Transformation – a church community project


Working with a different community over the Lent period leading to Easter, I was part of a project to bring symbolism and mystery into the worship setting at St John’s church, Dumfries. Working with other members of the Quartz creative group attached to the church, my job was to create a fitting conclusion to the six-week congregational project.

The church community also includes a number of Ukrainian refugees who have been attending for the past year or so. One of the aims was to include them in a meaningful way.

The concept was simple – a wicker and paper cocoon which is gradually built up over the six weeks of Lent to become a chrysalis, from which a stained glass butterfly emerges for Easter Day. The design of the butterfly made direct reference to the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.

Within the cocoon are embedded words and phrases written by members of the community to represent elements of their life they would like to leave in the past, as well as hopes and dreams for the future. Gradually these words were covered over with hand-made paper to conceal them within a tomb-like structure.

Folk were in invited to write down words and phrases or draw a picture on strips of tissue paper. Ukrainians wrote in their own language their hopes and fears for the future and these were wrapped into the fabric of the shell.

During the period leading up to Easter the cocoon was displayed at the front of the church and many questions were asked about it’s purpose. Indeed its very existence was queried more than once by bemused individuals! This sense of mystery and unknown purpose was a key part of the concept to involve people’s hearts and minds in a transfoming process. Often in life we are unaware of transformation happening in and around us.

A sense of expectation was generated in the lead up to Easter Sunday when the butterfly was revealed. There are many longings and prayers represented by the flight of the butterfly, as well as the play of light on and through the diferent glass surfaces. Art has a way of transcending the everyday aspects of life and re-loading them with new and genuine meaning.

The butterfly will have a further six weeks of life in the church as it flies there until the feast of Pentecost.

A visual timeline of events

Simon and Alison help create the wicker armature for the cocoon.

Alison explains to our Ukrainian friends how to apply the strips of paper to the wicker frame wth plenty of pva glue!

Anna creates a personal drawn response to the project.

Many different people contributed words and images to the cocoon.

More layers of hopes and fears are added…

The unfinished coccon is displayed in the nave of the church as a visible sign of transformation…

The second stage of transformation was to make paper to cover the words on the cocoon, creating a tomb-like structure…a chrysalis.

Yellow paper is added to the blue as part of the colour theme.

The chrysalis is ready…

Simon reaches the tomb and finds it has been opened…

The butterfly has emerged from the chrysalis/tomb.

It flies high above the congregation with bright welcoming wings, expressing the joy of Easter.

The butterfly will be taken down today to continue its flight in another place.

Kabod kabod – Hebrew for “glorious in abundance and splendour”.

A modern celtic prayer – God of glory, God of springtime, shine within me with your glorious Light. Let your gloriousness reflect from me out into the whole world, so that as the physical world is glorious, so my inner world will be glorious, and so together we can make the world a place of your Divine kabod kabod. Amen. *

  • The Celtic Year, David Cole 2020

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