I serve First Presbyterian Church of Hightstown, NJ as Communications Director. Graphic communication is emerging as an essential element of worship services.
My work encompasses several projects throughout the church year; I have built a team of members who conceptualize, design, and execute works of visual, graphic and decorative art that enhance the quality of worship, communication and even healing within the church, by direct involvement in creating the worship environment. It serves a need for more inclusive, engaging, and contemporary worship activity, and appeals to a broader and younger demographic of members.
Projects are timed to coincide with seasonal and church calendar events. The Sanctuary and Narthex are the areas we focus on. The general structure of the projects is an initial concept session focusing on a scriptural theme. Reflection and personal expression are developed into a design concept. Subsequent sessions allow for detailed planning, execution and installation.
During the course of the 6 Sundays in Lent, we drape the main stained glass window with black muslin fabric, one layer per week, progressively shutting out the light. During the final 2 weeks a black organza cross is added, fully concealing the body of Christ. At the same time, the side windows are draped in black and purple organza.
Offsetting the somber darkening of the sanctuary, a series of 6 mobiles were constructed. Each mobile carried 50 handmade origami doves; the wide top bar of each mobile was 8 feet long. Each week before the service one mobile was spread out on a table so that congregants could write prayers on the paper doves; during the service the mobile was lifted up and installed in the sanctuary. The natural air currents in the sanctuary add gentle motion to the mobiles.
At the beginning of the Easter Sunday service, the windows are transformed. The dark drapes are pulled through prebuilt channels, and white draping attached to the tail ends of the dark is automatically pulled into place as the shutters were opened, letting light into the sanctuary. The windows are opened two at a time, from the back to the front of the sanctuary, accompanied by the responsive shout, "Christ is Risen!" "He is risen indeed!" The drape over the main window is lowered, revealing the image of Christ, which had been hidden since the beginning of Lent.
Over the past year we have installed hanging systems in the ceiling and side aisle cornices. These 18 foot banners were hand painted by the Art Ministry team with the help of the confirmation class. The multicolored fabric over the stained glass window was inexpensive polyester, but it's transparent quality and sheen transformed the light in the sanctuary for Pentecost services.
Art Ministry transformed the Sanctuary with an installation of tie dyed banners. This view is looking toward the rear of the sanctuary. Each banner is 4×9 feet except for the two on the rear wall which are 8×12 feet.
A total of 24 banners were dyed by volunteers under the direction of Anne Willis, a master fabric designer and tie dye expert. These remain in place until the first week of November, when we strip the sanctuary to allow a month of unadorned space before Advent begins. Part of the project was installing the hanging hardware, which is now in place and available for all future projects.
We are blessed to have a catwalk above our sanctuary ceiling. This access gives us the ability to install pulleys and lines to raise and lower hanging installations, and to change them whenever necessary.
Although Stewardship is a year-round activity, there is a focused six week campaign in the Fall. This year we created and hung one banner a week, each one focusing on a different area of stewardship. Banners were constructed of gossamer, an inexpensive fabric with paper-like characteristics. Each banner was 18 feet long and had the title of a focus area cut out in stencil, which created a fantastic play of light and shadow on the walls. The banners were repeated at the back of the sanctuary, and front and back banners were connected by 80 foot gossamer streamers which crisscrossed and were interwoven like a braid in the center of the sanctuary.
A custom alphabet was created by modifying a standard font in order to create stencils. The stencils were then used to cut the gossamer. The lettering had to be designed so that when hanging vertically, no loose pieces would curl or flap.
Project updates for 2014-2015 included rebuilding the World Communion Globes, replacing the Advent paper hangings with fabric, and adding major elements to the Pentecost installation.
World Communion Sunday 2014
Our first project as art ministers, in 2011, truly humble in its means and materials, was still very effective in terms of its message, the effect of its presence on worship, and the interactive component that brought a large number of members into the creation of the project.
The installation was conceived as an expression of Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation, symbolized by world globes whose continents were covered with handprints. Congregants were asked to create the handprints on white backing which was then cut to the shape of continents.
We constructed an Eastern and a Western Hemisphere which hang along either side of the main stained glass window in the chancel. They were constructed of large (4' x 8') sheets of corrugated cardboard. By cutting two semicircles from two of these sheets, we created a globe that was 8' in diameter, fairly lightweight and inexpensive.
We also could fold up this globe to 4′ x 8′ by means of a hinge along the seam. This would allow us to move it out of the sanctuary into a storage area through standard interior doors, which would not permit an 8′ x 8′ object to pass through.
We have very few photos from 2011 but these images show the 2015 reworked version. The corrugate backings deteriorated so we rebuilt them of thin plywood and covered them with dark blue gossamer. The 2011 globes can be seen in the 3rd photo from the left, below.
For Advent 2014 we replaced our venerable paper installation with purple fabric, and included the rear wall of the sanctuary in our design. The trinity symbol seen at the top of the rear wall installation is cut from cardboard.
Probably one of our more elaborate installations, Pentecost is as it should be–over the top. Flaming. Overwhelming and joyous, startling and spectacular. Our fabric installation on the rear wall and the fabric over the main window constitute walls of flame, the life giving fire of the Holy Spirit. Likewise the hanging banners envelop the entire sanctuary with their bright colors, nearly touching us in our worship gathering. The medallions on either side of the main window are painted representations of the dove that descended on Christ as he came up from baptism by John the Baptist. They are meant to signal change, redemption, a new beginning, and a surrender of our old way of life as we become new members of god’s family and walk in our new life in the Lord.
At First Presbyterian I am responsible for Connections, the weekly calendar publication, including layout, photography, typography and illustration. A few sample links are shown here.
Most of our members access it for information on church schedules, committee meetings, Christian Education, commitment rosters, and special events.
In His Image - Art Ministry ePub
A complete catalog of all major installation projects: World Communion Sunday, Stewardship, Advent, Lent, Easter, Penetecost, Ordinary Time. Self-published.
Detailed illustrations outline the processes used for installation, and provide inspiration for churches interested in art ministry.
Available for download on the iBooks store.
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