Liturgical/Visual Arts

paper lace bannersPaper Lace Banners for Advent

Many thanks to the members of FPC for cutting our new set of paper-lace banners of the Revised Common Lectionary - Year C.  The paper-lace banners will be hung each week of Advent in worship.  

The patterns were designed and created by Liturgical Artist Ellen Phillips of Black Mountain, N.C. 

Please listen to Faith Beats on Friday, December 10 for a description of the paper-lace banners for this year.

Peace CranesPeace Cranes - a Peace by Piece Art Installation at First Pres

Debuted on Sunday September 19, enjoy the beautiful display of thousands of hand folded (by members of our church) Peace Cranes hanging from the beams in our sanctuary.  Each has handwritten on it a member name and a prayer for them.  It is a stunning display of love and peace for our congregation.

Why origami cranes? Early in 1955, a twelve-year-old girl named Sadako Sasaki developed leukemia as a result of exposure to radiation from the nuclear bomb dropped on her hometown, Hiroshima, at the end of World War II. Visiting her in the hospital, Sadako’s best friend reminded her of the Japanese legend that, if she could fold one thousand cranes, her wish to be made well might be granted.

Stories differ as to whether Sadako was able to finish one thousand cranes before her death in October 1955, or whether her friends completed the task in her memory. Regardless, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane now stands in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and, every day, cranes arrive from people all over the world who hope and pray and work for peace. Like Sadako’s cranes, the exact number of First Pres’ cranes is unknown. We estimate it to be more than 3500. Many thanks to all who prayed these three-dimensional prayers and helped create our art installation that can now inspire us all to serve the Prince of Peace.

Note:  This exhibit has been temporarily removed to make space for the Advent Lace Paper Banners.  The cranes will return!

Current Art Exhibit at First Pres:

"Sacred Space - Art as Sanctuary in the Pandemic" by Christina Saj

Finding Sanctuary during the Pandemic

At the start of the pandemic we were all suddenly forced into lockdown. Isolated and bereft of my usual routines, I retreated to my home studio to channel the angst, fear and frustration we were all experiencing. At the beginning of the quarantine, glued to news outlets, barraged by images of the virus, feeling vulnerable and confused and stuck at home, as an artist my response was to start painting.

Born first of nervous creative energy, my practice evolved over the course of a year and a half to what has become The Pandemic Collection: Finding Sanctuary is shown in the Social Hall. This body of work -- now with over 200 pieces that take their shape from the circles on which they are painted. Circles are round, perfect, and continuous. They have a completeness. Circles offer a container in which to build depictions inspired by beauty, but are at the same time ominously reminiscent of the virus. There are so many relationships. There is no precise edge. No beginning and no end. The circular forms also evoke mandalas which can be used to facilitate meditation and provide sacred space. Using circular forms creates a natural window through which to illuminate our collective state of being. For me, the geometry of circles represents the cosmos. Each sphere allowed me to capture a momentary microcosm of the universe. Some days it was but an atom, a microscopic model for the structures of life, other times it felt more cosmic. I take comfort in the fact that it is said that creating mandalas is said to help stabilize and re-order inner life. I think we could all use a little more of constancy right now as we witness the Covid’s daily threat to life as we knew it.

Creating this work is visceral for me. The Pandemic collection seeks solace in aesthetics--delivers hope and faith through image, form, and color. Its intention is for each painting to bloom in our collective gardens--offering glittering rays of sunshine, the echo of children’s laughter, a burst of flowers to sustain us through these tragic times. Maybe we can survive the sudden news of a colleague, friend or family member attacked by the virus. Art can be a way to funnel grief, channel the loss of friends and loved ones, and of the loss of the world as we knew it. In recent months the world has literally been on fire, and yet, amid all the chaos, there is beauty. There is art. Paintings can glimmer in the distance. They can surprise us out of our torpor. They can mirror hope. Art outlives us and therefore she will continue to tell our story long after this pandemic ends.

As I continue to work on the series, I feel that at this moment in history, we are in profound need of sacred space-- a faith that while we may not emerge unscathed from this pandemic, we can at least not be undone by it.  - Christina Saj 2021

About the artist:

Christina Saj is a contemporary artist whose abstract paintings reveal a fascination with vivid color and rich pattern. Her distinctly recognizable style calls on modernist roots, and an interest in materials. Unlike a lot of modern art, Saj’s work hails beauty to build her vocabulary.  She is an iconographer of the future. Her colorful and playful paintings beckon the inner child while remaining in conversation with the Old world traditions in which her work is steeped. The work offers the viewer a place of respite and visual joy. Her images allude to the tradition of sacred paintings, informed by her early training and work with Byzantine Iconographer, the Younger, exposing her to ancient methods of painting in egg tempera. Saj holds a BA in Painting from Sarah Lawrence, an MFA from Bard College and studied Byzantine Art History at Oxford University.

Saj continues adapting and innovating her techniques to engage modern audiences in new ways with use of unusual materials which expand her reach as a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited, including such venues as the Museum of Biblical Art, The National Cathedral, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, Union Theological Seminary, The Ukrainian Museum in New York, The Museum of Cultural Heritage (Kiev, Ukraine), The National Museum in Lviv (Ukraine), the American Embassy in Qatar, as well as at the White House. Her works reside in private and museum collections in the US and abroad. She maintains an active studio in New Jersey where she welcomes commissions. To see more of her work please visit.

Opportunities to Serve

Would you like to serve on the liturgical/visual arts team?  We plan for our worship spaces and rotating art exhibits in our Social Hall.  The team meets the second Tuesday of the month, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. via ZOOM.   

For more information, contact Dave VanderMeer, Minister of Music & Fine Arts: