Festive Red

Submitted by Linda Witte Henke

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Client: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $7,500

Project Team

Client

Scott Weidler

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Client

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Artist

Christine Felde

Linda Witte Henke, LLC

Artist

Linda Witte Henke

Linda Witte Henke, LLC

Client

The Rev. Peter Perella

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Overview

Titled “Festive Red,” this collection of liturgical vestments was commissioned on the occasion of the election of The Reverend Elizabeth A. Eaton as fourth presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The collection was introduced at the October 5, 2013, worship service at which Bishop Eaton was installed, a service that was held at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel and attended by more than 1,500.

Designed by Linda Witte Henke in collaboration with Bishop Eaton and members of the ELCA church-wide worship staff, the project included two ceremonial copes, one chasuble, three stoles, and one dalmatic.

Goals

Conversations among the artist, members of the ELCA church-wide worship staff, and Bishop Eaton resulted in a resolve that the vestment collection be grounded in the denomination's tradition, resonate with the denomination's commitment to liturgical worship, and make a statement expressive of the newness ingredient in the denomination's election of its first female presiding bishop.

The resulting contemporary design references the Holy Trinity through use of abstract imagery (globe/Creator, cross/Son, flame/Spirit). Executed in vivid red with nuanced accents in all of the liturgical colors, the vestments are embellished with more than 10,000 inches of gold trim.

The "Festive Red" vestment collection introduced energy and touches of vibrant color to the ornate-but-neutral space of the Rockefeller Chapel, complementing other touches of red evident in the paraments, banners, ribboned streamers, and vestments of the synodical bishops and parish pastors in attendance. The collection also resonated with the colors and design elements in the rose window at the head of the chancel.

The "Festive Red" collection was effective both in affirming the denomination's historical past and celebrating the leadership, life, and mission of the denomination's unfolding future.

Process

The project began with a conversation initiated by the ELCA Director of Worship with liturgical artist Linda Witte Henke shortly after Bishop Eaton's election. The circle of collaboration later expanded to include Bishop Eaton and other members of the ELCA church-wide worship staff.

The artist forwarded design concepts electronically, allowing for timely circulation and discussion among the collaborative team via email and telephone. The artist presented several design possibilities, but her first proposed design was the one that captivated the team as most effectively realizing the intentions for the project.

A particular concern of the collaborative team was that the new vestments be compatible with the red banners, paraments, etc., in the ELCA's existing collections. The artist was provided with pieces from those collections so that she was able to select a background fabric for the new vestments that was very similar in color. The collaborative team also enthusiastically embraced the artist's suggestion to employ nuanced expressions of the other liturgical colors and, where possible, to have those colors expressed through a variety of textures and finishes; those decisions enhanced the tactile richness of the completed collection.

Additional Information

Bishop Eaton was elected as the ELCA's presiding bishop on August 14, 2013, and her installation was held on October 5, 2013, so the time line for this project was particularly challenging. Completion of so substantial a project in such a short time was made possible by the spirit of enthusiasm and collaboration among the ELCA church-wide staff and by the substantial gifts and commitment of the artist's studio partner, Christine Felde. The "Festive Red" collection reflects the contributions of many. Soli Deo gloria!