October 27, 2017
Art in Everyday Life
On a recent trip out of
town, I was reminded of how important a role art plays in public spaces, as well as in hotels. Urban planners have for some time now provided not just ivy beside freeways and blank walls at
overpasses, but have expressed creativity in designs of many forms. Whether it is patterns with rocks and boulders where the ivy might have been, or carvings in the concrete walls over or
alongside the freeways, or even the placement of art created from metal that will endure the elements, there has been great imagination and creativity expressed in their work.
Of course, cities have for many years known the value of public art, whether it be a statue honoring a founder of the city, or murals painted to depict events from the history of the city. And corporations, hospitals, even restaurants have also known that art in lobbies, hallways and gathering spaces promotes a sense of place, a mood for being together, even a way to promote healing.
Hotels too have known for a long time that art in lobbies, and especially in the rooms, gives a sense of place, a feeling of home, even if it is for just one night. We may or may not appreciate all of the art that is chosen (although there are times when I have found it to be particularly striking), but having the art there, instead of blank walls, makes a tremendous difference.
Art has certainly begun to make its way back into churches, but with the long-held Protestant church emphasis on the spoken word, rather than on visual elements, it is still a challenge. As the church theologically has also moved within the maxim of “being in the world, but not of the world,” opportunities have been missed for connecting with people who are not a part of churches. As the church seeks to reach out to people, to connect with their lives, art in its many forms is something that can help to bridge the gap between people and the church.
Whenever we have a movie night, I see it as a chance to welcome people who may not wish to be in church on Sunday morning. When we together watch a visual presentation in worship, I hope it connects with people who desire more than words. As we hang the photographic works of our youth in a hallway, I hope it touches people as they make their way to the church library and office.
Art is a part of people’s everyday lives, in one way or another. The church does well to remember and celebrate that.
October 20, 2017
Valuing Smaller Churches
A colleague recently shared with me that when a judicatory representative visited his church, comments were made that showed disdain for the smallness of the church, in particular expressing that the programs of the church were insignificant, if not out-right failures.
These opinions capture the viewpoint of those who always judge a church, and its value, based upon large numbers and growth in membership. That is both wrong and disrespectful. After more than thirty years of ministry in smaller churches, I can tell you without a doubt that there are exciting, moving, transformational moments that happen in smaller churches all the time.
As you have been reading, you may have noticed references to “smaller churches” rather than to “small churches.” I first heard this terminology from Rev. David Ray in his books about smaller churches. He was very careful to affirm the possibilities and wonders of smaller churches, and encouraged the use of this terminology as one way of recognizing the contributions and vital ministries of smaller churches.
I have always appreciated his commitment to such affirmation, and indeed have found his books to be of great value. If you are involved in the life of a smaller church, and unfamiliar with his work, I recommend it to you.
Smaller churches provide unique places for gathering as God’s people, and powerful communities of faith that provide support, nurture, encouragement and growth in ways that touch the lives of many people. Certainly, there are opportunities that many large churches can offer that are beyond the means of smaller churches. However, the people of smaller churches find incredible ways in which to living out their calling, often overcoming obstacles in ways that are astonishing.
I believe in the beauty and power and joy of smaller churches, because I have seen all of those things first hand.
October 13, 2017
The church book club met today. We have been reading, Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Originally written in 1955, her words still convey important thoughts, even if times have changed and some of what she has to say is not as pertinent as it was those many years ago.
The discussion was fascinating for me. As it is currently comprised, the book club is five women and myself. Generally speaking, that makes little difference, but in this case it was an interesting factor since this particular book was written primarily as addressed to women. The author includes men at certain points in her reflections, but her emphasis is on how her philosophical thoughts affect her and other women.
Interestingly, that emphasis on women did not especially make the book appealing to all of the others in the group. There was a sense for some that Anne Lindbergh was saying that her ideas of how women should act and respond were to be seen as the norm for women. Although she may not have gone that far if questioned about it, I could see their point. In any case, it made for an interesting discussion, both in that regard and in several other ways.
This is not to say that I felt particularly excluded from the book by the author. In fact, I found her reflections on simplicity and solitude to be especially poignant and helpful. The idea of moving toward simplicity in our lives, is as timely now as it was in Jesus’ day. The concept is even weaving its way into my message for this coming Sunday morning.
The challenge with simplicity, it seems to me, is that for many of us it is just not a simple move to make from our complex, even complicated lives, toward living in simpler ways. And yet, even as we talked about in the book club, it was evident any movements toward simplicity that people had taken were the beginnings of a greater sense of harmony and peace in their lives.
Perhaps as we value the idea of solitude that Anne Lindbergh also wrote about, or even just a deeper walk with God whether in solitude or not, we begin to connect with greater priorities in our lives, which then gives us encouragement toward simplicity.
But, while simplicity is appealing to me, the complexities of life may be the very thing that fuels your life and passion. I am curious about other people’s choices, and would be happy to hear from you about your choices.
Simple or complex, have a great week.
October 6, 2017
A friend of mine, who is also a church member, recently wrote that those who live in Los Angeles have a unique opportunity to view a rare drawing by Michelangelo. This drawing, entitled Study of a Mourning Woman, dates from around 1500 to 1505. It was rediscovered in 1995, and this is now the first time that the drawing has been exhibited in a museum since that time. (It will be on exhibit until October 29th, at which time it will be loaned to another museum, and then will return to the Getty’s permanent collection.)
The drawing, which I have yet to view, apparently is a wonderful example of Michelangelo’s talent. The Getty’s press release about the drawing says that “the figure is seen in profile and dressed in a full-length robe worn by women of antiquity as depicted in Renaissance painting. Her pose and attitude reflect the mourning figures often found in paintings of Christ’s deposition from the cross or a lamentation.”
While such a drawing may or may not be of interest to you, its exhibition serves as a reminder that there is inspiration to be found in just about any museum in any city fortunate enough to have a collection of works of art for people to view and enjoy. The Getty certainly has an abundance of resources to enable them to purchase such rare works, but one can certainly find fine examples of creative expression in any museum.
It is good to explore the cultural riches of our cities, and to thereby encounter the gifts that artists through the centuries have left for us. Inspiration for our own life, for our work, for our shared work in the church, is available to us in so many different forms. It is the discovery of the creativity of others that often serves to prompt our own creative energy. And that creativity is what helps us to flourish.
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.