Before the West Ohio Annual Conference convenes, you might find Cynthia Lockhart fashioning the altar into a visual piece aligned with the theme for the session. Her mission is to use imagery to tell a story.

“We all have our local church worship experience,” Lockhart says. “But, when you come to an annual conference, it must be an in-depth approach to worship for everybody. You have the speakers, the singing and the programming, but this is the next level.”

The award-winning textile artist and designer recognizes imagery enhances the worship experience in a singular space. She creates a visual story that continues to build each day.

Alongside lending her gifts to West Ohio, Lockhart continues to create. Her work is part of collections at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the Taft Museum of Art. Her piece titled, Created to Be Me has been accepted into the Smithsonian Museum Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Lockhart, a retired professor, credits her mother for her interest in textiles. “She was a fashion diva; a beautiful woman who was a model and was always in style,” Lockhart says. She also beautified interior spaces by sewing curtains and having furniture upholstered.

When Lockhart arrives on location for an annual conference, she is ready to create with her arsenal of supplies. Although she knows the theme, color palate and Scripture reference, Lockhart doesn’t reveal the design of the altar until she is in the room. “I pray and ask God to order my steps. The altar is sacred; it’s a wonderful thing,” Lockhart says. Throughout her process, she allows God to lead her.

Lockhart began lending her gifts to annual conference more than a decade ago when the late Rev. Michael Johnson recommended her to West Ohio’s Bishop Palmer. “I didn’t serve this way in my local church, so this was a new experience,” Lockhart says. She is a member of New Vision United Methodist Church in the Great Miami River District.

When the annual conference convenes, attendees will see an altar carefully draped with fabrics of various hues and textures. It may include symbols of the eucharist or baptism alongside candles at varying heights with florals. Lockhart’s creation becomes the centering piece for annual conference as participants remember who they are as Christians called United Methodists.

Lockhart says, “When you come to annual conference, we want you to come knowing you are going to get something out of it; knowing God is going to give you something special, and visuals are a part of that.”

Click here for more on Cynthia Lockhart.

Written by Amy Graham, Freelance Writer for the West Ohio Conference Communications