Two volunteers learn the art of making dazzling arrangements.
Photos courtesy of Timothy Mannion
Glen Ridge, N.J.
Gifted amateurs – with no background in horticulture or floral design – can learn to create inspired flower arrangements. Tim Mannion and Gordon Frey of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, N.J., are perfect examples.
Prior to arriving at St. Luke’s, neither Mr. Frey, a faculty member at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, or Mr. Mannion, who spends his weekdays at a job in information technology, had worked with flowers.
Now the two, assisted by a handful of dedicated volunteers, create singular arrangements for Sunday services, feast days, and church celebrations.
Both men were inspired to join the church’s flower guild after seeing designs created by its founder, Mary Ann Renn, a woman whose many talents include gardening, flower arranging, and motivating church volunteers.
After teaching her new volunteers the basics, Mrs. Renn let them learn on the job. “I knew right away that you knew what to do,” she reassured Frey as he began to work on his first arrangement.
Now, with Renn busy running the church’s successful soup kitchen, Frey and Mannion head the flower guild.
The sky is the limit when it comes to their designs. A few years ago on Palm Sunday, a towering six-foot array of forsythia and palms dominated space at the back of the church.
A recent celebration of St. Luke’s Day featured garlands of russet fabric that soared over the sanctuary, connecting the pillars that support the vaulted ceiling. The matched pair of large, autumn-hued arrangements on the high altar contained foliage in the same russet shade, with flowers and greens massed in a brilliant display.
What do these sumptuous arrangements contribute to the church? “Joy,” says Mannion, who adds that the flowers also contribute color, life, and a visual dimension to the worship experience.
“The flowers that decorate the sanctuary are an amazing sign of God’s ongoing creation that lives in each person who passes through,” adds the Rev. John Mennell, St. Luke’s rector.