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“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine.” — Psalm 80:19

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The arts in Christian worship

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Directory for Worship has this to say about the role of art in worship:

  1. The Church has acknowledged that the lives of Christians and all they have belong to the Creator and are to be offered to God in worship. As sign and symbol of this self-offering, the people of God have presented their creations and material possessions to God. The richness of color, texture, form, sound, and motion has been brought into the act of worship.
  2. The Reformed heritage has called upon people to bring to worship material offerings which in their simplicity of form and function direct attention to what God has done and to the claim that God makes on human life. The people of God have responded through creative expressions in architecture, furnishings, appointments, vestments, music, drama, language, and movement. When these artistic creations awaken us to God’s presence, they are appropriate for worship. When they call attention to themselves, or are present for their beauty as an end in itself, they are idolatrous. Artistic expressions should evoke, edify, enhance, and expand worshipers’ consciousness of the reality and grace of God. (W-1.3034)

In the section on “Preaching the Word,” the Directory also says:

Drama and dance, poetry and pageant, indeed, most other human art forms are also expressions through which the people of God have proclaimed and responded to the Word. Those entrusted with the proclamation of the Word through art forms should exercise care that the gospel is faithfully presented in ways through which the people of God may receive and respond. (W-2.2008)

Featured article

Kelly Rider, “The Work of Our Hands, Reframing the Reformer: A New Portrait of John Calvin,” Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts 43.1 (2000-10). In this full-color section, artist Kelly Rider describes the process of designing a new portrait of John Calvin.


Book reviews

Is there a book on liturgical arts you’d like to recommend to other readers of Call to Worship? Submit a review. Be sure to include bibliographic information and a brief description of the book, indicating what you appreciated about it and why others might find it helpful.

Catherine Kapikian’s Art in Service of the Sacred (Abingdon Press, 2006)

by David Gambrell

I find Kapikian’s work to be helpful and challenging for both churches and artists, because she demonstrates how each needs the other. Churches need artists to help them hear and glimpse the unseen presence of God, to breathe new life into well worn symbols, to disclose the truth of the Word in ways that transcend words, to engage the whole person in worship through multisensory participation and to focus and sharpen the meaning of our liturgical practices and structures.

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Learn more

Visit these websites to learn more about the arts in Christian worship.

Worship and the Arts

Recommended reading

Michael G. Bausch, Silver Screen, Sacred Story: Using Multimedia in Worship (The Alban Institute, 2002)

Nena Bryans, Full Circle: A Proposal to the Church for an Arts Ministry (Schuyler Institute for Worship and the Arts, 1988)

Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art for a Media Culture (The Liturgical Press, 2007)

Christopher Irvine and Anne Dawtry, Art and Worship (The Liturgical Press, 2002)

Catherine Kapikian, Art in Service of the Sacred (Abingdon Press, 2006)

Kenneth T. Lawrence, ed. Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Three Volumes (United Church Press, 1994)

Albert Rouet, Liturgy and the Arts (The Liturgical Press, 1997)

Clayton J. Schmit, Too Deep for Words: A Theology of Liturgical Expression (Westminster John Knox Press, 2002)

United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (Liturgy Training Publications, 1993)

Janet R. Walton, Art and Worship: A Vital Connection (Michael Glazier, 1988)