When Christians from around the world gather in Korea in a few weeks, they'll all sing from the same songbook, thanks to the work of a local graphic artist.
Winnipegger Judith Rempel Smucker designed the cover of the 254-page worship book for the upcoming 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea.
"I tried typographically to convey the idea of increasing volume, momentum and enthusiasm," she says of the hymnal entitled Hallelujah!
About 800 delegates from 345 member churches, and about 2,200 guests and observers are expected to gather in Busan from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8.
The World Council of Churches represents an estimated 500 million Christians from a large variety of Christian denominations, including Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Reformed and United. The Roman Catholics are not members of the WCC. The assembly meets every seven or eight years, and in 1983, Vancouver hosted the meeting.
In addition to the songbook cover, Rempel Smucker also designed five large banners measuring three by seven metres, which will hang in the main assembly room, as well as several informational kiosks for the assembly's display area. She also put together banners detailing events and photos of the WCC's previous nine assemblies dating back to the 1948, when the council met in Amsterdam.
One of several designers from across the globe preparing materials for the assembly, Smucker had to balance small details with the bigger concerns of a multilingual gathering. For instance, for the upcoming assembly, all materials are printed in English, French, Spanish, German and Korean.
"It's important to retain simplicity with style, and in the case of WCC, the added challenge is finding a universal visual language that communicates in a variety of cultures," she says of the design issues she faces.
Although Smucker's work will be an integral part of the assembly, she will not be flying to Busan for the 10 days of business, prayers and ecumenical conversations. If she could attend, she predicts her favourite part would be the large-scale worship services, and not only because her art adorns the songbook.
"I would look forward to many radically different people worshipping together; the singing, the communion, the coming together in a common spirit, regardless of denominational persuasion," says the 58-year-old native of Steinbach, who moved to Winnipeg in 2012 after several decades in Pennsylvania.
"I think when we encounter others in such settings, a global respect for each other emerges."
And those settings also remind Canadians of the diversity, size and common purpose of the Christian church, says Rev. Susan C. Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, who is attending the Busan assembly.
"I think the purpose of bigger organizations like the World Council of Churches is to remind us of the vastness of the Christian church," says Johnson, the only Winnipegger in the ELCIC delegation.
"It reminds us to open up to the size God is."
For Smucker, who has devoted about half her working time to WCC materials over the last year, designing materials for the largest ecumenical Christian body reminds her that people of faith everywhere have common concerns.
"It's exciting to be part of the global church community," says the designer and visual artist, who recently self-published a book of collages and reflections on the meaning of home.
"In my work with various denominations I have also discovered that themes such as peace, justice, caring for the environment, gender justice, interfaith conversations are common to the majority."