God’s Creative Story – Advent Banners

Notes on Worship (excerpted from this month’s bulletin)

As you enter the sanctuary in this season of Advent, you will encounter liturgical art created by members of our community that reflects our observations, our frustrations, our prayers and our longings for our current world. Hanging on the stone walls are eight large banners – purple for the season and monochromatic at first glance. A closer look will reveal layered texture and meaning that speak to themes of oppression and freedom, longing and liberation, despair and hope.

Emerging from these mysterious and muted panels are points of light: watch these banners for physical changes as the weeks of Advent progress, and ponder the meaning of that light to you.

Both these banners and the large Advent wreath at the front of the chancel are constructed from repurposed church bulletins. Using these as our foundation allows us to express our values around creation care and creative reuse, and honors the life of our worshipping community that is reflected in the printed liturgy of the paper – prayers and praises, scripture and song. Knowing that the elements of this artwork may once have been held in your hands has added to the value of these materials for us.

The NDPC Liturgical Arts Group began thinking about the December worship theme of Liberation several months ago, when we listened to a Fresh Air interview with James Cone and viewed videos about Liberation Theology from Queens College Oxford and Santa Maria, California. We continued to ponder poetry, prose, and images that spoke to us around the themes of freedom/liberation, oppression, and the Advent season, and we brought many of those to our collage work in November. With the help of the copier, glue, paint, and some wild abandon, we began layering and collaging elements that became the ground for additional stamping and stenciling. These complex works were ultimately glazed in purple and mounted on supports through which light will increasingly shine as the weeks of Advent move us from darkness to light.

Stiletto heels as a symbol of oppression and as a stamping tool on the final collage.

These were truly process-oriented pieces, and we included intentional, carefully chosen elements in them that deepen the meaning of the finished pieces for us even if they were eventually obscured. I was thinking of that when I listened to this interview yesterday with the marvelous artist Mako Fujimura, who talked about his contemplative “slow art” process. It would be wonderful to have access to the precious minerals and metals that he uses in his work, but there is also something deeply satisfying about creating beauty from our humble collection of materials. I’m amazed that we have access to the same communion with the Creative that Mako seeks regardless of the elements we use, and I’m confident that it is all good in God’s eyes!

Some members of our group have reflected on our recent work. Dee says, “Someone once said, ‘No one isn’t Gods favorite.’ I believe this to my core and participate in Liturgical Art and Craftivism because creating art is a way to directly embody my desire to make a better world. Collaboration and fellow

Poetry, windows, and prison bars

ship that occur in our art spaces, as well as the display of our created art in worship is a metaphor for the purpose of the church in the wider world. What we do here can positively impact and ultimately call us to action when our desires to ‘seek and know’ are shared in community.” Dee notes some of the material she has included in her collaging, including a Fulton County Records 1863 ledger page documenting the ownership of enslaved people, pages from the 2019 Mercy Community Church Advent devotional, and excerpts from Peggy McIntosh’s 1089 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.

Reflecting on his thoughts about liberty and civil rights, Woody says, “Freedom from oppression required a school bus, so I drew one, plus a big cross, in pencil at the very beginning. I doubt any of it shows through the finished banner, and perhaps that’s where the old bus belongs these days.”