Sunday, October 11, 2015

City Renewing Church | Ecclesia Church: Why does the Church need stronger art and artists in Worcester, MA?

Emmaus City Artists Art Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

When we find who we are, that God is the Creator and we are collaborators with Him in His work, we understand Christianity better.

With Emmaus City, we want to be a city renewing church. In previous posts, I've provided brief glimpses of how City Life, Redeemer Presbyterian, Trinity Grace, and Austin Stone have shared what gospel renewal looks like for these churches in their cities, and how we might pray to see gospel renewal in Worcester, MA. These stories are all worth celebrating and emulating because these churches are currently making and growing learners and followers of Jesus through thoughtful dedication and humility to obey His commands and expand His family with people across ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic boundaries. Which leads us to Ecclesia Church in Houston, Texas. Q has already done an excellent job of capturing their story in the article, "Local Church Transforms City." Revealing quotes as to how they have been missionary servants to Houston's Montrose District include:

" ... what you get when you go to Ecclesia is this understanding that this church is not just there on Sunday mornings. This is a part of the fabric of the community. ... They are deeply involved in the discussions of the kinds of things affecting the neighborhoods. This is a place where they instantly have a connection to the people that they are trying to connect with and influence ... They’re embodying the Gospel in a really great way. ... "
" ... we have a lot of artists and musicians and filmmakers and people that are creating culture and dialoguing with all kinds of people and I hope contributing to what God’s doing in our world in some significant ways. ... I find an artist when they come to faith, they have a better understanding of true Christianity because they already know what it means to create and too many Christians are in consumption mode. It’s one of the things that’s destroying true Christianity in our day and age. So these are people that, when they come to faith, beautiful things happen. They tell the story in powerful and real ways. ... "

Along with this article, Scott Erickson, who was an artist-in-residence with Ecclesia from 2009-2012, put together a 4-part video series explaining "Why the Church Needs Art." This series is very well done and I encourage you to watch each of the videos. 

Emmaus City Artists Art Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

" ... I used to live in Strausbourg, France, and I lived four blocks away from this massive, beautiful cathedral. And I used to go there every day and just look and think, 'This whole thing has been created to communicate to an illiterate culture the story of Scripture." And it had a massive effect on me as an artist and a Christian. ... When we come to understand something, we often use the language of sight like, 'Oh, I see.' ... We're saying, 'Something inside of me is happening. Something has been revealed.' ... We all have interior pictures of how we think things are versus how they exist in the world. ... The work of the teacher, the artist, the illustrator, the musician, the writer, is to help foster that inner image. ... We are a community. We're a body, as Scripture says, and each part of the body has something to offer that body and the work of the Kingdom. ... "

Emmaus City Artists Art Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

" ... It was so disappointing in that moment of grief to go, 'I don't even know what to do.' ... I sat there (at the Wailing Wall remembering my friend, Jess, who died from cancer) and I listened to this man praying and I remember at some moment, I just said, 'God, could his be my prayer? I don't understand him, but could I piggyback on what he's praying?' ... Before us lay weeks of services and liturgies and prayers that we felt very ill-equipped for. ... Our worship leaders were like, 'We need to find different songs.' So they looked for songs and they found these spirituals that came out of oppression and slavery that were laments. We commissioned our poets and our writers to write new prayers, new benedictions, new calls to worship for us. ... I also made this interactive multi-media experience for Good Friday to have us sit in the place of pain and grief of death so that we would really feel it together. And we were in this season for a while. ... I remember looking back at that time and thinking, 'Look at all the art we made' because art helps us deal with our pain. ... The Church is not here to be spiritual Prozac. The Church exists to communally be with the God who says, 'I want to heal your brokenness. I want to restore and transform you, to bring life from death.' But often, we need to be able to name our death before we can be resurrected from it. ... "  

Emmaus City Artists Art Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

" ... (In this moment) A true song comes out of Johnny Cash. He was singing a false song. A song he thinks he needs to sing. And then, in this moment where he's confronted, a true song emerges; something very honest, the truest song he can sing. And this is the great thing about art. We've all kind of seen this true song, whether in a film or a visual piece of art or in poetry or writing. It's that moment that the art transcends the material. It's that moment when art is actually able to reveal truth to us. Truth about our lives. Truth about reality. ... This is why we love it. It allows us to hear the truth about ourselves. I would like to submit that our most true song is actually revealed by Jesus Christ. ... Jesus, who is 'Immanuel, God with us,' in that moment (on the cross when He is feeling what it means to be forsaken because of our sin) he is with us, when he says, 'I am with you so much I know what it feels like to be a human being,' and in the greatest moment of suffering and what it feels like to be under the curse, he doesn't speak from himself. He sings our song (Psalm 22:1: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'). He sings, 'What your song is, what it feels like to be a human being, is it feels like I've forsaken you.' And in that moment he's going, 'I am with you. In your most forsaken moment, I'm here answering your cry.' ... "

Emmaus City Artists Art Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities
" ... The story of the calling of Matthew is about a sinner, but the story of the martyrdom of Matthew is about a saint. And Caravaggio knew what it was like to be a sinner. Caravaggio was a pretty rough guy. He grew up poor, was a drinker, a fighter. He actually killed a guy in a duel in his lifetime. But he was also a Christian. He really believed it and he ended up making some of the most powerful images that the Church had ever seen because what he did is, he didn't make these images about some far away story in some holy land. He brought all of those stories right here, right now, in the present. So instead of setting the calling of Matthew in some fantasy holy land, Caravaggio takes us to a dark, dirty room in Rome. Enter Jesus and Peter. Peter hesitantly points where Christ's outstretched arm fully lets us know that it's Matthew that he's after. And here in this moment, Caravaggio stumbles across another idea. Instead of highlighting Christ, cover him up. The less we see of him, the more we see of the extended finger pointing to the man being illuminated by the light. Caravaggio wanted people to come into the space, and not just see a painting of a story, but see a painting of a real event. Something that was happening right now. To Matthew, yes, but to all of us who come into the light. The Light that says, 'Come and follow me.' The Light that says, 'You are loved.' The Light that says, 'You belong to me.' ... Christ brings our truest song, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' but he also brings us our newest song, 'You belong to me.' ... " 

Emmaus City Church Art Artists Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Next post: City Renewing Church | Fellowship Memphis: Why does the Church need to embrace and embody its multi-ethnic identity in Worcester, MA?

 – Sully

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