Inviting the arts back to church

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I’m not a cultured person, at least when it comes to the arts. I’m not interested in ballet, nor opera. Most classical music leaves me cold; symphony tickets feel like an upcoming jail sentence. A visit to an art museum is typically wasted on me.

I say that more in confession than in boast. I’d love to be better able to find the beauty in such things. I recognize the transcendent nature of the arts, how works of great beauty and creativity have impact far beyond their own generation. I wish they impacted me more.

It doesn’t help that I come from a church tradition that downplays the role of artistic expression in worship. We tend to have utilitarian buildings, with little focus on aesthetic values. Historically, we have rejected the use of musical instruments and “special” music (choirs, soloists, etc.). An artist finds little room for expression in most congregations within our fellowship. (Outside of children’s Sunday school, of course)

I think we need to recapture God’s love of beauty and creativity. We need to see that God’s Word addresses the senses and not just the mind. We need to find a way for individual Christians to share their artistic gifts with the rest of body; special times and spaces could be created for any such expressions that don’t fit our corporate worship time.

This involves broadening our minds as to what constitutes a church activity. If we limit the life of the church to an hour per week on Sunday mornings, then it’s easy to see how some forms of art have a hard time finding their place. But when we recapture the idea of church life that draws us into vibrant, daily, life-changing community, then we can begin to imagine an artistic element to our body life.

What if…

…we had a time of thanksgiving where members expressed their gratitude through poetry, visual arts, and music?
…our church meals included a gallery of photos taken by our members?
…we plastered our church hallways with our children’s drawings, like refrigerator art shared with the whole community?
…there were an annual composition festival each year for new hymns and songs of praise?
…our churches committed to a cappella singing found a way to make space for instrumental expression outside the worship assembly?

Those are just a few ideas from one of the least artistic among us. We need to spend time as a church dreaming of ways to promote creativity in our midst. The biggest what if would be, what if invited the arts back to church?

Even those of us with a lack of general culture can appreciate the giftedness of others in our midst. We can encourage them to use their talents for the glory of God, rather than making them feel that such things only belong to the world. Our churches will be all the richer for it.

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