The royal banners forward go;
Where He, by whom our flesh was made,
Our ransom in His flesh has paid...
The cross shows forth redemption's flow,
(Venatius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus c. 570)
Copyright © Edward Riojas
Even as a child, I remember banners carrying more weight than they do today. At the annual Reformation Day service held at Immanuel Lutheran Church – the "Mother church" of LC-MS churches in Grand Rapids, Michigan – banners processed behind the crucifix. Each of the many banners represented an area church and, like the churches, every banner was distinctive.
|Detail of a banner in progress|
on the worktable at
That was then. Today, most banners are designed as wall dressing. Some occasionally change with the Church seasons. Few are designed to actually be carried, and wall hooks – not processional staffs – are the rule. Because the banners were not designed to withstand the rigors of carrying their own weight in wind and other unruly elements, they usually bear one other quality. They are cheaply made.
Felt is the rule. Glue replaces stitching, and it shows.
Now before you get your breeches in a wad, please know that I have – and still do – design banners destined to be executed in felt. There is nothing so very wrong with felt – that is, unless there are better alternatives.
We are the product of ages preceding us and, unfortunately, that means that much of what exists in churches today has origins in the 1960's. Banners reflect this perhaps more than any other item in the church. With inexpensive felt available in umpteen bright colors, sold in almost every craft and sewing store, and easily worked with nary a stitch, it has been the go-to when a banner is requested.
Centuries before the 1960's, however, fabrics of better lineage were employed. That was because banners were used to display confessions of the Church (in case one didn't get a hint from the processional Crucifix). As such, they were to be a more permanent fixture and, as the centuries-old hymn above declares, they underscored the Kingly nature of our Lord and pointed to His preeminence among heavenly royalty. Felt and burlap have a hard time doing that.
In a return to former days, the studios of Ecclesiastical Sewing are starting to create banners truly worthy of Christ's radiant Bride. Yes, brocade is used. Felt is not. These banners take seriously the encouragement of Luther, who urged that we put the best construction on everything. Yes, even banners.
|Finished banner produced by Ecclesiastical Sewing|