Want to incorporate fine art into the worship experience? How about adding 11ft x 24ft mural

When was the last time you saw a huge mural in a new church? I cant even imagine working on something that huge. I wish I had a link to a photo of it but I cant find one.

"Imagine the Divine"
-Submitted by: Judy and Adrienne Stein

York artists Judy and Adrienne Stein, a mother/daughter team, worked to complete an 11’x24’ mural to be installed at the front of the sanctuary at York Christian & Missionary Alliance Church on Rathton Rd. It will be unveiled and dedicated during the worship celebration service on Sunday January 4, 2009 at 10:15 AM. The large-scale mural was completed over a span of months from the time of its inception to the time of its execution and final installation.

The mural is part of an ongoing effort of this congregation to incorporate fine art into their worship experience. The place where we worship a magnificent and redeeming God should provoke an air or reverence upon entering….it should be constructed with our best materials and our finest craftsmanship. It is disheartening to observe the absence of art in the American Protestant Church. Traveling through Europe is an eye-opener to the contrast between the lavish art-filled Catholic churches of the old world and today’s minimalistic American Protestant churches. Attitudes of practicality undervalue the role of art in enriching worship. In the days of the opulent churches, the finest artisans were commissioned to create impressive architectural structures and fill them with paintings and sculptures. Since the Catholic Church was then the cornerstone of society and culture, it had the necessary wealth to embellish on the aesthetic worship experience. These richly appointed cathedrals seem out of balance with their often impoverished working class constituency. But has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction?

York Alliance church seeks to draw into the beauty and goodness of God as a community, and to use all possible creative venues to do so. They see this mural as part of an exciting “renaissance” that is taking place; a transition back to art in the church as an integral part of worship, not just among their own body of believers, but in the church universally. On occasion, Adrienne has been called upon to do live illustrations during the sermon, depicting the scene from her easel at the front of the church.

The mural project evolved from a brainstorm for a short-term banner to be painted on paper and hung at the front of the church for the Easter 2008 service. Large scale paper banners are used as a regular worship tool. As ideas for the banner became more elaborate, the idea was proposed to spend more time on the planning and more money on the materials, making this “banner” into a large-scale painting on canvas to be framed and permanently installed.

The two set to work looking for inspiration. They spent hours studying art books, looking at great religious art of centuries past – the great works of the Italian Renaissance such as Raphael and Caravaggio as well as the altarpieces of Dutch masters such as Rembrandt. Adrienne designed and painted sketches depicting various biblical scenes to pitch ideas to the pastoral staff. The chosen image illustrates Christ’s defeat of death on the cross as He identifies with our humanity, standing over the churning water in the ‘storms’ of our lives; the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the dove, and God the Father is symbolized by the eternal source of guiding light.

After the choice was made, Adrienne painted a 1/12 scale prototype which was used to project and trace the image onto the 11’x 24’ canvas. With the help of talented people within the church, they solved the anticipated logistical problems then moved forward with their labor of love. The canvas was suspended on a pulley device in the Fellowship Hall annex of the church. As an interior designer and part-time fine artist, Judy was not accustomed to painting this large. Adrienne, who paints full-time in her studio, was also challenged by the constraints of this scale. They painted the 250 square foot acrylic painting in 5 sessions, working together, about 5 to 6 hours in each session. This was just a fraction of the time we estimated. At the beginning of each session, they prayed together, dedicating their work to the Lord. The process resulted in a rich mother/daughter experience.

Judy and Adrienne feel passionately about the connection between beauty and experiencing the Divine. They donated this mural as a gift to bless their church and to inspire churches everywhere to endorse the arts and to raise awareness of the value art in worship. On this topic, they quote the late Pope John Paul II in his famous “Letter to Artists”:

“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery. The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm the religion reporter at The Commercial Appeal and am doing a story about live art and worship. I'd love to speak with you.
429-2445 or lindsay.melvin@commercialappeal.com