The Psalms Project was commissioned for its sanctuary by Fourth Presbyterian Church, an immense Gothic, cathedral-like grey stone structure in the heart of downtown Chicago. The purpose of the commission is to celebrate Ordinary Time – to celebrate and elevate, in word and image, the perception of the sacred in the ‘ordinary.’ The meditative texts embedded in the Unweavings focus on those texts most often read or sung during Ordinary Time.
The Church asked me to use Hebrew as well as English calligraphy. The use of Hebrew is a corollary of the congregation’s immersion in its Old Testament roots, and the Psalmic motif emphasizes the Christian-Jewish dialogue to which Fourth Church is committed.
At the front of the sanctuary, two pieces hang on either side of the altar, and one from the pulpit. In form they emphasize wing and water imagery, as do the texts. From Psalm 29, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters,” and from The Song of Songs, “A well of living waters.”
The form of the pulpit parament alludes to falling waters and incorporates Psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is for God’s people to dwell together in unity.”
The entry doors to the narthex are scroll-like in form. Together they form a gate to prayer, reminding worshipers to carry a prayerful life into the world. The texts touch upon different human needs and aspects of faith. At the top of the scrolls, Psalm 84:4-5, “Happy are they who dwell in thy house,” reinforces the joy of prayer and commitment. In the middle, Psalm 91:11-12, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways,” alludes to the comfort of God’s protection as we go forth in our lives. And towards the bottom of each scroll, from Micah 6:8-9, “What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” underscores the ethical imperative of commitment to social justice.
In the interior of the sanctuary, Unweavings are suspended on three pairs of pillars. The embedded texts from Psalms, Ecclesiastes , and Isaiah underscore the lights and shadows of human existence, the luminous nature of the divine, our reliance on and sustenance by belief in God, and the joy and beauty of worship.