Books on the Arts & Church

As I sometimes do, here, I post a book list generated for a particular customer. Recently, a mail-order friend asked about some resources for her newly formed arts group at her church.
After some nicities and encouragement, I got down to business. Here is some of what I wrote to her:

I believe I might have suggested earlier that you start with our basic bibliography found at the website. This is found by clicking on “Books by Vocation” and then going to the section on the arts and creativity. These are still some of our favorite books for those starting out a God-honoring interest in the arts even if it hasn’t been updated. One very, very simple one, an inexpensive and lovely essay, came out recently, and it should be on that “beginners” book list, as we are very fond of it. It is by Philip Ryken, and is entitled Art for God’s Sake: The Call to Recover the Arts (Crossway; $5.99.)
And, we talked about this, didn’t we?
It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Press) $24.99 will be out in its glorious newly expanded and updated edition within a few weeks, for sure. Our good friends have published it…we are awaiting the full shipment coming from overseas where it was manufactured (using non-tree paper, in fact, which is pretty nifty for those who care about good stewardship and green creation-care!) We will be the first store to get it, and it is absolutely the most important one volume book you could get for serious artists or art students or those interested in the making of Christian art, or the study of faithful applications of normative aesthetics. What a lovely volume it will be, a “must-have.” I will review it, I am sure, as soon as it arrives, in my book blog… (In fact, you may have noticed it on the year’s end Best Books list, where I happily created a catagory just for it!) The newly expanded one (with much more color and reproductions in every chapter) will be an instant classic in the field and is due soon
Here are a few that are especially useful for those interested in using the arts in the local congregation, working especially to integrate art into worship; these are not listed in the more generic listing about faith and art, since this is more specific, a catagory about liturgical art or congregationally-based efforts to integrate artistic gifts in parish life.
Music and The Arts in Christian Worship vol 4, books 1 and 2 Robert Webber (Hendrickson) $49.95 each These are two volumes from the magisterial multi-volume set on worship, which are extraordinary, thorough, oversized hardbacks. The first one is on music and song, and the second is on the visual arts. Strong on historical development, ecumenical, theologically solid, clear and helpful. Really fabulous.
Enter His Courts With Praise: A Study on the Role of Music and the Arts in Worship Robert Webber (Hendrickson) $9.95 A small group resource or nice guide for anyone doing a Bible study on the topic…rather a discussion guide for the above, big volumes. Each chapter has a bit of teaching and then discussion questions, verses to look up, ideas to ponder and application points. Excellent.
The Arts in Your Church: A Practical Guide Fiona Bond (Piquant Press) $15.95 Rare, imported from England, this is a very nice guide, really useful and theologically mature. A great introduction by the extraordinary Jeremy Begbie shows it’s integrity. Nothing quite like it, and we are proud to promote it.
Art in Service of the Sacred Catherine Kapikian/Kathy Black (Abingdon) $25.00 A bit pricey for a paperback, at first glance, perhaps, but this includes a great DVD that shows scores of photographs of the author’s art, before and after shots of worship spaces, vestments, liturgical art designed for worship or conferences or retreats. Even shows stuff about her creative process and how she thinks through, prayerfully, how to do art for various parts of a church building (hallway, narthex, fellowship hall, etc.) Kapikian is the director of the innovative program on the arts at Wesley Theological Seminary (one of the few seminaries that requires courses in the arts from all pastoral candidates.) A must-have!
Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church Nancy Chinn (Liturgy Training Press) $26.00 This book is a one-of-a-kind study of using cloth, banners, textile art and large swirling flows of fabric in church decoration (not the liturgically proper word, probably, for such spirited, aesthetic richness.) The writing is excellent, the theology so thoughtful and clear, but this is mostly a study of her work, various installations and scenes and plans and guidelines. We ourselves have a worship space in a church basement with low ceilings–a fellowship hall, really–and these installations are mostly done in larger cathedrals, places with cool architecture and high ceilings. Still, we have found the ideas so generative and inspiring that we use it often, adapting and borrowing ideas….this, too, is nearly a modern classic in the field and highly, highly recommended. Splendid!
Art and Worship Christopher Irvine & Anne Dawtry (Pueblo) $12.95 British Catholics here offer great insight into how to commission works of art, place the, how to hold art exhibitions in church, and further explores the relationship between faith communities and the visual arts. Serious and thoughtful stuff, very useful.
All That We Are: An Arts and Worship Workbook Aimee Wallis Buhanan, et al (Bridge) $12.95 A little paperback that came out of the TEAM—Theological Expressions in Arts Ministry) of the Presbyterian Church (USA.) Nothing terribly profound, except it is clear, simple, practical—very helpful for organizing meetings, brainstorming towards what events to do, how to integrate various art forms into liturgical experiences. Perhaps this is what is most needed for your starting group, ideas, Bible studies, writing exercises, bibliographic resources for drama, dance, etc.
Arts, Theology and the Church: New Intersections Edited by Kimberly Vrudny & Wilson Yates (Pilgrim Press) $35.00 A thick, glorious paperback, full of serious-minded theological and aesthetic questions, inspirational essays and some artwork. Some of the chapters feel edgy and innovative, with a definite post-modern vibe. Some of the chapters are more for academics, I’m afraid or those with very specialized interests (a study of three different arts programs, for instance, or how the arts have changed Biblical interpretation, or one on eucharistic images in recent film. Good stuff, but fairly broad in scope, and only a few chapters that are immediately applicable in the local parish.
Thriving as an Artist in the Church: Hope and Help for You and Your Ministry Team Rory Noland (Zondervan) $16.99 Here is how the back cover puts it: “Whatever your passion—music, visual art, drama, technical arts—you can not only survive, but thrive. And the rewards far outweigh the pressures…where else could you consistently make a contribution of eternal significance, experience deep community with other artists and grow closer to God as a result?” This is a practical guide for keeping artists involved in your churches ministry, guiding them around obstacles (from the congregation and their own attitude) and how to sustain creative passion in a typical evangelical church. Good for personal or group study, it is in many ways a practical follow-up to her ground-breaking, personal accountability guide for worship leaders, The Heart of the Artist, which mostly explores the inner attitudes of the artist and their particular foibles and temptations…
Powerful Persuasion: Multi-Media Witness in Christian Worship Tex Sample (Abingdon) $22.00 A guide to how the church can faithfully understand and employ new technologies and art forms to communicate the gospel to generations formed by electronic culture. Sample is a radical and feisty United Methodist pastor, really, really a pioneer in interacting with new technologies and postmodern culture, [and older, oral cultures, too (blue-collar or rural folks in story-telling cultures, for instance, which is another passion of his.] Compelling and ground-breaking…very thoughtful. For another take, see also the brief and brilliant High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely Quentin Schultze (Baker) $10.95. To describe this as “balanced” doesn’t do it’s wisdom and Biblical brilliance justice. “Balanced” sounds boring and moderate, and this is so much better than just that! It is neither “pro” nor “con” in the so-called worship wars, but is a wise call for discernment and judicious thoughtfulness, attentive to the bigger issues, spiritual formation, aesthetics, and how to be appropriate in vibrant and faithful worship. Very good.
Again, I hope you have the foundational books listed in our basic bibliography in the “books by vocation” section. We always start with great stuff like Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by L’Engle, Art & The Bible by Schaeffer, Imagine by Steve Turner, or the wonderful collection of introductory reflections by Image editor, Gregory Wolfe, collected in Intruding Upon the Timeless or the nice book on creativity by Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity. William Dryness’ serious book is very good, Visual Faith: Art Theology and Worship in Dialogue, and important for serious thinkers in this field. The best one volume, mid-level book is Art & Soul by Adrian Chaplin and Hilary Brand. A must, espeically for students and those engaged in the contemporary art scene! And, as I say in the website bibliography, the patron saint of all contemporary Christians in the arts, is Calvin Seerveld, an eccentric and demanding author, whose work is among the most important written in our century. Rainbows for the Fallen World and Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves are among our personal favorites and are cited in or influential for most of the above titles. Very, very important with rich rewards for those willing to read along.
…we wish you all the best as you continue to pursue this exciting ministry. Let’s stay in touch; it would be our pleasure to serve you further and to ship some titles soon.