Thursday, August 28, 2014

Celebrating Creation: One Idea that Lasts the Church Year Calendar

Goodness from my farmer's market
As the seasons of nature change outside our Carrot Top Studio window we are reminded of the beauty and bounty of this world we live in. The leaves on many of our trees will soon be a visual feast for the eyes as they transform from greens to a splendid array of warm colors. I have just come home from the farmers market where I felt moved with thanksgiving for those that work hard to provide us an abundance of fresh produce.As the church what can we do to honor God's amazing creation? The list is long and I am way too unworthy to come up with every idea so today I'll focus on one that you might consider as you're planning for actually starts with Thanksgiving or harvest time.

If you mark time with liturgically with the church year in your worship services can visualize this using an evergreen tree. During Thanksgiving worship (if you are in the US or Canada) include thankfulness for creation--even the trees that produce oxygen, clean the soil, provide shade and bear fruit. Then let the visual connections begin with Advent!  Display an evergreen tree during Advent. Each week it might slowly be filled with lights and ornaments leading up to Christmas. Chrismon symbols would be especially appropriate. On Epiphany the branches could be removed and burnt in an outdoor bonfire. This type of event would not only represent the magnificent light of the star that guided the Wise Men but also would provide enthusiasm to echo the feelings of those first worshipers. Ashes could then be collected for Ash Wednesday. The remaining trunk could be sawed in two to be formed into a cross to be used during Lent. Easter morning worship would allow worshipers to bring flowers to embellish the cross that had been wrapped in ivy. The ivy not only provides armature but as an evergreen it is a traditional symbol of God's everlasting love. This living cross is a celebration of the Resurrection and an inspirational visual.

A stole for Ordinary Time that honors the color changes of the seasons
While thinking about creation I will sign off with this... 

A Prayer of Awareness
Hildegard of Bingen

God is the foundation for everything
This God undertakes, God gives.
Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking. 

Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.
This body is supported in every way through the earth. 

Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Visual Arts Teams in a Church

I believe in team work. I am a bit of an introvert and really like when I can work in the quiet space of the studio. But I also understand that we all have different gifts and bringing them together can be a wonderful thing! Carrot Top Studio actually got it's start due to a volunteer group project I led. My faith community's worship space was needing banners for the entire liturgical calendar and I was approached to take this on. I'd never done anything like this and felt that the work would be stronger coming from a group and this would also help the banners be representative of the church and not just of my work. 
The last set of banners we created at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA
Even if you can't make worship banners or other visual statements or art within your congregation there could (or should?!) be a group of congregants working together towards these efforts. Visual art can be a vital part of the church in worship, education and beyond. A team or committee could be formed to help this endeavor. This group should gather and consider their task through prayer, scripture, research regarding what other churches have done and discussion focusing on what the art will mean to the community. The group's focus should be well defined. This might sound counter intuitive to the creative process of the arts but artist, whether they admit it or not, work better with some structure to work in. Break the focus (worship, education, outreach, classes, a gallery, etc) into categories and then tasks. This list might end up being huge and if so it should then be prioritized. A visual arts team should be able to clearly define what will be accomplished with a timeline and budget for the goal. Nancy Chinn has a wonderful book with a chapter dedicated in more detail to this topic. Read about Spaces For Spirit here.
A Church art gallery 
Best wishes if including the visual arts is a new endeavor for your church! You never know where the effort might lead or help grow someones faith. I will forever be grateful for the suggestion that I help develop those first banners. That led to Carrot Top Studio the online business. We have morphed and grown and now focus our artistic efforts on ministry stoles for clergy, chaplains and wedding officiants and smaller works of fiber art.