Living Water

Submitted by Linda Witte Henke

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Client: Evangelical Lutherean Church in America

Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $14,000

Project Team

Artist

Linda Witte Henke

Linda Witte Henke LLC

Client

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Client

Mr. Scott Weidler

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Client

BethAnn Lynch

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Artist

Christine Felde

Linda Witte Henke LLC

Overview

This collection of liturgical textiles for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination includes two dye-painted silk copes, two chasubles, four clergy stoles, one dalmatic, and two deacon stoles; five dye-painted silk paraments for the chapel at the ELCA’s headquarters in Chicago; and six solid-color, coordinating paraments that will travel for use at church-wide events. The collection was inspired by Jesus' offer to the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4) to give her “living water” that would quench every thirst.

Goals

This project was commissioned by the ELCA to honor of the life and ministry of the Rev. Peter Perella, who served as the denomination’s director for worship formation and liturgical resources until his untimely death at the age of 35. Designed for use during the Christian liturgical season of Ordinary Time, green is the predominant color for the collection. The Living Water motif was captured by artist Linda Witte Henke as abstract imagery painted with dyes onto habotai silk. Inspired by Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan Woman, the abstract imagery also references Baptism, the sacrament that, in the Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith, inaugurates a life of discipleship and conforms us to the death and resurrection of Christ precisely so that we repent and receive forgiveness, love our neighbors, suffer for the sake of the Gospel, and witness to Christ. Baptism’s life-long claim in conveying the power of God’s love and grace throughout this life and into eternal life was personified in Rev. Perella’s life/faith journey.

Process

The collaboration process began with the artist’s site visit to the ELCA headquarters in Chicago, which made possible an extended conversation between the artist, the denomination’s Presiding Bishop, and members of the ELCA staff for worship and liturgy. This conversation included reflection on Rev. Perella’s person and leadership, discussion of the particular pieces to be included in the collection, and descriptions of how and where the various pieces would be used. The conversation concluded with a consensus that the project would be grounded in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time and be executed in a lively/living hue of the color for the liturgical season. Based on this conversation, the artist developed and presented two design possibilities. The one selected, titled Living Water, featured an abstract water motif dye-painted onto silk habotai, embellished with improvisationally couched threads and gold-lamé piping and combined with solid green fabric. The pieces in the collection were expertly created by Henke's studio associate, Christine Felde.

Additional Information

The vestments debuted in July 2015 at the Cathedral of Saint Philip in Atlanta during the ELCA’s Worship Jubilee. The solid green paraments will debut in August 2016 at the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans. The chapel paraments were introduced into use in May 2016. I am gratified by the nuanced interpretations of my design -- from the waters of baptism to the “still waters” of Psalm 23, from Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan Woman to the Prophet Amos’s longing that “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”