The Visual Arts In Worship

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Historical, Philosophical, And Theological Perspectives On The Visual Arts In Worship

Christian worship is an inherently visual event. Both the setting and the actions of worship need to be seen as well as heard. The visual dimensions of worship are important on several levels. Some visual components are functional, such as fonts, tables, and pulpits. They each serve the most essential actions of worship, proclamation, and sacramental celebration. Others are simply part of the environment of worship. Stained glass windows, flowers, and banners all affect the spirit of Christians gathered to listen and to celebrate. Some visual components present concrete images and symbols, such as the cross or a loaf of bread. Others feature abstract designs, such as a banner filled with vibrant texture and color. Throughout the centuries, the church has tended to emphasize the aural and textual aspects of worship. In recent years, however, churches have explored the potential for the visual arts in worship with great energy. What churches need now are both careful theological reflection on the role of the visual arts in worship and creative artistic applications that are feasible for congregations with a variety of resources. Throughout the history of the church, the role of the visual arts in worship has often been controversial, with debates being waged on both theological and cultural grounds. The first entries in this section briefly describe this history and explain some of the primary theological arguments involved in these discussions. Then, the remaining entries present philosophical and liturgical rationale for both why and how the arts should be used in worship. They are written by people from a variety of worship traditions, and they are both instructive regarding these traditions and prescriptive for how the various traditions can learn from each other.

  1. A Brief History Of The Visual Arts In Worship
  2. How Christians Have Appropriated The Arts
  3. Historical Perspectives On The Reformed View Of The Arts In Worship
  4. The African Recovery Of The Arts
  5. Liturgical Aesthetics
  6. Symbols As The Language Of Art And Liturgy
  7. How Symbols Speak
  8. The Relationship Of Visual And Verbal Elements In Worship
  9. A Call For Recovery Of The Visual Arts In Anabaptist Worship
  10. A Call For The Recovery Of Visual Arts In Reformed Worship
  11. A Call For The Recovery Of The Visual Arts In Charismatic Worship
  12. The Role Of The Arts In Worship
  13. The Integrity Of Form And Faith In Liturgical Art
  14. The Nonverbal Languages Of Prayer
  15. Environment And Art In Worship: A Roman Catholic Document On Art In Worship Part I
  16. Environment And Art In Worship: A Roman Catholic Document On Art In Worship Part Ii

The Worship Environment

The space of worship ultimately shapes the beliefs, sensibilities, and understandings of those who worship in its confines. The congregation shaped in the open air of the forest will be different from congregations shaped by basilicas, homes, storefronts, and public halls. Only in recent decades have the effects of space on congregational life been considered seriously. Space dictates the ways in which people interact with each other and with other objects in their environment. Over the centuries Christian traditions have developed styles of architectural design that have expressed their particular liturgical beliefs or assumptions. Presently, nearly all traditions are reevaluating their assumptions in light of historical studies and Vatican II reforms. Congregations are renovating old buildings or erecting new ones to encourage greater movement and interaction by the congregation in worship. The spatial relationship between the primary symbols of faith-the pulpit, Table, and font/baptistry-takes on significant importance as worshipers gather with and around them in the liturgical environment. Various structural, visual, and acoustical considerations are outlined in this section that must be attended to if God's people are to participate fully in the actions of worship.

  1. Introduction To The Worship Environment
  2. How The Architectural Setting For Worship Forms Our Faith
  3. The “public Language” Of Church Architecture
  4. The Church Building As A Home For The Church
  5. The Church Building As A Setting For Liturgical Action
  6. From Devout Attendance To Active Participation
  7. Pulpit, Font, And Table
  8. Space For Worship: A Baptist View
  9. Space For Worship: A Brethren View
  10. Space For Worship: A Praise-and-worship View
  11. The Problem Of Worship Renewal In Present Worship Space
  12. Six Architectural Settings And Worship Renewal
  13. Historical And Theological Perspectives On Acoustics For The Worship Space
  14. Acoustical Design For Congregational Singing
  15. Questions To Ask About Your Worship Space
  16. The Process Of Building And Renovating A Church

The Primary Visual Arts For Worship

Cultural and historical developments have directly influenced the ways that color, form, and design have been used in the worship environment. In semiliterate societies, the illustrated word carries more meaning and, therefore, more power than the read or printed word. Visual art creates a context that can demonstrate relationships between people, objects, and concepts more efficiently than other media. Contemporary North American culture is becoming image dominated. Television, film, photography, advertising, and computerized graphics are shifting the balance of communicative power between word and image. The visual arts in worship can not be avoided or ignored in the present age. They are an important means of communication with God for artist and participant, drawing worshipers into the story of faith in affective and spiritual ways. The different visual forms discussed in this section point toward a greater awareness of the visual aspects of worship and congregational life.

  1. An Introduction To The Primary Visual Arts In Worship
  2. Evaluating The Place Of The Lectern, Pulpit, And Bible
  3. Evaluating The Place Of The Altar Or Table
  4. Scriptural Perspectives On The Altar
  5. Advice On The Use Of The Table
  6. Actions Of Reverence At The Eucharist And The Design Of The Table
  7. Historical And Theological Perspectives On The Baptismal Font
  8. The Font As A Place For Burial, Birth, And Bath
  9. Fonts For Function And Meaning: Some Worthy Examples

Secondary Visual Arts For Worship

Complementing the Table or altar, font, and pulpit in a space for Christian worship are a variety of secondary visual arts that heighten the impact of the primary visual arts, serve the function of the primary visual arts, and contribute to the celebrative ethos of the worship space. The secondary visual arts in this section include contributions by sculptors, weavers, potters, painters, and a variety of other artists and provide many opportunities for ongoing contributions by visual artists to the worship life of the local congregation.

  1. An Introduction To The Secondary Visual Arts In Worship
  2. The Significance Of Icons In Orthodox Worship
  3. A Glossary Of Terms For Sacramental Vessels
  4. The Significance Of Liturgical Vestments
  5. The Use Of Liturgical Vestments
  6. A Glossary Of Terms For Liturgical Vestments
  7. Banners In Worship
  8. Candles And Lights In Worship
  9. The Symbol Of The Cross In Worship
  10. Flowers In Worship
  11. Stained Glass In The Worship Space
  12. Sculpture In Worship
  13. Temporary Art In Worship

Planning And Creating Visual Art For Worship

As the preceding sections point out, the use of visual arts in worship involve a complex set of theological, liturgical, and aesthetic issues. Undoubtedly, these issues need to be addressed by skilled worship leaders, planners, and artists. This section addresses some of the concerns involved in planning and creating visual arts for worship.

  1. Planning Visual Arts For Worship
  2. Evaluating Visual Art For Worship
  3. An Artist’s Perspective On Creating Visual Art For Worship
  4. Commissioning A Stained Glass Installation
  5. The Artist-in-residence In The Local Congregation