Rumor has it Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  I definitely grew up with the sounds of those words ringing in my ears, the calm, encouraging hand of a parent or grandparent pointing always in the direction of a new idea, helping me build something wild I’d dreamed up, sewing a costume for a character I’d created, pinning a newly painted canvas proudly on the wall.  I grew up believing that intelligence is good, but creativity is to be celebrated.

I’ve been lucky, really, to be in jobs and situations where I’m allowed to be creative for most of my life.  But, as is the unfortunate consequence of life in the “real world,” I’ve also been met with everything from total shut down to laughter to disgusted eye-rolling when I pitch a new idea.  Some of my ideas have deserved such reactions, for sure, but now I’m always a little nervous to pitch something that sounds sorta crazy.

Which is why I’ll always remember standing in the booth at Imago with Paul and Favorite the night that I sheepishly admitted that I wanted to build a wall.  I’ll remember because neither one of them laughed at me, or told me it was way too complicated.  Paul thought for a moment, declared “That’d be killer,” and exchanged a conspiratorial grin with Fave, who confirmed quickly that yes, I’m insane, but yes, usually harmless and sometimes on to something.


It’s one of the raddest feelings ever, having a crazy idea and being granted permission to run with it.  It’s even better to have a crazy idea and find yourself surrounded with talented, inspired, brilliant people who know how to make your little brain child into an honest-to-goodness reality and add personal touches and bits of genius you would never have imagined.  It’s even better to come together with them as a community and know that you’re all working your tails off for the purpose of creating a little bit of seasonal magic, an environment of worship, and an art piece for a big and deserving and beautiful God.  Which is basically what happened with our Advent decor.


The beautiful Amber Christopher of The Modantiquarian agreed to partner with me, bringing with her completely perfect ideas for communion tables and the coolest handmade lamps I’ve ever seen.  Alan Rutherford arrived with his construction skills and artistic eye and built a beautiful wall out of pallets collected from other people’s dumpsters.  Chris, Sean, Scott, Daniel, Hannah, Wess, Robbie, Karen, Ben, Mitch – the list of folks who helped put this sucker together is long and wonderful and full of brilliance.
















Some fun facts – the wall, candle table,  and the two smaller walls were created from reclaimed pallet wood attached to standard wall frames.  About 40 pallets in all were collected, deconstructed, and repurposed.  The massive center wall was constructed in two pieces and finished once it had been placed.  The LED lights on either side of the stage were purchased at Target and are one of my favorite finds ever.  The firewood is from Dean Innovations in Portland, and will be sold after Advent to benefit Advent Conspiracy.  The artwork on the screens and walls is displayed using five separate projectors, four computers, and a whole lot of finger crossing.  Stefan Wolf created all the wood carvings that were used to make the prints of the images, which were then photographed and formatted by Nate Grubbs.  There are 5 images in all, and Stefan will be making Christmas cards with the images available for purchase.  Amber and her husband Daniel made all the lamps by hand, and the other items on the tables were collected from a variety of thrift and antique stores (originally for their wedding), along with a few trips to Ikea, Joann’s, and good ole Home Depot.  Everything went up in three days.  None of us have any idea how we’re going to take the whole thing down.

I love walking into the sanctuary and seeing that wood wall.  I love knowing that those pallets were someone else’s garbage, and that hard work and a lot of love turned them into something incredibly beautiful.  I love knowing we serve a God who does the same for us – collects us from our brokenness, our uselessness, the places we’ve been discarded, and binds us to Himself and to each other, reminding us that we are made of beautiful stuff, that we have a purpose to serve, that we have a place in the Kingdom.  I’m so extraordinarily grateful for my Imago Dei family- for their love and help with this project, for the gift of celebrated creativity, and for a place to rest in the miracle of this Advent season.


  • Jody Rutherford December 5, 2011 at 7:53 am

    I hear the consensus is the wall should stay permanently. ; )
    It was fun to read how all of this came together to transform our worship space into something truly amazing. Thanks, Karyn!
    One note about the pallets: the majority of them came from the warehouse of Portland Public Schools (where I work). I probably shouldn’t publicize that due to “separation of church and state,” but I want people to know how generous the guys in the warehouse were when Alan went looking for a pallet source. So thanks to Terry, Craig, and Demitri!

  • Emily December 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Love it all! I figured you had a hand in it… 🙂

  • Kat Bonham December 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I’m with Jody! Let’s keep the wall. Thanks for the hard work that you put into this Karyn. I’m glad that God gave some of my brothers and sisters the gifts to be creative in this way! Thanks for using your gifts to bless the body.

  • Seann December 7, 2011 at 12:24 am

    It was a pleasure to help out I had no clue what the wall was going to look like but as we cut the pallets and reorganized the wall I was pleased!!! And how everyone helped out was amazing!!!!