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There are lots of challenges to being a solo pastor. My last position was at a church that had 9 or so on staff. Each of us had different responsibilities and were able to do delve deeply into our particular area.  What I’ve learned in my first 5 months at Westfield is that pastors, particularly those of us working as solo pastors do a little bit of everything. There’s a little worship planning here, a little pastoral care there.  Mission organizing, outreach scheduling, and so on.

One of the joys of working as a solo pastor is that it’s far easier to create a cohesive worship service. Our altarscape this week is a perfect example.  Rather that being a direct image from the scripture, it’s a visual based on an illustration I’ll be using in my sermon. At first glance, it’s a series of picture frames and pretty fabric. Chances are the first thing that comes to mind when you see this design isn’t the story of the Prodigal Son. But if you were viewing it on a Sunday when the gospel reading was about a father’s extravagant welcome, the altarscape might start to make some sense. Say this same pastor drew the parallel of God’s love for us being like a proud parent’s walls–filled with our pictures despite the ways we screw up, run away, toss away our inheritance, and make every attempt to avoid God’s grace. Then a table of picture frames would make perfect sense.


Altarscapes and other worship visuals don’t necessarily have to be inspired by a central image from the day’s scripture. Other fodder for creativity can be found in the preacher’s interpretation of the scripture or perhaps an image they are planning on using. This, of course, means that you must have good communication with your ministerial colleagues (particularly if one is preaching while you’r designing!), but it can prove to be fruitful collaboration.

Here’s what you need for this design:

– some frames (I’m using three)
– fabric (I’m using three different shades)
– some natural elements
– bricks to support the frames
– binder clips and pushpins to secure the fabric in the frames


Start with your the foundation of your design. Throughout Lent, we’ve been using a bathroom tile that looks like stone pavers.


Next, secure the fabric to the backside of the frames using either binder clips or pushpins.



Stand the frames on the table. I used the pulpit directly behind the table along with some bricks to stabilize our frames.


After all the frames are on the table, the design looks like this:


TIP: Only cut fabric when you absolutely must.  Fabric is far more usable when it is in larger pieces. You can simply do more with it.

Add in some natural elements to remind us that we are still in the wilderness, and you end up with this:





How will you tell the story of the Prodigal Son?


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