Sanctuary Banners for Ordinary Time

“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.”
Psalm 29

“A well of living waters.”
Song of Songs 4:15

“How good . . . it is for brothers to be together.”
Psalm 133

These texts from scripture appear on the two banners and pulpit parament that hang in the front of the Sanctuary throughout the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. In word and image, they celebrate and elevate the perception of the sacred in “ordinary,” as we make our faith journey day to day throughout this longest season of the church year (the season between Epiphany and Lent and between Pentecost and Advent).

In keeping with the contrast between Ordinary Time and the various holy days that punctuate the church’s liturgical calendar, the colors of these hangings emphasize the green, the color assigned to Ordinary Time. Since the major portion of Ordinary Time occurs during the summer and fall seasons, tones appropriate to the verdancy of summer and the waning light, richness, and mellowness of fall are also incorporated.

The pieces resonate in form and language Fourth Church’s strong commitment to multicultural and interdenominational dialogue. Meditative text fragments are used, focusing on those texts most often read or sung during Ordinary Time.

The Psalms, messianic text fragments from Isaiah and texts from Genesis, Amos, and the Song of Songs, emphasize Christianity’s rekindled interest in, and connection to its Old Testament roots.

The use of Hebrew promotes the Christian–Jewish dialogue that continues between Fourth Presbyterian Church and Chicago Sinai Congregation, two congregations that share a close relationship. Chicago Sinai holds its High Holy Day services in the Fourth Church Sanctuary, at which the banners and parament are part of the worship setting.

The hangings on the first set of pillars interpret the scroll form. They form a “gate” to prayer and remind worshipers of the importance of entering into prayer. This intent is emphasized by the “gates” in the Narthex, which remind worshipers to carry a prayerful life into the world.

In English, the texts are

“Bless the Lord, O my soul . . .
thou art clothed with glory and majesty.
Who covers himself with light . . .”
Psalm 104:1–5

“For, behold, I create new heavens and
a new earth. . . But be glad and rejoice
for ever in that which I create . . .”
Isaiah 65:17

“To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .
A time to be born, and a time to die,
a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Hebrew texts read

“Bless the Lord, O my soul . . .
thou art clothed with glory and majesty.
Who covers himself with light as with a garment . . .
who makes the winds his messengers;
the flames of fire his ministers . . .”
Psalm 104:1–5

“For, behold, I create new heavens and
a new earth. . . But be glad and rejoice for ever
in that which I create; for behold,
I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”
Isaiah 65:17

“To everything there is a season, and
a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die . . .
a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak . . .
a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 4, 7, 8

The text at the top underscores the luminosity of the divine. The middle text is particularly meaningful to Fourth Church’s vision of the reforming church, which continually renews itself with God’s help. On the bottom of the hanging, the text from Ecclesiastes emphasizes the rhythm of life and the lights and shadows of human existence which go hand in hand.

The banners on the second set of pillars repeat the scroll form and echo the shapes of the doors and windows at the back of the Sanctuary. The addition of a rose color emphasizes the seasonal variety encompassed by Ordinary Time. All taken from the Psalms, these texts emphasize the eagerness and hopefulness of the faithful and our reliance on God. The texts also underscore God’s ability to seek us out, no matter how or where we hide. The unwoven “nest forms” echo this.

In English the excerpts read

“My soul waits for the Lord.”
Psalm 130:6

“My soul waits for the Lord
more than they who watch for the morning:
more than watchmen for the morning.”
Psalm 130:6–7

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills.”
Psalm 121:1

“Even the darkness is not dark for thee,
but the night shines like the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to thee.”
Psalm 139:12–13

Because of the nature of Hebrew writing, it is possible to expand passages. Thus the Hebrew texts used are

“My soul waits for the Lord more than
they who watch for the morning.”
Psalm 130:6

“Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice.”
Psalm 130:1–2

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than
they who watch for the morning:
more than watchmen for the morning.”
Psalm 130:5–7

“I will lift up my voice to the hills.
From whence comes my help?”
Psalm 121:1

“Psalm of David”
Psalm 139:1

“If I say, surely only darkness shall cover me,
then the night would become as light about me;
even the darkness is not dark for thee,
but the night shines like the day:
the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”
Psalm 139:11–13

Calligraphy—both English and Hebrew—is used in all the hangings to augment the formal and pictographic narratives. The ancient biblical text and Hebrew language together convey a quality of timelessness and a continuity of story, and the forms and arabesques in the Hebrew language contribute an art form in themselves. The English lettering style seen in the banners suggests the iconography in the transept ceilings of Fourth Church.

The pieces that hang below the hymn boards are similar in form to the pulpit parament and echo the idea of streams and falling waters. The dominant colors are green and gold, but the pieces also incorporate the blues, roses, and purples used in the earlier pieces. The texts featured are

“O sing to the Lord a new song . . .
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 96:1, 9

“There is a river, whose streams
make glad the city of God.”
Psalm 46:5

The bookmarks on the lectern use the first words of the Bible, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning” in English; “In the beginning God created” in Hebrew.

The two hangings in the back of the Sanctuary form a gate to prayer. They interpret the scroll form, with the unwoven shape at the top repeating the shapes of the nearby doors and windows.

The artist chose these texts to give congregants thoughts to take with them upon leaving the Sanctuary, thoughts touching upon different human needs and aspects of faith. All three passages appear in both of the hangings; the right hanging is entirely in Hebrew, the left hanging is entirely in English:

“Happy are they who dwell in thy house.”
Psalm 84:4–5

“For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Psalm 91:11–12

“What does the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with God?”
Micah 6:8–9

The top text reinforces the joy of prayer and commitment. The middle text provides the comfort of God’s protection as we go forth in our lives. The bottom text reminds us of Fourth Church’s commitment to social justice and emphasizes the necessity of leading an ethical life.

The Unweavings® hangings, commissioned by Fourth Presbyterian Church, were designed and created over the period 2000–2006 by Jewish fiber artist Laurie Wohl.


For more information about Fine Arts at Fourth Church, contact Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts (312.981.3593).