“Peace be with you (And also with you).” Since ancient times, the symbol of the dove has been associated with peace, goodwill and harmony of spirit. It is a common belief among religions and philosophies to associate the accord of spirit and enlightenment with reconciliation within ourselves and connections across peoples.
As a liturgical artist, Chillon Leach values her work as calling, a gift, an artist * art servant. For the past two years she has been an Artist in Residence at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. In this capacity she serves the congregation in Education, Worship and Arts Ministry. The first question you might ask is—what is liturgical art? Here is my ‘For Dummies’ explanation: it is the practice of adorning clerical vestments and church paraments with Christian symbols. Liturgical art is different from religious art because it is used and worn during the worship service.
Clerical vestments are liturgical clothing worn by pastors and lay ministers when leading worship in a Christian church. For example, the clergy stole is a long sash worn over the robe and the surplice is a full sleeved white vestment worn over the cassock. Church paraments clothe the central furnishings in the chancel (at the front of the sanctuary). Such is a cloth draped over the communion table or a small banner adorning the lectern. The different colors of the clergy stoles represent the five liturgical seasons throughout the year.
The practice of liturgical symbology is steeped in history and church tradition. For example, the clergy stole is a gift to the newly ordained and has been a part of the ordination service since the eighth century. A sign of bearing the yoke of Christ, the stole crosses over the shoulders and drapes down the front. The symbols are painted on the left side of the stole so they are worn over the heart. The clergy stole is typically 7.5 to 9 feet in length and up to four inches in width. The ‘slices’ of clergy stoles shown here are worn at different times of the year depending on the liturgical calendar.
Purple, white and green stoles are worn most often and form the basis of the calendar. There are two main seasons in the Christian church; the Christmas season which includes Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and then Easter which includes Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Typically, purple stoles are worn during Advent and Lent then white stoles are worn on Christmas or Easter Days and then green is worn to reflect spiritual growth in the weeks following Christmas or Easter. Red is worn on Pentecost Sunday only as it symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day after Easter when the apostles were praying together and the Holy Spirit descended upon them. In this stole, pictured above, Chillon visually describes the descent of the Holy Spirit as the dove bestowing (gold strokes) the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (whorls) to Christ’s followers. White is also worn on other special church days. My description is very broad and each segment of the church has its own nuances that reflect their particular history and traditions.
In her role, Chillon creates a visual connection to faith life for the members of her church. She feels that the symbology she paints on the fabric help to make the words become more alive. She approaches her work without ego, focusing on the message to be communicated. Her journey with this form of textile art is one of light, hope, grace and joy. Extensive research is one of the biggest parts of creating the art. There is so much depth to religious symbology that Chillon works diligently to find the balance between communicating the message instead of the historical iconography. Her style is abstract and restrained not gilded like an ancient artifact.
Chillon has painted liturgical art for well over a decade and does commissioned pieces as well as seminary events, local Twin Cities art shows and recently has been invited to exhibit and sell her stoles and church paraments at a prestigious liturgical conference in San Diego.
Please contact her at www.chillonleach.com.
This is a fun, short video that describes the colors worn for different church seasons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXTGUBSmuq4
The Tapestry Project is not really related to this topic, but is interesting to see how people are interacting across communities. The Tapestry Project