The homes of 110 participating members of First Christian Reformed Church in Toronto have been lit up with color over the past year with the help of art kits distributed to them to mark the seasons of the liturgical calendar—the periods of particular focus for the church, including Advent, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
The original plan, championed by First CRC members Lynnette Postuma and Karen Zwart Hielema, called for a collaborative art installation, “Seasons of Being,” for the sanctuary. But gathering restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 caused the project to shift to art kits that families could use at home.
“The idea came from our desire to do something creatively in the sanctuary space itself. It came from an interest in color representing different parts of the liturgical year,” said Postuma.
After presenting their idea to leaders in the church in fall 2019, the women were encouraged to apply for a Worshiping Communities Grant through the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich. Available to all Christian communities in North America, the yearly grants are awarded by a panel and focus “on projects that connect public worship to intergenerational faith formation and Christian discipleship.”
The $14,000 CAD that First Toronto received funded the materials in the kits as well as a permanent fixture against the back window wall of the sanctuary. Postuma and Zwart Hielema are in the process of installing a series of large plexiglass panels in varying colors from the deep purple of Advent and Lent to the white of Easter and Christmas, the red of Pentecost, and the varying shades of green of “ordinary time.” Both women have careers as architects and are involved in public arts.
For the at-home kits, Zwart Hielema and Postuma included 10 colored plexiglass rectangles—the same shades as the sanctuary installation, a wooden base, and a pamphlet describing how to use these tools in worship. The church delivered the kits by hand or through the mail in November 2020. Before Easter 2021 the church sent participants two additional items—a wooden tile with a cross, and a frosted glass piece.
Participants were encouraged to display the assembled panels in their home, rearranging the pieces as the seasons changed. “Allow color to be your visual connection to a particular Sunday within the church year,” the pamphlet said, describing how each color symbolizes a piece of the biblical narrative.
“It is great to implement a project that involves all ages and all people,” said Corrie Tuyl, a member of the congregation. “We, and I, did not know enough about the liturgical calendar. Once you start playing with color as an expression of worship, theme, and ideas, a world opens up.”
In a challenge to explore the liturgical season of ordinary time—“the numbered days and weeks in the life of Jesus outside of the celebration seasons of Advent & Christmas, Lent & Easter”—participants took photos of their kits grouped with everyday items all in shades of green.
“We take color for granted and know very little about how it can impact how we reflect and worship,” said Jackie Van Veen, a deacon at the church. “Though I ‘knew’ that creativity is a vital dimension in our lives, this project, as realized in the kits, brought out how infinite and diverse it can be.”
The permanent art installation should be completed by the end of July. Church families can continue to use their mini-versions at home throughout the church year.
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship notes that its Vital Worship Grants are made possible through the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc.