Thesis 7 on «Art and Church»:
«Churches (and Christian organisations) are open for artists who bring with them independent, original and creative ideas. At the same time, artists should not celebrate their originality, and churches should not celebrate any kind of uniform culture.»
In the blog by the woman pastor Ulrike Bittner I read an entry she wrote after the death of a colleague who had worked modestly and unnoticed and who, despite his great personal charisma, despite the spiritual fruits of his work and despite his individual approach, received little attention from those in higher positions on the church.
In her blog, she regrets that church bodies often choose «their own kind»: «I sometimes have an uneasy feeling when I see how people of average gifts receive a lot of attention in the protestant churches and are raised to high positions. These are the people who «are just like oneself». In my eyes, the churches just reproduce themselves, even in our days. There is a fear of true lowliness and a fear of true greatness. But one must be able to recognise and honour both.»
Is this why there are so few original minds in the churches? The same could no doubt be said of other institutions, for example the state, business, perhaps even cultural institutions (?!): one takes notice of and primarily chooses those who are «their own kind».
Getting back to the church: In my discussions with artists, I often hear statements like this: «Our church is afraid of new ideas. It prefers to stick to the old traditions. That is why it is so boring. I can no longer find a place for myself there.» It is dramatic when artists can no longer find a place in the churches. Here it is not even a question of whether their art finds a place, but whether their innovative spirit is welcome. This is dramatic not only for artists, for they have the option of joining Christian artists’ movements in order to survive spiritually and to remain in «discipleship». It is above all dramatic for the churches! This situation means that the churches lose original minds. Of course, such minds are not found only in artists. But it seems that artists more readily dare to voice their opinions than other people do. Many of them, if their attempts bring no fruit, go into external or perhaps even internal exile.
This is not the place to reproach churches, for our TUNE INs are addressed to artists. We therefore offer some suggestions to artist colleagues:
1. Remain in a church and take part in the work!
2. Artists are often idealists. In art, an idea can be realised much more quickly than in (church) reality. So stay close to reality!
3. For Christians, close to reality means being full of both hope and vision. Prayer is therefore important: pray with others interested in renewal in your church.
4. Do not adopt the stance of a «revolutionary» and do not celebrate your own originality!
5. Perhaps you should work in a limited field of ministry and implement one or other of your innovative ideas there. This can then be a signal to others that something is moving in the church – and that they too can help to shape things.
6. Where a church celebrates its own tradition, does not wish to change anything and remains trapped in mediocrity, this becomes difficult. One consequence might be to look for another church.
7. Be part of a non-denominational artists’ network. Many of those who get involved in movements of this kind receive support there for their ministry in the church.
Text: Beat Rink – firstname.lastname@example.org / translation: Bill Buchanan
Photo: Esther Niyifasha, A musician from Rwanda playing in a church service the indigenous instrument Inanga