Banners for Today's Worship Spaces

May 28, 2008


Brandsma Chapel Carmel High School, Chicago, ILAlthough written in 1991 for Liturgy Training Publications, in an article entitled “Banner Basics,” these thoughts are still relevant today: “Banners announce a celebration. Through the centuries, pennants, banners and flags have acted as heralds, bearing colors and coats-of-arms, telling the stories of those who create, carry, hang or wave them. Banners can evoke joy, enthusiasm and anticipation, or they can invite silence, meditation and contemplation. They challenge our imaginations and inspire feeling. What better way to set the mood for liturgy? Banners, mobiles, and hangings can invite the assembly into its liturgy with form and color.”

Banners are visual storytellers for the liturgical seasons. We use them to help create our environment for worship. A welcoming environment extends a feeling of hospitality that encourages us to participate and celebrate. By enhancing our liturgy, it helps shape yet another dimension of how we understand God.

Brandsma Chapel Carmel High School, Chicago, ILQuality and appropriateness are two important objectives in creating banners and other visual elements for our worship space. “Quality is perceived by contemplation, by standing back from things and really trying to see them…contemplation sees the handstamp of the artist the honesty and care that went into an objects’ making, the pleasing form, color and texture.” Environment & Art in Catholic Worship, 20-21. A work of art such as a banner is appropriate if it is capable of bearing the weight of mystery and awe evoked by the holy and also serving – not interrupting -- the ritual.

Brandsma Chapel Carmel High School, Chicago, ILWe study the meaning of the season together, pray together, and realize that our thoughts and efforts help our assemblies move through the church year. Ponder, contemplate, imagine, reflect; all of these are actions that touch our wellspring of creativity. Thus, Environment and Art becomes a ministry through which are able to minister to our assemblies.

We have moved away from slogans and multiple words on our banners. They are not billboards announcing an event. Colors, symbols and design now lead us into worship.

Where does your vision take you?

Brandsma Chapel Carmel High School, Chicago, ILConsider the following ideas in the creative process

• Evaluate your space for the seasonal environment. Symbols have a “liturgy” unto themselves. They engage us, draw us in, challenge us and evoke a
response within. Study them and choose ones that best describe your season or event.

• Consider how to enhance the space without obstructing a sight line or distracting from worship. Be mindful and respectful of the architecture in your space. Draw inspiration from architectural elements. A leaf design, a patterning in the stained glass, an architectural curve and colors used throughout the space provide design possibilities.

• Focus on the liturgy, “the work of the people.”  How does the liturgy move and flow? How do people respond?

Evaluate color for your seasonal environment.

Corpus Christi, Toledo, OHThe right color combination can tell the story.

• Play with colors – in fabrics, paints, pens and pencils.
• Add, but subtract as well. Keeping it simple and removing an element often ends up being the better design!
• Enhance the predominate color with a flash of a brighter color or perhaps one of contrast.
• Nature provides a kaleidoscope of color, ideas and inspiration just outside our window.

All these are ways in which we begin to create for our holy place.

Choose fabrics with care – consider color, texture, durability and appropriateness.

• Natural fibers of cotton, linen and silk are good choices and blend well with other man-made fibers.
• Experiment with the fabrics in the space. Some lights drain certain colors of their vibrancy.
• Fabric pattern may disappear in a large space.
• Consider the interaction of fabrics. A layered design will need a substantial background fabric that will support the weight.

Combine creativity with efficiency.

Brandsma Chapel Carmel High School, Chicago, ILIncrease the flexibility of the fabrics and cut down on the expense of always
creating new.

• Pair background banners with two different seasonal colors. Sewing them back to back, or pillowcasing, saves space as well as acts as its own lining, ie: Advent with Lent, Ordinary Time with Pentecost.
• Add narrower front panels to the colored background banners to change color within the season. A “Summer” green background banner could have a lighter “Spring” green panel that can change to a warmer autumn colored panel for Fall.
• Velcro tape at the top or back of the rod pocket will facilitate the change.
• Processional banners of ribbons and fabric can add color and texture. Add bells for joyous occasions of Easter and weddings. These can be placed in front of the background banners already in place.

Visualize your ideas.

Corpus Christi, Toledo, OH• Photograph the space, make a copy and draw in the banners to scale. This will help see the proper proportions and size.
• Look for and consider other areas to add color. Brackets along side walls can add color and envelope the assembly.

This creative process will add consistency and harmony to the overall environment. As always, banners continue to tell the story. We are called to offer our own unique creations. Crafting to the best of our abilities and always from prayer, we continue to seek creative opportunities to design for our sacred spaces.

Judy Dioszegi is a designer of banners, tapestries, and mobiles for liturgical and corporate spaces.  Her studio is in Green Oaks, Illinois, U.S.A.

Photos by Judy Dioszegi of her work in Carmel High School in Mundelein, Corpus Christi University Parish in Toledo, OH and the at the Cathedral of Chicago, IL.

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