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Visual Arts: Architecture and Liturgical Art

This showcase will explore resources to help you think in new ways about your worship environment, the architecture and the permanent or temporary visual installations that can not only enhance our praise and prayer but be praise and prayer.

Our senses (what we hear, smell, touch, taste, and what we see) provide the means through which we worship God.  Deepening and sharpening how and what we see are beneficial to all worshipers, not just those who consider themselves artists. This showcase will explore resources to help you think in new ways about your worship environment – the architecture and the permanent or temporary visual installations that can not only enhance our praise and prayer but be praise and prayer. 

    Key Insights

      1. Walk into your space with new eyes. What would a first time visitor’s eyes go to first? What does this say about what we do in this space? Is this what we want to say?  Everything you see communicates a message. Start with what is already being communicated before you integrate new visual ideas.
      2. Think in terms of “visual layers.” The architectural elements of the space, the furniture arrangement, the natural visual elements of worship (Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the most inherently visual actions of worship), the seasons of the Christian calendar, and then a specific Sunday service and its theme. Together these create a visual whole.
      3. Serve in community. An ideal visual arts team is made up of artists and crafters, but also construction workers, people organizers, people who study scripture, even someone who says “I don’t get it” – each can bring gifts to the team that will help the whole congregation worship more deeply through the visual.


      An Architecture of Immanence 
      by Mark Torgerson
      (Eerdmans, 2007)
      Modern architecture has heavily influenced the construction of new sacred spaces, producing a new way of building that emphasizes God’s coming near to us.

      The Substance of Things Seen
      by Robin Margaret Jensen
      (Eerdmans, 2004)
      Explores the intersection of art and faith, offering thoughtful reflections on the way art functions in Christian life and practice.

      Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue
      by William A. Dryness
      (Baker Academic, 2001)
      Good for small group arts ministry discussion. Theological and practical issues on art and Protestantism.

      Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley
      by Richard Kieckhefer
      (Oxford University Press, 2004)
      “For individuals and for communities, liturgy is a means of integration. Liturgical formulas and the environments provided for them can seem to present a jumble of unrelated images and notions…Liturgy and liturgical space are effective to the extent that they give scope for experiencing and expressing the connections” [p. 137-138].

      Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church
      by Nancy Chinn
      (Liturgical Training Publications, 1989)
      Discussion about art for worship—from theory to technique and from philosophy to practice. With dozens of color photos, this book will challenge you and congregational life. It’s difficult to find so check out your local inter-library loan options!

      More book suggestions >>

      Web Resources

      Love your Neighborhood 
      Listen to a Worship Symposium session by Eric Jacobsen on how church buildings connect and contribute to the neighborhood.

      Baptism and Church Architecture
      Explore the visual nature of baptism – so much is said, beyond the words spoken, in the size, shape, place, and water of baptism!

      Lord’s Supper Vessels
      View a slideshow of Lord’s Supper vessels from a church with a different set for each season of the year.

      Visual Arts in Advent
      View a slideshow of Advent visuals based on the season’s theme.

      Visual Arts in Sermon Series
      Travel with a church through a series on the Holy Spirit. See how they brought together a variety of art forms to captivate all ages.

      Church Galleries
      Listen to a Worship Symposium panel discuss their church galleries with response by the host, Mako Fujimura.

      Ears that Hear and Eyes that See
      by Elizabeth Steele Halstead
      An exploration to see “in and through” visuals to discover a deeper meaning and purpose of art in worship.

      Illuminating the Word: Using the Pod Process to Combine Bible Study and Visual Arts
      by Susan Woodhouse
      Creating “pods” for scriptural study and seasonal visuals helps all dig deeper into the text while giving an organizational structure to arts ministry.

      Links to organizations, seasons of the year ideas, book recommendations and articles, church projects, and so much more.

      The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts
      This site offers a variety of resources. The archive of community arts projects is a nice sampling of ideas.

      Nancy Chinn
      Chinn is one of the most influential liturgical artists of the past 20 years. View her community-based projects.

      Catherine Kapikian