I had a great time at Gold Hill on Sunday evening - how good that a church is addressing the subject of the arts. In the context of worship there were two talks, one from me, and one from Jonathan Dennis, a member at Gold Hill and a film writer and director. Jonathan's an interesting guy - check out his website Contender Films - and it was fascinating to hear about his experience of the media from within. He told a superb story about the promo for BBC's The Nativity which he wrote.
I had the opportunity in my talk to explore some basic questions about the arts. When we speak about the arts, what are we speaking about? How as Christians should we approach the arts, especially in the light of a not-too-favourable track record? Do the arts really matter - surely other things are more important? (Just in case you have any doubt about where I'm coming from, the answer is they matter a huge amount!) And how do we as Christians, both artists and appreciators, go about engaging with the arts?
Within a twenty minute slot - which I stretched a bit - we looked at a framework for thinking about the arts, around God the Creator, a good creation, a spoiled and broken creation, and a creation that is being made new.
I quoted Tom Wright, a terrific advocate for the arts, who writes, 'But the church desperately needs artists of every sort, from sculptors to storytellers, from painters to potters, from singers to seamstresses, and so on; artists whose work will draw attention not to itself but rather to the glory of God. After all, if in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, new creation has begun ... and if beauty is now let loose in all the world, it will rightly generate new forms, new possibilities, new delights.'
The only frustration was that I could only touch upon big issues, and there wasn't the space to make any real connection with art. There was opportunity, within the service, to pray for those there who work in the arts and media, not a small number at Gold Hill. And afterwards I had some stimulating conversations. So a very worthwhile evening.
It's my intention to begin a series of occasional events within the Central Baptist Association, with the title, Faith Engaging with the Arts. Watch this space!