I have two teenage daughters. One loves art museums. She is an artist herself, and loves the experience of peering into paintings and sculptures on display. She feels things the artist is hoping she would feel, she sees details that the artist has painstakingly worked to reveal, she loses herself in pieces that take her places beyond the mere room in which she stands.
My other daughter does not like art museums AT ALL. She avoids them like the plague. And when she goes, it’s only out of love for her sister…a good will gesture.
We recently attended an art exhibit that, of course, the eldest daughter begged to see. The younger teenage daughter tagged along only because of a promise of a food truck lunch.
The exhibit’s theme? “Wonder.” Nine artists were given free reign of museum space to create art that would inspire. The first exhibit we encountered led us into a room of multiple towers of index cards, stacked such that they seemed like mountains. The towers dwarfed those that entered in, and I could tell, my youngest was intrigued. We then entered into a room with a giant string rainbow, 60 miles of colored thread. My youngest weaved around and under, and around and under, mesmerized by the experience. We moved into a room of sticks forming giant swirls of nests that patrons could wander into, explore from countless angles. My youngest popped in and out of nests, peering through holes, tracing the weaving of the sticks with her fingers. We then navigated into a room with colored patterns of light splashed across the ceiling, ever changing, with pillows on the floor inviting patrons to lay down, look up, and lose themselves in the light show.
We Need Both
My youngest who hates traditional art museums…was profoundly engaged in this art experience. In being invited INTO art in a whole new way, she saw things, she felt things, she experienced things that she has never felt as she has navigated traditional art installations.
Fresh Expressions of Church offer those who, for whatever reason, are not experiencing the wonder of God’s grace in traditional expressions, the opportunity to explore grace in formats that are accessible…maybe even captivating…to them.
We need glorious art museums that showcase some of the greatest paintings and sculptures ever created. We need traditional churches that live out the deep rituals and community life which hold great meaning for those who have come to know the life of Jesus Christ in and through those practices.
We also need art museums that invite people to look at the art from different angles, to lie on the floor and wonder, maybe even touch the creation to more fully experience it. In other words, we need Fresh Expressions of Church which allow people to engage the faith from different angles, with multiple senses, to experience the life of Jesus Christ in ways that can engage them and inspire them.
My two daughters aren’t that different from the world in which the Church finds itself today. There is wonder to be beheld, and some will find their way to existing churches where they encounter the power of God. But some don’t resonate with those forms and communities. And they need us to find ways to express this wonder differently so that they can discover it and experience it. Are we willing to be creative…to take some risks…so that they, too, can discover the wonder of God’s love?
Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.