Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Alternate Activity 3: Creating Couple Altars

Activity time: 45 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • 18-in. squares of attractive fabric, such as velvet or silk (one square per couple)
  • 8-in. square pieces of foam core board or luan plywood (one per couple)
  • Pencils
  • Rulers or other straightedge tools
  • Craft paints and fabric paints in many different colors
  • Paintbrushes (at least one per person)
  • Water cups and water (to clean paintbrushes)
  • Tables (see Preparation)
  • Newspaper, plastic tablecloths, or other means of covering the tables
  • Newsprint sheet with examples of altar design themes (see Preparation)
  • Easel
  • Optional: Music and music player (see Preparation)

Preparation for Activity

  • On a sheet of newsprint, list or draw examples of themes that could be used in decorating the four quadrants of a couple's altar. Examples might include: North, South, East, West; Love, Faith, Gratitude, Hope; a flaming chalice, a cross, a pentacle, a Star of David; and so on.
  • If desired, choose soft music that will help set a meditative mood for the activity.
  • Arrange the room - or arrange for a room - so that participants can work on their art projects at tables. Cover the tables with newspapers or plastic tablecloths. Distribute the fabric squares, foam or plywood boards, pencils, rulers, paints, brushes, and cups of water on the tables.

Description of Activity

Explain that in this activity, couples will jointly create a piece that expresses their faith in one another as well as their broader faith. This piece will be an altar, or focal point, to use for moments of shared contemplation, meditation, or prayer in the home. It can serve as a centerpiece at the dining table, sit in the corner of a room, or be brought out just for special occasions. The altar or centering piece can serve as a site of family rituals and a reminder of the couple's faith and love.

You may wish to play meditative music in the background as couples create their altars.

Offer these or similar instructions:

Find your piece of fabric and lay it flat. This will be your altar cloth. Now take the board, which will be your altar, and center it on the cloth. You may line it up straight or position it diagonally, whichever you prefer. When you have it in position, use a pencil to lightly trace the outline of the board onto the cloth.

When couples have completed this step, continue:

Set the cloth aside for now. Use a pencil and ruler to divide the board into four equal quadrants.

Next, paint each quadrant a different color. You can choose colors that will coordinate with the altar cloth, although this is not required. Be sure to paint the edges too.

When couples have completed this step, show them the newsprint sheet on which you have listed examples of possible themes for the four quadrants. Explain:

You can choose to leave the four quadrants just as they are, or you can use the fabric and craft paints to add accents and designs. If you like, you can paint words or symbols on each quadrant to symbolize four different concepts or qualities. Here are some examples, but you can use anything you like.

After participants have decorated the quadrants, continue:

Now take your altar cloth and decorate the area outside the square you traced. You can decorate it in any way you desire - with a design, representations of things (flowers, sun, moon, stars), or icons. Decorate it in a way that is meaningful to both of you.

When the work is complete, or close to complete, invite couples to arrange their cloth and altar for display. (Caution them not to place the altar on the cloth if the paint is still wet.) Invite participants to move around the room and look at each other's work.

Suggest that at home, the personal altars from Workshop 10's Alternate Activity 2 can be added to the couple altar, creating a symbol of the individual and mutual aspects of each couple's relationship.

Including All Participants

Conducting this activity in a well-ventilated room is better for everyone's health. Some participants might be more sensitive than others to the chemicals in the craft products. Arrange the room so that participants can distance themselves from any "smelly" products if they need to, or provide distance between smelly products and participants by creating a station in a separate room.