September 30, 2022
World Communion Sunday 2
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about our ideas and plans for World Communion Sunday. As we celebrate it this coming Sunday, I have chosen an artistic creation from one of our young people as a centerpiece for the worship space. She created this entirely on her own, and all I did was to shape the background wooden piece, according to her design, so that we could hang the work without damaging the back of the piece.
Here it is in the setting of the sanctuary:
The stained-glass effect, the multitude of colors, celebrate the diversity and wonder of the Church on a Sunday such as this. We together do form the Body of Christ. And the fact that one of our young people created it, is in itself a sign of hope and joy.
September 23, 2022
An Artistic Community
As I was reading through the most recent “Seen Journal,” published by CIVA (Christians in Visual Arts), I came across an interesting interview with a couple who have had a significant role in developing a thriving arts community in a town in Ohio. They responded to a call that they felt in their hearts, a call from God, and trusted that as they took one step after another, that God would provide for them and would help to open the doors that they needed to walk through.
Their faith-filled journey led them into interactions with artists, property owners and neighbors, and they slowly began the process of transforming the community around them, feeling themselves transformed even more along the way.
As I reflected upon their journey, and the ways in which they bridged the gap that often exists between churches and the arts, I marveled at both their commitment and their ability to forge partnerships that expanded the response of the community to the arts in their midst. This is indeed a thriving arts community, where shared creativity, vision and hard work have brought about marvelous partnerships, and where lives have been touched in amazing ways.
While this couple was not pastoring a church, they approached their whole endeavor out of a commitment to faith, an underlying dependence on prayer, and a networking that expressed their commitment to the intersection of the arts and Christianity.
It is a beautiful thing when churches and artists interact and draw upon the gifts that each have to offer. But such an endeavor truly succeeds when a faith community embraces the gifts that the arts can offer to the church, and recognizes the gifts that can be offered to artists as well. Some measure of success can be achieved when one or two persons alone are committed to the work, but much more can happen when a significant portion of a church family decides to make such interactions a priority. The support and commitment of the church, beyond just the efforts of the pastor and an interested couple of people, can make all the difference in forging a truly rich partnership between the congregation and the artists that it welcomes into its midst. It is then that an amazing transformation can take place for all involved in the endeavor.
September 16, 2022
World Communion Sunday
I am in the midst of teaching a class in our church about our denomination, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). If one visits the denominational website, https://disciples.org, one of the discoveries is that of a statement about how we view our identity. It states that, “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”
As we approach the celebration of World Communion Sunday on October 2nd, it always seems to me to be a perfect opportunity to celebrate our Disciples identity, while at the same time joining together with Christian traditions from around the world in order to rejoice over our common bonds and shared heritage in Christ. This observance is especially meaningful to Disciples congregations as we seek to be a uniting presence in an often-fractured world, and we proclaim that stance through our open welcome of all people to the table that Jesus sets for us. We believe that the communion table is indeed Jesus’ table, and just as he welcomes us, he also welcomes everyone, as do we.
In preparing to celebrate this day, one of the elements of worship that we always include, which I have written about in the past, is the praying of the Lord’s Prayer in multiple languages. We welcome church members, who wonderfully come from a great diversity of cultures and countries, to share the prayer in the language which is a part of their own history and spirituality. This never fails to move me, as I am able to pray with them even though the words may be unfamiliar to me.
Another possibility to consider in celebrating World Communion Sunday is the invitation for people to bring bread items that represent their culture, items that they may have eaten while growing up or that indeed still serve as staples in their lives. The visual variety of breads can be quite striking, as can the smell and taste. This is one way of celebrating the feast that Jesus provides for us.
It can also be a powerful statement to bring chalices from around the world to the communion table, to again symbolize the great diversity and beauty of the body of Christ through these vessels that hold the juice or wine. Even if one doesn’t use all of them in serving communion, their very presence is cause for celebration.
Finally, to the extent that it is possible, adorning the communion table with tapestries from around the world will again emphasize our connections to one another. This can also add great beauty to the celebration.
I write about these ideas now, because it takes some time to assemble all of the elements that will make the celebration of World Communion Sunday a time that is truly meaningful and quite memorable.
September 9, 2022
The Beauty and Fragility of Life
Among the daily emails that I send out to members of our church, was a recent one that came out of a series reflecting upon sayings of Jesus and other statements of wisdom and inspiration from scripture. The particular one that I am thinking of was the beginning of Psalm 133: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
Life is indeed beautiful if we stop to appreciate it, and at the same time it is often fragile. I thought of both of those qualities as I reflected upon this photograph:
It is indeed a beautiful thing when we care for one another and celebrate life together.
September 2, 2022
Laboring and Honoring that Labor
It is always interesting how diverse encounters and experiences come together to weave a common theme into a day. As we approach Labor Day, I have been thinking about the ways in which we each work, and about the old saying that if you enjoy what you are doing then you never really work a day in your life. I imagine that most of us enjoy portions of our work, and likely find some things less to our liking. Nonetheless, it is thought-provoking to consider how much our attitude toward our work makes a difference for us.
As I was driving to the church recently, I for some reason thought about artists and their creative activities. I remembered drawing and painting in earlier years, and reflected upon the joy that I found in such activities. It occurred to me that being a professional artist is indeed a blessed profession. But it also came to me that most artists are not just creating, they are out there trying to find venues for selling their works, or seeking out patrons to help underwrite their efforts, or are negotiating commissions for works. Just as with any other profession, there are the practical and management sides to being an artist.
Alongside these reflections was a conversation with a representative from ASCAP, the organization we have a license with, in regard to our performing arts series. I was reminded of how important it is to acknowledge and support artists in various mediums.
We do indeed honor not just the performers in our music concerts with honorariums, but also the composers of the works through our association with ASCAP. When we show movies, we do so under a license that enables us to show them in the public setting of the church, and our license fee helps pay royalties to the filmmakers. And, in the few occasions when we have commissioned works, we have in that way too honored the efforts and creativity of artists.
I have been reading recently again about commissions, and will comment on that theme soon. But it is important to remember that when we commission a work – a piece of music, a work of visual art, a dramatic piece, and more – the commission is not just compensating the artist for the specific creation, but is acknowledging the years of study and practice of their craft that allows them to create the commissioned work for us. We are honoring the artist and their labors through our commission. It is a celebration of joy in doing so.
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.