Worship and the Arts: a course syllabus

Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, Scotland

The following is an abridged syllabus of the course that I will be teaching this fall at Fuller Seminary. I'm looking forward to exploring the material with students, which will hopefully turn into a book some day soon. Should be great fun.


This course is an introduction to Christian reflection on and the practice of the arts in worship. By lectures, discussions, and conversations with artists, students will discover ways in which the different media of art open up and close down liturgical, communal, theological, formative and missional possibilities for a given congregation in corporate worship.

Upon completion of this course, students will (1) have a greater understanding of the biblical, historical, theological and contextual perspectives of art in worship; (2) gain a careful appreciation for the logic and formative power of the different media of art in corporate worship; (3) be exposed to various experiences of the arts in worship; and (4) be given an opportunity to deepen their own practices of liturgical art.


1. Brown, Frank B. Inclusive Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfully. Eerdmans, 2009. [75 pp.]

2. Cherry, Constance M. The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services. Baker Academic, 2010. [90 pp.]

3. Crowley, Eileen D. Liturgical Art for a Media Culture. Liturgical Press, 2007.  [90 pp]

4. Dyrness, William. Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue. Baker, 2001. [145 pp.].

5. Gagne, Ronald, Thomas Kane and Robert VerEecke. Introducing Dance in Christian Worship. The Pastoral Press, 1984. [100 pp.]

6. Taylor, W. David O., ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts. Baker, 2010.  [125 pp.]

 7. Torgerson, Mark. An Architecture of Immanence: Architecture For Worship and Ministry Today. Eerdmans, 2007.  [75 pp.]

8. Torrance, James B. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace. IVP Academic: 1996.  [50 pp.]

9. Additional readings: 500 pages.


1. Bauer, Michael J. Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God’s People. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.

2. Savidge, Dale and Todd Johnson. Performing the Sacred: Theology and Theatre in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

3. Torgerson, Mark A. Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry: Congregations, Their Buildings, and Creation Care. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2012.

4. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.


1. 1,250 pages of reading.

2. A 1,250-word participant-observation report of an experience of liturgical art.

3. A 1,000-word report of a conversation with a liturgical artist.

4. Four 500-750-word online responses to readings. 

5. Signature assignment: write a 2,500-3,000-word research paper in which you choose a particular activity of worship (e.g., gathering, praying, confessing, singing, reading, preaching, communing, sending, etc.) and suggest ways in which a specific use of art might open up and close down liturgical, communal, theological, formative and missional possibilities for a given congregational context in their practice of that activity of worship.


1. Introduction: questions, contexts, definitions, and assumptions.

2. Biblical and theological perspectives on the art and worship.

3. Historical perspectives on art and worship.

4. Worship and the sonic arts (music et al).

5. Worship and the plastic arts (2D, 3D and architecture).

6. Worship and the kinetic and oratorical arts (dance and drama and spoken word).

7. Worship and the literary arts (literature and poetry).

8. Worship and the “emerging” arts (film, video, graphic arts, etc).

9. Worship and the care and formation of liturgical artists.

10. The missional implication of art and worship: “mother tongues” & “adjectival tongues” as witness to the triune God.


Unknown said…
David, this course sounds like a lot of fun. If it were offered online, I would definitely pay to take part. Any chance the lectures will be recorded? :-)

Victoria, I don't think we'll get a chance to record the lectures this time around. Perhaps next time. And because of the multi-media heavy nature of the lectures, I'm not sure how much would translate to audio-form only. I'm sure there is a chance that I would teach this course online. Stay tuned. :)
Unknown said…
I would also love the chance to take this course online, or possibly even as a modular of some sort. Looks really good.
Thanks, Jesse. When the day comes that I teach it online, I'll be sure to post about it here.
Anonymous said…
David, this looks great - and it's definitely something that's needed. Any chance you'd be willing to post the specific pages you'll have the class read from the required readings? Thanks again for sharing all of this!
Jay, if you'll give me an email, I'll send you the syllabus with details about the readings. Feel free to FB message me on that.

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