A new group of resources on visual arts in worship is available from Together in Worship, an online collection of worship resources from Anabaptist sources. The centrepiece is “A Creative God,” a 45-minute video documentary about how seven intercultural Anabaptist congregations use visual art in worship.
“Mennonites have been starved, historically, of visual art in worship, and artists themselves have not often been given appreciable space within our circles,” says Arlyn Friesen Epp, who is director of CommonWord and a member of the Together in Worship leadership team who shepherded the “A Creative God” resource.
“I’m grateful for this set of resources, which opens the conversation about visual art in worship from a variety of intercultural Anabaptist perspectives, and affirms art and the work of the artist as expressions of God’s creativity. This will find resonance among many in our Mennonite Church Canada family,” he says.
Students from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) conducted interviews with four congregations in Pennsylvania and three in Virginia. The film focuses on different ways visual art impacts worship, from creating space and healing to creating belonging without words. The resources also include an accompanying discussion guide to the documentary, a discussion-guide orientation and a nine-minute webinar presentation.
“We believed the selected congregations had insights to share with the broader church about creating worship spaces that welcome all who want to participate,” says Rebecca Slough, professor emerita of worship and arts at AMBS. Slough co-produced the film with Jerry Holsopple, professor of visual and communication arts from EMU.
“[These resources] are designed to inspire the imaginations of congregations who are ready to explore how the visual dimensions of worship might expand their relationship with God and with each other,” the Together in Worship release reads.
In the discussion guide orientation, Slough and Holsopple outline six key learnings from the project:
- The visual art and visual elements of congregational life are tangible. They engage our bodies in some way and create a shared storied place.
- Images, symbols, and colours that have cultural significance communicate respect and a feeling of belonging for people of that cultural identity.
- People on the edges of the church have opportunities to contribute to the worship life of the congregation.
- Congregational practices are enhanced, enriched and changed through the presence and use of familiar images and artifacts from cultures represented in the congregation.
- Congregational art projects provide means for building relationships among congregational participants and create work that can be contemplated. These artworks help congregations see who they are and what they are becoming.
- Visual arts in congregational worship create pathways to God.
—With files from Together in Worship.