Friday, July 08, 2016

Visual Arts & Faith

Those of you who've attended worship services I've led through the years know that I am inclined to incorporate visual images in my sermon and other aspects of the service. Some are projected or displayed on screens, as is the case at Bridge St. I accepted a call here on the condition that visual display be installed, and we have five large high-resolution monitors in the sanctuary.

Faith and the Arts: A Fragile Friendship

We have been creative with drapings reflecting the changing church year, and employed a swath of blue cloth pouring out of the baptism font. We've grouped various breads by the table on Communion Sundays and in  a couple of congregations we placed electric breadmakers around the church so that the worship space was filled with the aroma. Recently we had a display of photographs and a dress on Aboriginal Sunday as a reminder of the REDdress Project.

I was surprised to see an article in Christianity Today recently about a growing trend in the United States to employ/call "arts pastors" whose specific role is to incorporate and encourage the arts within congregational life. Surprised? More like blown away! I have served several congregations with a half-time music director or, in the case of Bridge St, a music minister with a Masters of Sacred Music. Never had I heard of an art pastor.

There is a long history of the Christian church sponsoring the arts and expressing faith through visual images. In some respects it is uniquely Christian because of Jewish and Islamic prohibitions regarding graven images. Sadly, in the past century there has been a diminishing commitment to incorporating visual art in worship spaces and next to no money to commission art, except perhaps in the Roman Catholic tradition. The modern sanctuary  of the congregation I served in downtown Sudbury did have some impressive doors and other pieces commissioned specifically for that space. Below is the door to the Peace Chapel in St. Andrew's Place, created by Quebecois artist Jordi Bonet.

Image result for jordi bonet doors

I have enjoyed pastoral ministry and the art of preaching through nearly four decades , but I would leap (or at least hop awkwardly) at the opportunity to be an arts pastor. So many people tell me they are visual learners and that the images I use open their imaginations. I'm convinced that what happens in my brain and spirit in the presence of art is a spiritual experience. If only we had a greater commitment to the visual "Word of God" as well as music and spoken word.


1 comment:

Judy said...

I agree - art can speak volumes and give one new insights that we have never experienced before - if music can stir us spiritually, so can visual arts; the sculptures of a female on a cross, and a homeless Jesus on a park bench are two examples.