"Of course, worshipping God with art isn't necessarily a church thing. But we shouldn't exclude art from Sunday's service. When we separate who we are from our worship in community we deny ourselves and others the gift of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. 'Do it on the weekends or in your free time' can no longer be acceptable to the Christian is who seeking to live his/her life in full communion."
Art speaks to and from the heart and spirit. It's not just for the artist but those who come in contact with the art. It can be a vessel for and of God's message. Something awakens when we hear or see art.
And when I hear or see authentic art in a sanctuary or a Narthex, when it comes alive, then I begin to feel more at home, knowing God is there too. I don't believe I'm alone in this. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of artists who love Christ who are wanting to "come home" but haven't found the space in the worship service to spread their multi-colored wings.
That's why I was excited to attend a one-day conference yesterday, "The Breath and the Clay: a gathering on faith, art and culture." Here we would be, those who hunger after God -- who are artists on some level -- learning, sharing, discussing and creating in community.
But as I left the conference after a day of speakers and a couple of workshops, I felt uneasy. Somewhat restless and agitated. "Lord, what is it?" I finally asked as I was driving home (the feeling has been there for months, usually arriving on Saturday). "What are you saying?"
"What is it you want?" I heard in my heart. I began to meditate on that as I continued to drive and tears welled in my eyes. I knew then, as I have for awhile, that God has me on a path where I'm desiring more than a worship service to attend, which, on some level, is all I have known.
Worship is something in which I want to participate. But not as a member of the choir, or on the usher board, or taking up offering. Those services are wonderful for the persons who are called to them. There are others who experience a different calling to worship, which is what I'm experiencing. It's a desire to worship God with what He has given us. It's an offering of the artistry that we want to lay before Him.
You might be thinking, "Great! Bring your painting to church when you come, then." But what about artists incorporating their artistry with Sunday's worship service?
Of course, worshipping God with art isn't necessarily a church thing. But we shouldn't exclude art from Sunday's service. When we separate who we are from our worship in community we deny ourselves and others the gift of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. "Do it on the weekends or in your free time" can no longer be acceptable to the Christian is who seeking to live his/her life in full communion. Yes, there is a time and a place for everything, but if God is the Master Creator, how can we then place creativity outside of worship?
As we grow in our awareness of the awesomeness of God, I don't think we can continue to limit our methods of worship, but rather pray for guidance and discernment on how to be who God has called us to be, not just outside of the church but inside as well.
I remember as a child, there being some Sundays when we didn't follow the "order of worship" because the spirit was so high. When I would ask my father about this on the way home, he would explain to me how sometimes the singing and testifying are the sermon. I wonder if most Christian leaders today see church as something "to order" and do instead of allowing space for the Holy Spirit to show up.
For the artist (not all but those in this category), our desire is to give God what we have been given. Perhaps there isn't a church that will allow me -- a nonprofessional painter -- to come with my paints, brushes, canvas and easel, and paint while the choir is singing or the liturgical dancers are dancing or while the others are worshipping in the way they feel led. Perhaps the pastor or leaders will feel it is distracting or self-serving or unnecessary. But for the artist who is looking for church, coming together to find ways of incorporating art into the worship experience isn't a luxury or an afterthought, it is a necessity. A calling from God.
For over a year, I've been struggling to identify my frustration with church. Yesterday, after a full day, I accepted that I and many others are looking for a church that has room for who we are as artists. A church that looks into our eyes and see our heart, who understand that to worship the splendid and fullness of God takes all of us with our different talents and gifts. We are looking for a space to learn and grown and be supportive of who God has created us. Art should not be something left to do outside of church. Our art is the Holy Spirit's gift. That is what we want and are required to bring and share in worship.
This need and desire to have a full worship experience are bubbling up for many. It's a movement towards wholeness. I'm thankful to be on the journey, to have moments of clarity, to see God's hand in it all, waiting patiently for believers to rise up, to take up our mats, and walk...
I'm off now to worship… to paint what the Holy Spirit inspires.
Other articles on visual arts in worship:
Theological Artist Adds Visual Texture to Worship
Visual Arts in Church Making the Invisible World Visible
Are you interested in how visual artists can serve the church?