A View for Visuals
Visuals, in the life of the church, are much misunderstood, in my experience. Even though it is well established over 60% of the general population’s main learning style is “visual,” much emphasis is placed in the worship service on the style “auditory”. Rather than competing with the sung and spoken Word, what we can do as visual artists is to work together, touching as many congregants as we can. Each style and each person involved in this process has only one purpose – to make the Gospel come alive.
In looking ahead to the season of Easter, we should begin planning visuals with a look at the Text through the lectionary. What focus does your pastor intend? Will you be using the altar or pulpit with a design arrangement? Is it a temporary banner which will enhance the Gospel for your congregation?
Even though my timing is a bit off for Lent-Easter seasons this year, something which begins in Lent and then continues on as an Easter overlay works really well. Begin with the simple suggestion to put away all your brass altar ware (cross, candles, scallop shell for Baptism, offering plates, etc.) and substitute ceramic/wood/woven baskets. This immediately makes a powerful statement through Lent as well as a contrast to the finery of Easter when the brass reappears.
We also have had a lot of success with a marvelous florist who “gets it” as far as barren, non-floral Lenten arrangements go. Twigs in a vase, in a bundle, on the floor, under the altar, etc. can be extremely effective. Be sure to explain verbally or with a line in the bulletin.
Lent can have visuals to represent: wilderness or barren scenes (trees or branches without leaves), betrayal (rooster, [bag of] coins), passion (spear/nails/whip/crown of thorns), death (wooden cross/portrayal of drops of blood/broken chain). Fabric can be used without hemming; it can be ripped, scrunched up, torn or woven/braided. Sometimes an unevenly or incorrectly dyed piece of fabric can be most effective for an altar cloth or basis for an arrangement featuring Lenten symbols.
One of the ideas I have discussed with many visual artists is how to repurpose household items easily found at Salvation Army and Goodwill thrift stores as well as garage sales locally. Of course, that makes things easy on the budget as well as recycling something which might otherwise be dumped.
This past Spring I found a wonderful, large, red glass container which probably had been a vase in another life. It was flared at the top and large enough to hold a pillar candle. I was in the midst of preparing for a week long workshop and knew one service focused on the presence of the Holy Spirit. This vase was perfect and inexpensive.
I put melted wax in the vase-base to really secure the larger candle. Because the candle was somewhat down in the vase, height wise, the flame was well protected. It allowed our dancer to twirl with it, put it to her side and generally dance all over without fear of the flame being extinguished. The music was “Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet” and the congregation sang along and added their corporate participation. This worship visual preceded the Scripture reading and cost less than $5. Powerful, Simple, Effective.
My experience has been that the list of symbols comes from the Text and the interpretation comes from everyday life. So you can use the creative marketing all around you to display and share the Word with your congregation. Please be in touch with your questions as well as sharing your ideas for this column. Best Wishes!