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 a quilt. When the bargello background was complete, I layered it with Thermore batting and a backing fabric and sewed around it pillowcase style. I machine quilted the banner to add stability before satin stitching the appliquéd dove. 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.
I’m proud to say, the banner has held up well over time. It's displayed for baptisms, confirmations, 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