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Dance, an art form long disallowed in the church, is returning in the form of choreographed liturgy. Worship is redeeming this art form of the use of the body. Charismatic churches have championed its renewal… dance in worship is gradually being understood as a movement of praise, a means of setting the body free to worship God.

Art has the power to reach the emotions are nothing else. When words are used creatively, using poetry or story people’s emotions will begin to respond. Nevertheless, when verbal expressions of worship speak more to the rational mind than to the heart, emotions are not engaged. The use of the arts is not emotional manipulation but an intentional effort to encompass the full range of biblical worship.

God taught his people wandering in the wilderness to worship him with a full range of artistic expression. They decorated the tabernacle with beautiful artistic ornamentation. God called two artistic leaders to empower all with creative gifts to participate in the creation of the tabernacle. God calls pastors and leaders today to affirm the creative gifts he has placed within his followers today. Leaders in the future will intentionally and effectively create space and opportunity for the creative arts gifts in community, allowing and encouraging artists to become all that God desires for them. Just as communities of faith have encouraged and empowered people with musical abilities, those with other artistic gifts are waiting to be unleashed to serve God. Through the arts in worship, we will discover many ways to engage people’s heart and souls through experiential worship.

(continues in installment 7)

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Use of arts in worship is controversial in some traditions. Emerging or future worship churches value creativity and the entire spectrum of arts-related gifts. People who have had no place to use their gifts to glorify God are now beginning to find their creative gifts valued and affirmed. Our creativity is but a shadow of the creativity of God that we see in his creation. God originated all forms, patterns, colors and configurations. God’s creativity extends from the blades of grass and the form of an insect to the shapes of the clouds, stars, and human persons. In these and all other forms and shapes of the created order we see God’s creative power.

The scripture gives examples of the use of arts – visual, literary, music and dance – in worship. The Scripture affirms the visual arts, particularly through the use of the arts in the temple (2 Kings 6-7). The temple artists, under the direction of God, brought theological themes into the temple so that God’s people could actually see God’s truth. Many contemporary churches do not see the need for excellence in visual art. Visual experience is perhaps the most underutilized aspect of worship in most churches today.

In contrast, in the emerging or future worship setting, the use of imagery, symbolism and iconography, through all types of visual mediums create a richness of experience and encounter with the sacred. Good art stirs each person, no matter what their level of maturity, to new insights and visions.

In ancient times of oral tradition, the presence and mystery of God was conveyed with iconography, frescos, mosaics, paintings, stained glass and statuary. Churches in Europe and Asia epitomized the visual, sensory experience of the Almighty. The Protestant Reformation imposed a visually barren philosophy of many subsequent generations of Christians, as the Reformers reacted to the superstition and idolatry of their generation. Meanwhile, our culture is more and more driven by sensory experience, involving the visual, the auditory, tactile and even the sense of smell. The church is in many ways in a time-warp of sorts, print-saturated and word-based while a new sensory culture develops around us. Images are the primary language of many of our time.

The creation of a deeply sensory worship experience can “become a beacon of hope for countless people in the emerging culture who are looking for a spiritual center in a dislocated world… there is a tremendous potential for deeper experiences of worship when we move beyond words into the creative use of ancient art, contemporary graphics, artistic photography and thematic video.” “This complete examination of the visual environment of worship has prompted mainline churches and free churches to look more seriously at their own environment of worship.”

Other arts, such as the movement and literary arts, require the participation of the community in a way that the visual arts do not. These arts represent the dynamic character of God, a God who acts to deliver the people from their bondage. Movement art, whether in dance, the gestures of bowing, kneeling, and lifting the hands; or in a procession, is a choreographed expression of the dynamic God whose saving actions are being enacted in worship.

(continues in installment 6)

view of hand-painted Good Shepherd mural

view of hand-painted Good Shepherd mural

The Good Shepherd mural was created as a portable backdrop solution for contemporary worship services… it is 20′ wide by 6.5′ high, made of five panels with canvas stretched on a lightweight wooden frame. The mural backdrop was originally created for contemporary / Spanish services at Coburn Memorial United Methodist Church in Salisbury, NC and was used there for about a year. Then it was used in the Spanish contemporary services in the Hispanic/Latino Mission of the Waynesville District, Western North Carolina Conference for a couple years. The mural is currently in storage.

To see the original design, the painting process and photos of the entire mural, go to http://www.dancingdragonfly.info/murals.html. This is an example of the use of visual art in worship.

Here are some other interesting resources / examples of the use of visual art in worship.
1. http://www.calvin.edu/worship/visual_arts/art_in_worship/index.php
2. http://blog.nextlevelworship.com/2007/04/10/using-visual-arts-in-worship/
3. http://www.surfinthespirit.com/art-literature/worship.html
4. http://www.rejesus.co.uk/creativity
5. http://www.halmoran.com/welcome.htm
6. http://www.lca.org.au/worship/visualarts.cfm
7. http://blog.worship.com/worship/2007/04/using_visual_ar.html
8. http://www.artforworship.com/
9. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_3_52/ai_94983829/
10. visualimagebookcover1 Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) By William A. Dyrness

The Breathing | Space alternative worship team will create a once-a-month worship event called breathe | deep. The first event will not be planned or advertised until there are 100-125 active and committed participants /  members of Breathing | Space small groups. All who come to be part of this community will be encouraged to pray for and prepare for the first breathe | deep worship event.

The worship gathering will be designed with some of the following elements:

  • visual art, imagery in worship
  • creative storytelling/teaching about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ
  • prayer and meditation stations
  • communion – the sacred mystery
  • tapestries / wall hangings
  • use of technology
  • natural elements
  • creative writing
  • music – vocal and instrumental

This worship event will be created by a team of people who are a part of the Breathing | Space community. Anyone connected with the community will be encouraged to participate in the monthly planning process and bring their gifts, insights and creativity to the planning  “table”.

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