The arts have always been a very important part of the church. The early church understood how the messages of the Bible could be communicated through many mediums. They led the way when it came to music, the visual arts, and even drama. In many churches today an emphasis is still placed on music because of the prominent place it has in our worship, but we don’t always give the visual arts an equal status.
I have always been a big proponent of reclaiming the arts in church. We should be some of the most creative and innovative people on the planet. There are so many opportunities to use visual arts in our worship and throughout the church, and there always seems to be gifted people within the walls of our congregations who are willing to share their gifts with the church. I have two ways in which I have utilized those people and their gifts, and both were effective and had benefits beyond just bringing great artwork into our church.
The Celebration of the Arts was a week long event that allowed us to set up an art gallery featuring work from the people in our church, a publication of literary works authored by our people, workshops and a final concert of music & drama. It is a massive amount of work, but well worth the effort as you see people who are never in the lime light come forward and share their gifts in a way they feel comfortable. The gallery space can be as large or small as you like, and if you are blessed with many artists you can limit the number of pieces each submit. Setting aside a time during the year to highlight the arts also brings more attention and places importance on the work being done. I don’t let this become a craft fair where people come to sell their products – this is a true art show. Consider giving it a theme or a central verse. If the theme is broad enough, you can make almost any piece work, for example: “There Is a Time for Everything” based on Ecclesiastes or “In the Beginning, God Created” based on Genesis 1:1. Enlist the help of the artists in your church to set-up the art gallery and plan the event. We even offered workshops throughout the week that ranged from worship to writing to water colors.
Another idea for incorporating art into the life of your church is an “Artist of the Month.” This one is very easy to do, and you will enjoy watching the interaction of your church people with the artist and their work. Find out who in your congregation paints, does photography, woodworking, quilting, and the list goes on. Ask them if they are willing to bring in several pieces to be on display during a particular month. You can schedule these out 6 months to a year in advance. Find a prominent place in your foyer or lobby area. Be sure to display their name, a photo, and maybe their favorite Bible verse. I was amazed at how many people would take the time to really look over the artwork. They would get to know who the artist was, and if they had not met them, they would be sure to find them and thank them for their work. I saw people connect and engage in conversation who otherwise would have never met at church.
It’s easy to focus on music as the primary art form we use within the walls of the church, but let’s expand our use of the arts. After all the early church understood this as well. Take a trip to Europe sometime and walk through the cathedrals and see how much of their sacred spaces house beautiful artwork. Let’s be inspired to do the same.
Sing on, Friend!