For 20 years, Jane Arant spent a week every summer teaching children at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte about liturgical arts.
She refreshed the program every year. Her campers toured Charlotte churches to learn about architecture, visited a stained-glass artist’s studio and made a labyrinth on the floor with blue painter’s tape.
Arant, who lives in Rock Hill and recently retired from her longtime job as the Trinity Presbyterian organist, will be one of three return participants serving as mentors and advisers at the Yale University Congregation Project in June. She will be part of a team working with seven churches from across the United States that want to develop arts programs.
“It’s so exciting and affirming,” Arant said of the invitation.
She and two members from Trinity participated in the Yale program three years ago, sharing a camp project where students made origami doves into a banner celebrating Pentecost.
In the Congregation Project’s five years, Arant and Trinity Presbyterian are the only representatives from North Carolina who have been invited, Arant said.
Arant will deliver a keynote address at Yale about her liturgical arts camp and answer questions about it. She also will be available to answer questions throughout the week and mentor representatives from the seven churches.
Arant, who owns the liturgical arts camp, will not host it this year due to her retirement, but she is in talks with other churches to host it elsewhere. She is also looking for ways to publish material about the camp so other churches can use it.
In a report compiled after Arant’s visit to Yale in 2012, Yale graduate student Amanda Weber wrote that the first person to speak after Arant’s presentation said, “I want to go to your camp.”
Another clergy member, Weber noted, quietly began folding origami birds.
“We learned and were touched by the small size and intentionality of the camp,” Weber wrote.
Arant limited her camp to 12 students, and she focused on finding hands-on activities to help students learn about visual art, food, architecture, theater and other art forms with connections to the church.
Hannah Sawyer, a former liturgical arts camp student, wrote in an email that her days at camp came to mind when touring old chapels in New York.
“I remember the conversations about them,” Sawyer wrote. “How they usually did everything by hand, and how long it took. As I walked closer and closer to the wall, I noticed all the extreme details imprinted in the surfaces of every nook and cranny of this brilliant old church.”
Former camper Will Reid remembers making pretzels and Zimbelsterns, small toy organs.
He wrote that he enjoyed “spending the whole day doing fun and creative things with Ms. Arant.”
As for Arant, she looked for inspiration for camp activities throughout the year. The idea for the Pentecost banner came from a trip to the dentist’s office, where a mobile of small wire bicycles hung from the ceiling.
She started thinking about doves as symbols of the Holy Spirit and developed the idea for the banner.
One of her campers who was particularly good at origami made an instructional video for folding the paper birds, which soon will be posted on Yale’s website, Arant said.
Arant also has compiled a 95-page photo album with pictures of camp projects to show the church representatives at the Congregation Project.
The program, she said, takes the art involved in faith and worship and puts it in children’s hands in an active and participatory way.
“Some of (the campers) are in their early 30s now, and they still talk about the things they did at liturgical arts camp,” Arant said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at email@example.com.