This weekend our team kicked off a new series called “Messy Grace,” which is a six week exposition and study of Romans 8. Emerging from our questions series in January, our teaching team felt this was a natural transition as many of those tough topics leaned into our need for and the presence of…grace.
We started this series with a few changes, and each had a series of intended and unintended consequences:
1. This past weekend was Super Bowl Sunday (our condolences to anyone that’s not a Broncos fan), so we moved our Sunday night service to Saturday night. At The Crossing, we embrace the fact that many people are going to watch the Super Bowl so we adjusted our services accordingly. Historically we don’t do a huge “Super Bowl” event or lean into it as far as theme. Most of our folks, especially in Vegas, have big plans for the game and watching the game at church is not one of them. Instead, we encourage them to make the weekend worship experience part of their Super Weekend. Shifting our service times is a part of that strategy.
2. One of our core values as a team is diversity. We lean into this consistently in the worship. One way we do that is to regularly switch things up and have an acoustic set of worship. We made that choice for this weekend. Because of the Super Bowl, the weekend was already a bit different, so we took some time to make the feel of the service different as well. We cleared the risers and placed the whole worship team of six people towards the front of the stage for a more intimate feel. The idea was similar to a concert feel when the band breaks it down and goes small. On the risers behind the band, we made quick light fixtures of various heights by using mic stands, some gaff tape and Edison bulbs (Purchased at Lowes or Home Depot). The look and feel of the set was definitely intimate.
3. We decided to change up our set also by simply lowering our center screen to the floor and raising the mod scene set piece that was above. This would accomplish two things: 1. Change the look slightly as we shifted series without a major set overhaul. 2. Give us an environmental backdrop for both our acoustic set and for our speaker. We decided after making the shift to leave it for the duration of this next series before Easter.
4. We decided to tackle an art piece that would help capture the big idea of “messy grace.”
The initial idea was to use a product called “Never Wet’ to prepaint the world GRACE onto canvases. The effect would be created when the paint was applied and repelled by the never wet surfaces leaving the letters revealed. We had seen the technique used and felt confident it would lead to a poignant moment and a bit of the “Ahhh” factor. Here’s how it all went down and the challenges we faced (and mistakes along the way).
- The canvas had to be ordered due to the size. Our normal vendor is Big Duck Canvas but unfortunately the canvas would not arrive until Wednesday (prior to the Sunday we needed it). This would obviously dramatically shorten our prep time
*Challenge #1: We should have gotten similar canvas on a smaller scale here locally to test the effect of Never Wet on the canvas while we waited for the bulk to come.
- An artist. The piece did not require a huge amount of artistry as the whole point was to merely apply paint to the canvas in an “artistic” fashion but in a random, messy way. Our normal artists were not available, but we finally located a very willing volunteer who we had not used before. She was very capable and very willing. But being it was her first time in the context, it made for some stress for her…and us.
*Challenge #2: Having a first timer led to some additional stress as the element struggled to get off the ground. It added an additional layer.
- Never Wet Round #1. When the canvas arrived we immediately went into execution mode. The steps involved included: Getting the Never wet applied to the canvas as there was a drying time that needed to happen. Our first attempt was liquid Never Wet applied directly to the canvas in a free hand way. Our “artist” made this happen in about two hours and we waited for it to dry so that it could be tested when paint was applied. When the moment arrived, paint started to fly and the never wet was a complete fail. No effect. *Challenge #3: Do we keep going or punt the entire idea?
- Never Wet Round #2. We decided that our technique must have been wrong. We then created a cardboard stencil of our GRACE word. In addition, we decided to prime all of the remaining canvases before applying the Never Wet process. Volunteers arrived to prime the canvases. (Note: We were now down to 4 canvases for our services and 1 canvas for rehearsal. There was little margin for error). Once primed and dry, we then applied the two step Never Wet aerosol process instead of the brush on technique. This took place on Thursday. And by Thursday, we mean all of Thursday. It then had to be allowed to dry over night. We scheduled a test for Friday morning. Challenge #4: When using a template stencil containing a word, be sure and mark the top of the canvas. When the never wet dried, it was difficult to tell which way was right side up.
- Never Wet Ever Again. On Friday morning, our artist applied the paint to our one practice canvas. Our team sat and watched as the paint went smoothly onto the canvas with the Never Wet again having absolutely no effect. Our hearts sank. Not only was the idea not working, but the last 48 hours seemed like a complete waste of time as well as the resources we had spent on the element already (canvas, paint, never wet).
- Third Way: As the canvas hung there we discussed alternative plans to accomplish the same thing. We finally grabbed a roll of standard gaff tape and quickly created a letter “A” on the canvas with tape. Our artist grabbed a brush and painted over the tape heavy. The outline of the tape quickly disappeared and we had what seemed like a solution. We would tape the letters onto the canvas, apply a based coat of paint and then in the midst of the song/painting element, the tape would be ripped off revealing the our desired word, Grace. This required us to spend an hour or so taping the words on all the canvases. They would not be able to be painted until just prior to each service because if the paint dried, the tape would become very difficult to remove especially under a time crunch. Challenge #5: We would have no idea if this was actually going to work until our run through on Sunday morning.
…are you still reading?
- Saturday night arrives (1st service of the weekend). The first canvas is painted with a roller in our backstage area. Fully painted with a base coat, the tape is now covered. Attached to our rolling frame, we then position it prior to the service for lighting to make sure the light helps us cover the presence of the tape to those in the seats. Black plastic was then positioned everywhere to protect the stage from flying paint.
- The moment arrived. During communion, the canvas was wheeled into place. The band went into the song, “Grace Will Be My Song” (Steve Fee), the lights came up and painting commenced. At the song crescendo, we all held our breath as the tape began to be peeled. Somehow, some way…it worked. As the band tagged Amazing Grace, we were left with what you see pictured above. Challenge #6: Repeating the element every service required our entire production team to reset stage, clean up any random paint, reset the new canvas on the frame…by the third service, we had nailed that process.
The moment was powerful and the response was positive. But it definitely corresponded with our series…it was messy and needed grace.
- Last minute execution of ideas is necessary at times, but can’t become a pattern. The stress and scrambling that it brings is a definite strain on the team. The process described above happening on a consistent basis will take even a great team to a dark place.
- If your best idea isn’t working… keep working the idea. The best solution will reveal itself…most of the time. (Think Third Way)
- Get a sense from your team if the idea needs to be scrapped. You will live in the tension of just wanting to be done with an idea and not pushing in to find the solution. This process is more an art than a science. However, don’t be too quick to “punt” an idea.
- When incorporating new people into elements that will happen onstage, be prepared for the additional coaching and direction that will be necessary. The combination of a tenuous idea with a rookie artists was almost a disaster.
- Patience. Again…patience.
- Finally, never ever use “Never Wet” (We kid, of course…) Sorta.
Sunday Set List:
Special Song: Grace Will Be My Song