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Faith Art

By Leah Palmer | Guest Author

What is art? Is art a faith-driven endeavor? Do the arts have a place in the church? If so, what IS that place? As Creekside’s Worship and Arts intern, I’ve spent the last 4 months thinking deeply about these questions, and as I’ve come to discover, beauty and making beautiful things  (in short, the arts) should be inseparable from the life of the Christian. 

So what have I been doing the last 4 months? During this internship, I’ve been tasked to think about how art (music, visual arts, poetry, etc.) fit into the life of the Christian and the life of the church as a whole. In exploring that topic, I’ve come to understand a couple of things about the role of the arts. God, our creator, has DESIGNED humans to be visual, auditory, kinesthetic, creative, emotional, and artistic creatures. We have eyes, ears, and hands that connect to parts in our brain that induce fear, memory, happiness. We are, by our bodily design, stirred and changed by the physical things we experience. Whether it be the poignant sorrow in Michelangelo’s Pieta, the vast storytelling of Tolkien’s writings, or the hope-inducing poetry of Amanda Gorman,  God USES creative things to deeply affect us. As a visual and musical artist, I’ve been convicted that we Christians are unhealthy when we don’t engage our eyes and ears to  explore works of art that wordlessly teach us about brokenness, God’s beauty, and eternity. In reading Makoto Fujimura’s book, Art and Faith, with a few of Creekside’s pastors, my eyes have been opened to the idea that “God the Artist communicates to us first, before God the lecturer.”

With this idea in mind, I’ve come  to see the deep, formative importance of excellent worship music in our Sunday morning service. While some of us may classify “excellent worship music” as songs containing hearty theological truths (e.g., “And Can It Be,” or “How Great Thou Art”), I’ve been finding that the FORM of worship songs are as valuable as the content. It’s my conviction that the instrumentation of our worship music should, in its form, reflect some part of the vast story of the Bible — the energetic beauty of creation, the sorrow and pain of brokenness, the majesty of God, the horror of Christ’s crucifixion, or the jubilation when we reach heaven. Resonant lyrics and poignant composition should work in tandem to bring our hearts and minds into a position of worship.
 
This concept is essential in evangelism. The world responds viscerally to beauty. And God is beautiful! The Gospel is beautiful! Heaven is beautiful!  As God’s people, our calling is to bask in that beauty and share it with others as powerfully as we can. Artists, paint beautiful pictures. Musicians, play beautiful music. Teachers, create beautiful lessons. Engineers, make beautiful machines. Let’s teach the world about God through beauty.

This summer, I’ll be working to preserve beauty as an art conservation intern for the National Parks Service in West Virginia. Knowing how important the arts are to God makes me excited to work hard at conserving it. While there, I’m excited to to grow in my art and musical skills in order to continue serving the body of Christ and invite others into its beauty.