Come and See
Since I first saw pictures of Janet Echelman’s sculpture made from thirty-five miles—yes, miles—of technical fiber hanging over a park in Greensboro, North Carolina, I’ve been thinking of ways to capture some of the same airy, flame-like look for a Pentecost visual for worship.
What if we strung netting of some sort—dyed or left natural—from floor to ceiling? But to keep it from looking like a spiderweb, it needs an anchor of some sort—something to give it focus and a purpose.
I tend to be a bit wary of trends that get too popular too fast. Pinterest, the online social networking app for collecting and sharing ideas visually, was one I was certain wasn’t a good thing—especially for “serious” artists working with visuals for worship. Serious artists—that’s us, right?
It hit me a couple of weeks ago when I realized the worship planning team or someone—the pastor, probably, late Saturday night—used a banner I had designed at least fifteen years ago to signal this Sunday was Communion Sunday. Surely we must have done something different or new since then, right? Nope. I couldn’t think of anything beyond an on-screen graphic done up a couple of years ago for a Good Friday service.
On my way to and from the office are two buildings I can’t get enough of. One, a two-story office building, has the most beautiful roofline of repeating round arches over a lacy infrastructure encased in walls of glass. The other is a city library built a few years back. The design is fairly modern and appears as a collection of square and cylinder blocks of brick set next to each other in the most pleasant way. I’ve heard that taking different routes to get to the same destination is supposed to keep your mind sharp but these two buildings keep me traveling the same roads.
A news story I read today about a popular picture-sharing smartphone app included this quote: “People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.” This struck me. It’s common knowledge that pictures speak louder than words and that vision is one of the strongest of our senses. Why then do we have such trouble including pictures in our worship? Certainly it can’t be a carryover from the fifteenth-century Reformation, can it?
I’m old enough to remember worship without projection or large displays. Oh, there were times when a really progressive pastor would lug a clunky overhead projector upfront and supplement his message with rough words or pictures drawn on clear sheets of plastic called “transparencies.” The bulbs were hot, and the fans keeping them cool were loud. And then there was the problem of the transparencies sliding off the glass at precisely the wrong time.
Combining words and images is a powerful way to communicate the gospel. For Pentecost in 2011, we designed a service focused on four symbols of Pentecost: breath, wind, fire, and dove.
Todd selected Scriptures and wrote reflections for each image. Amy prepared for a visual presentation of the four symbols to unfold during the readings. Choral music and hymns were selected to follow each reading, highlighting each symbol.
Giving up sweets, deleting social media accounts, vowing to exercise more—these are trendy Lenten practices to adopt. Kicking off the season with a paintbrush and scrap pieces of fabric in hand? That one might be less familiar.
Smocking up to get your hands messy with paint and glue may not be your go-to spiritual practice. But for a few members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, diving deep into the creative layers of Lent is exactly how they chose to enter the season.