Churches Mark Lent With Photography, Paintings, Poetry

Journey to the Cross photo gallery at Willoughby Church.
Sue Contant

In preparation for Lent this year (the 40 days plus Sundays leading up to Easter), the visual arts team at Willoughby Church in Langley, B.C., invited congregants to contribute to a photography gallery titled Journey to the Cross. 

Members responded with over 50 images of crosses found in nature, or set in landscapes and architecture, from within homes and local neighborhoods or travels abroad. 

Ryan, 11, was the youngest photographer with an image he called Stick Cross. “I just saw two crossed twigs in the grass when I was delivering (news)papers,” Ryan said. The photographs, which were printed and mounted on the walls of the front foyer, will be up for the duration of Lent. 

First CRC in Barrie, Ont., also has a display of artwork to commemorate Lent this year. A series of paintings and poetry, created by First CRC members Erica Eisses and Kristen Parker, is growing day by day as the two contribute a new creation for each day of the season. 

“This is my fourth year doing a Lenten project,” said Eisses, who started with pencil and charcoal drawings the first year and is now using a mix of oil and acrylic paint for the second year in a row. She said Phil Irish, the head of the art department at Redeemer University, put her on to the idea. Irish came to the suggestion having seen Kari Dunham produce 40 consecutive works, which she shared on Instagram, during an earlier Lenten season. Eisses, too, is sharing her series on Instagram, @1stcrcbarrie.

Working in collaboration, Eisses and Parker, who live in different cities, collectively come up with a series of prompts to guide their creativity—two weeks at a time. The result (so far) is images, from geometric mixed grays and colors to landscapes and plantlife, and poetry, with words recalling Ash Wednesday to verses referencing hope. 

Parker’s poem from day seven reads, “the rain stops/and the sun peeks through/as mist clears/a hushed wind coaxes them/and the pathway becomes visible.” It accompanies Eisses’ painting of a deeply clouded yet lightening sky above a forest of evergreen trees.

In addition to being shared on the church’s Instagram account, the paintings and poetry hang in the fellowship hall. Eisses said sharing the work in community enhances the experience and prevents the loneliness that can characterize artistic pursuits.

“Many people choose to give something up for Lent, and I find this project quite similar to that practice. I offer my time and my interests to focus on this pivotal moment of our liturgical year,” Eisses said. “Participating in Lenten reflections has allowed me to prepare my heart and mind for Lent as it physically develops on the wall of the church.”

About the Authors

Alissa Vernon is a news editor at The Banner.

Jenny deGroot is a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia.

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