The Church and the Arts

How to Catch a Fish by Sharon ThiessenThere is a resurgence of advocacy for the arts inside the church.

The church’s long history of commissioning art began with the story of Bezalel and Oholiab putting together objects for the tabernacle, says Cindie Chaise, Art Curator at Tyndale University.

“There’s a sense that things can be created for God’s people to help them in worship, stewardship, and honouring God,” said Chaise.

“Art has a definite place in worship,” adds Toronto-based visual artist Sharon Tiessen. “I think the calling of the artist inside the church is essentially to know God and help others to know God,” Tiessen reiterated.

Cindie Chaise and Sharon TiessenThe element of creativity is a must. “I see a real connection with how God created us and how he invites us into creation,” said Chaise. “God is supremely creative and I think that everyone is inherently creative,” agrees Tiessen.

From an historical perspective, the church has had a strong connection with symbolism and visual imagery. A sweep of art history including the ancient catacombs in Rome, house churches in Syria, idolatry of saints during the Byzantium, and the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” (valuing artists for following a prescribed set of rules to portray biblical stories) provides a glimpse into art’s relationship with faith, lectures Chaise.

A visual vocabulary is important, supports Tiessen. “We need to be thoughtful and contemplative in the current social climate that we live in,” she says, because the deep-rooted relationship between art and faith extends to modern times. “I think that art elicits awareness and being alert in the present,” Tiessen continued.

“The arts present an opportunity to slow down and reevaluate,” adds Chaise. Conversation is essential “[whereby] groups and individuals are talking with each other and actually listening and responding,” she said.

“I would like to see churches get to the point in their Christian life where they really wrestle with what grace is, what it means to take risks, what it means to be human, fallen and simultaneously saints, and to engage in this world that God has given us to explore, play in, work in, experience, and tend.”

Article and photos of Cindie Chaise and Sharon Tiessen by Lia Kim
Artwork, top right: 
How to Catch a Fish, by Sharon Tiessen (mixed media on found wood)

One thought on “The Church and the Arts”

  1. I am so happy to see the arts encouraged in our churches. I have been given inspirational writings during my own journey with the Lord that have helped others over the years. These are born out of my own moments of suffering or pain as well as many moments where I struggled to know the thoughts of God toward me. As I searched through my writing, He came as He did to David and loved me and encouraged me sometimes giving me revelation through pictures and expressions of His love that astound me and leave me sensing a responsibility to share and be vulnerable so others can discover what I have in Jesus. The arts are a path to healing, to discover identity as God sees us and to see ourselves through our creative process. The church can minister beyond borders through creative arts when incorporated into a cafe or open studio beyond church walls as well. God bless you. I look forward to more. I am in Almonte Baptist Church near Ottawa.

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