Here at The Bleeding Heart Art Space, we've taken some runs at creative worship gatherings – events where people gather together to grow spiritually with the help of creativity and the arts. Thankfully, we haven't had to do this alone.
We've been able to stand on the shoulders of many giants. There is a long and rich history of creative faith. Today, I'll share some of the resources we've encountered on the journey. Hopefully some of them can breathe new creative life into your community and your faith.
The Psalms were meant to be sung, but we often read them in a dry monotone. Some of history’s greatest poetry comes to life through the Seedbed Psalter. Rather than simply reading through the 150 Psalms, why not sing them?
Seedbed has taken every Psalm and adjusted the phrasing so that they can be easily sung, and the tunes are included as well. We’ll be using the Seedbed version of Psalm 130 in our Sacred Space event this Sunday.
Revised Common Lectionary, with Art, from Vanderbilt University
If you, like me, did not come from a tradition that uses the Lectionary, you may not know that millions of Christians all over the world are literally on the same page every Sunday. The Revised Common Lectionary offers 4 readings from the Bible every week, and you’ll find many churches’ Sunday gatherings based on those readings.
There is generally a Gospel reading (from the life story of Jesus), an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, and a New Testament reading (other than the Gospel).
One thing the Lectionary does wonderfully is bring us into sync with the seasons. For instance, right now we are in the season of Lent, leading towards Easter.
Vanderbilt makes the Lectionary readings available free online every week, along with corresponding artwork and prayers. I’ve found this a very rich resource to grow my own faith, as well as the faith of my church community.
(you’ll find the ART link on the right hand side of the page)
The Christian Seasons Calendar
Discover life ordered by the Christian Seasons, rather than the traditional 12 month calendar. This unique calendar breaks time up differently, with an entire section for Holy Week, sections for Advent, Epiphany and more. Each section is coloured to correspond to the colours of the church calendar, and includes an original artwork, selected from an annual worldwide submission process. This is truly a beautiful and unique resource.
The Work of The People
This site is a treasure trove of down-to-earth video resources for use in a church gathering. They even have a section called Visual Liturgy that lines up with the themes from the Lectionary. I’ve met one of the founders of the site, and can say from my experience that The Work of The People is all about good work for the right reasons. Authenticity runs throughout the WOTP catalogue.
You’ll find videos based on passages of the Bible, inspiring monologues from top thinkers on faith, arts and culture and more. People like NT Wright, Richard Rohr, Shane Claiborne, Brene Brown, Brian McLaren and many more.
Videos like this particularly fitting one.
So, how do you put together a creative spiritual experience? Well, Clayfire Media has plenty of ideas. Clayfire is a website full of helpful blog posts and resources for pulling together a worship service, liturgical experience, or whatever you'd like to call your gathering. They will usually have resources based on the current season, too.
And if you forget to visit sites regularly, like me, you can sign up for their email updates.
This site includes a section that suggests songs to match the Lectionary reading of a given Sunday. I’ve just discovered this one, but it could be a real time-saver in the future when I am racking my brain for an appropriate thematic song choice. It’s so nice when you can stand on someone’s shoulders to get a little further a little faster.
Here are the suggestions for this Sunday. - http://worshipcurrent.com/lent-5a-april-6-2014/
PhotoPrayer by Danny N. Schweers
This one is more for personal spiritual growth and reflection than a group setting, but I've found it a rich resource over the years I've been subscribed. Each and every week, Danny Schweers pairs an original photograph with an original prayer (that could also be called a short-form poem). These are often fuel for reflection, and a bright spot in my week.
AltarWalk and Interface Worship
Jim Robertson has been creating meaningful liturgical experiences in Edmonton for years, and if you've never attended one of his gatherings, you really should. Catch the Interface Worship Holy Saturday service at St.Paul's Anglican on April 19.
Get details on Holy Saturday, and much more, at http://altarwalk.ca
The Art of Curating Worship, by Mark Pierson
If you want to dive deeper into all of this, you should read Mark Pierson's excellent book, The Art of Curating Worship. I've had the pleasure of meeting Mark a couple of times, and his insights and experiences have propelled me forward in creative, art-infused faith gatherings.
Last time Mark Pierson was in town, he directed our attention to this series of videos he helped produce with World Vision Australia. These are prayers with a 'justice-edge'. Here is Mark Pierson's own description of the resource;
"I work with World Vision New Zealand and when curating worship events I always struggled to find visual media that would stimulate prayer with a justice-edge. So we commissioned these film-prayers (prayer-films?) to help Christian communities to better think about and engage with injustice - locally and globally."
Here is one ...
Art to Move You: Homeless Jesus Statue
Finally, a Canadian artwork that impacted my faith just this past week. This bronze statue of Jesus, covered by a blanket and sleeping on a park bench, is refreshingly powerful. It is a reminder that art can play a powerful role in our spiritual formation, not only communally, but personally.
Have a look, and a read about the work, on the Imago Arts website.
What about you? What resources have you found to grow your faith, or the faith of your community, in creative, arts-infused ways?