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Content about Church pennants

September 4, 2004

In past issues, I’ve encouraged visual artists to involve themselves–because it’s unlikely that anyone is going to go out of their way to invite them–with the video projections your church may be planning for its worship services. Here are a couple of guidelines to make sure that these projections enhance worship instead of detract from it. I’ll use a series of Advent and Christmas visuals as examples.

September 4, 2004

Our Advent series was prepared by a group of Christian Reformed pastors and others from five different congregations in and around Listowel, Ontario. This peer mentoring group, which calls itself “The Preaching Group,” is also part of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church and funded by the Lilly Foundation.

June 4, 2004

March 4, 2004

For all of its significance in the church year, creating a visual for Ascension Day is a tough assignment. Christ’s work on earth was done and he returned to heaven to take his rightful place. The tricky part in representing this idea is the mix of tangible and intangible. We can imagine what it might be like to be among the disciples, but what about the part about Christ being taken into heaven and, as Mark writes, sitting at the right hand of God? Both ideas are critical to our understanding of what Christ did for us.

December 3, 2003

Picture Jesus Christ in your mind. What does he look like? A face gazing straight at you like the one in Warner Sallman's too-famous portrait? A cartoon character wearing a white robe and red sash (an image formed from years of exposure to church school papers)? A suffering body hanging on a rough wooden cross?

September 3, 2003

I love type. If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you have picked up on my infatuation with letter forms but also, no doubt, my resistance to traditional banner letters. So much can go wrong so quickly.

Lois Prahlow, one of the banner design workshop presenters at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, had such a clever idea that I couldn’t resist passing it on–and the inspiration it gave me for a Thanksgiving visual in my own church.

June 3, 2003

March 3, 2003

It was a typical, early winter day in Michigan. Cold and wet and gray all over. My schedule for the day was fairly light—only an RW staff meeting to attend. For some time, I'd been wanting to write something about the use of liturgical color in worship, and I was hoping to get some help by asking a few questions. Is using liturgical color in worship an idea that sounds right and logical and helpful? Or is it, in the end, just another worship gimmick? My friends didn't have the nice short answer I was looking for.

December 2, 2002

Banner block. I know you’ve been there. Your worship planning committee hands you yet another impossible assignment: “We’re having a series on the psalms of lament and would like something that reflects the somberness of the topic yet is bright and lively—after all, we don’t want to depress people” or “We’re having a special service on the quality and character of God.

September 2, 2002

It happens every time we use a new visual in our worship. One gentleman in my church catches me after the service and asks me what each part of the new visual means. We look at the banner, and I describe how the final piece came to be: what we started with, what problems we encountered while constructing it, and what pleasant surprises happened along the way.

June 2, 2002

As interest in the visual arts continues to increase, so do helpful publications. Some of the most helpful resources come from Lutheran and Roman Catholic sources. All of these items are available from the following publishers:

June 2, 2002

The weekly head-scratching exercise (“Well, what do we do this Sunday?”) is well-known to preachers, liturgists, dramatists, and musicians. Visual artists, on the other hand, contribute to worship less regularly. That is to say, while congregations enjoy artwork week in and week out, the work of producing that art—a new banner for a new season, a new baptismal font, ceramic pieces thrown for a new communion set—happens, at least for the traditional visual artist, more periodically.

June 2, 2002

We seem to be in the midst of a sea change in attitudes toward the visual, even in worship. For one thing, since the middle of the last century, a major change has been taking place in our visual environment. Whereas previously print culture predominated, with the rise of television and movies we have entered an era in which visual images are dominant and inescapable.

June 2, 2002

Once a year, each academic department at Westmont College is invited to host a chapel for the majors and minors in their department. Here in the art department, we’ve used this opportunity to present our “artistic testimonies,” to discuss what might constitute Christian art, and to use works of art from the past as foci for devotional exercises. This year, we’ve decided to ask students to read one of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom, the parable of the talents from Matthew 25.

March 2, 2002

If you’ve been following this column at all, you know that I am very interested—and sometimes successful—in setting aside my artist’s ego every now and then to get other people involved in the creation of a worship visual. As hard as it is sometimes to work with a group of people with varying opinions, the result is almost always worth the extra effort. (And from what I read in your e-mails, some of you are doing way too much of the work yourselves.) For this cooperative project, why not recruit a group who are easy to work with: kids?

March 2, 2002
Q. Since September 11, the United States flag has reappeared in our church sanctuary. But some people are offended and want to remove it. What is the issue here?
September 1, 2001

After seeing the issue of Reformed Worship featuring angels on the cover (RW 53), I wrote this program, based on the Christmas story in Luke 2, for our church school.
For our program we had the family scene set up on one side of the platform, while the action scenes with the angels took place on the other side. We borrowed a spotlight from the local school to help shift attention from one scene to another.
—Barbara Vos

Scene 1
September 1, 2001

Did you ever propose a great idea to a committee? By the time all of the “You know, you could . . .” comments have died down, you’re left with an idea not at all like the one you started with. These folks don’t really mean to ruin your design, they just get caught up in the excitement and want to be a part of a good thing. Well, here’s a banner design that simply can’t be over-designed. You can honestly tell the committee that even you don’t know what the final thing will look like!

September 1, 2001

Our children’s ministry team wanted to provide an opportunity for the children of the church to offer their gifts in worship in a visible way. Elizabeth Henstock, a member of the team, developed the concept of creating a collaborative piece for Advent using the fourteenth-century fresco Adoration of the Magi by Italian artist Giotto. The children were told and shown the story of how the magi brought gifts to Jesus. They enthusiastically agreed to work together on a large mosaic as their way of also bringing a gift to Jesus.

March 1, 2001

I like banners without words. Most visuals do just fine by themselves if kept simple enough. Sometimes, though, it's just too difficult to illustrate a Scripture passage or concept with a graphic. In those cases we resort to words. But often the words are scattered across too much fabric and end up looking like so many elementary-school bulletin boards.

December 1, 2000

A few weeks ago, a product-engineer friend of mine and I were talking about church banners. He designs office furniture, so he is aware of the multitude of materials that are available to designers. Why, he wondered, do we often restrict our worship visuals to felt hangings, which we iron as perfectly flat as we possibly can? Why is this medium so universally accepted and why is, say, a wooden or metal sculpture less so?

December 1, 2000

How do we balance our joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection with the enduring reality of our fallen world? That’s the question we will focus on in these services for Eastertide, the seven weeks from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. The answer lies in the gospel we proclaim—a gospel of transformation. God takes what is and changes it to conform to his will. While this leads us to repent of former ways in the hope of future ones, it does not allow us to deny the former ways.

September 1, 2000

Service Plans and Sermon Sketches
for Advent and Christmas

September 1, 2000

In the front of the church where I worship, we have always had a beautifully proportioned cross that is mounted against a light-colored wall. This wall is lit from both sides, and where the light mixes in the middle, there is the most interesting vertical stripe of light. Because of its prominence and the lighting, I wanted to do something with the cross--something different than our usual crown of thorns and purple cloth, perfectly draped for Easter. Something for Advent.

March 1, 2000

In August I began a new job, teaching the history of art at a college in a city that is new to me. Every Sunday since I've been here I've visited a different church, looking for a new church home. The preaching and the service order tell me much about the life of the congregations I've worshiped with. Some churches also have informational brochures. Others have very friendly members who are happy to talk about their church. None of this is surprising. What has surprised me is how much I react to the look of the sanctuary and the objects in it!