Art in Our Worship Gatherings?

Worship and art: What comes to your mind when you see those two words together? I’m not sure we think much about how art and worship relate to one another, but all of us are affected those two words. I’m hoping we can engage in some fruitful discussions on the subject – are you with me?

I recently finished reading Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer which got me thinking about what place art should have in our worship gatherings as well as how we view and appreciate art. This past weekend, my family and I visited the Painted Churches of Schulenburg, Texas, which led to some great discussions about the role and function of art in our worship gatherings.

Differing views on art and worship

Art and Worship - St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist

The first four buildings we visited were all Roman Catholic churches. The buildings are a century or more old, but services are still held at them.

Art and Worship, St. Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church

They were built by German and Czech settlers who wanted to recreate the beautiful and lavish cathedrals they remembered from their homeland.

Art and Worship - St. Mary's of the Assumption
St Mary’s church of the Assumption

Not having access to vast quantities of marble and precious metals, they painted the interior of the buildings to resemble those more ornate materials. They are breathtaking. The colors, the details, the texture that has been created is astonishing.

Art and Worship - Nativity of Mary
Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church

My pictures really don’t do them justice — if you’re ever in central Texas, I highly recommend a visit.

 

We also visited a Lutheran church building and a Methodist church building, similarly old, and also still used for services. The contrast was stark. Gone were the elaborately painted walls and ceilings, as well as much of the stained glass.

art and worship - methodist church
Methodist Church

But also missing were the fences and rails designed to restrict entry to portions of the Catholic churches. Gone as well were statues of saints, multiple altars, and candles for the dead. Even my five-year-old noticed the dramatic differences, and my nine-year-old wanted to know why. While we appreciated the more extravagant interiors in the Roman Catholic buildings, there was a sweet simplicity, beautiful in its own right, to the interiors of the Protestant buildings.

art and worship - Lutheran church
Lutheran church

My children were not hesitant to walk around and explore in the Lutheran and Methodist buildings — my youngest even walked up in the pulpit. Those buildings felt more accessible; the Roman Catholic ones felt more ornamental.

I have no intention of summarizing the Reformation here, but it should suffice to say that the Reformers disagreed with the way in which Roman Catholic leaders structured corporate worship. It follows, then, that those differences in theology would play out in differences in architecture. Protestants do not pray to saints — thus the absence of statues and multiple altars. Protestants believe that salvation comes by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. They believe in the priesthood of all believers, so differences regarding the altar and the pulpit make sense. In many ways, the unadorned Protestant buildings were a response to the embellishment prevalent in Roman Catholic buildings.

The church of which we are members currently meets in a movie theater. Not really any embellishment or extravagance there. I love my church; the preaching, the music, the people all point me to the God we meet in the Scriptures and I am better for it. But sometimes the movie theater is a distraction when we gather for worship. We sit in big comfy chairs with separate arm rest, theater-style. We look at a big movie screen with notes for the sermon and words for the songs. There is no pulpit, no special communion table, not even any windows (to say nothing of stained glass). But none of those things is essential to worship. In fact, the earliest of church meetings were generally held in private homes, a far cry from elaborately decorated cathedrals.

But we also know from passages such as Exodus 25 and 2 Chronicles 3 that both the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon were beautiful, ornate structures, down to the exquisite detail on each candlestick. Clearly God loves beauty when it comes to places of worship. 

Your view on art and worship?

How are we as Christians to think about art, beauty, and worship? I would suggest that Schaeffer gives us some helpful guidelines, and I’m thinking about doing a blog series to discuss those a bit more. What are your thoughts? What does the place where you worship look like? In what ways does it beauty (or lack thereof) contribute to or distract from your worship? How do you think your religious beliefs inform your views of art, beauty and worship? Feel free to include a picture with your comments and let’s keep the conversation going!

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Need an energy boost?

I gain energy by creating and I am in the thick of painting as you can see below. I’ve still got a ways to go because this one is a doozie – large, exciting and acrylic! I’ll be sure to post a picture when it’s all completed!

Painting energy 

Sometimes, I get so involved in the creative process of painting that I even forget to eat (the cereal boxes are purely props!) As my energy started to flag, a thought popped into my head and I was reminded of Ft. Worth, TX. I’ll be sharing lots with you about the marvelous trip my good friend Pam treated me to in later blog posts.

energy boostBut for now, I want to share a dynamite energy booster that we had as we tooled through the streets of Ft. Worth. Yummy and nutritious, a super snack that was fully of healthy goodies. It kept us going, night and day, in the car and in my purse.  I had never had it before. It was so good that I had to take a picture of it! It really made a difference and helped us to “hold the line” when we were too busy to eat a meal.

A different kind of energy

There is another Sustainer that I recommend and He is so much better than trail mix! He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother—Jesus. 

The Bible describes Him magnificently in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (emphasis added)

Jesus sustains our world and our lives. May I suggest you get an a true energy boost by getting to better know the One who loves and sustains you.

Where do you turn when you need an energy boost?

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An Unlikely Partnership

A stay-at-home mom and a business executive walk into a bar… Okay, so maybe Laura and I wouldn’t walk into a bar together, but it is an odd pairing — an unlikely partnership indeed. Just what does a mom of two young children have in common with a retirement-age recruiting contractor? More than either of us might have thought, as we would soon find out.

Let me back up a few years to explain.

The Early Days, Summer 2013

My husband had just signed a contract to teach at a classical school outside of Philadelphia, and we were preparing to move from Richmond, Virginia, to a start this new adventure. The cost of living in South Jersey is definitely higher than in Richmond, and private schools aren’t known for their extravagant salaries, so I found myself looking at options for earning some extra money.

It just so happened that my lovely aunt contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in some part-time work-from-home hours. She had been working as a virtual assistant for Laura, but was transitioning to full-time employment. So she was searching for someone to replace her. After Laura and I spoke on the phone, I took the reins from my aunt. Since I am wired to enjoy administration, the job fit snugly with personality: answering email, scheduling appointments, managing her calendar, and partnering with her to assist her in executive recruiting.

Fast Forward to Summer 2015

In May of 2015, Laura called and told me that she wanted to take some time off from executive recruiting in order to focus more on her artwork. Little did I know how that shift in focus would transform our partnership! As we continued to talk and explore, “I want more time to paint” became questions about how to market and sell art online, the creation of a website, development of an e-store and selling on other e-commerce sites, a blog… Things have just been accelerating since then.

I am a linear thinker and a Type-A personality — some might say I border on OCD (but in a good way, I’m sure). Laura… well… she’s an artist. When it comes to her art, she just creates. She intuits things; she emotes. I am the left brain while she is the right brain. While it might sometimes feel as though we are talking past each other, we’ve learned to accommodate each other. Laura endures my countless emails, complete with bulleted lists, enumerated questions, and attached spreadsheets. I’ve learned to be patient and flexible as she requests another color change or forgets to set a price for a piece of art. She makes me a better communicator. I think she would say the same of me.

an unlikely partnership

The Ties That Bind 

What is it that makes us work so well together? In fact, with just one of us, this art blogging adventure would look very different. Despite our differences, we share a common foundation and a common goal. Both our lives our anchored in Jesus Christ and His Word. Both of us love art, love people and want to encourage them. Because of the gospel, we are united, and because of Laura’s art and my writing, we have this blog. 

I know the past few weeks have shown a lot of division in our society, and where we go seems unclear to so many people. But for those of us who follow Christ, we have a message of hope and of unity to give to a world that so desperately needs it. Who in your life needs to hear that? Who are the people in your life that are different from you, but enrich your life as a result? Tell them how grateful you are for your unlikely partnership.

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Inspired by a business card

“Tell us how you met Laura…” 

I recently sat in a room where over a dozen women shared how they knew Laura and how she had inspired them. She had encouraged them, challenged them, motivated them, comforted them, helped them to be better women. Yet this same Laura confided to me earlier that afternoon that she was uncomfortable opening up her life to others. That made for two very different perspectives on the same person, but think it’s precisely her hesitancy to share that enables her to inspire others.

I’ve known Laura for over two years, but only last week met her in person. (That might sound crazy, but explaining it will take another blog post.) We sat down to talk “business,” and I was sharing with her some of the things I am learning through an online training course. I mentioned to her that she needs to have business cards to share her art more effectively. She smiled: “I just had some printed up; I hope you’ll like them.”

inspired by a business card

Like them? I LOVE them!!!  I love her creativity in displaying different paintings on the front, while on the back including not only her contact info, but also her picture. The cards are amazing. I encouraged her, “You should hand them out tonight.” Laura was going to give a talk later that night to women’s group about our identity in Christ. 

But then came the hesitation. As we talked further, she continued to deflect the notion of putting herself “out there” for others.

But as I listened to the women in that room talk, it was abundantly clear that she had put herself out there for each and every one of those ladies in a myriad of ways over the years — in person, over the phone, via email. She had laughed, cried, prayed, talked, rejoiced, and mourned with them. She had offered wise counsel in times of confusion. She had poured herself into them, and they were changed as a result of their friendship with her.

Even now, as she’s reading this, I’m certain she feels uncomfortable with it. Laura doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. She’s quick to call herself a private person. But I want to suggest that what she is is a humble person; someone who sees her own frailty but recognizes that it is Christ in her that brings about change through their relationship with her. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Laura is a successful business woman as well as a talented artist. But what I love most about her is her humility. She doesn’t try to pretend to be something she’s not. She is open to correction; she invites and welcomes honest critique of her work. She knows the depths from which she has come and where her real hope is found. She is quick to say “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” when reflecting on her own struggles.

So often in our culture, we idolize celebrity. But how many celebrities have a meaningful, substantial, positive effect on our lives? How much better to be inspired by genuine humility! So who inspires you? Who has touched your life in such a way that you are no longer the same? What is it about them that draws you in? Tell them: Send an email or pick up the phone. If they’re anything like Laura, they will no doubt squirm a bit under the attention, but that’s what makes them so remarkable.

So, Laura, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on someone you’d never met. Thank you for giving me a voice on this blog. Thank you for enduring my countless questions and emails. Thank you for pointing me always back to our Savior.

And what about those business cards? Well, she was still hesitant, so I owned my role as her assistant and spread them out on a table in the back of the room. I then mentioned casually that ladies could take one as they left. And you know what? They all did.

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