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Visual Worship

by STEPHEN PROCTOR

Why is the visual aspect of our worship services important?


To put it simply, God is a visual God. He is very creative. I feel like God is speaking to us more visually than He is audibly. That doesn’t trump the written word of God, but I think we need to start looking at the word of God in a more multi-layered way, than simply text on a page.

One of the things I’m studying and reading about right now is visual theology and why have we divorced image from word, image from text– why have we separated truth from beauty?

Beauty has become a luxury. Beauty and art has simply become a background and aesthetics. So when I look at our worship services, I think there’s a great opportunity to not only lead musical worship, but to lead visual worship. And that’s what I do. I consider myself a visual worship leader.

We have the opportunity to tell the story of God and to create an atmosphere for the story to be told. I believe visual art has the power and potential to be a vehicle for transformation and to be a revelation from God. I think that through visual creativity and creation we can release our congregation to worship God in visually creative ways– even through their imagination in helping them to see things a certain way. Maybe they just need to see the word of God through a certain lens, through beauty.

Technology can be a great aid in helping us get there. I know this is probably a lot to chew on, but it’s a great conversation to have. It’s not only about technology. Technology is important. It’s the paintbrush we are using to paint with today just like artists painted on chapels and cathedrals centuries ago. Now we have projectors and media and ProPresenter and things of that nature.

If I could point you to a few resources now — these are things I’m learning from and reading. The first is by Makoto Fujimura. It’s called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture. This one will rock your world. Another one is Pursuing Christ. Creating Art. by Gary Molander. Probably my favorite book of all time on worship is The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader by Mark Pierson. The last book is Chasing Francis by Ian M. Cron.    I would encourage you all to pick up these books. I think these will help stir up a lot that is in you, and will provide a language for visual art and visual theology as you lead visual worship in your church.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Chasing Francis. The setting here is a pastor has just experienced his first Catholic mass and walked through a beautiful ornate cathedral. He’s having a conversation with a monk and processing his thoughts out loud.

“And the pastor said, ‘It was like I was walking into another world.’ The monk replies, ‘Precisely! Medievals built huge ornate churches so that people walking into them would feel like they’ve left one world and entered another reality, the kingdom of God. Think about what happened to your senses when you came in those doors. Stained glass windows, frescos and paintings, dimmed lights, flickering candles, the smell of incense, vaults and arches pulling your spirit upward, angels soaring on the ceilings.God snuck up on you through the architecture.’ Peter said. ‘You mean the building spoke to me?’ I asked. Peter nodded. ‘Augustine said the human mind was particularly delighted when the truth was presented to it indirectly like in symbols in sacred space. Unfortunately most churches today are designed without any sense of the iconic because moderns like straightforward, unambiguous communication. We want worship centers where hominess is more important than holiness.’

I had forgotten that Peter was a doctoral candidate in Liturgics. He spoke so convincingly that it was hard for me not to feel some measure of embarrassment. When we designed Putnam Hill we focused on the utilitarian more than anything else. I remember telling our architect that I wanted all the technological goodies you’d find in a world class performing arts center. Looking back I realized that what I had asked for was ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ rather than ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’.”

I will leave you with that. I believe that’s where most of us are today. We have a lot of technological goodies at our disposal. We have a lot of resources, but what story are you telling? Are you doing this to draw attention to man and to yourselves? To scream “Lights, Camera, Action” or are you wanting to tell the story of God and immerse the worshipper in the story of God just like we’re doing with music?


(This is a transcription of a video message on Stephen Proctor’s blog: worshipvj.com. Used with permission.)

One Response

  1. Isabel

    Thank you! I just got made the primary prinedest last month and these are beautiful thanks for doing free printables enhances our homes minds and spirits you are awesome! {and severely talented!}

    Reply

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