Artists in the Nursery: The Christianity Today version (leaner and meaner)
Christianity Today kindly, happily, and quite providentially to my Reformed-ish mind decided to run an edited version of a post I wrote for my church here in Durham, NC, "Artists in the Nursery." While the CT piece is explicitly intended to run in one direction, by encouraging artists to consider the possibility that service in a church nursery or any other "ordinary" ministry of the church might be good to both their humanity and their artistry, I just as easily could have written the piece in the ostensibly opposite direction, by encouraging the church to consider the ways in which artists, by what they do best, can effectively serve the worship and mission of the body of Christ.
But I didn't.
Instead I could hope that it might be obvious to anyone who knows me or this blog that I 100,000% believe the latter is just as true as the former. I edited a little book to attempt to prove the point. I write about it constantly on this blog. I speak about it here and there. I run an annual retreat to bring arts people and church people together, which, if you've never had a chance to attend, I heartily recommend you come to our next one. It's a blast. I serve as a board member of Christians In the Visual Arts. And I'm married to a wonderful artist, the lovely Phaedra Jean, who will ensure that I never, never, ever forget how hard and how wonderful it is to be an artist, especially one who wishes to remain faithful both to Christ's church and to her specific vocation in the public square.
(By the way, if you're looking for affordable, beautiful, carefully crafted, whimsical or devotional or "fine" artworks for Christmas, check out her online shops: here, here and here.)
The point is, though, that the former (i.e. the "family chore" ministries of the church) gets too easily forgotten, particularly by the fiery, loner, "exceptionally-special" artist type, so I felt that it needed a little cheer amidst the rank of artists. I also felt that nursery workers and by proxy other ministries of the church needed a little cheer too, especially at a time of the year when things feel so overwhelming. As I mentioned to my older sister in a recent email exchange about the piece:
"My aim, for what it's worth, isn't so much to "make a case" for nursery service nor to admonish artists outright, but to nudge artists, and by extension other folks in the church, to consider something they may not have considered before and perhaps even feel encouraged to give it a try."
I'll be happy if I've been able to accomplish 10% of this goal.
And now to bring my percentage comments to a conclusion, I am 100% in favor of the church and I am 100% in favor of artists, for all the ways in which each, in their own distinct ways, under the common call of Christ to love one another sacrificially, is able to serve the other, and we together are able to serve the good purposes of Father in the world, precisely because the Holy Spirit enables us to love in ways that seem impossible, undesirable or just plain difficult, for the glory of God and the winsome witness of the church in the world.
There. I ended with a little trinitarian prayer. Not bad. Oh, and here is what the "bearded arts guy" looks like, if you're stopping by for the first time.
A happy first week of Advent to you all.