Friday, February 17, 2012
The Conditions for the "Successful" Formation of Worship Art: Part II
Three things before I write part two of this entry (see part one here).
One, I love this photograph of Boris Karloff on the set of Son of Frankenstein (1939). It's so perfect. As a lover of tea and toast and of the craft of acting, it makes my heart happy to see them integrated here.
Two, I'm in Kansas City at the moment, participating in an arts festival that my friend Brian Williams along with a fabulous team has concocted. I'm excited to be here and to see what God is up to in Jayhawk country. Or is that Wildcat country? Hm, I best stay neutral and call it Wizard of Oz country.
Three, our wonderful Laity Lodge retreat is only two weeks away and there is still room to sign up if you want to join a very special gathering of folks who love artists and want to shepherd them well. Check it out here. And here. And here to register and to find out all about Laity Lodge.
NB: I use the terms "liturgical art" and "worship art" in this entry in an interchangeable fashion and mean exactly the same thing by them.
The Conditions: Part II
6. Its relation to the rest of the worship service. In what way is the liturgical art related to the other parts of the liturgy? An Iconostasis’ purpose, for example, might be perfectly obvious to a congregation, while the dance-like procession and recession of priests may be clear to another congregation. If they are not clear, the risk is a thoughtless routinizing of worship.
Is it theologically clear in a Pentecostal church why dancers with ribbon sticks dance off to the side of the stage? Is the architectural shape of a “meeting house” or of a Byzantine cathedral clearly understood? Is it clear to Baptists why they sing hymns here, here and here in the service, but not here? Is the art perceived in an isolated way, as simply something that is done at X point in the service but whose relation to the rest of the service is undefined or “inconsequential”?
7. Explication. Does the pastor offer any kind of commentary about the art that is done throughout the liturgy? How often does the pastor offer such commentary? Do other church leaders play a role here? Often? Seldom? Never? Do they seek to help the congregation make meaningful connections between the visual art that surrounds them—architecture, paintings, stained glass, banners, furniture arrangement—and the logic of the liturgy as a whole? Do church leaders help make connections between this art and the rest of their lives?
8. Its culture. Does the art that occurs regularly in the service reinforce the existing culture of the church? Does it in any way stretch the church’s culture? Does it stretch them not simply artistically but spiritually, ethically, missionally? Does it challenge or subvert the culture? Or is this a role that more occasional art performs, say in the form of a photographic exhibit of global Christians or the “poor and needy”? In what ways does the art reform or refresh elements of the worship service?
Put otherwise: while a single experience of worship art might be negligible, what is not negligible is a continuous experience of the same kind of worship art over a long period of time.