners needs to be lightweight; we used rip-stop nylon, which is available in lots of bright colors and has a nice light translucent quality.

Get Used to It

Like a couple of your regular worshipers, these may get “in the way.” Even though the designs are rather thin, prepare yourself for complaints. If you have to, turn the banner so it’s facing the front. And if you really want to avoid the issue altogether, size these for use on the aisle posts or perlins (the large, vertical, and often exposed beams holding up the roof) of your church.

But first try them in this new spot within the worship space. A little surprise may be just the thing your congregation needs during this Advent season.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 81 © September 2006, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.