Appendix to my CT article on visual art and worship

Laura Jennings, "Rubble #1"

"Living inside God's imagination means construing the world according to the figural splendor that creation embodies, and appreciating the beauty toward which the Spirit moves it. Surely Christians are not the only ones to recognize the splendor of the sunset or the wonder of great art, but if the church does not stimulate an appreciation of these things [particularly in the context of corporate worship], it is not the church of Christ the creator." -- Bill Dyrness, Poetic Theology, p. 246

[Note to readers from CT's online version of the article: thank you for stopping by. I hope this note helps fill out aspects of the magazine article that I couldn't fully address. Please go here to see examples of the images I included in the magazine version, and go here to see another great resource on the visual arts and worship.]

Hope Chapel, Easter 2005
This is a follow up note to the article I've written for Christianity Today (in the "April 2012" issue): "Discipling the Eyes." Since only so much can be said in 2,000 words and perhaps more questions would be raised than could be reasonably or sufficiently answered, I thought I'd write an appendix of sorts. If you've read the CT article, thank you. I sincerely hope it has been helpful.

If it clarifies your thinking, confirms intuitions, justifies concerns or inspires or provokes you (in a constructive fashion, I guess), then it will have done a measure of good. If it made you mad, I guess that's ok too, though I hope you won't stay mad at me too long.

Here then are a few things that might prove of further assistance.

Where can I find more images of Laura Jennings' artwork?
Great question. We were only able to include one image from the work that hung at Hope Chapel and I've interspersed a few more here. Check out LJ's blog to see what she's laboring on these days.

My appetite is whetted to read more. Where can I go?
Here is a list of 14 books that I've found helpful. Some are highly accessible, others a bit more demanding, but I think they'll all be worth your time. In one way or another they all reflect on the visual arts, whether 2D or 3D or architectural or public art, from a Christian perspective.

1. Halstead, Elizabeth Steele, et al., eds.,  Dwelling with Philippians: A Conversation with Scripture through Image and Word (Eerdmans, 2010)

2. Kaai, Anneke & Peterson, Eugene, The Psalms: An Artist’s Impression (InterVarsity Press, 1999)

3. St. John’s Bible, all six volumes! (Liturgical Press, 2005)

4. Nouwen, Henri J.M.,  The Return of the Prodigal Son (Eerdmans, 1998)

5. Schaeffer, Francis A.,  Art and the Bible (InterVarsity Press, 1973)

6. Dryness, William A., Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue (Baker, 2001)

7. Jensen, Robin M., The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community
(Eerdmans, 2004)

8. Bustard, Ned, ed., It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2006)

9. Torgerson, Mark A., An Architecture of Immanence: Architecture for Worship and Ministry Today (Eerdmans, 2007)

10. Halstead, Elizabeth Steele., Visuals for Worship (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2006). CD included.

11. Ryken, Leland, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Images: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patters of the Bible (IVP, 1998)

12. McNamara, Denis. R., How to Read Churches: A crash course in ecclesiastical architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 2011).

13. Bess, Philip, Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred (Delaware: ISI Books, 2006).

14. de Gruchy, John W., Christianity, Art and Transformation: Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice (Cambridge: CUP, 2001).

Is there an organization devoted to the advancement of the visual arts from a Christian ethos?
Glad you asked. I happen to be on the board of an organization that I love: Christians In the Visual Arts (or CIVA for short). Brian Moss and I recently joined the board with the mandate to expand CIVA's efforts with respect to the church and to church leaders. Check the site out for some exciting new developments.

If you could recommend only one book on the church's relationship to the arts, which one would it be?
In 2010 I had the privilege of editing a book called For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker Books). After working twelve years in a church with responsibilities for an arts ministry, this is the book I wished I'd had on my shelves when I started out in 1996. It includes contributions by Eugene Peterson, Lauren Winner, Andy Crouch, John Witvliet, Barbara Nicolosi, Jeremy Begbie, Joshua Banner and myself. The book's aim is to offer a comprehensive perspective on the place of the arts in the life of the church, from worship to mission, from community to marketplace. If you don't own a copy yet, check it out. I think you'll like it. And it has eight fabulous works of visual art accompanying each chapter.

Have you said anything else on art and formative worship?
Yes. I recently gave a talk at the Anglican 1000 Church Planting Summit. The title of my talk was "The Formative Power of Artful Worship." You can listen to it here (click on audio, I'm six names down). A young man came up to me afterwards and, ebulliently, declared, "That was great! It was like Jamie Smith's Desiring the Kingdom for dummies." I vacillated in my response but ended up taking it as a fine compliment. I've also blogged on contemporary worship music (here, here, here and here) and I wrote a piece for CT on a worship conference that the inimitable David Crowder pulled together in fall of 2010

Do we have a movement on our hands towards a formative view of corporate worship?
Yup. A recent spate of books and activities has given momentum to this way of viewing art in worship. Books such as James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom (and his forthcoming, Imagining the Kingdom), N. T. Wright’s After You Believe, William Dyrness’ A Primer on Christian Worship and Poetic Theology (in particular chapter 8, "The Aesthetics of Church"), Mark Galli’s Beyond Smells & Bells, Sam Wells’ God’s Companions, Frank Brown's Inclusive Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfullyand a great collection of essays in Resonant Witness: Conversations Between Music and Theology (especially chapter 13 by Jeremy Begbie, "Faithful Feelings: Music and Emotion in Worship") helpfully unpack the idea of “worship as formation.”

A recent conference titled “Liturgy, Music & Space,” hosted by BiFrost Arts, explored ways in which the worship arts form dispositions in us. Worship leaders such as Greg Scheer, Bruce Benedict (plus this), Brian Moss, Zac Hicks, and Josh Banner are among the many who are bringing a more holistic approach to the practices of art in worship. While much hard work remains ahead, this activity represents the kind of maturity about the worship arts that should, I believe, encourage Protestants. (For what it's worth, I think Matt Redman's latest music is fantastic--theologically rich and musically very creative.)

Anything else?
Sure. Check out what these good people are doing with the visual arts and their churches: Michael Winters at Sojourn Church's visual arts ministry, Jessie Nilo at VineArts in Boise, Jeff Guy at Trinity Anglican in Atlanta, Greg Holmes at Chase Oaks Bible Church (in Dallas), Lawan Glasscock and Pete Deison at Park Cities Presbyterian (Dallas), Maria Fee and Kenyon Adams at Redeemer Pres in NYC, Mat and Geinene Carson with OM ArtsLink, Laura Tabbut at Church of the Rez in Wheaton, Chris Brewer at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Rapids. And I've run out time. There are so many more.

I heartily recommend you get on the email list of Art Way. Based in the Netherlands, they send out a weekly devotional reflection based on a work of visual art. I always get excited to see what will show up in my inbox on Sunday when the email arrives.

Oh, and do check out all the wonderful things that the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is doing.

Ok, I hope this helps you know where to begin looking for stuff. By no means do I assume these issues are uncomplicated. The question of the place of visual art in corporate worship has a difficult history, fraught with theological, ethical, pastoral, societal, ecclesial and practical issues. I am encouraged, though, by the humble and thoughtful approaches to the question that are in evidence all across the globe.

For what it's worth, I'll be speaking at an event jointly sponsored by Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Seminary and CIVA this September and at a separate event hosted by Fuller Seminary's Brehm Center, both of which will dive headlong into this question. Much more is happening even still! Do stay tuned. And if you know of other people, groups or activities that are doing good work in the intersection between visual art and worship, please let me know.

In the meanwhile, God grant you grace and wisdom as you venture forward in the work that he has entrusted to you, whether that involves life in a local congregation or enterprises in the public square.

Phaedra Taylor, "Annunciation," watercolor, 5'X3'


Brewer said…
Good stuff, and thanks for the link David!
J Scott McElroy said…
Great stuff, David! Also of note, The New Renaissance Arts Movement ( will host "The Creative Church Conferences: Embracing the Arts in Your Church, June 15-17 in Indianapolis, and July 13-15 in Boise.
Chris, not a worry. And Scott, that looks like it'll be a gathering of some very good people.
Mike Barker said…
Just read your article in CT. Nice job, and thanks.
Thanks, Mike. Very kind of you.
Jeff Dugan said…
Hi, David. I just read the article and your appendix. Thanks so much for the rich list of other people active in this area. Since you asked for others you didn't list, you might be interested in Art to Heart, at . My focus is not squarely on visual art in worship, but on educating both Christians and non-Christians about what great visual art can reveal to us about God. Ultimately, my goal is one of evangelism, but along the way I've created a lot for the worship environment.
Jeff, thanks for adding this resource. Looking forward to checking it out!

Unknown said…
David...I must have a conversation with you! I am a PCUSA pastor (27 years) and now in Syracuse NY (Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church) I'm on sabbatical in 2014 and looking for some churches on the west coast and possibly Hawaii to shadow that are doing stuff with art and worship. My heart is full and gets fuller every time I'm here. Be please to talk further with you. Is there a way to do that? Bob Langston
Bob, very nice to hear from you and glad to hear of your interest in art and worship. That's super. At the moment I actually live in Durham, North Carolina, quite far in fact from the west coast. Do feel free to contact me if you wish to follow up. My email is david DOT taylor AT duke DOT edu.
techne said…
another book that has been formative for me is brueggemann's the prophetic imagination:

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