In this month’s exclusive column for The Scoop, Scott Guyatt turns his attention to the full spectrum of the arts and considers the potential benefits if every church embraced painting, drawing, poetry, sculpture, photography, dance and other forms of artistic expression.
Artists see the world in different ways to many of us. They create or encounter new worlds in their imagination and speak, paint, write, perform and sculpt that reality into existence.
The eyes of an artist truly are a gift from God.
There have been times in our history when the church embraced, treasured, even sponsored arts and artists. But there have been times too when we have been suspicious, disinterested or dismissive. Of course just about every local church embraces the art form of music in some way, whether through the performance of a solo artist, small group or choir, or in all the richness that congregational singing contributes to our worship. The oft-present craft group is another expression of the arts in our midst.
But quite often that’s the end of our intentional nurture, embrace and expression of the arts in our worship, discipleship and community life. It’s uncommon for us to explore painting, drawing, mime, poetry, sculpture, photography, theatre or many other art forms (let alone emerging digital art forms of the 21st century).
I wonder what richness might emerge should we enthusiastically, and deliberately, embrace the arts?
What different images of God could be contributed to our worship life? What different ways of encountering Jesus might enrich our discipleship? What beauty could we contribute to our communities? In what fresh ways could we speak truth to power? What hidden talents might emerge if a local church became a place that encouraged its members to explore an artistic expression of their faith?
What if every church were to embrace the arts by exploring an artist in residence program? This would provide a place for an artist to work, to explore, to interpret and to respond to life in the local community; a place for an artist to both contribute to, and learn from the life of the faith community in action.
Maybe that spare room under the church could become an artist’s studio. Maybe the dance, photography or drama club that rents our hall could become our active partners in finding and expressing good news. Maybe there’s an artist in our very midst who yearns for the chance to contribute their gift to the life of our congregation.
Maybe like me, you’re not a painter or a poet; not a dancer or a sculptor; not a composer or a sketch artist. But maybe we could invite those who are to help us see the world, see our neighbourhood, see the life of Jesus through a different kind of eyes. And just maybe to discover that we do have those artist’s eyes tucked away inside each of us.
At the 2015 SPARC national gathering, renowned poet (and guest of Synod Unchained) Joel McKerrow, noted, “This is one of our big problems for us who are empty. We’ve forgotten how to wonder. We’ve forgotten how to look at something and be inspired by it, and use our imagination, and open our eyes and see it for what it is. To see the world that is lying beneath it.”
What if every church embraced the arts?
Feeling inspired? Visit Visionaries to find out more about a network of visual artists from the Uniting Church and other Christian Churches in Queensland who hold three exhibitions per year.