The Living Vine Project

Recently, the congregation of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, embarked on an exciting year-long venture called the Living Vine Project, spearheaded by the visual arts ministry and funded through a Worship Renewal Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Our objective was to create a 100-foot (30 m) mural that would tell the gospel through visual images depicting each season of the church year. A vine, representing Christ as the living vine, was interwoven throughout to connect the different portions of the mural. It was important to us to involve the entire congregation in the creation of this mural, which now spans the back half of our church sanctuary.

To kick-start the year, we put together a five-week series entitled “Life as Worship.” Each Sunday we focused on a different element of worship: the call to worship; confession and assurance; Scripture, sermon, and response; the sacraments; and the sending. This series was a wonderful foundation on which to build the project that was ahead, and it helped us more thoughtfully engage in discussions of how and why we worship.

We also scheduled three “studio session” Sundays. Each of the studio days began with a worship service and moved directly into a time of communal art-making. In November we focused on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. In January we focused on Lent and Easter. And in April we focused on Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity.

For each session, members of the congregation could choose to work at one or more of several art stations. Each station featured an image that would capture the church season it represented, and a variety of media were available, ranging from paint to paper, metals to wood. Of course, we served snacks and lunch—the best work is done by people who are well fed!

The mural was based on drawings done by Kim Brown, an artist in our congregation. She and the rest of the visual arts team met every Wednesday for the duration of the year to prepare for studios, assemble the artwork of the congregation, and mount the finished product. In the weeks following each studio day, the congregation enjoyed seeing the art they had created make its way onto the mural. Our visual arts team created a cohesive and beautiful whole from the efforts of each member.

Goals of the Living Vine Project:

  • That a spirit of unity and collaboration be fostered through the process of communal creation
  • That we grow in our awareness and understanding of the church year as an unfolding of Christ’s life and ministry
  • That we experience renewal in our understanding and appreciation of artistic forms as meaningful expressions of worship to God.

To culminate the year, we put together a worship service that would capture the essence of our mural. The liturgy took the congregation on a journey from the birth of Jesus through his ascension, ending with a look ahead to Christ’s return. Thankfully, our multipurpose worship space allowed us the freedom to rearrange the chairs and face the mural. As we moved through the seasons of the church year in the worship service, we could look to the visuals we formed together as a community and celebrate a year of many blessings.

For more pictures and information, go to www.jubileecrc.org/arts/livingvine. A panorama of the entire mural can be viewed at www.worshipanew.net/visuals/panorama/LVPanoramaPA.shtml.

Celebration Service Plan

Gathering Song: “Sanctuary” (John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs)

Call to Worship

Every creature, every plant
every rock and grain of sand
proclaims the glory of its Creator
worships through color, shape
scent and form.
A multisensory song of praise.

When we worship, we join
with all of creation
to adore our God,
to confess our sins,
to give thanks,
to call on his name.

First paragraph © John Birch, from faithandworship.com. Used by permission.
Permission is granted for use in worship.

Song: “The First Place” LUYH, CSW 6, SNT 199

God’s Greeting (congregation responds with “Amen”)

We Greet One Another

Song: “Praise the Lord! Sing Hallelujah!” LUYH, PsH 146

Creating the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Panels

While we created panels to celebrate each part of the church year, here’s a detailed description of how we created the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany panels. In our multipurpose room, we set up three art stations, each dedicated to a different part of the panels.

Art Station 1: Advent

Our mural began with the stump of Jesse. Floyd Elzinga, a metal craftsman in our congregation, created the stump out of metal and chicken wire. Strips of burlap were then plastered over the framework with fabric glue. The theme of the Advent stump was “moving from brokenness to hope.” Members had been invited, prior to the studio day, to submit photographs that represented brokenness or hope to them. These photographs were transferred onto printable fabric, cut out, and then glued onto the burlap stump. Later, a metal shoot was added to the stump. It was then mounted onto the mural for the first Sunday of Advent.

Art Station 2: Christmas

In another area of the room, we laid out supplies for working with metal, along with cardboard stencils of stars. Those in our congregation with carpentry skills and tools were recruited to oversee this section and assist people. It was beautiful to see older members working with younger children, helping them cut and stamp the stars. A delightful array of stars emerged in shiny tin or copper. These were hung from the vine, which had started to “grow” from the stump of Jesse. A large iridescent star marks the centerpiece of this portion of the mural.

Art Station 3: Epiphany

Before this first studio session, the Sunday school children were asked to draw pictures based on the “I am” statements of Jesus, such as “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the light of the world,” and so on. These were drawn only in pencil on large sheets of paper. During the studio session, the older members were provided with tissue paper, magazines, pastels, colored pencils, crayons, and markers to color and fill in the pictures. The children were so excited to see their drawings being completed by others.

The Birth of Jesus

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-3

Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Reading

The season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is marked by a spirit of expectation, anticipation, preparation, and longing. We experience anew the sense of longing and expectation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, while also acknowledging that the theme of promise is joined by the theme of threat. The coming king comes to rule, save, and judge the world.

On Christmas Day, a star rose in the east to point the way to that king. But it didn’t point to a palace. God, who created the entire universe, humbled himself and was born as a baby, lying in a manger in Bethlehem. In the quiet of that stable, the light of the world, the hope of all of history, was born.

Reading: “Our World Belongs to God” (par. 23)
Remembering the promise
to reconcile the world to himself,
God joined our humanity in Jesus Christ—
the eternal Word made flesh.
He is the long-awaited Messiah,
one with us
and one with God,
fully human and fully divine,
conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.

Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony,
© 2008, Faith Alive Christian Resources.

Song: “Jesus, Jesus, O What a Wonderful Child” LUYH, SNC 108 (See “Noteworthy,” p. 40)

Children’s Message: The Colors of the Church Year

Song: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” LUYH, CH 586, PsH 457, SFL 198, SWM 26, WR 80

The Life and Ministry of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 4:14-21

Song: “Jesus Heard With Deep Compassion” (st. 1-2) LUYH, SNC 124

Reading

Following the Christmas season, we celebrate the epiphany of Jesus. “Epiphany” is a biblical word that means “manifestation” or “revelation.” It refers to God’s action of manifesting his glory to the world by bringing salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. So Epiphany is the season where we remember the shepherds recognizing the Messiah, the Magi acknowledging the King of Glory, and the disciples seeing Christ as the Son of God. Epiphany occurs any time our eyes of faith are opened to see Christ as our salvation.

Reading: “Our World Belongs to God” (par. 24)
As the second Adam,
Jesus chose the path we had rejected.
In his baptism and temptations,
teaching and miracles,
battles with demons
and friendships with sinners,
Jesus lived a full and righteous human life before us.
As God’s true Son,
he lovingly obeyed the Father
and made present in deed and word
the coming rule of God.

Song: “Jesus Heard with Deep Compassion” (st. 3)

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Scripture: Isaiah 53:2-5

Song: “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended” LUYH, PH 93, PsH 386, TH 248, WR 262

Reading

During the season of Lent we follow Jesus in his journey to the cross. Along the way, the people of Israel waved their palm branches and exuberantly greeted him as a king who would restore Israel to greatness. But in humility, Jesus, the humble servant, rode on the back of a donkey to his death.

Reading: “Our World Belongs to God” (excerpts from par. 25 and 26)

Standing in our place,
Jesus suffered during his years on earth,
especially in the tortures of the cross. . . .
Being both divine and human,
Jesus is the only mediator.
He alone paid the debt of our sin;
there is no other Savior. . . .
[But Jesus] walked out of the grave,
conqueror of sin and death—
Lord of Life!
We are set right with God,
given new life,
and called to walk with him
in freedom from sin’s dominion.

Song: “Hope of the Nations” (Brian Doerksen)

Ascension and Pentecost

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11

Reading: “Our World Belongs to God” (par. 27)
Jesus ascended in triumph,
raising our humanity to the heavenly throne.
All authority, glory, and sovereign power
are given to him.
There he hears our prayers
and pleads our cause before the Father.
Blessed are all
who take refuge in him.

Reading: adapted from “Our World Belongs to God” (par. 30)
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended from heaven. Now people from every tongue, tribe, and nation are gathered into the unity of the body of Christ. The Spirit compels young and old, men and women, to go next door and far away with the good news of God’s grace.

Song: “There’s No God as Great” LUYH, PsH 517, SFL 240, SWM 244

Stories of the Spirit: (here we shared the joy of the Spirit’s work in our Living Vine project throughout the year)

Prayers of the People

Offering

Offertory Song: “You Are the Vine” (Danny Daniels and Randy Rigby)

Coming Again

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-19, 25

Reading: “Our World Belongs to God” (excerpts from par. 57 and 58)
On that day
we will see our Savior face to face,
sacrificed Lamb and triumphant King. . . .
He will set all things right. . . .
Everything will be made new,
and every eye will see at last
that our world belongs to God.
Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!

Song: “Days of Elijah” (Robin Mark)

Closing Scripture: John 15:1-4

Blessing: John 15:9-11

Rachel Rensink-Hoff is a member of Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario, where she is regularly involved in worship planning. She is also on the music faculty of McMaster University, Hamilton.