Trinity Baptist celebrates 30 years of faith and the arts

By Joe LaGuardia

Aside from some favorite times during the Christian year, such as Pentecost and Advent, we here at my church practice another event that has become a favorite: Christival.   Every October for the past thirty years, Trinity has observed Christival–a combination of “Christ” and “festival”–to celebrate faith and the arts.

Each year, local art adorns the sanctuary, worship services incorporate dramas and other creative elements, and guest musicians gift us with amazing talents.  The season never gets routine or stale, and it has a way of reminding me that the One whom we serve is indeed “Creator God, creating still.”

The celebration of faith and the arts was always an intentional decision on the church’s part because art, in so many ways, has become a touchy subject for Christians.

Art is sometimes risky, sometimes questionable.  At other times, art is secular rather than sacred.  Many times art is viewed as being on the margins rather than in the mainstream of society.

Yet, for all its nuance and diversity, art is, as author Leland Ryken states, “A window or lens through which we see ourselves and our world” (“The Liberated Imagination”).  Art, therefore, serves as iconography: It can bolster our perspective of God and our relationship to God.

More significantly, art can remind us of just how redeemed–or depraved–we humans really are.  Of course, I’m not promoting all art because not all art is wholesome or even spiritually beneficial art.  Beauty is–and always will be–in the eye of the beholder.

But, art, whether good or bad, reminds us that we are mere co-creators with God.

In fact, the first story in the Bible is of God creating, painting creation into existence with a palate of light, dark, water, earth, and Spirit.  It seems to be a part of God’s nature, and it is inevitably a part of our nature, to create and invent, dabble and weave.

We are, after all, made in this Creator’s image, knit together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13).

The earliest story in scripture also tells us that humans can be so creative that they can sin creatively too.  This reminds us that all of us have gifts, but we must use those gifts for God’s kingdom and glory rather than our own.  We have inherited Adam and Eve’s exploration of good and evil, so we must always strive for that which is good.

Paul also encourages us “to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).  God intends for gifts, whether artistic or otherwise, to serve His Church and His people.  Art always has a public impact, but it works best when it helps others experience the Creator and creation in fresh ways.  When we do art for our own sake, it threatens to be self-absorbed and pretentious.

I am also reminded that we Christians, like all artists, are called to be people of vision.  Artists see things as they really are and see things that have yet to be; artists weave meaning into the mundane and can picture the implications that our actions have yet to generate.

Art critics keep artists accountable to the craft, but artists can keep us accountable to our actions, beliefs, and worldview in the public spaces of our lives.

Not everyone can paint a great picture or write a captivating poem, but all of us have something to offer God that is a product of inspiration and creativity.  It may be as simple as a knitted pot holder, or it may be as routine as telling your grandchild an action-packed bedtime story about your youth.

Let us always use those gifts to inspire others to see the world–and God–in new ways.  And, for those of you who do not have a church home, we hope to see you at worship at Trinity Baptist on October 5th at 10:30 AM for our first Christival service of the season.

Despite writer’s block, God still shows up

Confession: It’s overwhelming to write an article every week for the newspaper, especially when the writer has several lofty goals, like:  The article is not a simple rewrite of a sermon preached the week before.  Every article must be relevant and well-researched.

 

Though I don't smoke or drink, there have been many times that I thought smoking might make me a better writer. After all, in all of those 1940s movies, all writers are smokers. And William Faulkner had the coolest pipe.

 

Honestly, though, it is so daunting sometimes that writer’s block sets in.  I should not complain–at least one writer for the Rockdale Citizen submits two opinion pieces a week.  I feel bad for that guy.

The truth is, we all have our moments of silence in which we ca not find our voice.   There are times when we confront God’s silence and have trouble hearing His voice too.

Here’s what happened when I got writer’s block earlier this week:  About thirty minutes of starring at a blank computer screen, I emailed one of the Citizen’s editors to mention that I did not have anything to submit for the upcoming weekend.  I graciously apologized and explained that I could not get any coherent words on a page and that I would submit something next week.

I wrapped up the email with a blessing.  Then I emailed my sister–an editor-in-chief in New York–about my woes.  Then it hit me:  Why not write about what I think about when writer’s block strikes like the plague?

Every week I hope to inspire, if not inform, readers, many of whom I know and meet around town.  I believe in a “Creator God, creating still,” so I rely on a God who is an eternal source for quality, wholesome material.

Sometimes God is silent.  Other times, I have so many ideas, no single one really flows well on paper.  Take this Saturday’s column for instance: I could have addressed numerous topics.

One topic relates to the recent allegations made against Bishop Eddy Long.  Subject matter: the abuse of pastoral power in light of the Prosperity Gospel.  But do we really need another article about that one?

Then there was the Pew Forum results from the “U.S. Religious Knowledge survey” that came out last week.   I imagine that my headline would have read like an apocalyptic threat, “Atheists Score Higher on Bible Questions than Most Christians.”  Granted, among Christians, evangelicals scored the highest; just over 72% of  questions were answered correctly.  (So, nanny-nanny-boo-boo, Mr. Atheist!)

A third thing could have been related to a devotional-oriented topic from the Bible.  You know: Something that included a good illustration or two, followed up with a Biblical insight, and then practical application.

I did something like that last week, though.  I used a text from 1 Samuel to reprimand bullying in the workplace.  It was a straight-up devotional piece, and to do another this week would not have sufficed.

Then there are topics that are things political (about four more weeks to mid-term election day, folks), as well as controversial.  Writing about politics and controversy just to fill a quarter page of the newspaper for its own sake is not what God called me to do.

That begs a question: What did God call me to do for this column?   Upon reflection, I believe God called me to simply tell my story about what it’s like to experience writer’s block.  More importantly, He wanted me to share about the human condition–As humans made in God’s image, we too are ever-creating, but flawed still.

I hope that my confession will help you see that we all suffer from God’s silence once in a while.  You’re not alone when you feel uninspired, and all of us have our moments of clarity as well as times of utter melancholy.  It goes with the territory of being a writer; but, more so, of being human.