December 30, 2022
My wife and I took two friends to a Paint Nite yesterday, and had a wonderful time creating works of art that brought joy in the process. We had experienced this before, and were anxious for the others to see what it was all about.
Paint Nite (PaintNite.com) is an opportunity to gather to paint, in which the company provides all of the materials, and all that participants have to do is show up and enjoy the painting. I should say here that this is not an endorsement of Paint Nite, and there may well be other companies doing similar things, as there are ones doing such experiences in the area of ceramics, and probably many other mediums. This is just the company I am familiar with and so have mentioned it.
One of the things that I especially enjoy about these painting nights is that they are meant to be experiences that come with no judgment about talent or critique of the final painting. This was true last night as the artist/instructor repeatedly gave that message, and I found the same approach to be true when we did it the first time. The instructor did occasionally offer suggestions to some of the people, but was never critical in any way of someone’s work.
The artist provides a completed painting for people to view, in this case a moonlit forest with a river running through it. The artist then proceeds to help participants to paint the same scene through step-by-step instructions. If one follows the artist in each step, then one emerges with a fairly good approximation of the original work. However, participants are free to do whatever they want, including painting something entirely on their own, or altering the original painting in ways that suit their taste.
Each of the four in our group took somewhat different paths. My wife and I both turned our canvases to the landscape orientation, even though the original was in portrait, and we then took different approaches to the painting. One of our friends painted a daytime scene instead of a moonlit night, and the other friend followed the directions pretty carefully and came out with a great rendering of the original work.
Part of our interest in doing this, besides just the fun of being together and creating side by side, is that one of the friends is the artist who has created several works for us in various Advent seasons, doing so within the experience of worship. We were curious to see if she might be interested in offering such a workshop at our church, for members and friends, not as a money-making venture, but just as one more ways to participate in the arts within the life of the church.
As we left last night, she was already thinking about ideas of how she would approach such an event. I am excited to think about the possibilities.
December 9, 2022
The Richness of Advent
The season of Advent is rich with opportunities to hear and experience great musical performances and pageants, and to be inspired by venues. As I sat in UCLA’s Royce Hall last Sunday afternoon, waiting for a concert to begin, I was fascinated by the art and architecture of the space. While I took some photos, they don’t capture the whole of the space the way that a video would, and yet the very act of taking photos helped me to notice more details about the space and to take them in.
Of course, while the spaces we enter may help to set the tone for our experiences, we gather to be move and inspired by the performances. And what we receive is the best the people have to offer to us. After all, it takes a lot of effort to put together such performances, whether it be a professional choir or a class at an elementary school. A lot of planning happens, and there tend to be many rehearsals, and everyone wants it to be as perfect as possible. I know that in our church, the choir and the director and accompanist begin working on our annual choir cantata sometime in September, and they too want it to be as perfect as possible.
There is great value gained as we allow the inspiration of the arts to touch us throughout the year. I thoroughly appreciate our Gateway Performance Series and our Scripture as Theatre workshop, both of which involve us in creativity throughout the year. But there is also something special about performances leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Perhaps this is because there is so much stress equated with the season of shopping and wrapping and partying, and the arts provide a respite and a source of joy that doesn’t quite come through in all of the other activities.
Music, art, creativity in many forms, inspire us and draw us closer together. That is indeed what this world needs. But sometimes we need to be patient, and welcoming of the gifts that are shared, even if they are not perfect. We do tend to cherish the efforts of young children in pageants, especially affirming those children who may struggle with their lines or actions. We would do well to have such equal patience with adults. While we do often seek perfection, wanting performances without flaws, and while we may feel entitled to such if we have paid $150 per seat, still, things happen, and we should celebrate the efforts and the gifts being offered.
I once attended a concert being given by a very famous Jazz singer. She had gotten older, and her voice was not quite what it had once been, but she was still on stage giving her all. Rather than being appreciative though, some members of the audience were rude in their reception of her, and it was a sad thing to see.
At another time, a group at our church was putting on a musical production, and friends from another church were invited. After the event was over, one of the invited friends offered that it was “a good thing that you were all enjoying yourselves, because you obviously can’t sing.” It was a cruel thing to say, and I was glad that the person never again visited our church.
Creativity is not about perfection, even though we often expect that. Creativity is about expression, and sharing, and growth in our spirits. We will find our spirits indeed renewed in this season as we welcome the gifts that are offered and celebrate the people who are bringing them to us.
December 2, 2022
The Lens of Generosity
At one of our church yard sales in years past, I discovered a small, framed print of a church, depicting what I took to be the season of Advent. Although the artist’s name is clearly seen, my internet searches revealed nothing about the piece. Nonetheless, I present it here for your reflection.
There are several parts of the print that especially catch my attention. The first is the sky full of stars. It is striking because in all other respects this seems to be a daytime scene. One could consider that the rest of the scene is somehow brilliantly lit at night, but it seems like daylight to me. The presence of the stars in the daytime sky certainly goes along with how some people see the travels of the Magi as told in Matthew’s Gospel, with the travelers being able to follow the star at any time, since it’s brilliance would have made it able to be seen during the night or day. In any case, without the sky full of stars the entire scene would be quite different.
The second element that interests me is the overall setting of the scene. It is quite obviously a Catholic Church, in a style similar to many of the California missions. The palm trees also give a hint that it could be somewhere in California, although many other environs have palm trees as well. Yet, the well-decorated Christmas tree that is only partially seen, and the red ribbons that adorn the archway, the one window, and the clothes of the choristers, clearly indicate the season, and the scene could be depicting an event during Advent or even the celebration on Christmas morning.
The third element that I love about the work is the multi-generational composition of the congregation. There are only a couple people of color depicted in the work, but it does give at least a hint of the wider membership of the church. Included among the crowd is a young girl holding a candle, much as we would usually do in our church’s Christmas Eve service. It is perhaps a testament to the baby born to be the light of the world.
Finally, and the main reason that I bought the piece, there is a sense of welcome that is offered in at least two ways. The first is the choristers lining the steps, along with the two who seem to be leading the singing, all of whom provide a pathway along which the worshippers can enter the church. The second indication of welcome is the doors of the church standing wide open, inviting people in.
Advent is meant to be a special time of welcome and generosity, even as we are encouraged to once again welcome the Christ child into our hearts. And, generosity stands always as a blessed gift that we can offer to one another.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.