Work of the People

Back in May of this year, I received word that a grant proposal I had submitted on behalf of my church had been accepted. In broad strokes, the purpose of our project is to bring more visual art into our spiritual lives, and specifically into our corporate worship. This is work that had, in fact, already been underway for several years, but the grant is affording us space, resources, outside guest speakers and adult education opportunities, and an explicit focus on the artistry of the Bible in a program we’re calling God’s Creative Story.

Our first visual arts project was a liturgical banner to mark the season of Ordinary Time and to solicit the congregation’s participation in creating visual art. I’ll go back and say more about that project at some point, but first I want to reflect on the project we most recently completed. During the month of October, our pastor is preaching on the theme of Covenant, so our Liturgical Arts Group has created an installation to evoke that theme. This work was installed in our sanctuary the week after a sermon on Noah and just a few days before the Atlanta Pride Celebration. The actual construction of the piece took about six hours of walking a spool of ordinary sewing thread to and from the sides of the chancel and attaching it to cup hooks anchored at differing angles to the window sills. This process required a minimum of three people, with both church members and church staff stepping in for shifts of ferrying the thread back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth again. There were lessons in hope, trust, and patience to be learned as we began, failed forward, and began again, finally falling into a rhythm that worked for all of us. And even before the actual work began, there had been time for our weekly gathering of artisans to find inspiration in the work of Gabriel Dawe, and to consider the symbol of the rainbow and its relationship to Creator and Word and Spirit in our church and in our lives. We saw connections between this project and another we had participated in under the auspices of the NDPC Craftivists where we created 300 Friendship Bracelet Kits to be given away at Atlanta Pride events.

The original name for our grant program was The Work of the People in Word and Image. That proved to be too much of a mouthful, lacking in the warm ease of God’s Creative Story. But what I’ve been contemplating of late is the joy, the “rightness,” the sense of sacred calling that I feel to do the creative work of the people, to be a creator in community. Doing the work of the people as one of those people myself keeps me focused on the greater good and the higher purpose of glorifying God. “Glorifying God” is not a oft-used phrase for me or those in my circles, but I was reminded of it today as I recalled my Presbyterian Confirmation experience from back in the Seventies, when I affirmed to the best of my preteen ability that my chief end was to “glorify and enjoy God forever.” Making art together, particularly making art to deepen and enrich the worship experience together, side by side with my church friends and family, is people’s work that is glorious indeed.