The Reformed heritage has called upon people to bring to worship material offerings which in their simplicity of form and function direct attention to what God has done and to the claim that God makes upon human life. The people of God have responded through creative expressions in architecture, furnishings, appointments, vestments, music, drama, language, and movement.
When these artistic creations awaken us to God’s presence, they are appropriate for worship. When they call attention to themselves, or are present for their beauty as an end in itself, they are idolatrous. Artistic expressions should evoke, edify, enhance, and expand worshipers’ consciousness of the reality and grace of God.
PC(USA) Book of Order, W-1.3034 (2)
Take a moment and envision a worship space– maybe the one where you worship each week, or where you grew up, or where you have visited– what stands out to you visually? In many sanctuaries there might be the stained glass windows or centuries old architecture. Easter Sunday memories might include a cross full of flowers while an Advent memory might locate a Christmas tree at the front of the worship space. If it is a recent memory, it might be a painting that was created during worship or even a giant coloring page for the children to complete.
The way we decorate and enhance our worship space can, and should, reflect our faith in God and what we see as important in worship. The PC (USA) Book of Order states, “These artistic expressions can awaken us to God’s presence.”
This past Sunday, I had the privilege to worship with the congregation of Efland Presbyterian Church in the small town of Efland, NC. When one walks into the sanctuary, the eye is drawn upward to a beautiful window which allows a view of tree tops and the sky. After taking in the blue sky and the birds sitting in the trees, I began to look around the rest of the worship space. Beautiful purple linens lined the communion table and a small table stood to the left, upon which sat a sand-filled dish with six tea candles in the shape of a cross. To the right hung a quilted banner and just below the pulpit stood a baptismal font decorated with sea shells and filled with sand at the start of worship.
The candles, the Table, the banner, and the font were all thoughtfully assembled by the hands of members. Each individual item brought with it a new way to envision God’s grace. The purple cloth marks this season of preparation. The sand, with a coarse texture and sound as it is poured, reminding us of our Lenten journey through the desert and the candle extinguished as part of worship, marking another week in that Lenten journey. The shells, vessels for the baptismal water and a reminder that just as the Disciples were called by God, so are we. The cup and plate sat empty and waiting, a constant reminder that we have been and will continue to be fed.
Each element reaches a different sense, a different emotion. Each element reminds us of God’s grace in a season that can seem lonely at times as we slowly make our way to the cross.
How do the decorations in your worship space enhance or detract from worship?
Which element is the most meaningful for you?
I invite you to share your own stories and pictures.
Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer