Creating Art Together: How One Congregation Receives the Gift of Art

Family of Grace Lutheran Church in Auburn, Washington, had an architecturally unfortunate situation in their sanctuary. A bank of windows, whose view was the local fire department, experiences a blaze of morning sunlight that was not only distracting but turned their Pastor into a silhouette of himself. “When Amazing Grace!, the congregation’s dynamic fellowship group for members age 55+, decided to gift the congregation with liturgical art, they contacted me to see if we could arrive at a solution that could engage the whole congregation.
After some initial meetings we determined these key points:
Family of Grace is an “inclusive” congregation which is informal and accepting. They wanted a piece of art that expressed mystery, was new and different, could be abstract but should be dynamic and that would exhibit some movement and changeability. After some discussion about what the key words “inclusive, family and accepting” meant, we turned to the task of deciding medium.
For this congregation Mystery addresses the stuff you can’t see, things that need to be observed, yet need some interpretation. Light comes from out of wonder, awe and mystery. Could we embrace this light in some way? The windows seemed a natural location for the gift of light, mystery and art to coincide.
A few more meetings and the idea of silk painted panels to be inserted in the eight windows in question was decided on.
The theme that emerged was the Tree of Life. Based on its description from Revelation 22:2 “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bear twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”, four designs were created.
The committee chose one of the four, and that design was transferred  on eight panels of silk and prepared with gutta.
The first workshop was organized and members of the congregation came to learn how art is prayer. After some discussion about the Tree of Life as a symbol, and some instruction on the process they were about to engage in, the willing participants began working on a practice piece. They created beautiful leaf designs on circles of silk which put aside any fears of  working on the “real deal”.
Less intimidated and ready to find out how God can work through the artist’s hands, they jumped in and began painting the panels.
Another workshop is planned at the end of March where we will complete the larger lower window panels. I look forward to how this project evolves. It has blessed each of us in so many ways.


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