Worship - Art at Bethel
When you enter Bethel Mennonite Church, several visual items immediately catch your eye – a set of three “time jars” encased behind glass, a wall mural consisting of twelve platters mounted on a wood and clay wall, and the glint of stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Separating the atrium/foyer from the sanctuary are clear windows on which is rendered The Lord’s Prayer in many languages.
All of these visual installations have been created by long time Bethel member, artist and potter Alvin Pauls.
The “time jars” were created and installed on the occasion of Bethel’s 50th anniversary in 1987. These large vessels, not unlike scroll jars from the ancient world, represent the past, present, and future. Sealed in them are items representing these eras in Bethel’s history. The jars are to be unsealed at Bethel’s 100th anniversary in 2037.
The mural, entitled “Twelve,” is based on the text from Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” It holds a series of twelve clay platters mounted on a progression of tiles, interspersed with wood stripping. The clay platters, reminiscent of the traditional shape of haloes, are all different in design, and of course the number “twelve” reminds the viewer of the twelve apostles, as well as the twelve tribes of Israel.
The shape of the cross is echoed many times on this mural, though there are few “perfect” cross shapes to be found. Each platter, tile, and wood piece evokes a sense of beauty and wounded-ness.
When we enter the church building from the outside world and see the mural, we are at first confronted with platters that reveal only partial crosses; the tile background is incomplete. As we move further into the building, however, the tile background becomes more cohesive and the platters with their imprints of the cross are more integrated into the design.
“Twelve” is a visual parable. It reminds us that we come to church from a broken world, seeking in this place of prayer the healing and hope we need. After our worship together, we leave to re-enter the broken world, bringing the good news of our faith into the world’s fragmented places.
The stained glass windows in the sanctuary at Bethel were created to evoke Heaven, earth, and the work of God in our world.
The front “cross” windows represent the four gospels.
The windows on the North (right) side of the sanctuary represent the dark side of the world, with the seven deadly sins symbolized in vivid, dense colours.
The windows on the South (left) side of the sanctuary carry the story of God’s work in our world, from Creation to the Fall to the Liberation and Redemption of the world.
On both sides, the upper windows carry the image of a triune God (represented by three types of colourless glass) hovering above, and coming down into the world. God is present in fullness on the dark side of the world as well as in the story of Redemption.
Throughout the year, the daylight plays with the stained glass windows in different ways, reminding us of God’s constant playful presence in our lives.
Alvin Pauls designed the stained glass windows over a period of several years. The actual windows were prepared over a period of several months in 2008, culminating in their installation in the sanctuary during July of that year. Many people volunteered their time in creating the windows, and several individuals gave extensively of their time to complete the final construction.
Finally, the Lord’s Prayer, printed in the fourteen languages used in congregations of Mennonite Church Canada, appears on the windows separating the sanctuary from the atrium. In addition, it is rendered in both Aramaic and Greek, the languages of our Lord, on the windows above the main aisle. Surely, this is a house of prayer for all peoples!
Bethel members are deeply grateful to Alvin Pauls for his artistic vision. We hope that visitors and friends will find these things of beauty to be messages of hope and inspiration. Come and visit our church!
With gratitude we acknowledge our gathering on Treaty No.1 land and that we are all treaty people.
Imitating the inclusive welcome of Jesus, we seek to be a community marked by the love of God.
Regardless of age, race, or sexual orientation, we invite you to make Bethel your spiritual home.
Sharing the peace of Christ, together we strive to reveal the realm of God in the world.