Anglicanism & the Arts

True religion, John Donne (1572-1631) once wrote, is not to be found “either in a painted Church, on one side, or in a naked Church on another; a Church in a Dropsie, overflowne with Ceremonies, or a Church in a Consumption, for want of such Ceremonies, as the primitive Church found usefull and beneficiall for the advancing of the glory of God, and the devotion of the Congregation” (cited in Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England, Bk. 1, vol. 2, 151). My hunch, and a somewhat informed hunch I guess, is that this was easier said than done.

This Sunday I fly to Pittsburgh. It's been five years since I last taught a winter intensive at Trinity School for Ministry, and this time they've invited me back to teach a course on Anglicanism and the arts with a view to worship and mission.

I'm very excited. I've spent the past week reworking old material and developing new. Last I checked I have thirteen people in my class. Some are MDiv, some are STM, three are DMin. I've been told that I have three bishops signed up. That is so fun. I'm honored to be given this opportunity to share with them things I've learned over the last sixteen years since I first began attending Holy Trinity Anglican in Vancouver, B.C. I'm humbled by the bios that I've read for folks in the class and I look forward to learning just as much from them in the process.

Before I copy a portion of the syllabus here (in case you're curious), I want to throw out a question. While I've researched historical models (specifically in the 16th and 17th centuries) and have visited churches here and there, I can't say that I have a lot of concrete data on the range of what Episcopal or Anglican churches are actually doing with the arts. In that light:

1. Are you aware of Anglican/Episcopal churches that are doing "interesting" things with the arts? By "interesting" I mean, for starters, "newish" stuff or "traditional" stuff done really well, things that have struck you as both theologically and artistically significant.

2. Are there names of pastors, church leaders or artists that you think I should track down with this question?

Many thanks for any good leads you might send my way.

Here then is some of what I wish to accomplish next week.


This course is designed to help students make theological, liturgical and pastoral connections between the arts and the church. By looking at material as varied as the high-church “Laudian era” of 1620-1640 and the media-saturated era of “Web 2.0,” we will focus on ways in which the arts can deepen Anglican worship and mission. Music, preaching, Scripture, architecture, the artistic care of a congregation and the multiple possibilities for an artful mission will be given special attention.


1. To discern how theology in the context of our ecclesial life takes an artistic shape. Where you see art, I want to help you see theology.

2. To discern the ways in which art in an ecclesial context forms us theologically, for better or for worse. Where you see theological content, I want to help you see its artistic form.

3. To discover ways in which we as church leaders can employ the arts in such a way that they form our congregations, both theologically and practically, into the image of the Triune God. Where art is forming us poorly, I want to help us see how it can form us trinitarianly.

COURSE OUTLINE (a few subjects covered)

1. Monday: The Laudian experiment. Art and architecture. Creation and Christology. The aesthetics and ethics of space. Richard Hooker as model Anglican: towards a “sensible beauty.”

2. Tuesday: Psalms and music, both ancient and new. Anthropology and pneumatology. The aim of singing toward the whole counsel of God, such that our emotions are well-ordered and we learn how to ongoingly sing what the psalms call a "new song."

3. Wednesday: Artful preaching and narrative hermeneutics. The drama of our bodies. How liturgical art coordinated to the liturgical calendar can form us into the narrative of Christ's life.

4. Thursday: Shepherding artists. Ministering to artists in the fold, on the edge of the fold and far from the fold. The virtues and practices of a flourishing artist.

5. Friday: Jeremy Begbie on music, theology and other very inspiring things. Art and the mission of the church: a hopeful, multifaceted vision.

Needless to say, it will not be a boring week in the life and times of David Taylor, and, by God's grace, of those who participate in the class too. We'll take your prayers for a good learning experience and for the Spirit to reconfigure my plan however is needful.

Since I began with Donne, I shall end with Donne. Here is one of the most exquisite descriptions of the preacher's calling.

“Not only is the preacher a husband to his congregation: he is an archer, a watchman, a trumpeter, a harmonious charmer; he possesses the most desirable qualities of a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man; he is an earthquake, a son of thunder, the fall of waters, the roaring of a lion.”


Anonymous said…
sounds so cool. i wish i could sit in on the class. can you scan the syllabus and some lecture notes?
Reno, not a problem. As soon as I've solidified more of my lecture notes, I'll be happy to share them. I think I have your email. I can pass them along that way. Thanks!
Gene Packwood said…
Check Winnipeg's St Benedict's Table out. Their vision is to cultivate, encourage and produce art.
Thanks, Gene!
Patrick said…
Also, Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, does AMAZINGLY artistic things. The way they present Scripture, with drama and visual expression, is so unique and moving. Trevor McMaken is the guy to talk to there.
Might find some resources at The Wilderness in Denver:

Or with Kate Eaton:
Alex Mejias said…
Hi David -- I stumbled upon your blog while doing some late night surfing. I just ended a stint at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA as one of the music staff. We were blessed to see the arts flourish out of our college ministry (Anglican College Ministry) in ways that have changed our church dramatically. Briefly, we began crafting our own original liturgical music for our service, as well as new melodies for hymns (which blossomed into High Street Hymns, a new music ministry).

We also opened a small venue for local and touring artists, as we are centrally located downtown. These and other developments have given us a deep appreciation for the arts as well as the artists among us.

Wish I could take this class, it looks great! hope that it goes well!
Jeremy Chen said…
I'd love to see the syllabus and lecture notes too!
are you recording the lectures?
Heather said…
Trinity Wall Street ( has a museum in their church. The exhibit when we were in NYC a month ago was "All Insignificant Things Must Disappear: The Social Sphere and the Post-Economic Landscape. I know they also host/sponsor concerts.
Patrick, Amy, Alex and Heather: thanks so much for these suggestions. Very helpful.

Jeremy: I'll check with TSM to see if they're audio recording the class and if so, whether that will be available online.

I feel like I have so much to learn about what Anglican/Episcopal churches are doing with the arts and I'm excited to gather this data.
David, blessings on you this week. And on Phaedra. Brian has been correponding with Trinity admissions to begin online courses soon. could you land him a scholarship while you're there?!? :)

p.s., i'd also enjoy syllabus and notes via email
Tamara, tell Brian that I'm taking the president of TSM out for beers and that I won't let him go until he offers Brian a full scholarship. We'll keep drinking until he relents. How's that for persuasive powers?
David JP Hooker said…
You should check out AllSouls in Wheaton.
Our minister,Fr Martin Johnson, was in theater previous to his calling. The worship space is wonderfully theatrical, there's a giant crown of thorns hovering over a butcher's block altar in the middle of the sanctuary. We are doing a whole series of adult ed lectures on Art and Worship right now. You can see a photo of the space from my blog:

(I'm doing artwork to go along with Epiphanytide)
David, thank you so much for the websites. I look forward to tracking them down. Much obliged.
Unknown said…
Ditto on the lecture notes...also wish I could attend. Blessings!
carol Marples said…
I am part of a small Episcopal church in Edinburgh using the arts for worship - we change the whole visual space each liturgical season- about 20/30 of us - all ages !

bits more on the blog

and on my web site
Carol, thank you for sharing these links. Very helpful.
Unknown said…
You may want to speak to Tanya Butler an artist and faculty member at Gordon College. She has been thinking about these issues for a long time. She is also a member of a very arts-involved Anglican church as well.

Pat Jones
Pat, thanks for the good suggestion. While I've already taught the course, I'm always looking for good advice. Many thanks for pointing Tanya out.
marykhris said…
HI! I am a soon to be graduating art student at Belhaven University where I have gotten to study with modern reputable art professors in a growing program that is strongly Christian. I personally am an Anglican and am searching for what is going on the world of Anglicanism and the arts. I would be so interested in finding others who are anglican artists or part of a community that understands that.
Mary, great to hear of your interest. I'm planning a conference that will take place next week that's bringing together Anglican artists. I assume it will be too late for you to join us, but stay tuned on my blog for other similar events. And all God's blessings to you in your studies.
DannyPegg said…
Can I have the scans and notes too? Super interesting! Thanks!

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