For art’s sake

Scott McFarland: Sugar Shack, Vancouver Art Gallery. (Photo Sarah Clarke)

Scott McFarland: Sugar Shack, Vancouver Art Gallery. (Photo Sarah Clarke)

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This year’s Pioneer Conversations Day (3 March) is on the theme of art and theology and mission.

We are extremely fortunate to have a phenomenal group of creatively minded practitioners and artists coming to share their stories, artistry, and practice on this day dedicated to thinking about the value of art, art and mission, and art as prophecy.

The arts are something I feel extremely passionate about. As an art-lover and artist there have been countless moments when I’ve been touched in profound and enlightened ways. They have the capacity to hold the mystery and beauty of the world and can help us see ourselves, others and God in new and different ways.

The arts have a unique ability to create pathways, platforms and space to engage, heal, and articulate deep and meaningful  truths – something that’s particularly helpful to those of us involved in pioneer ministry. Light is shed through the arts in some of the darkest, seemingly hopeless or uninterested places – what a gift!

This is nothing new though. Christianity’s relationship with the arts can be traced back centuries. We need only take a peek at our rich history of engagement with the visual, literary and musical arts.

You may not be aware but back when the Western church had its big shake up in the great era of the protestant reformation the arts took a bit of a beating. In some places, so problematic was the theological relationship with the arts that in many churches artworks were destroyed.

Sadly, the legacy of that time has left us not quite knowing how the arts fit in with church and mission, and with a slightly less than robust understanding of their value.

This may or may not be your experience; you may have totally got the arts. But you might not always know how to communicate through the arts or integrate them with your faith. A lot of us find we don’t always know how to engage the arts with our faith beyond listening to worship. Or if we can see a way, we’re not always sure our church gets it.  You may already be really engaged with the arts, maybe as an artist, or with mission or in any number of other ways it may interact with your faith.

Whatever your place in this conversation, this day is an opportunity to see, hear, and experience the arts and find out how we can be part of what Malcolm Guite suggests is vital area of growth in our ongoing journey of touching people’s lives through mission. And as pioneers it feels especially important as we try and engage in all sorts of different places and spaces. The arts has the ability to transcend cultures, backgrounds, language and more.

To give you a foretaste of the day, this year we’re doing something a bit different. The area of the arts beckons a different type of interaction, and so instead of a load of talks we’re going to have a day of practical workshops, performances and experiences. An opportunity to come alongside and learn from those who are actively involved in this area. I just got off the phone from David Benjamin Blower, a poet, singer-songwriter and theologian, who’ll not only be running a workshop on how to engage with the arts prophetically but also be performing at the end of the day.

“How do I sign up?” I hear you cry. Well you simply need to follow this link to book a ticket to the day For Art’s Sake 3 March – Oxford

It’s on 3 March from 10am-5pm at CMS in Oxford. We try to keep our prices low, so the day is only £35 including lunch.

We’ll kick off with a short talk, there will be two sessions of workshops, a panel discussion and we will end the day with creative worship, followed by a performance from the talented David Benjamin Blower.

As well as David we’ll have:

  • workshops on art and mission by Martin Poole
  • Chris Duffett introducing the work of the Light Project
  • Ian Adams helping us see how art and imagination are gift
  • a poetry workshop
  • Rachel Griffiths getting us involved in drama and its ability to connect with people
  • workshop with artist Iain Cotton
  • workshop with installation artist Lou Baker
  • a workshop on photography engaging with spiritual practice

If Oxford is a bit of a distance to travel, we now also have a centre in the north, Cumbria.  We are holding a conversations day on 14 November on the same theme. We’ll be hosting artists and practitioners from the North of England, Scotland and other surrounding areas.

For further information and booking details for Conversations Day Cumbria follow this link Booking Info Cumbria 14 November .

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