Pentecost - Taking Flight

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
, North Carolina
By Charles Chamberlain


The Visual Artist’s Guild at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, North Carolina, meets “on demand” – particularly when there is a large energetic project looming. We are six professional artists with an additional eight people or so who are enthusiastic about our projects. Greenville is home to East Carolina University (ECU) and home to the School of Art and Design, and the School of Music. Most importantly, St. Paul’s Church is home to a diverse and vibrant family of multi-talented people. Our mission statement is, “To know Christ and To Make Him Known”. We believe with all our talent that if you cannot find it at St. Paul’s – start it!


Our new church was completed in 1999 and stands adjacent to the older c.1930 church – now the “chapel”. We have a marvelous space to house visual art installations with 47 feet of open space between the floor and the peak of the roof. Although we have other contemporary fine art in the church, it is this “floor to peak” space we concerned ourselves with for our first major installation for Pentecost 2004. Our project was a 30’ wide by 20’ long aerial sculpture with over 800 paper prayer doves.

Our assistant rector, The Rev. Charles Dupree, was the person who led us into formation for a visual artist’s guild at St. Paul’s, but he had already left for another position. Our rector, The Rev. C. Thomas Midyette was retiring shortly after Pentecost. We wanted to celebrate a passing of clergy. We had no budget, but we knew our faith would help us to succeed!

We have operated on the schema that we will always involve our whole parish in any project. We believe that if we do otherwise, then what we do will become nothing more than a nice decoration. By involving everyone, it definitely springs from the community for whom it provides liturgical meaning.


Fabrication preparations began two months before Pentecost Sunday. A small core of visual artists met and sketched ideas for the project. Our prayer doves were copied onto 8 1/2” x 11” sheets of colored paper. We asked that everyone in the parish write a prayer, a name, or an issue on each dove; to cut them out; and leave them in a central collection area. The artist’s guild members gently folded each one to affect a rigid, non-floppy stance. The doves were then strung on 6’ to 20’ varying lengths of rug thread. (Used to bind the edges of rugs, it is not much thicker than regular thread and not very visible – a cheap find.)

We tied 1/2” mirrored sequins to give the lengths of doves a little “bling”, as we say. We had 32 strands of prayer doves when we were finished. The hanging device was a bit of an investment with a 30’ circle of 1 1/2” copper tubing that separates into quarters for disassembling/storage. Eight of the strands were suspended from the quarters.

The circular hanging device is suspended by four small cables, which are joined to a small ring that is in turn cabled to the main hoist and pulley that is normally used for the Advent wreath. The pulley is in the very peak of the church. We also have two smaller pulleys in the transepts, so we were already well supplied with hoisting equipment. The most challenging part of the project was assembly on the morning before Pentecost, paying particular attention not to let the 32 strands of doves get tangled in the hoisting.

The beauty of the installation was that after being hoisted, it would slowly turn and the slightest breeze caused by anyone would gently turned the individual strands. This project was surprisingly and delightfully kinetic. It was a visual statement of faith for over 850 people.


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
401 East Fourth Street
Greenville, NC  27858
(252) 752-3482

The delight of the parish and positive feedback meant the project stayed up for about 6 weeks – a couple of weeks longer than originally intended. We believe the project was successful because of who we are as a parish. As stated, we are a vibrant and diverse community of people including “cradle to the grave”, college students, blue collar, retirees, professionals, small children, and youth. What is appropriate for a liturgical community such as ours may not be appropriate at another parish. Each community must decide for itself the best way to enhance their own worship experience.

Charles Chamberlain
For St. Paul's Visual Artist's Guild



The Pentecost 2004 project at St. Paul's was captured on video and is presented here.
It is 2 min, 20 sec long.


You will need RealNetworks RealPlayer or Windows Media Player to watch the video. The RealPlayer software can be download free from RealNetworks. The Windows Media Player software can be downloaded free from Microsoft.


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2006 The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts