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Puzzle pieces add to worship

As worshippers entered the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Elkin, North Carolina, during Lent, they noticed patches of black foam on the clear glass windows. They appeared to be pictures that were not quite finished.

They quickly surmised it was some of the creative work of their pastor, the Rev. Mark Barden, and were excited to see what the outcome would be. He had dressed the windowpanes for the first time in 2015 and the congregation loved it.

"This idea grew from the concept of the movement from growing darkness through Lent and Holy Week," explained Barden. During the services leading up to Holy Week and through Good Friday, Barden wanted to create the effect of increasing darkness as the day of Christ's Crucifixion approached. Each windowpane became the base of a puzzle. Every week, small black foam pieces of the puzzle were added. The light in the worship space decreased and the images became more apparent. The idea was each window would eventually show a symbol of Lent – a palm leaf, cross, nails and dove. The 2016 symbols include crossed swords.

The windows were covered with black netting on the first Sunday of Lent. The second Sunday, black curtain swags were added; the third Sunday, strips of purple burlap were added. The fourth and fifth Sundays, more burlap and foam were added. Then nails were the final addition.

Barden said art and creative expression is important to Christian worship. He is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in arts and theology at Wesley Theological Seminary.

"Our worship services tend to be so word-oriented," he said. "Visual art adds a dimension to worship and engages the senses. I think art will be an important tool in building vital congregations for the future."

AT A GLANCE First United Methodist Church | 340 Hawthorne Rd, Elkin, NC 28621 | 336-835-2323 | [email protected] | | Rev. Mark Barden | Average Attendance: 162 | Western North Carolina Conference

To learn more

Detailed instructions for creating the window puzzles posted with this article