For the Beauty of the Church is a collection of essays, most from presentations given at a conference in Austin, Texas about casting a vision for arts in the church. The essays are by pastors and artists and people who are both artists and pastors. They are very interesting. I’ve been reading the book on the bus to work over the last two weeks as I am part of an ad hoc committee working on connecting services with the arts better at my current church. I think you should go out and find this book and read it even if you think art and church don’t belong in the same sentence — maybe especially if you think art and church don’t belong in the same sentence.
A couple of days ago I read an essay that listed seven dangers to avoid in integrating art into the church. Number 1 was Bad Art. Of course, what exactly constitutes Bad Art is a debatable issue isn’t it? I find a lot of “Christian” art falls into this category. It is derivative, kitschy, or produced by rank amateurs. But there is little encouragement of growth and maturity in art forms in the church. If there is only one take-away for me from this book, it is the reminder that art takes time, practice, and intentional effort. It isn’t something dashed off without training or development. It is work. And it is also the work of the church to promote beauty, something that good art does well.