Arts Creative Worship Fresh Expressions Mission Thought of the Day


It makes me smile when I think that one of the things which early Christians in these isles are remembered for is illuminated manuscripts. The grin gets broader when I compare the ready appreciation of this art with the slowness with which “youthwork for adults” has been accepted in many worshiping communities. The Manga gospels seem to be tolerated to try and ‘hook’ the youth and draw them in, but the acceptance of contemporary arts is slow.

Excerpt from “Cat’s Mirror” Simon Lidwell 2022

Even in those congregations where the arts are an integral part of Sunday worship this tends to gravitate towards a particular congregation and their niche culture. Something has driven a wedge between the Church and the wider community and this has been driven deeper during my lifetime. To some I suspect this feels like the country (or union of countries!) is slipping away from church control into paganism. To many in my generation however we watch as despite our best efforts the institution seems slow to adapt and to cling to the mindset that underlies colonialism as well as economics that de-humanise people and will consume our environment.

Why is this relevant to the arts? Those who positively identify with the term pagan are often the leaders in environmental action. Back in the 80’s and 90’s they were building car henges. Drawing on the deep prehistoric past to express ethical idignation through contemporary art with the prophetic style of an old testament prophet. Not everyone is called to participate in such works of prophetic art, but has innovation been relegated to youthwork with the false expectation that people will grow out of it when they become adults?

Whilst a wild meadow of flourishing spirituality is blooming in many small gestures of artistic expression outside church meetings, inside we have a culture struggling to come to terms with digital projector screens let alone the theological implications of shifting from a clockwork understanding of spacetime to one which involves quantum uncertainty and the ‘spooky effect’.

So, I grin when someone thinks that a manga gospel is a new idea. They were too little, too late, and inexpertly executed, but a valuable attempt. After all, the shape that the light of the gospel took for centuries before printing presses was in the glorious colours of illuminated manuscripts. Experimenting with the best technology available, to variable levels of achievement. The church can provide #SensingSpirituality and #sensingmeaningfulness but it will need to escape the vice of the recent past to inherit awareness of the dynamic eternal truth. Like all living organisms it will need to seek out and undergo change in order to preserve its substance.

If we can do this in our Christian communities, and can embrace creative acts like the fusion of illumination from the late iron age combined with manga, then we make the way smooth and open new paths for exploration. Not using art functionally as a hook to lure the unwashed in, but as a celebration of the Way flourishing in fields we did not sow. Then perhaps the wedge will disappear, although what our gatherings will look like is unknown. In the C8th monasteries what did they imagine worship would look like now?

More of this artists work can be seen on the Scribal Styles website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.