A Retrospective

Mae Runions

Mae Runions is a Vancouver artist who has been working in fabric art since 1984. Runions uses images symbolically to open up ancient faith stories and awaken fresh responses in the spirit. Symbols are derived from the natural world and from historical and theological sources including sacred texts, religious history, and traditional iconographies. She aims to give a modern joyful rendering through abstractions and colors. Her primary technique is appliqué. She combines a variety of fabrics, textures and stitchery, both hand and machine, to create her pieces.

Runions' banners have long hung in the Regent College Atrium and Chapel. Now brightening the walls of the Dal Schindell Gallery, this colourful exhibition highlights her working art, models and mock-ups, throughout the years.

Curatorial Statement

This exhibition, like many things, has been frustrated by a global pandemic. A year in the making, we longed to present Mae's work in the physical gallery space, to applaud her brilliance at an opening night, and to listen to her gentle wisdom face to face. Still, as Mae says, we have become good at waiting. Exploring Mae's work and reading her insightful artist statements, I sense that she has often waited, patiently and graciously, until inspiration, so perfectly timed, produces material hope through her work. Trusting that timing too, Mae Runions: A Retrospective launches on our website. It is an honour to host her many years of making at such a time as this. The vibrant colours contrast our long and isolated winter. Carefully layered, flimsy fabrics, shape images which remind us of firm faithfulness: the tree, the river, and the cross. Mae's work has ministered and welcomed many over the years. Her legacy of artistic appliqué currently hangs in churches, hospitals, and other public spaces around Vancouver and beyond. However, this exhibition is unique. It highlights the intricacy and intentionality of her work. Prayerfully chosen symbols and images (though at times abstracted), backed with liturgical colours, attest to Mae's uncanny ability to hear what a community needs and see what best serves their shared place. Armed with scissors, glue and even gold pins, her prophetic vision unfolds in these working pieces. I invite you to scroll through her chronologically presented work, attending to both the imagery and Mae's descriptions. Some of these mock-ups, and the banners they produced, are older than Regent College students; but their beauty, articulated truths and meaning are timeless. We have only to wait and see. 

Bryana Russell
Curator

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Tree of Life
Mae Runions

Main Atrium, Regent College, 1988 

Regent College was founded in 1970 and held classes for a time in an on-campus frat house.

When the new building was nearing completion, this work was commissioned to hang in the soaring skylit atrium. The theme for the hanging developed as the Arts Committee reflected on references to Regent College at the cornerstone ceremonies, as a transplanted tree.

The idea of a tree growing and flourishing became linked to biblical themes. A person (or a college!) who trusts in the Lord is likened to a tree, which planted by a river, bears fruit, even in drought (Jeremiah 17:8; Psalm 1:3). Further biblical references led into the larger theme of the Tree of Life as a symbol of God’s presence, the River of Living Water flowing from it, dispersing God’s presence throughout creation (Gen. 2:9,10; Rev. 22:1,2) and giving everlasting life (John 4:13).

In the hanging, the Tree is fruitful, full of life and vitality; it lives from the River. The River sustains the Tree, the Tree necessitates the River.  And God’s presence never fails.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
The Lenten Triptych
Mae Runions

1988

These hangings were originally done for a ‘Christ and the Arts’ festival at St. John’s Anglican Church, Vancouver B.C. The Lenten portions of the Messiah were being performed that night. They now hang at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church during Lent.

These works are about Christ’s monumental suffering whilst bearing the suffering of the world. Universal grief is here. They depict grief in heaven (right), grief on earth (middle), and beyond all other grief, Christ's grief (left). The grieving Mother stands with us – hers was the grief of helplessness against human evil, against cosmic evil, against death. Added to that was the grief of family loss.

"Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows."  Isaiah 53:4 

Thanks be to God.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Wings of the Beloved
Mae Runions

Five Banners, 1989

These banners were first shown at two exhibitions: Gateway Theatre stairway atrium, June 1989 and at the Lookout Gallery, Regent College, January, 1990.

They were dedicated to honoring the memory of my late husband Ernest Runions, recently deceased at that time. The butterfly has long been culturally and religiously a universal symbol of the soul departing from the restricting cocoon of this life. It is a comforting image of hope for life beyond suffering and death.

Insect designs have always been fascinating to me ever since I picked potato bugs for my father as a small child. Why do I still find them so compelling? Maybe it’s that they contain infinite beauty in a format I can grasp – small enough to hold in my hand.  They are a symbol of beauty – beauty summarized, a small expression of some aspect of God.  The butterfly does so effortlessly what I try to do in my banners – it hints at joy. Sometimes I see something that makes my hear sing – that’s what I want to do for the viewer. That’s what butterflies do for me.

My life would be drab strips of cloth

without the celestial threads I gather from the angel’s wings

Those wings brush me from time to time with grace

yet I think they are butterflies,

that he has touched me with the love of God in the old way

When I wake I have fresh gold to weave again.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Banners for Eastern College
Mae Runions

Eastern College, St. David’s, Pennsylvania, 1990 

Eastern College is a sister college to Regent College. They are a Christian graduate school training students in Business Administration and Economic Development to offer help to the developing world. The motto of the college is: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World.’ 

The ideas for the banners were suggested by the College; they were to hang in the central stairwells. Laurel Gasque of Regent College and the Lookout Gallery were the liaisons with Eastern College.

Solidarity  (vertical banner):

The image of the gospel is visualized by the cross in the world. The hands represent needs and resources being brought together in their many expressions, and in the many colors symbolizing diversity of nations and peoples.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed (horizontal banner):

The image is one of a fruitful tree in a setting of global unity and optimism. Since the parable of the mustard seed is about growth and spread of the gospel, as the kingdom of heaven, throughout the world, it seems to express well the theme of Eastern College ‘the whole gospel for the whole world.'

©MaeRunions


A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Homage to the Light Part II
Mae Runions

A set of 6 Angel Banners.

Two sets of these 6 banners were originally created for Christmas exhibitions in 1990 at two theatres, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver and the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. 

I had been deeply impressed by angel paintings done by Fra Angelico for the Linaiuoli Triptych, now in the museum of the convent of San Marco, Florence.  Those angels surrounded the central Virgin and Child, and each carried a musical instrument, perhaps to proclaim the Incarnation.

My angels too announce the coming of Christ, with music. Most are joyful, but I feel that perhaps the trumpet-angel sounds a kind of lament, as God engages with the pain of humanity.

Christmas has it’s origins in the Incarnation: God becoming human, light shining in darkness. Such a mystery eludes concrete expression; there is majesty and humility, celebration and sorrow, universality yet personal involvement. The human spirit seeks to see it, feel it, understand it. 

The poet G.K. Chesterton helps us:

"The thatch on the roof was as golden,

        Though dusty the straw was and old,

The wind had a peal as of trumpets,

         Though blowing and barren and cold,

The mother’s hair was a glory

          Though loosened and torn,

For under the eaves in the gloaming

          A child is born.

 

And the mother still joys for the whispered

          First stir of unspeakable things,

Still feels that high moment unfurling

          Red glory of Gabriel’s wings.

Still the babe of an hour is a master

           Whom angels adorn,

Emmanuel, prophet, anointed,

            A child is born."

These banners were created for the exhibitions and were not commissions, hence I still have them.  They have been hung many times over the years in churches and gathering places.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Homage to the Light Part II
Mae Runions

A set of 6 Angel Banners.

Two sets of these 6 banners were originally created for Christmas exhibitions in 1990 at two theatres, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver and the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. 

I had been deeply impressed by angel paintings done by Fra Angelico for the Linaiuoli Triptych, now in the museum of the convent of San Marco, Florence.  Those angels surrounded the central Virgin and Child, and each carried a musical instrument, perhaps to proclaim the Incarnation.

My angels too announce the coming of Christ, with music. Most are joyful, but I feel that perhaps the trumpet-angel sounds a kind of lament, as God engages with the pain of humanity.

Christmas has it’s origins in the Incarnation: God becoming human, light shining in darkness. Such a mystery eludes concrete expression; there is majesty and humility, celebration and sorrow, universality yet personal involvement. The human spirit seeks to see it, feel it, understand it. 

The poet G.K. Chesterton helps us:

"The thatch on the roof was as golden,

        Though dusty the straw was and old,

The wind had a peal as of trumpets,

         Though blowing and barren and cold,

The mother’s hair was a glory

          Though loosened and torn,

For under the eaves in the gloaming

          A child is born.

 

And the mother still joys for the whispered

          First stir of unspeakable things,

Still feels that high moment unfurling

          Red glory of Gabriel’s wings.

Still the babe of an hour is a master

           Whom angels adorn,

Emmanuel, prophet, anointed,

            A child is born."

These banners were created for the exhibitions and were not commissions, hence I still have them. They have been hung many times over the years in churches and gathering places.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Resurrection
Mae Runions

St. Faith’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1990

This hanging makes a statement about the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. Christ now lives and is present with God on our behalf. Death and Resurrection are Universal – for humans and for nature and for all systems. This gives me hope in every painful situation.

It was necessary for me to believe this after the then recent death of my husband. And I find it continues to be so needed.

The Tree of Life has been a recurring thread in my work – and again I see it here in these ideas about new life. Indeed it has been there for all of time, from Genesis to Revelation.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
The Word is Seed and Praise the Lord with Song
Mae Runions

West Point Grey Baptist Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1991 & 1992

Left:

The Seed is the Word, 1992

This was a memorial gift given by friends in memory of Ernest Runions. I’ve always been challenged by this parable of Jesus. (Luke 8: 4-15.) The seed of God’s Word is plentiful, but its destiny is diverse; the seeds that fall in the soil of my heart and life may die or thrive. The challenge is to maintain the best soil, ‘an honest and good heart’ and to ‘bear fruit with patient endurance’.

Right:

Praise the Lord with Song (Antependium)1993

This work was commissioned to honor Organist and Music Director Paul Birch for his 25 years of this work, by Margaret Birch. The images celebrate the gifts and skill of a great and much appreciated musician in this community of faith.

 ©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
My Spirit Journeys On & Tree of Life
Mae Runions

My Spirit Journeys On (top)

Volunteer Lounge, UBC Hospital, 1992

I volunteered for a few years as a pastoral visitor to the wards including the psychiatric wards, and then as an assigned visitor to a couple of elders in the Purdy Pavilion.  This work was sometimes comforting, sometimes unsettling to my heart.

Heaven is my dwelling, before, beyond earth’s hospice home.

My body gives me refuge

While my spirit journeys on 

Gaining strength through love ----

                                              you my friend, and God.

 

Tree of Life (bottom)

Vancouver General Hospital Multifaith Sacred Space, 2020

The Lead Chaplain of the Department of Spiritual Care, Rev Dr. Dale Johnson engaged me to work for this newly formed and decorated space. We chose the theme of the Tree of Life because it is a universal symbol.

The Tree of Life has long symbolized the center of the the world, the Cosmic Center; this ancient and universal idea is found in numerous cultures and religions. In its centrality, The Tree of Life embodies unity and diversity; it unifies heaven, earth and the underworld with its branches, trunk, and roots. It also carries symbols of growth, generation and regeneration.

Used in a reflective setting, The Tree of Life nurtures through many experiences of it. The leaves are especially inspiring as they open to absorb light for sustenance, then reflect it back, shining as moments of awareness, acceptance and hope. Because of the many religious derivatives from this important and universal symbol, we can each derive hope and vitality from meditation on The Tree of Life.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Not My will but Thine be Done
Mae Runions

St. Faith’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1992

This banner was commissioned for Lent by Mary Alice Sutter and Blake Wright in memory of their loved ones. 

My reflections in designing the banner focused on the grief of Jesus in Gethsemane.  So starkly did the human and divine struggle with this event of cosmic significance: Christ the man was bearing the sins of the world.  The overwhelming prospect of such aloneness and abandonment by God and humankind, the sheer terror of this daunting unknown, was suffering beyond human strength. 

"Thy rebuke hath broken his heart; he is full of heaviness.  He looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man; neither found he any to comfort him." Ps. 69:20

The 17th century poet George Herbert expressed it this way:

"...There are two vast spacious things 

The which to measure it doth more behove

Yet few there are that sound them: Sin and Love

 ...Sin is that press and vice which forceth pain

 to hunt his cruel food through every vein

...Love is that liquor sweet and most divine

 Which my God feels as blood; but I as wine."

There are times when the love of God so astounds me that I know it is all I’ll ever need against earth’s pain, for myself and for my neighbor.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Seasonal Church Banners
Mae Runions

St. Faith’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, B.C.

All Creation Rightly Gives You Praise,  1992

This banner was commissioned by family in loving memory of Doris Tynan. I was inspired by sunrises which were particularly glorious over the fall that year. Each beautiful new day had risen below the morning star, washed with dew and dressed in fresh color and awakening wonder and praise in nature and in our hearts. 

Birds were often used in early Christian art to symbolize souls transported to the beauty of heaven. The birds had been flocking in my garden so I included them here to symbolize our ascent to God in worship, praise and offerings. 

Glory to God, 1990s

This is a Christmas hanging, reflecting the awesome significance of the Incarnation in heaven and on earth.

Always Music, 1990s

My husband had been the organist at St. Faiths’ for 3 years before his death in 1989. I created this All Season hanging to reflect his love of the organ and music’s central place in this church.

Wind of the Spirit, 1990s

Wind is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit and is suggested by the kite shape. The bird is also symbolic of the Spitit’s comings into the life of the church.

May we whom the Spirit lights give light to the World, Easter 1996

This processional banner was commissioned by the Pike Family in thanksgiving for the nurture and support received within this parish community. The theme is taken from the eucharistic benediction.  The imagery speaks of the way we are nourished in the church through the Holy Spirit; we then in turn go out in our ministry, taking light and love to the world.

Righteous Branch, 1990s

This is an Advent banner, speaking of the heritage of Jesus as expressed in the Old Testament image of a branch growing out of the stump and roots of the lineage of King David. The images on the right suggest dwellings throughout history; dwellers in tents to highrises, have known Christ. The crown suggests Jesus’ royal heritage – and his ‘kingdom of heaven’ now in our hearts.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Two Fabric Hangings
Mae Runions

St. Jude’s Anglican Home, Vancouver, B.C., 1992

St. Judes is a long term care seniors’ residence. The hangings were commissioned by the St. Jude’s Anglican Home Society to enrich regular worship services in the chapel on the lower level. Mrs. Douglas Hambidge was the liaison person working with me.

The gold fabric I used reflected light even when the lights were not turned on and gave the effect of stained glass windows when one stood at the door looking into the darkened interior.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is an ancient symbol of God’s presence (Gen 2: 9,10; Rev 22: 1,2); it is  a sign of fruitfulness and vitality.  Birds have been used to symbolize souls transported to the beauty of heaven since earliest times in Christian art.

I am the Vine (Antependium)

The vine bearing fruit is a symbol of the unique relationship between Christ and his church, a union of protection and fruitfulness. These symbols seemed appropriate to place in this home to celebrate long life under God’s care.

©MaeRunions


A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Richmond Cultural Center Banners
Mae Runions

Banners for the Rotunda of Richmond Cultural Center, 1993

The Richmond Art Gallery, where I had exhibited, and Page Hope-Smith the director, commissioned me to create banners for the rotunda of a new expanded space including gallery, library and archives. The designs are abstract expressions of the variety of natural life that Richmond derives from.

Seven banners 15’x 30’’  hung from the balcony and circled the rotunda, and one 12’x 28”banner hung over the stairs.

The new Richmond Cultural Center celebrated its opening January 16, 1993.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
New Beginnings
Mae Runions

West Point Grey Baptist Church, Vancouver B.C., 1993

The church began this project with me out of a desire to introduce some color to the darker North side of the sanctuary and to rejoice in some new happenings in their community of faith.

Five New Beginnings from Scripture were chosen.

The format of each is uniform with two main components: a quiet background color symbolizing the past and history which gives stability and meaning to the newness and the emerging more colorful part which carries the specific theological imagery and conveys joy and life and energy

Left to right:

1. New Song: Psalm 40:3, 96:1; 149:1; Rev 5:9.

2.  New Life: Romans 7:6; 6:4; 2 Cor. 5:17 

3.  New Covenant:  1 Cor.11:25; 2 Cor. 3:67; Jer. 31:31

4.  New Commandment:  John 13: 34 

5. New Heaven and New Earth:

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Tree of Life
Mae Runions

St. Philip’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1994  

The Tree of Life is an ancient symbol of God’s presence (Gen. 2: 9,10; Rev. 22: 1,2). It is a fruitful and life giving presence – in this instance a golden shining presence filled with birds and fruits, hope and sustenance. The tree is sustained by, and indeed springs from, the River of the Water of Life.

©MaeRunions
A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Liturgical Hangings
Mae Runions

West Point Grey United Church, Vancouver B.C., 1995 & 1996

These Advent hangings were given in memory of long time member, Milton Webster. I appreciated Marilyn Harrison as the liaison person who worked with me.

Advent is the season of waiting and preparing for the comings of Christ: His Incarnation, His Second Coming, and His coming now into our lives. The imagery I used is based on 3 ancient hymns: Mary’s song, the Magnificat, Zechariah’s (father of John the Baptist) song, the Benedictus and a 6th century hymn,’Creator of the stars of night, Thy people’s everlasting light, Jesus Redeemer of us all, Hear thou thy servants when they call.'

I also included the crown, symbolizing the kingship of Jesus – his kingdom in hearts now and his future cosmic reign. There are angels and trumpets to announce the comings of Christ in his birth and in his second coming. The human figures suggest waiting and watching down through the ages.

©MaeRunions


A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Tree of Life
Mae Runions

Vancouver International Airport YVR, 1997

The Vancouver Airport Chaplaincy commissioned a hanging that would be suitable as they envisioned becoming known simply as The Sacred Space, a place for interfaith worship and connections. I worked on the designs with lead chaplain Rev. Dr. Frank McLeod.  Funds were donated by the Airport Detachment RCMP on it’s closure at the airport, and by Mrs. Lois Horan.

The Tree of Life has long symbolized the center of the world or the Cosmic Center. This is an extremely ancient and universal idea amongst many cultures and religions. It is the center where the gods or God of religions first created humans and the world.

Some religious expressions:

In its centrality, the Tree of Life embodies unity and diversity; it unifies heaven, earth and the underworld with its branches, trunk and roots. It also carries symbols of growth, generation and regeneration. In the Christian and Jewish traditions, the Tree of Life stands at the center of the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. From this, the Menorah is one derivative signifying God’s presence. In the Christian tradition it also stands at the center of the heavenly City of Jerusalem at the end of time. Interpreted as a cross, it gives cosmic significance to Christ’s sacrifice. The Buddhist legend tells how Buddha sat under the sacred banyan tree, the Cosmic Tree, while he was tempted and resisted through to enlightenment. The Muslim prayer rug for use four times a day, presents as sacred space the celestial gardens of Paradise, including a central Tree of Life.

Likewise, it was around a sacred tree or pole that North American Indigenous Peoples performed rituals as links to the sacred. These are only a few of the religious derivations from this important and universal symbol. We can each derive hope and vitality from meditation here.

The following quotation is from the Hebrew Scriptures: Proverbs 3:13, 18

    “Happy is the one who finds Wisdom,

             and the one who gets understanding......

     She is a Tree of Life to those who lay hold of her

             those who hold her fast are called happy.”    

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Tree of Life
Mae Runions

Richmond Hospital, Richmond B.C., 2007

A multipurpose room in the Minoru Residence wing was being adapted to include a space for religious services and memorials. Howard McIlveen, one of the chaplains worked with me on the details for this commission.

The tree of life has long symbolized the center of the world or the Cosmic Center. This is an extremely ancient and universal idea amongst many cultures and religions. It is the center where the gods or God of religions first created humans and the world. 

The following quotation is from the Hebrew Scriptures: Proverbs 3:13, 18. 

“Happy is the one who finds Wisdom

and the one who gets understanding.... 

She is a Tree of Life to those who lay hold of her; 

those who hold her fast are called happy.”  

©MaeRunions     

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
God's Cosmic Actions
Mae Runions

Regent College Chapel Banners, 1996/1997

These banners were not to be creations of my own private inspiration. The subject matter had to consider the requirements of Senates, Boards, Cabinets, Theologians, Scholars, Saints and Angels!

I felt it to be a weighty project! It was also going into a space of local, international and cosmic significance! An intimidating project indeed. The goal of creating and placing banners in this space was first and foremost to celebrate God's work and presence throughout history and indeed here at Regent College. It was also hoped they would stir emotion and devotion and stimulate creative reflection.

One day in the book shop I found a wonderful card with beautiful calligraphy by Timothy Bott of a text from 1 Chronicles.  I put it up in my studio.  It read:

“Don't be frightened by the size of the task

      be strong and courageous 

      and get to work.

For the Lord my God is with you.

    He will not forsake you

    He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.”

What resulted was a series of 5 banners titled ‘God’s Cosmic Actions’.

The imagery of the banners encompasses time from Creation through to Culmination.

(left to right)

1. Creation

    “In the beginning was the Word ...”  John 1:1

2. Incarnation

     “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

3. Tree of Life: Crucifixion and Resurrection

     “If a seed falls into the ground and dies …... it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

4. Pentecost and Sending Forth

     “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace.”  Isaiah 52:7                  

5. Culmination

     “The trumpet shall sound …. and this mortal shall put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:52-3

 

You died today, you human God

           so engaged in your creation

You Divine God, transcended death

       that so engaged in personal resurrection and sending forth

       began the cosmic redemption.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
3 Advent Hangings
Mae Runions

St. Andrew’s- Wesley United Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1998

The Advent hangings were commissioned by the church and lovingly designated to remember those saints of this church no longer on earth. In special recognition of this, I mounted them here using my 24 K gold plated pins! Royal blue is the liturgical color for the church season of Advent, just before Christmas.

Advent is the season of waiting and preparation for the comings of Christ: His Incarnation, His second coming, and His coming now, into our lives. ‘Come Lord Jesus!’ The hangings seek to reflect these themes.

Left: 

Pulpit Antependium: Righteous Branch

The image is of a shoot of Christ, Messiah coming out of the stump of David’s lineage. 

Top:

Lectern Antependium: Fetus in the Cross

The cross is at the heart of Advent.  Who would have know that to bring salvation to all people, the ‘Creator of the Stars of Night’(6th Century hymn) would become a human baby.  As George Herbert so tenderly expressed it: ‘Immensitie cloystered in thy deare wombe.’

Bottom:

Communion Table Frontal: The Glory of the Lord Has Risen Upon You (Is. 60: 1-3)

I reflected on many Biblical images in working this design, particularly some well known ones from Isaiah ‘...prepare the way of the Lord…..darkness shall cover the earth but…..the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.' 

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Annunciation
Mae Runions

St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver, B.C., 1998.

When it hangs in the chancel at St. Andrew’s Wesley during Advent, this hanging is enclosed by an art nouveau brocade border given to me by the late Amelia Falls from her mother’s estate.  I had it at the back of my cupboard for many years before I was inspired to work this modern expression of the Annunciation for a show, in remembrance of her warm friendship.  Later on the church saw it and asked to have it included with their Advent hangings.

The angel Gabriel appears to the virgin Mary telling her not to be afraid, for she has found favor with God (Luke 1:26 -36). The mystery of the Incarnation is simply stated’…….you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…the Holy Spirit will come upon you….’

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
St. Brendan's Episcopal Church Banner
Mae Runions

Banner for St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church, Juneau, Alaska, 1998

Through the vision of Ven. Mark Boesser, Rector at St Brendan’s and his associate Rev. Deb Vanover (who worshipped at St. Faith’s while studying at Vancouver School of Theology) I was commissioned to do a work to hang in the entrance vestibule, over the door to the sanctuary.  The patron saint of this church is St Brendan, an Irish Celtic monk (c. 500) from the British Isles linked to sea travel; a legendary trip to the Alaska region suggests he brought Christianity to this continent. He was a visionary, and the church seeks to follow him in this way.

The natural beauty of this area in Alaska inspired me. My interpretation of this church’s worship and ministry is not a literal one, but the main elements are easily recognized: mountains (suggesting eternity), a glacier (mystery), fireweed (cleansing), sunrise and sunset (hope in God’s faithfulness), ship with sails and crosses (death and resurrection). The Celtic lettering is to honor St. Brendan.  There is tumult and there is serenity, and the church is there.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
St.Philip's Anglican Church
Mae Runions

Vancouver, B.C. 

Left to Right:

1. Creation-Celebration Processional Banner, 2000.

This banner was commissioned by Sally Clinton, in memory of her late husband Alf, and in celebration of his life and all their children and grandchildren;  it is given on the anniversary of the 75th anniversary of St. Philip’s Church.  It is to be used for processions at weddings and special occasions. This hanging is about how the Celebration of Creation is worked out in the Clinton family. Alf Clinton was an educator, an art teacher, a West Coast landscape painter, and a naturalist.  He loved riding horses, had a stable, and trained children.

The images used are universal – birds (hummingbirds), insects (dragonflies), flowers (trillium), mountains and sea (and sea life), animals (a horse) and a child. Also, music. In all of this life and created order, the Cross, Christ’s presence is central and thus part of this expression of worship.

2. Rose Window Processional Banner, 1998.

This banner was commissioned by Kathie Overton in thanksgiving for her husband, parents, children and grandchildren; it is given on the 73rd anniversary of St. Philip’s Church for use in the season following Pentecost (green). The rose window motif is symbolic of God’s love and unity; placing a circle in a square unites the infinite with the finite, God in Creation and Incarnation. The garden carries on the theme of creation, central to this season of the church year, and reflects the Overton’s love of gardens.  Kathie honours the memory of her English mother with the Yorkshire rose and Irish father with shamrocks.

3. Set of 3 Altar Hangings, 2006.

These pieces were commissioned by Thelma Stephens and family in memory of her late husband, the Venerable William Stephens, a former minister in this parish.  Celtic designs were requested to reflect the Irish heritage of the family.  Green is the liturgical color for Trinity Season, the long season after Pentecost Sunday which goes on until Advent.

The Eagle is often used in Celtic art; it is a symbol of highest inspiration and in particular represents the inspiration of the gospels.  Lecterns, from which the gospels are read were often given the form of an eagle.  In this case the eagle hangs on the lectern in fabric. The second antependium was to hang on the preaching pulpit. There is a Celtic cross here, with a circle around the arms, a symbol of God, without beginning and without end. The intertwining Celtic knotwork on the altar frontal is symbolic of God and the interconnectedness of all creation.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Communion Table Cover
Mae Runions

Regent College, 2000

Regent College uses a large central room for worship and lectures. Thus the long table at the front of the room has many uses – and so a special cloth was designed to cover it for Communion services to create a ‘Sacred Space’.  Faculty member Dal Schindel worked with me in planning this unique piece to be designed in the shape of a cross.  The result is a runner along the top of the table, with designs extending over each end; then there are two panels extending down the front and the back of the table, forming the cross.

I used several Christian symbols here:

1. The Cross: It is on each panel and on the top to symbolize Christ’s presence here.

2. Loaves and Fishes: They are an ancient symbol of the Eucharist, Christ feeding his people.  An ancient well preserved floor mosaic of the loaves and fishes is placed at the altar of a 4th or 5th century Byzantine Church in Tabgha in Galilee where Jesus fed the 5000. At least two times in the gospels, Jesus revealed himself to doubting disciples in the breaking of bread.

3. The Circle: It symbolizes God and the community here.  However in the end panels, the opening circle symbolizes not a closed but an inclusive community.

4. The Spiral: Found on the back panel, it symbolizes eternity.  It will be seen only by the celebrant to remind him/her that this eucharist is an act of eternal significance and that the saints in heaven as well as on earth are present.

©MaeRunions





It has been an enormous privilege to work on this piece – and I pray that the Lord and the college will accept my offering.


A Retrospective: Mae Runions
The Historic Church & The Ongoing Church
Mae Runions

Tenth Avenue Alliance Church, Vancouver, B.C., 2000

The church was celebrating it’s 65th anniversary, and wanted banners to reflect something of their history and also their present ministry.  I worked with the visionary Rev Ken Shigematsu and Karen Wood to create the designs.

Left:

The Historic Church 

This church was very cognizant of the natural beauty of Vancouver and wanted to acknowledge God’s presence and faithfulness seen in mountains sea and sky.  They also noted that Vancouver is a city of bridges which have brought people together in this place for 65 years.  Bridges can carry symbolism of reconciliation, passage, journey, shelter, and Christ as Mediator (GRACE).  

Right:

The Ongoing Church

In this place, people of diversity gather to the message of Christ. With the cross central to community, there is unity in this diversity.  The mosaic of color and shape conveys this. Now the bridge suggests the idea of linking the present to the past. 

In both banners water can suggest cleansing, renewal, reflection and refreshment.  And the image of the bird, over and beside, is the ever-present Holy Spirit.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Two Hangings
Mae Runions

Two hangings for Peace Portal Alliance Church, White Rock B.C., 2002

This large church seating 1100, had recently completed renovations.  They wanted hangings that would reflect their mission and vision and yet would be suitable for rental events. Two hangings were commissioned by their family in memory of a much loved former pastoral couple, Rev David and Mrs. Joy Anderson.

Left: 

The Cross and the Journey (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim 2:11-13)

Life is a journey which each person makes.  Each journey is unique and uncharted and, in a sense, solitary, even when in the company of family or community.  It can be like a labyrinth, sometimes a mountainous climb; sometimes a burning desert or a nourishing forest. Universal human struggles can challenge each one in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual ways.

For the Christian pilgrim, hope in Christ’s presence is constant. God’s faithful love and grace through the cross always overshadows, providing hope and joy for the Christian journey.

Right: 

Falling Water: Freely you Have Received, Freely Give (Matt.10:8)

There is a mystery in experiencing the beauty of falling water, and an awesomeness that overwhelms and engenders deep feelings.  Such an experience can be life changing.  Symbolically there is a cleansing and thirst for God and renewal.  There is new life, beauty, and hope.  What is the result? Intimacy with God; impact for God.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Four Commissions
Mae Runions

1) First Baptist Church, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Easter, 1985

I was engaged (through conversations with Dr. Naomi Hersom) to create a Pulpit Antependium and Communion Table Cloth to be given in memory of Burnie Thue, and dedicated by Rev Robert McLaren. As the pulpit is a symbol of the importance and centrality of the Scriptures, the antependium bears two visual symbols of growing grain and light.  The grain motif arises from Luke 8:11, '...the seed is the Word of God’, and the light of Scripture is conveyed by the colors of the prism and the reflected light of the gold. The matching Communion Table Cloth carries the ancient eucharistic symbols of wheat and grapes as the sources of bread and wine which symbolize the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. The arch motif repeats and reflects the architectural arches in the room.

2) Trinity Baptist Church, Vancouver, B.C., Pentecost, 2006

Dr. Greg and Mrs Carol Anderson commissioned me to do a pulpit hanging to mark his induction as the minister of this church and to express a motto of the congregation: ‘Receiving and Sharing Grace’. The idea of Grace was to be reflected by using bold colors from the room and the stained glass, and by the arches suggesting we need to step into it, mediated by the Holy Spirit while centered in Jesus’ death.

3) Hanging for the home of Mary Murray, Vancouver, B.C., 1991

Mary Murray was a devoted community member of our congregation at St. Faith’s Anglican Church. She was very supportive of my work there and asked me to do something for her home. The result was this piece: ‘You Renew the Face of the Earth” (Psalm 104: 29, 30).

4) Fairview Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, B.C., 2003

"The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split."(Matthew 27:51). The cross is emerging. The church had recently done a renovation of the platform area with the organ speakers mounted above in a central box. Through member Dal Schindell they asked me to do a hanging, using acoustic fabric, to be mounted in front of the box. Grant and Grace Wilson were able to install it.

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A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Resurrection: The Peacock and Thorns
Mae Runions

St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church, Vancouver, B.C., 2004. 

A hanging for Easter.  

The Peacock is a traditional symbol from classical times for immortality.  As the peacock naturally replaces its feathers annually it also became a symbol of renewal.  It was first used in Greek and Roman art and later was adopted by the church as a symbol of Christ and the Resurrection.  It became an attractive embellishment everywhere from the catacombs to floor mosaics to common every day items; it was commonly used in the early Romanesque and Byzantine churches. Belief in the Resurrection is central to the Christian faith.  Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so shall we be raised. 1 Corinthians 15:43 refers to the physical body being raised a spiritual body. The thorns below symbolize the groaning and suffering creation waiting in hope for the release offered though Christ’s magnificent work of salvation. These images juxtaposed have deep meaning for individuals, the community of faith at St. Andrew’s and for the Church universal.

©MaeRunions

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Banner and Antependium
Mae Runions

Whistler Village Church, 2004

In 2004 the Whistler Village Church was meeting in the new centrally located Maurice Young Millenium Place Theatre.

The church previously met in a legendary small A-frame Creekside Chapel at the foot of Whistler mountain; skiers could ski right up to the door and attend a service at the end of a day of skiing.  There was a beautiful stained glass window there, which was saved when this building was taken down.  This window was greatly loved and became a central idea for the fabric work.

The fabric commissions were sponsored by the Pratt-Johnson Foundation.

Left: 

The Journey: Love to Love

The theme is the mountain, not a specific mountain, but the universal mountain of journey.  Among other things it is a symbol of human challenge – of beauty and terror, hope and fear, joy and sorrow, accomplishment and defeat.  But ultimately it is Home. The Cross is present too, an ancient symbol of Christ’s saving presence with humans.

Right: 

Creator Jesus, Embrace Us with Your Love, Goodness and Truth

This design refers to but does not reproduce exactly, the stained glass window of the former mountain chapel;  all the colors of the rainbow were in the glass, embedded in 3 overlapping circles:  I imagine that the symbols suggested are Love, Goodness and Truth, Trinity, Unity and Transformation.

©MaeRunions
A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Journey Triptych
Mae Runions

G.F. Strong Rehab Hospital, 2008

I was engaged by chaplain Laura Sportack to create a work for a room that was just then being developed as an interfaith sacred space/prayer&meditation room. A nature theme was drawn from the geography of B.C. since patients came from all over the province. Images of ‘the journey’ were chosen to suggest comfort and support.

Sometimes I go on a journey by choice, sometimes by force of circumstance.  Always I feel timid - courage is required.Sometimes I rejoice in what I see, sometimes I suffer, ask why. Always beauty will be there if I open my eyes, then joy will come.  God with me on the journey. Never forget it.

Returning Salmon

Could this be me returning to the God who made me?  A tough and awesome journey.

Center panel: Morning Landscape…just waiting for me

Each day a new journey.

Right panel: Fireweed

A lot of beauty at this destination, previously a scorched and devastated place.

©MaeRunions


A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Wings of the Spirit, the Great Blue Heron
Mae Runions

St. Andrew’s- Wesley United Church, Vancouver, B.C., 2009

Hanging for Pentecost: Communion Table Frontal. 

The great Blue Heron stands 4 feet tall and has a wing span of 6 feet.  It is a community loving bird and nests in the legendary large heronry of Stanley Park.  It can also be solitary and goes off to fish on it’s own at times.   And it is our neighbor. The majesty and mystery of this great bird never ceases to stop me in my tracks. One year after Easter as I was thinking of Pentecost and we had been reading the powerful, amazing post Easter stories of the early church after the Spirit had come, I was thinking of visual symbols, as I do. Somehow the traditional dove wasn’t sufficient. I was looking out over the water from my studio and saw the flying heron – that great flapping something between a dinosaur bird and an elegant eagle.

I had that strange tingling of heart and hands – could we perhaps use the heron as a contextual symbol of the Holy Spirit for Pentecost at St. Andrew’s- Wesley Church? I had a little discussion with the minister Rev Gary as we served up the Seniors’ lunches.  And so it was……

Now when I see a distant heron flying over the water, I think, "there’s the Spirit, going about Spirit work…...someone on the North Shore this time!"

©MaeRunions

 

A Retrospective: Mae Runions
Two Sanctuary Hangings
Mae Runions

Trinity Pacific Church, Richmond B.C., 2013

This church is located near the mighty Fraser River, on the exteme south end of #5 Road, (termed the ‘Highway to Heaven Road’ because of so many places of worship on this road.) The property is large and includes space for a community garden. The congregation had recently renovated their building and wanted to include art.  Through members Jan Lermitte and Evelyn Kober the church was very involved in giving me ideas for imagery from their environment.  We also spoke about Jesus and the gospel of His grace and their desire to share this.

The Tree and the River (left)

The ‘tree and the river’ is a beautiful recurring Biblical image. (Psalm 1:3; Ez 31:7; Rev 22:1,2; Ez: 47:6,7,12; Jer 17:7,8 ; Ps 104:14-18.) The river provides nourishment and purpose for the tree; the tree reflects the glory and vitality of the river.  The relationship of God and the church can be seen here.  This symbiotic relationship reflects the wisdom statement that ‘…without God, we cannot…without us, God will not….’ The ship on the river is an ancient symbol of the church. Personal reflection on the many images and colors moves me to sense the priviledge and responsibility of belonging personnally and collectively somewhere in it all.

The Church in the Garden (right)

The Scripture text for the hanging is taken from Galations 5:22,23: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control’. By giving the church a setting of a fruitful garden, the congregation provided a beautiful metaphor for visualizing the Life of the Spirit being nurtured and grown amongst a gathered community. Again the opportunity for individual as well as corporate reflection is stimulated.

©MaeRunions