Sunday, November 08, 2009

Churches, tables and craft sales

Decoupage table

Tile tabletop

Decoupage tabletop

Some time ago, I posted a photo of a tile tabletop my wife and I had made. Since then, I've determined to participate in a craft sale members of my church are staging on November 21st as a fundraiser for church construction. I rescued two rickety tables from the local thrift store. I removed the embedded photograph from the smaller one, fixed the legs and tiled an impressionist flower-design top for it.

The second project needed to do with church, I thought. and I hit upon the idea of using a decoupage process I’d read about to transfer photos to a hard surface. I sketched the original Eigenheim Mennonite Church—constructed of logs in 1896—and used photographs of the subsequent generations of the EMC structures. The decoupage process didn’t go smoothly and the pictures ended up with some stretching and bulging. I took the amateur’s way out; using decoupage glue, I put wrinkles in the rest of the table top as well, did a great deal of repainting and varnishing and called it done. I didn’t feel too bad about it because the flaws may remind us that all three churches pictured on the tabletop were built by amateur carpenters and were replete with instances where one would want to say—in retrospect—“Boy! We could have done that better!”

In any case, labouring over the decoupage project gave me plenty of thinking time about the meaning of church buildings, particularly since we claim that the church is the people and not the stones and timbers that house their communal activities. We’re building a new one, and in our group there is considerable doubt that the expense is justified in a needy world. And yet, buildings are more than buildings, as evidenced by the nostalgia that is evoked by the thought that a building we have come to think of as HOME will have to be moved away or demolished.

The verse on the table is, of course, the ubiquitous cornerstone verse of Mennonite Church Canada. “No one can lay any other foundation than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:11).” Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church as a reminder not to stray from the fundamentals (foundation) he had laid down and on which they were “building” a still-fledgling church. The use of the metaphor of constructing a building as a model for constructing a faith community is apt. In Eigenheim, each successive community worked at the building of a foundation, walls and a roof to house their communal activity and to form a centre for their faith. The temple is not the church, but we are human, made of clay, delicate vessels, and the lack of a temple might well mean the dissolution of a community that was meant to be.

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