catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 5 :: 2008.03.07 — 2008.03.21


The artful bulletin

I look inside my kitchen cabinet to find my favorite church bulletin ever is gone from the small bulletin board. The pushpin that holds it must’ve come loose, and I can’t find that pink piece of paper anywhere. I kept it there for a reason: to make me laugh again and again.

The illustration on the cover includes a man sitting in the back pew of a church, with a daydream bubble over his head. In his daydream, he floats in an inner tube at a fancy pool while a lovely friend brings him a fancy drink. The church sanctuary is clearly MY church sanctuary, and I recognize the backs of the heads in those pews. The scripture reading for the day was Christ saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and turns back is worthy of the kingdom of God.” Turning back, it seems, can take hilarious forms on a hot summer day when even the most stalwart church-goer might prefer to be someplace else, and nowhere near the work of the kingdom.

The men in my church speculated for weeks—who was the “model” John Fleming drew for this bulletin cover? All claimed to be “the one.”

When you walk into my church on a Sunday morning, the usher hands you a folded piece of paper or booklet of pages, just like any other church. It’s called a “leaflet” or bulletin. In many churches, the photo on the cover is purchased by subscription. However my church is located in an artistic community. One of John’s sculptures is featured in the prayer chapel. Our garden is built around a Walker Hancock sculpture. Althea Karr supplies icons, which she rotates seasonally. So our rector decided to take matters into her own hands with the church bulletins. Every three months, she walks around coffee hour with a list of lectionary readings and a signup sheet, and she tags parishioners to produce artworks for our bulletin covers.

“Emmanuel,” one of my favorite covers, is drawn by Eamon Wheeler, who was four at the time of this drawing. To the upper right is an angel that would make Chagall proud. Althea Karr offered “Isaiah and the Burning Coal,” and I was convinced she used young Colin, our recent college graduate, as a model—she tells me it’s actually a masculine version of herself receiving the burning coal! Hers also is “The Mustard Seed.” Chris Draper’s “Midwinter” line drawing is simple and elegant. Nelson Pike is a student in my church school class, who drew a ticking clock in the sky along with the verse about no one knowing the time. I’m sorry that I don’t have Diana Linsenmeyer’s lovely architectural drawings—often she uses clever devices such as labels and maps to illuminate scriptures, and hers are often as humorous as John Fleming’s. John’s is the drawing of the blind man, healed.

My congregation has collected hundreds of these bulletin covers over the past ten years. Each Sunday as we walk to our pew, my family rushes to look inside the back page to find who drew the picture this time. Hilarious, sweet, and sometimes utterly mystifying, I love how these pieces of colored paper fill our worship life and make us feel intimately connected with those people in the pews—even in the back pew, quietly daydreaming of being someplace else.

View a slide show of several of the bulletin covers mentioned in this article.

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