The following is the nineth installment of my bulletin insert series:
Liturgical Colors - Throughout the year, the Church uses colors to symbolically express various emphases of the Christian seasons. You will notice the colors of the pastor’s stoles will change according to the Christian season and so, too, will the colors of the various paraments (the altar cloth, etc.). These colors are based on historic and common ecumenical traditions.
The Christian year contains two cycles: Christmas (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany) and Easter (Lent/Easter/Pentecost). Each of these cycles contains a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white, followed by an ordinary time of growth symbolized by the color green. The basic colors, then, are as follows:
Purple is the color both of penitence and royalty, and is used during Advent and Lent.
White (and also gold) are joyous and festive colors and are used during the Christmas and Easter Seasons and on other festive days such as Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration, Trinity, All Saints, and Christ the King.
Green is the color of growth and is used in the Seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost, except when special days call for white or red.
Red is the color of fire, symbolizing the Holy Spirit and is used on the Day of Pentecost and at other times when the work of the Holy Spirit is being emphasized. Red may also symbolize the blood of Christ and is often used during Holy Week. Red is also an appropriate color for evangelistic/revival services and for ordinations and consecrations.
Information gathered from the following resources:
Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church. Nashville, Abingdon P. 1984.
The United Methodist Book of Worship.