I Don't Want To Be Surprised By Kindness
Brothers - A Poem

Is Your Church Beautiful?

 

In conjunction with my recent piece, "Does Your Church Smell," I'd like to continue the conversation about ways we use our senses during worship. I've spent time recently thinking back on the churches where I've worshiped. From the small country church up the road from my childhood home (the one who never locked its doors), to the day I spent wandering the inner halls of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, I've experienced some incredible places of worship. Whether the church is marked with simplicity or grandeur, church buildings help me right my focus on worshiping God. It's yet another thing all Christians have in common - seeing beauty around us aids in worship. Think on some of the beautiful places where you've attended a church service.

 

Apparently, it's a topic other individuals consider as well. Paraclete Press contacted me recently about reviewing the book, The Ecumenism of Beautywhich explores the history and rediscovery of visual arts in the church. It includes essays from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant artists, scholars, and clergy, in an effort to bring further unity among Christian churches or denominations through increased understanding. This book opened my eyes to why Christian traditions use (or don't use) varying styles of architecture, icons and other decor in their houses of worship. 

 

I found Jerome Cottin's essay about John Calvin's stance on the visual arts, and how he developed his opinions, utterly fascinating. Consider this photo of a historic Dutch church emptied of all its images. Isn't it still beautiful?

IMG_3350Photo Credit: Ecumenism of Beauty

 

Or this one wall alone found in the Benedictine Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts. In the essay, "Beauty In and Of The Church: The Church Of The Transfiguration," Martin Shannon writes: 

More than inanimate objects to house religious activity, churches are active participants in the life of worship that goes on within them. They do more than teach, they beckon.

 

IMG_3353

 Photo Credit: Ecumenism of Beauty

 

I'm losing my grip on the argument that incorporating visual art in its various forms immediately lends itself to the creation of graven images (and thus idolatry). In my quest for more of Jesus, I've discovered beauty in my surroundings draws me closer to him in worship. Admittedly, there are several other factors to consider when investing in church structures and artwork. Still, I'm thankful for the conversations emerging about how beauty aids us in worship.

 

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I received a copy of "Ecumenism of Beauty" from Paraclete Press in exchange for an honest review of the book. This book is part of a much bigger event - it's a series of symposia in Europe and the US entitled: "The Arts and Ecumenism: What Theology Risks in Artistic Creation." Here's a link to the web site with the full information: http://www.artsandecumenism.org/

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