Banners created by members of Grace United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Ga., from fabrics collected from the people of the North Georgia Annual Conference. Pictures of banners by Scott Parrish from the “Welcome and Celebration of Mission” worship service sponsored by the North Georgia and South Georgia Annual Conferences on Jan. 11, 2015. Used by permission.
Worshiping Together: Praying with the World through Banners
By Rev. Debra R. Tyree*
As we move into the season of Lent, the rich colors of purple are brought into our worship spaces mixed with the more muted and neutral tones of gray. We enter into a season of intentional prayer and penitence. Many churches “bury” or refrain from saying or singing the word “alleluia.” Worship services become more contemplative as we hear the stories of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice here on earth. And yet, Sundays in Lent are also seen and celebrated through the lens of the coming season of Easter. We always keep a glimpse of the resurrection ahead of us!
How can you embody all of those concepts visually in worship?
Consider creating banners made from fabrics from the world to place around your worship space during Lent. The colors and textures of the fabrics will be a wonderful addition to your worship space. You can create the banners quickly with just a few supplies!
- Global fabrics of any kind. Ask your congregation to bring to you any fabrics they have from the world. Remind them to look for table linens, as well as scarves, in addition to pieces of cloth. Remember to share that you will not be cutting the fabrics.
- Banner poles. Search around your building for banners stands and holders. You can make hanging banners using wooden dowels or pieces of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe as the horizontal poles and rope, chain, or strong ribbon as the hangers. Consider painting the dowels or PVC a dark color. Wooden closet rod poles can be used as the vertical pole. A few pieces of wood block can be nailed together and attached to the closet rod to create freestanding banner stands. Ask a carpenter or person who is good at basic home repair to create them for you.
- Clear plastic thread and needles, scissors, straight pins, safety pins, diaper pins, and any ribbon remnants you have.
- Prepare the banner poles by cutting the dowel/PVC pipe to your preferred length and paint them. You could also stain the wooden dowels, if preferred.
- Cut the rope/chain/ribbon to your preferred length. You can tie the rope/chain/ribbon to the ends of the poles now or wait until you have secured the fabric to the pole. If you are using PVC you can loop the rope/chain/ribbon through the pipe. You may want to add eye hooks to the ends of the wooden dowels as a tool to connect the rope/chain/ribbon to the dowel.
- Spread the collected fabrics on tables or the floor and begin to lay them next to each other with an eye toward color, texture, fabric weight, and country or culture of origin.
- Loop the fabrics over the pole and secure them by lightly sewing them into place using long stitches under the dowel/PVC poles. You may be able to use the straight pins, safety pins, or diaper pins to do this. Cover the pins by tying or hanging the ribbon remnants through them. Be creative – there is no wrong way to do this!
- You can also collect several lightweight fabrics, such as scarves and thin fabrics, and tie many of them on the horizontal pole. Intersperse ribbon remnants and you will create a wonderful processional banner that will move as you bring it into the worship space!
- Consider making a note of the countries of origin for each of the fabrics used. You could ask the liturgist to stand next to that piece of fabric as you pray with the people and concerns of that community in worship. Consider placing that specific banner in the worship center space on the Sunday you will be praying with the people of that country. Review the list of the countries of origin for the fabrics and intentionally pray for them all at some point during the season of Lent.
- These banners can be used at any point in the year, not just during Lent. Recreate a banner when you want to include any of these countries or cultures in your prayers in worship. Use them as processional banners as a part of your festive services or during a time of mission emphasis in your church.
- Put an article in your newsletter or bulletin each week that shares how The United Methodist Church is active in ministry with the people of the culture reflected in one of the banners.
- Place them around your church building or entrance space so people can get a close-up look at the fabrics to see the beauty of the fabric, the colors and the textures. Prepare a short handout with information about the country/culture of origin with a list of current prayer concerns and joys for the people of that country/culture.
This Lent pray with the world through the beautiful fabrics created and used by God’s people “from everywhere to everywhere.”
*Rev. Debra R. Tyree is the Executive Secretary for Global Ministries’ Global Praise Program.