October 29, 2021
As we approach both Halloween and All Saints’ Day, there are many possibilities before us for the inclusion of art and craft in worship experiences. Although Halloween isn’t a favorite holiday of mine, it does fall on a Sunday this year, and lends itself to lifting up themes as diverse as our dreams about who we would like to be or once wished to be, to addressing fears that we have and ways in which God can walk with us through those dark valleys. The costuming of Halloween can lead into either theme, and likely others that you would see in this day.
My preference, since Halloween literally means “All Hallows’ Eve,” would be to lift up and celebrate the sacredness of people who have touched our lives, perhaps touched them in amazing ways, perhaps touched them in everyday, ordinary, yet powerful ways. I always settle on the use of the word “saints” in the way that the Apostle Paul used the term in the opening words of some of his letters, addressing all the people of the church as saints. While we are certainly all sinners, there is a sacredness and a saintliness to each of us as well. Those are the qualities that I enjoy celebrating.
Some of the visual images that capture this for me are a series of tapestries that hang in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The artist has captured images of many of the recognized saints of the Catholic Church, but has also included images in the tapestries of ordinary people, of children of God that fit the image of saints as Paul used the word. If you examine the image below, or others that you can find online, you will see the names of the saints written below their images. But a careful look shows that there are no names below some of the people. In the case of the image below, there is a young mother carrying an infant, and two young girls, none of whom are identified by name, but all of whom are included among the saints. These tapestries are not only beautiful works of art, but they present a theological concept of the sainthood of all people that is indeed profound as well.
We can invite people into a powerful worship experience by including a display of photos, or a PowerPoint or similar presentation, which highlights saints in various ways. A couple of photos of these tapestries could get things started, but then images of church members, those who have died and are with Christ, and others who would be sitting in the worship space that day, would expand the theme that we are all saints, and that even in our shortcomings and failures we are encouraged to become ever more-saintly in our words and actions.
For someone to imagine that they too are a saint, however they may feel about themselves, can be a door that opens up possibilities for growth and that also ushers in grace for people to accept and cherish.
October 22, 2021
Two More Images of Autumn
As I continue to assemble the PowerPoint presentation I mentioned last week, I am seeking to discover a variety of perspectives on this season of Autumn. While I could certainly sit and view one beautiful photo of trees after another, and would be very content, I want to invite people to engage with the fullness of the season, and not just with my appreciation of trees with multi-colored leaves. I also want to provide views that are diverse, so that people might imagine themselves to be in a particular place, and not just appreciating scenes that have nothing to do with them.
So, the first one I share with you this week is of the beginnings of color changes in the leaves of the trees as they outline an urban parking garage.
Then, I offer an Autumn sunset, remarkable for its beautiful clouds.
October 15, 2021
Images of Autumn
I am working on a PowerPoint presentation, that will show various images of Autumn, for use in worship during the month of November. But I don’t want to just share these images and have people respond with enthusiasm, although I hope that they do. Rather, I want to encourage people to reflect upon the images, to draw inspiration or meaning for their lives in this season. This may mean that I only show one or two images each Sunday, and then perhaps the whole slideshow on Thanksgiving Sunday. I am still developing the idea of how I want to proceed with this.
As I compile the slideshow, I am going to offer a couple of images this week, and a couple more next week, for you to reflect upon if you so choose. I hope that your reflections might enhance your journey through this Autumn season. And, should you wish to share any reflections, please email me through the contact tab.
Here then is the first one, a view of a tree along a busy boulevard in Los Angeles.
October 8, 2021
Connections to Community
Our celebration of World Communion Sunday was once again an inspiring and uplifting experience, for those in-person in the church and for those who join us on Zoom. In fact, some of our folks who offered the Lord’s Prayer in our worship time were literally joining us from around the world.
I am sure that everyone makes the connection between the celebration of communion and the effect that it has on the worshipping community. The shared root of the two words is striking, and opens up a wider understanding of what transpires as we break the bread and drink the cup in worship together.
However, the sharing of communion not only brings us closer together as a church family, but it opens wide the door that leads us out into the community within which our church is located. In these days, even that statement has two meanings. The first is the obvious one of the physical community that surrounds the physical presence of the church. These are people to whom we reach out, to not only welcome them into the church but to offer our support and help in a variety of ways. But we are also more acutely aware of the wider community that the church touches, both in terms of people who participate in the life of the church through the virtual gatherings that are so common today, and in regard to the interconnectedness we have with people around the world who are affected by natural disasters and challenging living conditions.
One of the ways that our congregation reaches out to the community is through donations of money and food to our local food bank. We are, in fact, the longest-standing supporter of this food bank in terms of consistently bringing food to them for their distribution to community agencies. We collect and deliver food throughout the year, and when the pandemic prevented them from accepting food donations, our folks made sure that the monetary donations increased so that the food bank could buy what they needed in order to serve the agencies who depend upon them.
I share this because the fall months are especially appropriate times to collect and donate food to whatever entities help serve in this way in your community. But more than just collecting food, this activity can become a central part of a worship experience for one or more weeks. Worship planners can purchase the first items and use them to set up the worship space to show forth the theme of community and to encourage donations of food.
To help celebrate Autumn and the harvest, and to encourage donations, one might compile a PowerPoint or similar presentation that highlights harvests, times of sharing food, even including slides of varieties of foods, and then share it during the offertory time, perhaps accompanied by seasonal music. People could be encouraged to bring their food offerings forward, along with their regular tithes and offerings, so as to more fully involve everyone in the outreach to the community.
This becomes a sort of art installation that is then taken down and given to whatever agency in order to share gifts of love. Photos can be taken of the food collected, and perhaps of the delivery to the food bank or other agency, and those photos can help the church family to celebrate their connection with the community. And, if the photos are appropriate for the church’s website, then that enables sharing too with a larger community.
October 1, 2021
World Communion Sunday
After a year and a half of feeling the acute effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the things that should have become obvious to us is that the whole world has been affected by this, and that our common humanity is more closely bound together than we might often take the time to acknowledge. It is easy to become wrapped up in how this has affected each one of us, and how the precautions and restrictions by county and state have often limited our activities as we had been used to them. And yet, if we look beyond our own selves, we can see a whole world that is struggling, where many people are mourning, where travel has often been so restricted as to make us feel more isolated than we normally might feel. This is a pandemic that has affected all of us, all of God’s children.
Within churches, many churches anyway, this approaching Sunday is a moment of interaction with this world that we inhabit. World Communion Sunday is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the positive connections that we have with one another. It is an opportunity to expand our vision of the communion table in our own church, and to see it as one large table that we all gather about on this day. It is a time of symbolically breaking bread and sharing a cup, and celebrating that we are all one in Christ.
This is a perfect time to celebrate worship by including items that speak of the beautiful diversity of God’s people, and of the churches that are joined together on this day. This may be through displays of artwork from around the world, or even through sharing a slide show of such works. Many cultures have cloths of varied and beautiful colors that can enliven the worship space if placed on the communion table or by hanging them in the front of the church. If members have chalices from different parts of the world – my own collection includes chalices from Israel, England, Tahiti and more – then these can either be symbolically placed on the communion table or they can be used to serve communion. Readings from churches and traditions around the world can bring fresh voices and insights to the worship time, and inviting a variety of readers to participate in the gathering will make it special indeed. And, as we always do in my congregation, the Lord’s Prayer can be offered in many languages, representing the beautiful diversity of the church family, locally and globally.
In this time of feeling more isolated from one another than we normally do, this Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate our common life as people of the world, as Christians united at the table, as children of God bound together in love and joy.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.