Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seasonal sanctuary decorating

Decorating our church sanctuary doesn't require a lot of effort, but I believe it's important nonetheless. And timing is everything. We try to follow the church year - at least as far as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. To some degree we may vary things at other times too (but not as much). Basically for our church it's just a matter of which banners to hang, which altar flowers, candles, and a few smaller, less noticeable nuances.

Inevitably someone will suggest that I have failed to properly recognize the seasons. For instance, there are some who believe we should have the Easter banners hung and the plastic lilies on display already. "Don't you know the stores have had their Easter stuff out for weeks?" Yep, and last time I checked we were the church, not the store. The problem is... it's not Easter yet! The same thing happens around Christmas time. You don't celebrate the birth until it has happened. And at Easter you don't celebrate the resurrection until after the death.

What I don't think a lot of people realize is, the church isn't interested in business or marketing... the purpose of our seasonal decorating is to TELL THE STORY. God's story.

During Lent I want to strip things back. The many big and colorful "Christ Is Born"-type Christmas banners are removed. In their place are just two smaller, simple banners. Poinsettias are replaced by a couple small ferns or a globe and crown of thorns. Otherwise it's pretty bare - resembling a desert journey... a time of reflection. Which culminates in the switch to complete barrenness from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday. THEN, on Easter Sunday we will bring out the big and bright hallelujahs. But not until then.

It's the same at Christmas. The Advent story is pregnant with anticipation, and the worship space should reflect that. We seem to have this desire to celebrate everything too soon. It's all in due time.

Music is kind of the same. Trying to find Advent and Lenten songs - ones that look forward to, rather than already celebrate, the birth and resurrection - is a little difficult. But telling the whole story is important.

Anticipation, preparation, reflection... without these we miss out on what it truly means to follow Christ. What it requires is that we slow down... we follow, instead of trying to run ahead... we listen... watch... and pray. It IS coming. In due time. In His time.

Peace out; and in.


Jim said...

Your life would be so much easier in a "high church" denomination with a defined liturgical calendar, lectionary and well-known decorations, candles, banners, clerical garments and SONGS for each season, including Lent and Advent. Then everyone "just knows" what to expect and you wouldn't get any talk back (at least not about how you've decorated the sanctuary! :o)

Come to the dark side! Join us Lutherans! :o)

Carrie Jade said...

Thank you for doing meaningful things like this!

Patricia said...

You've got it right, Dan. Strip that church bare for Lent. On Good Friday in the catholic church even the baptismal water fonts are emptied of water.

dan horwedel said...

We are so low-church that we don't even have a baptistry.

And Tom always dreams about wearing a robe... except I think he thinks you don't have to wear anything underneath of it.