Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Connecting our Community through Conversation

Last night, we had a follow-up conversation to Thursday’s Art and Faith in Community Lecture on “Artists in Christian Community.” I truly enjoyed last week’s lecture and the informal conversation afterward. That conversation explored issues like the difference between creativity, imagination, and artistry. Last night’s conversation took a different turn. We spent a lot of time talking about artists’ contributions to worship as participants, leaders, and visitors in the pews. We talked about our creative work; critique and encouragement, and allowing our work to honor God when we’re pleased with our efforts and when we’re not. Later in the evening, the conversation moved from worship as public event to worship as living out our lives as God intended in our creation.

Even though this lecture series is focused on worship, we have to be careful not to limit our consideration of art and artists to worship. As I’m preparing for this week’s lecture, I am reminded that liturgical art – or art in worship – has some specific constraints. Of course, any constraint is an opportunity for inspiration and discipline, blah blah blah… but even constraints imposed by a community’s values and the purpose of worship can inhibit the working of the Holy Spirit through the artist to call our attention anew to some issue in our lives.

I truly believe that not just the art that artists produce, but their ways of seeing and being in the world can teach us something. The artists themselves are a resource for their interpretive skills, their visionary capability, and their modes of communication that capture an idea and a spirit of an age. As the night wore on, I felt privileged to hear mature Christians speak about small group experiences, prayer, confession, acceptance and the joys and challenges of contributing your gifts to God. I’ve been in churches many years and participated in discussions, retreats, and all sorts of teachings on these topics, but approaching these issues from perspectives of people who engage in creative work helped me see these topics in new ways. I’ve frequently been in small groups where I identified with common experiences of being a woman or student or single person, but far more infrequently have I been able to share a common experience about being creative.

I was reminded that Christians can learn so much by being in authentic communities that live out values of compassion and mutual growth. It is encouraging for me to be in a place where I can learn from mature believers who approach Scripture with the interpretive lens of artistic experience and share the way faith enables them to live out their unique calling.

More blogging about last night: Amanda's blog: http://badcaseblog.blogspot.com

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