David talked about his passion to see artists as fully integrated persons, mature, and alive to God. To that end, he discussed six dangers of artistic activity in the church: bad art (e.g., cliché, melodrama, impersonal), super-saturation (too much of a good thing), the stubborn ossification of tradition (which he called "estancandose tercamente" -- Spanish for "getting stuck stubbornly"; also known as "the dead faith of the living"), the utilitarian subjugation of art (to worship or evangelism), art as a form of distraction (escape into feeling, entertainment), and immaturity (lack of self-control, manipulation, being ruled by fear).
David gave us three qualities of healthy artistic growth: it is relationally ordered (pastors relating to artists, older to newer generations, home culture to distant cultures), contextually relative (artistic excellence is when a work accomplishes the purpose for which it was created, as Nicholas Wolterstorff said), and organically rhythmed (seasonal, balancing "festal muchness" with "cleansing simplicity").
Finally, Jeremy was charged with predicting what the next 50 years of art in the church would look like. He treated us to an amazing tour-de-force in his typical style, a combination of lecture and performance (he's a fine concert pianist, in addition to sharing initials with J.S. Bach). Using the final movement from Prokofiev's 7th Piano Sonata, and bits of other works, Jeremy demonstrated "hopeful subversion," starting not with where we are now, but rather with a vision of God's future and working backward from there.
His main points were: 1. The Spirit unites the unlike (e.g., people hearing one another in their own tongues at Pentecost). 2. The Spirit generates excess (the same "festal muchness" David talked about; the New Creation is not merely a restoration of balance to the world but vastly exceeds the Garden of Eden). 3. The Spirit inverts (the rich become poor, and the poor rich). 4. The Spirit exposes the depths to which Christ has gone and the depths of who we are (as opposed to sentimental solipsism which avoids darkness). 5. The Spirit recreates (the Resurrection was the first day of the New Creation) 6. The Spirit improvises (the new heaven & new earth is surprisingly, endlessly new).
For many, God is dull because he seems so "ordered" -- all word/logos and no spirit. Jeremy invited us to embrace "non-order" (as distinct from disorder), which is the realm of laughter and the Spirit.
OUR CORPORATE WORSHIP
Bryan Brown and his team led us in worship that reinforced the principles being espoused in the conference. There was beauty, simplicity, and honest grappling with darkness. The unifying theme was the colors of the rainbow (a work of art by the triune Creator). Each day of the symposium, the lighting was changed to highlight two different colors from the spectrum. We sang some very Regent-ish songs, including Eugene's favorite "St. Patrick's Breastplate" (complete with all the weird rhythms and versification). Visual art, music, dance, and drama were all interwoven with excellence.
In between the keynote lectures and worship times, there were testimonies by practicing artists. There was also a cornucopia of breakout sessions covering everything from The Care of Artists, to Drama, Architecture, Cross-Cultural Mission, Forming an Arts Ministry in the Church, etc. (Recordings of all the plenary lectures and many of the breakout sessions will be available on the conference website at some point in the future.)
IN THE END
As David clarified during one of the Q&A sessions, the title of the symposium meant not that we aim to transform the culture by our art, but that God is in the business of transforming culture, and we are blessed and called to participate in that. What an awesome privilege it was to participate in what I truly believe will be looked back on in generations to come as a key moment in the growing renewal of the arts in the evangelical church that God is in the midst of accomplishing.
A tasty morsel indeed!
(Phaedra speaking in betwixt activities with Chris Mitchell, Director of the Wade Center at Wheaton College. Chris got his Ph.D. at St. Andrews and said we could be blood brothers forever if I did likewise, which, God bless me, I hope happens somehow, someway.)
(Jennifer Cumberbatch, all-around delightful, sharp-as-a-tack, who's-who woman here in Austin, and the ever-elegant co-director of the Trinity Arts Conference, Kim Alexander, taking a rest after having spoken in the "Arts & Evangelism" breakout.)
(Double trouble pastors, Gideon Tsang (Vox Veniae) and Don Vanderslice (Mosaic), shooting the fat on "Art and the non-traditional church." Guess of what Don is saying: "Ok, folks, here's the key to success. Listen very carefully: You give artists a big hug. That's it. Yep. I know, you'd think it'd be more complicated than that, but it isn't. But it needs to be a very big hug--like this." Gideon thinking to himself: "Hmmm. . . I don't know if I'd say it needs to be that big. Maybe a little smaller." These guys are great, I love them, and I'm so glad they were a part of it all.)