Paper Cut

Last fall I was asked to lead a workshop at a church in a nearby town. I had never been to this church before and knew only a couple of the people attending the workshop. If I was anxious at all, my fears vanished the moment the door swung open. My hosts warmly welcomed me with eager hospitality. The group was lively and fun, and it was obvious they loved their church very much. “Can we show you around?” they asked. And so I got The Tour.

I was lead past the Pastor’s Portrait Gallery and through several of the classrooms. I got a look at the bulletin boards and literature racks—always interesting, as they say so much about a congregation’s priorities. I was shown the kitchen, fellowship hall, and finally, ta-da, the sanctuary.

To be fair, it was a cold and rainy evening and the lights were only partially on. But I don’t think I could have designed a worship space that was darker and more lifeless—in total contrast to the great people I was getting to know.

Like our living spaces, our worship spaces should reflect who we are. Dark and dingy might be fine if that describes the kind of people who gather, but a congregation that’s known to be warm and welcoming and lively should give that impression right off the bat.

Color + Light = Joy

Draped fabric, as installed by Monroe Community Church (see p. 33), is one way to dramatically add color and joy to a space. Here’s another. These flat paper panels with decorative cuts are made to hang withinthe worship space rather than in the front.

Here’s how to make them:

  1. Carefully consider the size of your worship space and decide on the number of visuals needed to make a strong impact. I’d suggest four or six or eight. In my church, a visual 5 feet wide by 12 feet high is nicely proportioned to the 70s A-frame architecture. With the paper’s maximum width of 4 feet, an 8-foot height seems right.
  2. Purchase rolls of fadeless art paper from an art supply store ( is one). This paper is similar to the rolls of colored paper used the world around for elementary school bulletin boards. The paper comes in 36- and 48-inch widths. Resist the urge to make them a variety of colors. Most often a single color is stronger than a mix of many. Target’s use of red is a good example.
  3. Use white chalk to mark off general guidelines. If they’re not too messy, these chalk lines can stay on the final piece.
  4. Fold the top and bottoms over to create a channel that can be glued to allow for a wooden dowel to be inserted later to keep the paper hanging flat. Make a pattern of the chevron shape and accompanying square out of heavy card stock. While you’re at it, make several patterns so other people can get involved.
  5. Use the pattern and sharp Exacto knives to make the cuts—holes, really—in the paper. Space them by eye rather than getting too carried away with precise positioning. Replace your blades often as the heavy paper is hard on them.
  6. When you’re happy with the result, glue your dowel into the top and bottom folds and hang with wire or fishing line, making sure to position them away from any blowing air from your heating/cooling system.

I’ve given you one design but the possibilities are endless. Whatever you do visually, be true to who you are.


If what your space needs is light, consider white paper. Nancy Chinn ( does some incredible cut paper designs using only white paper. I used paper because it was inexpensive but even fadeless paper will fade over time. This same design could be adapted to fabric using appliquéd shapes.

If this installation is used to commemorate a special event or anniversary, ask your local sign or automobile graphics shop to recreate the design in cut vinyl. Apply this vinyl to the inside glass of your entrance doors or windows.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 100 © June 2011, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.