As you might recall, the Well hosted its first art show this past Easter season. God has blessed our church family with an unusually extensive amount of artists, and so it was a particular blessing that so many of them joined together to tell the story of Jesus’ last week on Earth through their creativity. Marianne Wood and Sue Wood, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in art, did a beautiful job organizing the event to be able to share with Downtown Abilene’s monthly Art Walk. At the April Art Walk, our doors to the show were open to our larger Abilene community! It was such a special time to reflect on the beauty of the gospel with such a wide variety of Abilene folks!

Below, Sue Wood shares some of the guiding thoughts behind her and Marianne’s vision for the art show:

As we look back over the Holy Week Art Show held at The Well, I recognize the Holy Spirit working in the midst of God’s people as we participated—searched— and discovered for ourselves the visual beauty and truths of the gospel.

Perhaps as we focused on portraying spiritual truth within our community, we put time and enthusiasm into producing work that skillfully “speaks the truth with love.” Ephesians 4:15

Many of the pieces submitted to our exhibit revealed soul-searching and intellectual discipline. This touched the whole community, and this sincerity created a successful event.

Each person who created an artwork and those who viewed them felt their faith deepened. Art can be an incarnational prayer and evangelism.

Art and beauty are teleological: they teach us to “yearn,” drawing us to themselves and then to something beyond, and thus to God.

The experience of the Holy Week Art Show has caused me to ask “What does it mean to be an artist of faith in a church community, and what is our function—in fact—where do we go from here?”

The average person encounters performance, design, image and the media arts every day. And yet we (often?) do not see visual art used to the glory of God in our spaces. Our churches integrate music, lyrics and poetry into our worship with ease, but the visual arts are more of a challenge.

Many mainstream and evangelical churches today shy away from the visual arts. This is reflected in our worship spaces and altars (if we have them!) and our events. The Reformation emphasized that believers can understand the Bible on their own and can go to Christ directly. They did not need visual reminders. So most imagery was removed for fear that people would pray to a saint rather than God, or worship an artist instead of the Creator. I believe that feeling threatened by the art world in general, and by the fear of idolatry or distraction, we are reluctant to tackle the challenges of art as inspiration, explanation, or declaration, or as a means of facing our sinful selves and asking difficult questions.   

There is no specific mention of visual art in the New Testament, so where are we to go with this? I believe that Jesus was an artist when he created his parables, and he was acknowledging Beauty when he spoke of the “lilies of the field.” He did not make a painting of them, he created them!!! He compared his Crucifixion to the bronze serpent Moses made, a visual symbol of claiming God’s help through faith. He commanded believers to see themselves as a body and to experience grace at the table—the bread and the wine—not just as words, but as images. I also believe that when John The Baptist saw Jesus approach in all His Beauty, he was provoked to proclaim a mysterious visionary image: “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Jesus has transformed each one of us into works of art whether we paint or ride a garbage truck. Our lives are infused with the Holy Spirit of The Great Creator.

This short memo asks more questions than answers. It provokes. And isn’t that what art does?

Art in church community is an adventure for which we need faith. God has allowed The Well to take the first step.