Art in Worship: Hear This…
By Lisle Gwynn Garrity (MDiv/MAPT ’15) for @thispoint on “New Lenses for the Text”
February 11, 2015—”Hear this, you that trample on the needy,” was a liturgical art installation designed by Rev. Dr. Ann Laird Jones and executed by artist, Hannah Garrity. Jones and Garrity installed these banners for Sunday morning worship in Anderson Auditorium as part of the 2013 summer worship series at Montreat Conference Center. Collaborating with the guest preacher, Rev. Paul T. Roberts, Sr. (President of Johnson C. Smith Seminary, Atlanta, GA), and a summer worship planning team, Jones and Garrity worked to visually interpret the prophet Amos’ words (Amos 8: 4-6). The banners were intended to illuminate the prophet’s words, Rev. Roberts’ verbal proclamation, and the worship service as a whole.
Contrasting the images of a business person’s shiny, leathered shoes with the shoe-less feet of one who is homeless, Jones and Garrity hoped to portray the disparity between the rich and poor to which the prophet speaks. Painting on the backdrop of a newspaper collage, they wanted the imagery to symbolize the many ways we see the poor being disenfranchised and “trampled on” within the events and stories of our contemporary world and immediate context.
On the back side of the banners, Garrity painted the landscape of Montreat (including the iconic “Lake Susan”). The banners were suspended so that, during the final hymn of the service, “Guide My Feet,” they were turned to present the congregation with their immediate context. During the final hymn and benediction, worshipers gazed upon the painting as they were charged to live out Amos’ challenging words in their own context.
Gathered around the table, font, and pulpit, Jones and Garrity placed shoes from the community. Shoes have often been used as a prophetic way to memorialize events and tragedies of communities. They included the shoes as another way to convey Amos’ “trampled” language, but they did so remembering the shoe installations in Holocaust Museums and post-Iraqi war exhibits.
Finally, Jones and Garrity placed a mirror in front of the pulpit from which Rev. Roberts preached. This was another way worshipers were encouraged to literally see themselves in Amos’ directives.
The banners were composed of brown craft paper, newspaper, and house paint.To share more about their visual interpretation of the passage, Jones and Garrity published the following artists’ statement in the worship bulletin:
The prophet Amos’ words are gritty, raw, tricky. They call us to be open in the present to the reforming and renewing work of God, even when the discovery carries indictment:
…Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
Contrasting deprivation and privilege, Amos calls us to attend to our neighborhood, no longer overlooking the poor and the needy. We used brown paper covered in the newspaper of the day, embodying the narrative of our social strife that turns us away from God. We used images of shoes and feet to represent the contrast between depravation and privilege. We need shoes, so to speak, to move ahead. Feet break down without shoes. We use shoes to remember those who are homeless, and disenfranchised, and victims of the Holocaust, and war. Amos articulates the indictment. Colossians offers the avenue to renewal:
Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.
God steps in and gives us the privilege to think more generously.
Guide our feet, Lord.
Ann Jones and Hannah Garrity work each summer to create art and visual installations for worship at Montreat Conference Center. To learn more about the art opportunities at Montreat, check here: http://www.montreat.org/attend/arts-music/
Hannah Garrity holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Cornell University, and a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University. Beginning with Teach for America in Brooklyn, NY, she is an elementary educator. She presently teaches art at Powhatan School in Boyce, VA. Inspired to God’s ministry through art, Hannah joins the summer worship team as the summer liturgical artist for the Montreat Conference Center. www.hannahgarrity.com
Ann Laird Jones is the Director of Arts Ministry at Montreat Conference Center. She is a Teaching Elder and member of St. Andrew Presbytery, and splits her time between Greenville, MS, and Montreat, NC. She earned her undergraduate from Eckerd College, her Masters of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and her Doctor of Ministry degree from Wesley Seminary, under the leadership and guidance of Catherine Kapikian. She loves teaching pottery, drawing, and painting. She plays the violin and is moved by the arts at every turn.