I am the Good Shepherd

article by Julia Sensenbrenner

The new banner dedicated today is a familiar image to Christians—and it also resonates with many of Bethany’s children because it is one of the foundational stories in the Godly Play curriculum.*

In early 2015, when the banner team settled on Jesus’ “I am” statements as the theme for a new set of banners, I immediately felt the nudge to create a Good Shepherd banner that reflected the Godly Play story. I envisioned Bethany’s children walking into our sanctuary, gazing up, and immediately recognizing the banner as the parable they hear twice in the beginning of the school year and again in the spring in a slightly different version called The Good Shepherd and Communion.

But how could we turn a rectangular, horizontal story into a vertical, long banner? When I posed this problem to my son Steven by roughly sketching the Godly Play story layout (stick figures and all), it took only 10 minutes for him to hand me the detailed visualization that has guided our design. Next, Melody Fosmore (who also created the beautiful “I AM” and “I Am the True Vine” banners that grace our sanctuary), worked intensively with me to turn the sketch into a banner made with batik fabrics and quilting techniques. Her expert sewing skills and eye for color and graphic design created the foundation for the banner. Adele Drummond and Glyn Devereaux, the other two members of the banner team, provided feedback and stepped in at the end to fine-tune and attach the Jesus and sheep figures. Finally, Glyn squared, backed and bound the banner. I am extremely grateful to these women for working together and using their gifts to turn my vision into a reality.

The Good Shepherd Godly Play story combines several biblical references, including Psalm 23, John 10: 1-30, Matthew 18: 12-14, Luke 15: 1-7, and 1Corinthians 11: 23-26, to incorporate multiple images of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Our banner can’t replicate a dynamic Godly Play story told through movement, yet it captures important elements of the story with a winding path; a sheepfold and gate; some sheep clustered at Jesus’ feet; other sheep eating “the good green grass,” drinking from “the cool, clear, still water,” and wandering toward the dark “places of danger”; and another sheep cradled in Jesus’ arms as He finds and rescues it from peril after it wandered off the path.

As you gaze at the banner, reflect on the ways The Good Shepherd has guided you, provided sustenance and encouragement, and rescued you throughout life. And for those with children in first grade or above, please ask your child to tell you more of the story. Our prayer is that each Sunday in worship, you will find yourself in a new place in the story and be reminded of how Jesus is with you on your journey, guides you with the sound of his voice, and holds you in His loving arms.

Finally, the new banner remains paired with the I AM banner, which anchors the series our team is creating. For those new to the church since the first banners were hung in October 2015, Melody elaborated on the design saying, “The prayer surrounding the I AM banner brought us to God knowable and unknowable, God uncontainable and yet as close as our breath, God outrageously creative with all the colors in the universe continuously recreating into infinity.” Going forward, please pray for Adele and Glyn as they create their own banners, and contact team leader Adele Drummond if the Lord gives you a vision for another I Am banner design.

*Note: All kindergartners hear stories from the basic Godly Play curriculum for a year at 9am, while a mixed-age class of 4-year olds to 3rd graders hear an expanded selection of stories at the 10:45 hour.

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