Thursday, April 8, 2010

Liturgical Art

For some years, I served on the liturgical art team at church. We were a brand new congregation then, without our own building, and met in the cafeteria of a local school. That meant the worship space had to be "created" for each Sunday's service. We kept banners and altar cloths pretty basic in those days, but now and then we'd plan something more elaborate, with visions of its use in a permanent church home one day. 

In 1997, I designed and made this banner for the baptism of our son, William, and subsequent children brought to faith within our church family.

It’s based on the following scripture passage:

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   Matthew 3, verses 16-17

The Bargello piecing technique was perfect for depicting this theme. An assortment of fabrics in three color groups: green for the water of baptism, yellow for the fire of the Holy Spirit, and blue to represent Heaven, created a gradient effect when all the strips were sewn together.

I approached banner construction just like I would a quilt. When the bargello piecing was complete, I layered it with Thermore batting and a backing fabric and sewed around it pillowcase style. To add stability to the banner, I did some basic machine quilting before applying the dove with satin stitching. Next, the dove was trimmed with a decorative silver braid.

The final embellishment was actually an afterthought. Because the dove was constructed from heavy damask fabric, I worried the weight might make it sag over time. At the last minute, I went back and hand beaded the dove, fully securing it to the body of the banner, and adding a bit of unexpected sparkle to the mix.

It may be difficult from these photos to determine size. I never took a final measurement, but this photo might give you a better idea of how big the banner really is. That’s six year old William with our pastor on baptism day...

and with his very proud Grandma and Grandpa.

The banner has held up well over time, especially considering its fairly frequent display for baptisms, confirmations, and even weddings. Like any good liturgical art, it does more than just adorn the worship space; it represents an important sacrament in Christian life.

Rejoice Lutheran Church, Geneva, Illinois


  1. a beautiful quilt and it looks perfectly at home within the church setting~!!~ they must feel blessed to have it~!~

    i am surprised by it though as it's quite different than a lot of your work that i have seen and admired. you are quite accomplished within many quilt styles~!~

  2. Great work of art!! love the colors and the motiv. You must be so proud of yourself.

  3. I agree it is appropriate for several types of celebration in the church. It is beautiful and I'm sure it is enjoyed by everyone who gets to see it in person.

  4. This is lovely. You made this before "our time", but I remember you telling me about it. It's great to see it -
    Hanna loved Ohio State - so did I

  5. It is an AMAZING piece of art ~ beautifully done! Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  6. Very lovely quilt banner, with a great deal of work put into it! How nice that it has been treated so well and is getting used after all these years. That means a lot to we quilters!

  7. That banner is absolutely wonderful. I am sure your church is very pleased to have this for special occasions.

  8. What a beautiful banner/hanging for the church...think of all the wonderful baptism photographs that have benefited from your work!