The narthex (entry area at the back of the sanctuary) and the nave (the main part of the worship area) of the church have a variety of Christian symbols.
A Jerusalem Cross is found in the stone mosaic on the floor of the narthex as one enters through the main doors. It was used on the coat of arms of the first ruler of the "Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem". It has come to represent the five wounds of Jesus on the cross and the mission of the church to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the "four corners of the earth."
Stenciled on the arches at the sides of the nave are a series of ancient Jewish and Christian symbols.
The Star of David or the double triangle reflects both our Old Testament heritage of the People of Israel as well as the New Testament understanding of "One God in Three Forms."
The "Chi Rho" (XP), the first two letters of the word "Christ" in Greek, form the monogram which was the earliest and simplest symbol representing Christ. It was commonly used on the tombs of the early Christian martyrs.
The Jerusalem Cross (as noted above) has come to represent the "Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem," the five wounds Jesus received at his crucifixion (John 20:25), and the mission Christ calls us to in this world (Matthew 28:19).
The fish is an ancient and universal symbol of the Christian faith. During times of religious persecution, early Christians had to use secret signs to indemnify themselves to other believers while hiding their identity from the foes of Christianity. A person might draw a simplified picture of a fish in the dirt while talking to someone else. If the other individual recognized the figure, the two would know of their common bond in the faith. The Greek word for "fish" (pronounced ichthus) became an acrostic for the Greek phrase that is pronounced though not spelled Yasous Christos Theou Hyos Soter, which means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."
When the top part of an anchor is in the shape of a cross, it is a symbol of Jesus Christ, our sure Anchor. It was first used as a Christian sign from the years of persecution before Constantine established the Christian faith as the state religion of the Roman Empire in 324. The anchor recalls the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the hope God gives through Jesus Christ is "a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul." (Hebrews 6:19) This hope is what keeps us from being carried away by the storms of life.
The Christmas rose symbolizes the birth of Jesus and the promise of the coming of God’s messiah because it withstands the snow and storms of winter.
Lord's Prayer Sculpture
In the center of the nave is the suspended low-relief sculpture of the Lord’s Prayer. William Saltzman of Minneapolis was commissioned to do this work. The inspiration for the piece was the words of the prayer that had been painted on the front wall of the chancel, which was visible to all who entered the sanctuary. Copper and braised welding techniques were used for the warm, earthy qualities. The vertical lines accent the spiritually uplifting nature of the prayer. The letters touch one another to bring about a sense of the oneness of the total prayer. Behind the words, and yet central to them, is a cross.
Two tapestries hang on the walls of First-Plymouth. They are the "Plains Spectrum Tapestry" and the "Genesis Tapestry."
The Plains Spectrum Tapestry hangs in the alcove to the right of the narthex as you enter the building from the Courtyard. Ann Raschke Seacrest, who completed it in April 1982, wove it for the church.
Ann says of her work, "My sources were varied, encompassing the physical layout and design motifs of the building, its architectural concepts, and also my interpretation of the spirit of the congregation."
The geometric design was influenced by the patchwork of the tile floor and its central cross theme, found throughout the interior surfaces of the building.
The colors reflect the brightness, energy, and vitality of the people in the congregation; the spectrum offers a harmony of contrasts, yet a sense of belonging, culminating in a focus of strength and sunlight. The weaving technique (kilim tapestry) and materials (linen and wool) reflect American heritage in rug making.
The Genesis Tapestry hangs in the Chapel. This work, by Muriel Nezhnie Helfman, is a depiction of the story of creation as found in the first chapter of Genesis.
The field is divided into twelve panels. In the top set of panels are found the sun and moon—the warm and cool lights of heaven; hand and foot prints representing traces of people on earth; birds in flight or inhabiting the air; flowers or the blossoming of the earth.
The center panels contain animal tracks, with the division of the waters, along with a central "cherubic device" signifying God’s presence and power. The fruitfulness of the earth is portrayed with the grape and vine, insects, and butterfly, all under the stars of heaven.
The bottom panels show wheat, the bounty of the earth, derived from a microscopic view of a fertilized stigma of wheat. Sea life, both plant and animal, and rock formations complete the worldview as animal tracks are continued up the panels.
The lighter central vertical panels are in the shape of a cross. The tapestry, when viewed behind the Communion Table, represents the Word of God in creation. The inscription on the front of the Table stands for the Word of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ: "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) The open Bible, resting on the Table, links the tapestry and Communion Table—the creative word God speaks to call creation into being, the Word of God in scripture, and the Word become flesh in Jesus Christ.
The Pleasant View Sampler Quilt that hangs in the west lobby was created in 1999 by Laura Franchini and Sandi McMillan. It was made as a visual representation of a cycle of seven hymns by the same name that was premiered by Abendmusik: Lincoln in October of that year. It was awarded Best of Group at the Nebraska State Quilt Competition and exhibited upon invitation at the American Quilters Association Year 2000 Show in Paduka, Kentucky.
Displayed in the Prayer Room, to the west of the narthex, are eight original paintings by Lincoln artist, Nadine McHenry. They were commissioned as part of an Abendmusik concert piece of eight original poems set to music by eight local composers. Each painting represents a stage of human development first theorized by Erik Erickson.
Nadine has written, "Site plays an important part in how these paintings are viewed. The prayer room is a round room just off the sanctuary. It is small and intimate. When you enter it, these ‘contemplation panels’ encircle you, beginning on the left with infancy and continuing clockwise to the right ending with old age. They fit in architectural niches with the wooden supports of the room framing them.
"The best way to view these panels is to take your time. Don't be too eager. Let them come to you. Think of the period in life each one represents. Think of the human development occurring at each stage, the primary relationships, and the issues and feelings. There is nothing in the paintings to remind you of a figure, or of anything you could touch or pick up. They are about feelings. They were done for a quiet place to encourage centeredness and contemplation."
Click here to view the Prayer Room paintings.