I was recently asked to make a new cross for the Sanctuary at our church. I was told it should be able to stand as a focal point in worship as well as be carried in procession on special occasions. The church interior is clad at the front with cherry veneers and furniture. The cross should stand out in that setting and yet be compatible with this color scheme.
It was first used at a memorial service for our friend and neighbor, Joe Boone, who died after a long illness. It was then received in procession at our regular worship the next day.
In making it, I returned to the design I had used ten years ago in the processional cross at Andover Newton Theological School. I extended the rays of the cross to a span of 22 inches. I then added vertical and horizontal laminates of holly to each “ray” emanating from the disc at the center. This highlighted the arms of the cross, but it also presented a small cross to every line of sight.
The Andover Newton cross utilizes a maple sapling from our woods that had been shaped into a serpentine form by an encircling vine. This gave a more primitive angularity to the cross, reminding worshippers of the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness to heal the people (Numbers 21:8-9). This image was then used to interpret Jesus’s crucifixion in John 3:14. In this instance, in order to make the cross more compatible with the church’s décor (and to sidestep the difficult search for a natural sapling shaped into a serpentine form!), I simply cut a walnut piece into an octagonal staff.
With this design I wanted to honor the historic themes of self-sacrifice and atonement while at the same time lifting up the imagery of a dawning new sun of light and healing. This imagery understands atonement as a moment in healing, reconciliation and new creativity. I hope that it will enable worshippers to open up new lines of understanding in their own lives.
Here is what I wrote in presenting it recently to the church:
In making the standing/processional cross I thought of the maple disc at its center as a sunburst of energy, a circle of light. In its center is a circle of purpleheart reminding us of the self-giving sacrifice at the heart of God’s love. The walnut arms radiating out from this core bear a light of healing in the holly laminate that forms a cross reaching out to the world in all directions. The walnut and maple came from the forests around us. The holly is from Georgia and the purpleheart from Latin America.