Carole Baker premiered her interactive exhibition, “Mary: The Paper Doll Project,” with an opening lecture at Duke University Chapel on Wednesday, December 20th at 2pm. The premier followed the annual Duke Chapel by Candlelight Christmas Open House. Baker, an associate research and a Th.D. student at the Divinity School, created the project that presents different cultural depictions of the Virgin Mary. The exhibition consisted of four life-sized “paper dolls” which allowed viewers to interchange the outer layers of the dolls, resulting in the exploration of the universality and particularity of Marian manifestations.
We are thrilled to announce that DITA has entered into the second of a multi-year partnership with St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. This pioneering initiative grows out of and reflects DITA’s mission to be anchored and expressed in local congregations. As a church with an extraordinary commitment to the visual and musical arts, St. George’s is uniquely placed to benefit from the research and teaching in theology and the arts at DITA as well as to help future ministers put into practice this crucial area of the church’s worship and mission. The mutually-enriching collaboration between St. George’s and DITA is a unique opportunity to launch what we hope will become a much larger and nation-wide initiative.
In this interview, Duke Divinity student, Lisa Beyeler (LB) interviews Rev. Leigh Spruill (LS) about this unique partnership and their first summer with a DITA-affiliated Field Education student.
Lisa Beyeler: How have you seen the arts inform the life of St. George’s Episcopal Church? How do the arts speak to your own vocation as a rector?
Leigh Spruill: Fortunately, this congregation has not needed to be convinced of the importance of the arts. We have plenty of art lovers, and over the years this parish has accumulated an impressive fine arts collection. Our choral ministry of sacred music has a long-standing reputation for excellence. What is new here is a vigorous engagement with question around how the arts can be a means by which the truths of the Gospel are received and shared. We situate this conversation within our current cultural milieu. I think one could say the late-modern era is characterized by a kind of alienation from the experience of deep wonder over the created world as well as from the great reserve of our faith when it comes to the possibility of understanding greater truths that speak to the human experience.
The arts — that is, good art — help us not simply to see a world, but to behold it. In our day, I am not sure preaching, teaching, and apologetics will prove initially attractive to a lot of people unfamiliar with the faith, as vitally important as each of those ministries is. Rather, I believe that what people in our day yearn for are deeper truths conveyed in powerful and unexpected forms of beauty — beautiful people, made in the image of God, creating beautiful things. I give thanks that there are many here at St. George’s who are eager to test this notion.
The arts — that is, good art — help us not simply to see a world, but to behold it … I believe that what people in our day yearn for are deeper truths conveyed in powerful and unexpected forms of beauty — beautiful people, made in the image of God, creating beautiful things.
LB: Why were you drawn to DITA’s new church partnership program? What opportunities are you most excited about?
LS: Despite the plethora of gifted leaders knowledgable in the arts at St. George’s, we were thrilled and honored to enter into a relationship with DITA, whose guidance, support, and fresh perspectives have already been immensely helpful. I was familiar with the work of Dr. Jeremy Begbie, so the opportunity to partner with him at the level of our local congregation and to have him visit to teach and preach is tremendous for our congregation, as well as for me personally. I am particularly excited about the possibilities this partnership offers for the edification of our community, for discipleship, and for mission. First, we hope that the events, new ministries, and conversations arising from the partnership will bring us together as a parish family in ways that would not occur otherwise. Second, I want St. George’s to have a deeper engagement with the arts and its connection to discipleship; that is, forming people in the Gospel through artistic expressions and appreciation. That begins with simply helping people pay better attention. Learning to recognize goodness, truth, and beauty in the world — and to point others to them — are great acts of love. Thus, third, we are excited about how DITA is helping us think of the arts missionally. We are excited about new friends being drawn into our parish life through tangible expressions of this partnership — events, teachings, art shows, social gatherings — as well as creative ways in which some of our members are going forth to get to know and support those in the wider arts community here in Nashville.
LB: This summer, I had the privilege of working with the clergy and staff at St. George’s as the first DITA-affiliated Field Education student from Duke Divinity School in order to compile an Arts Assessment document. What is the Arts Assessment and how did it come about? How do you envision the Arts Assessment working to foster continued growth in St. George’s engagement with the arts?
LS: I have already mentioned the parish’s long-standing appreciation of the arts. However, we have never had a comprehensive strategic vision or clear programmatic oversight. We have had multifaceted but disconnected arts ministries. A significant component of this partnership with DITA is hosting a summer Field Education student connected to DITA. This past summer, we were blessed to have you join us in order to undertake an inventory of our various arts ministries. By entering into the life of the church, you assessed strengths and weaknesses, and proposed a new parish framework by which these ministries might be more unified around vision, enjoy greater communication, and, where possible, collaborate more intentionally in the furtherance of a comprehensive vision for the arts at St. George’s. The resulting Arts Assessment document we now have offers a strategic plan, leadership recommendations, and practical suggestions for the implementation of this new framework. It is an invaluable document guiding us forward.
LB: What would you say to a church interested in partnering with DITA?
LS: I would say, “Do it!”
Why is it that there seems to be proportionally fewer robust Christians involved in the creative arts? How is it that what sometimes passes as Christian art is actually pretty bad art? Do our churches encourage artistic expressiveness? Can we do more than think of the arts in the church as our calling to curate museum pieces, as important as that may be? What are the catechetical possibilities for our people in more boldly utilizing the arts to help us ask questions and discern answers? In what ways might our shared loved of the creative arts help the church in times like this connect with creative artists outside of the church?
What are the catechetical possibilities for our people in more boldly utilizing the arts to help us ask questions and discern answers? In what ways might our shared loved of the creative arts help the church in times like this connect with creative artists outside of the church?
To me, these are exciting questions to be asking. But I am not competent to lead us into all the answers. Thus, it is such a privilege to partner with DITA, whose very goal is to situate the church’s engagement with the arts at the most basic level of the church — the local congregation. I taught a Sunday School class on faith and the arts not long ago on this theme: when we cease to look to God together, we cease to see all there is to see. Looking at our arts ministries together with DITA has already immensely helped us to see new possibilities to bless and to be blessed.
The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill has served as Rector of St. George’s since early 2005. Prior to his call to St. George’s, Leigh served as Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Florida, as Associate Rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama and as Assistant Rector at St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. A native of Tappahannock, Virginia, Leigh received his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After college, he attended the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was ordained in the Diocese of Virginia in 1996.
Lisa Beyeler is a M.Div. student at Duke Divinity School pursuing a Certificate in Theology and the Arts. Prior to graduate studies, Lisa spent nearly a decade working in the public and private sectors as a landscape architect and urban designer, contributing to projects for the City of Seattle, City of Portland, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Seattle Center, One and Two Penn Plaza in Manhattan, and Leach Botanical Garden in Portland, Oregon. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, where she received a degree in landscape architecture, with minors in architecture and music.
Images courtesy of St. George’s Episcopal Church.
Both detractors and supporters of John Calvin have deemed him an enemy of the physical body, a pessimist toward creation, and a negative influence on the liturgical arts. But, says W. David O. Taylor, that only tells half of the story.
Written as his dissertation while he was a ThD student at Duke Divinity School, Taylor examines Calvin’s trinitarian theology as it intersects his doctrine of the physical creation in order to argue for a positive theological account of the liturgical arts. He does so believing that Calvin’s theology can serve, perhaps surprisingly, as a rich resource for understanding the theological purposes of the arts in corporate worship.
Drawing on Calvin’s Institutes, biblical commentaries, sermons, catechisms, treatises, and worship orders, this book represents one of the most thorough investigations available of John Calvin’s theology of the physical creation—and the promising possibilities it opens up for the formative role of the arts in worship.
At a time when Protestant treatments of the arts tend to be marked by excessive shame and breast-beating, studies like this remind us of treasures easily overlooked. For some, Calvin would be the last theologian from whom we might expect wisdom on the liturgical arts. But David Taylor, with exemplary skill and clarity, shows us otherwise. This is an immensely important study from one of the key leaders in theology and the arts today.” Jeremy Begbie, Duke University
“David Taylor’s extraordinary study of Calvin and the liturgical arts consistently surprises and delights. Its greatest strengths are its command of Calvin’s full works, not just the Institutes, and its ability to think with Calvin but far beyond his self-imposed strictures. The result is a more profoundly incarnational Calvin and a more deeply scriptural rendering of the liturgical arts.” Samuel Wells, St. Martin-in-the-Fields
David Taylor was the first Th.D. alumnus in the DITA program. He is the Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and director of Brehm Texas, an initiative in worship, theology, and the arts.
Edited by W. David O. Taylor and Taylor Worley
The church and the contemporary art world often find themselves in an uneasy relationship in which misunderstanding and mistrust abound.
On one hand, the leaders of local congregations, seminaries, and other Christian ministries often don’t know what to make of works by contemporary artists. Not only are these artists mostly unknown to church leaders, they and their work often lead them to regard the world of contemporary art with indifference, frustration, or even disdain.
On the other hand, many artists lack any meaningful experience with the contemporary church and are mostly ignorant of its mission. Not infrequently, these artists regard religion as irrelevant to their work, are disinclined to trust the church and its leaders, and have experienced personal rejection from these communities.
The present volume gathers together essays and reflections by artists, theologians, and church leaders as they sought to explore misperceptions, create a hospitable space to learn from each other, and imagine the possibility of a renewed and mutually fruitful relationship.
In the art world, it’s always October (October being the name of the Marxist journal that has long dominated the field). This essay collection shows that many are ready to flip the calendar to see what a new season will bring. Contemporary Art and the Church affords further evidence that glasnost (‘openness’) and perestroika(‘restructuring’) are challenging the enduring Cold War between art and religion, which requires rethinking from both sides of the divide. The authors shout in unison, ‘Tear down this wall,’ and it finally feels like 1989.” Matthew J. Milliner, Wheaton College
“What a rich and vibrant colloquy on the visual arts and theology! I can hear the voices behind the words—multivalent, wise, contemporary, galvanizing. They offer a comprehensive understanding of CIVA, the growing movement that partners faith with contemporary art.” Luci Shaw, writer-in-residence, Regent College, author of Thumbprint in the Clay and Sea Glass
Included are essays by Christina Carnes Ananias (current ThD student with DITA) & David Taylor (DITA alumnus) and Ben Quash, director of Theology, Modernity, and the Visual Arts, DITA’s latest research project.
They are two different worlds, with their own logics, their own gravitational fields, their own ecologies…At the extreme, each finds the other scarcely worthy any careful thought or charitable feeling. At the very least, they have found themselves in a common state of frigid or indifferent relations.”
In their introduction to a collection of essays entitled Contemporary Art and the Church: A Conversation between Two Worlds (IVP, 2017) W. David Taylor and Taylor Worley name forthrightly the antipathy between the modern art community and the Church. “They are two different worlds, with their own logics, their own gravitational fields, their own ecologies…At the extreme, each finds the other scarcely worthy any careful thought or charitable feeling. At the very least, they have found themselves in a common state of frigid or indifferent relations.” Although Taylor and Worley are primarily thinking about the world of visual arts, their description applies across all artistic media.
Artists, visual or musical, jealously guard their freedom and independence – both in artistic expression and manner of life. For the Church, by contrast, freedom is understood as submission to the Lordship of the Spirit; consequently artistic expression and manner of life must operate within theologically determined parameters. Whereas artists focus on the sensual experience, loving the object of art in and of itself, Christians of an Augustinian stripe view works of art, like all material creation, as signs that point beyond themselves to the One transcendent source of beauty and truth.
As early as 1922, Max Weber observed this developing cultural divide, “[Although Christianity has been] an inexhaustible spring of artistic expression, the more arts becomes an autonomous sphere…the more art tends to acquire its own constitutive values, which are quite different from those obtaining in the religious and ethical domains.” This divide between Church and artists is ironic because it is in local congregations that ordinary folk, who generally do not go to a museum or have a season subscription to the symphony, are exposed to the arts. In Mark Chaves’ analysis of the 1997-98 National Congregations Study, he found that arts of all varieties (choral music, dance, drama, etc.), both “high” and “low,” are prominent elements of the worship, educational, and recreational life of most congregations. It is precisely because of this lamentable irony that we have cause for rejoicing when the two come together.
Such was the case at a recent concert produced by the Duke Initiative in Theology and the Arts, entitled “Home, Away, and Home Again: The Rhythm of the Gospel in Music” arranged and conducted by theologian and musicologist Jeremy Begbie. Originally entitled, “Sounds of Exile and Return: The Gospel of Homecoming through Music,” the production traced the pattern of home, exile, and return common to the narratives of the Pentateuch and salvation history as a whole. In most concerts I have attended, the music is treated they way fine paintings or sculptures are displayed in many art museums. The pieces stand alone, removed from an original context and placed in a completely white, sterile environment where the aesthetic qualities of the piece are experienced in themselves, pure and with minimal commentary. The presentation seems intended almost exclusively for those already familiar with the piece or gifted with an educated ear or eye capable to discerning the nuances of the work. This performance, however, proved different.
This performance, however, proved different.”
After opening with the gentle beat of kettle drum and the call of the trumpets in Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man which set us on familiar ground, Begbie began a commentary that prefaced each piece, interpreting it within the matrix he called the rhythm of the Gospel, a dialectic of creation, fall, and redemption. Copland’s Fanfare was, for many different Americans, “home” not just because of its familiarity but because the percussion and the clear peal of the horns give one the feeling of solidity, of strength, of surety. This, Begbie explained, is our starting point – home – in the One who is our source, the ground of our being, the One in whom we live and move and have our beginning. Yet because of sin we do not stay there long.
Quickly, the musical selections shifted. In Dvorak’s Slavic Dance, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 (second movement), Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2, Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings, and Sám! Sám! (Alone! Alone!) by Auschwitz survivor Karel Berman – pieces, except for Dvorak’s, composed during the period from the Russian Revolution through the Second World War to the Soviet occupation and domination of eastern Europe – Begbie explained the social and historical context and the way musically each expresses a different sense of being “away.” Sometimes the exile was literal; sometimes it was the feeling of being in exile because one’s home is so changed that it is no longer and never will again be home.
Sometimes the exile was literal; sometimes it was the feeling of being in exile because one’s home is so changed that it is no longer and never will again be home.”
After intermission, Begbie took us “home again” with his interpretation of the opening movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2 as resurrection. It is, he said, a joyful musical theme that is repeated in ever greater, ever expanding expressions that push the theme to limit of variation and then go beyond that to a new height of grandeur, surpassing what one could think of imagine possible. Bach thus conveys the “ordered superabundance” – a musical experience of epectasy – of the grace of the infinite God to whom we return and whose excessive display of mercy and joy – like the father’s response to the prodigal’s return from the far country – swallows up the loss and hurt of exile. There were other wonderful musical moments along the way – Luke Powery, the Stanford-trained vocalist and Dean of Duke Chapel, singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and a five-minute tambourine solo (who knew it could produce such a variety of interesting sounds) – building to the wordless climax of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” from Gayne and the jazz masterpiece “Tico, Tico” by Zaquinha Abreu.
If sin is, as Paul describes in Romans 1, the enjoyment of the creature’s goodness rather than the Creator who is Goodness itself, then the eschatological redemption of soul and body must entail both the perfection of the material creature and the purification of the sight of the redeemed soul so that our worshipful gaze does not stop at the creature but rises to the Creator. In the resurrection, the soul simultaneously apprehends the goodness of the creature and delights in the beauty of the Creator revealed in the creature. Perfected creation becomes pure sacrament. Moreover, this vision of God’s incomparable glory and love, will, like Paul’s vision of the third heaven (II Cor. 12:2ff), so surpass our experience of any creaturely beauty that we will be at a complete loss of words – a truly apophatic moment – and our praise will be expressed in a language unlike any we know now, except perhaps the language of music. Begbie’s theologically rich narrative gave us words with which to think faithfully along with the music. It was fully an aesthetic experience that went beyond the experience of sight and sound because of his theologia. Yet in the end, pious joy replaced commentary as Begbie allowed the music to carry our souls into a register of doxology beyond words.
Begbie’s theologically rich narrative gave us words with which to think faithfully along with the music. It was fully an aesthetic experience that went beyond the experience of sight and sound because of his theologia. Yet in the end, pious joy replaced commentary as Begbie allowed the music to carry our souls into a register of doxology beyond words.
If love (caritas) is THE virtue, which the source of perfection of all other virtues, then the perfection of this virtuoso performance came shortly before musical climax. Before the final pieces were performed, Begbie brought up a middle aged woman known as Miss T. She is a member of the Reality Ministries community in Durham for “teens and adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging, kinship and [the] life-changing Reality of Christ’s love.” Miss T told a story about how after her care-giving grandmother died she lived a home-less existence being passed from various relatives and foster care families until she came to Corner House – one of the homes that makes up the Reality Ministries community – where she found “home” in the love and affirmation of new friends in Christ. After she read a poem, one of the Reality Ministries staff led us in prayer for people of Corner House and Begbie conducted us in singing “Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer.” In that moment we were more than an audience – listeners – at a concert; we were synagogue; we were ecclesia. In that atmosphere of compassion and worship, we were Church. (Incidentally, the proceeds from the concert went to support Reality Ministries.)
A final word needs to be said about the musicians whose remarkable gifts and lifetimes of practice with instruments of wood or metal blessed us that night. The musical quality was simply first rate. It was performed by The New Caritas Orchestra composed of musicians from the Boston Symphony, the American Baroque Ensemble, the National Symphony and university orchestras from around the country who are Christians seeking to bring their two worlds together. What a delight to see the pleasure they took in the performance – one unlike any they had done before. The next morning the musicians gathered for a three-hour seminar by Begbie and theologian Alan Torrance on theology and music. Trombonist, Doug Yeo, who played for the Baltimore Symphony (1981-85) and the Boston Symphony (1985-2012) reflected later “I confess that the three hours spent in this seminar were revelatory…Jeremy’s discussion on the Holy Trinity have given me much to think about and meditate on. God was at work at Duke Divinity School last week and I left there refreshed and challenged.”
I confess that the three hours spent in this seminar were revelatory…Jeremy’s discussion on the Holy Trinity have given me much to think about and meditate on. God was at work at Duke Divinity School last week and I left there refreshed and challenged”
I imagine that these musicians went back to their orchestras and told their peers – some of whom may well be skeptical of the Church – about this strange concert with theological commentary and a speech by a woman with a developmental disability at a university divinity school. That is evangelism pure and simple. It is sharing the joy of the Good News that touches our universal and primal desire for home and that reveals the God, who desires us to find in him our home and our joy. That concert scattered seeds of the Kingdom and so carried out the ministry of reconciliation that tears down dividing walls and unites strangers – Christians and artists – as fellow lovers of Christ’s beauty.
To celebrate the Divinity School’s 2017-2018 Opening Convocation, Duke Initiatives in Theology & the Arts (DITA) hosted two days of fine art, stimulating lectures with renown historians and theologians, and an exciting musical performance that featured over thirty musicians from top orchestras in the nation.
On August 31, DITA partnered with the Nasher Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of their new exhibit, “The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci and Seventeenth-Century Florence.”The evening, titled “The Patience to See: The Sights and Sounds of Carlo Dolci,” included lectures by Dr. Ben Quash and Dr. Chloe Reddaway, the premiere of “Blue Madonna,” an original composition by Dr. Jeremy Begbie, and performances from this period.
On September 1, DITA hosted a panel, “Secretaries of Praise: Poetry, Song, and Theology,” a conversation on the church and poetry. Featured speakers were Dr. David Ford, Emeritus Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, Dr. Tom Greggs, Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen, Dr. Jennie Grillo, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, and poet Micheal O’Siadhail. The panel was moderated by Dr. Richard Hays.
The two days culminated in a concert that evening in Goodson Chapel, “Home, Away, and Home Again: The Rhythm of the Gospel in Music.” Jeremy Begbie led an ensemble of over thirty musicians of faith from the top orchestras in the United States, for an interactive and unforgettable evening. This newly created orchestra explored how music can unlock the three-fold rhythm of the Gospel: from home, to away, and then home again. The evening was a concert-for-a-purpose as well, with all proceeds going to North Street Neighborhood Corner House, a Reality Ministries community. Never before had a group of this size played in Goodson Chapel, and never had Duke Divinity woven teaching and music together like this. Audience and performers alike were invited to experience the power of music to draw us home.
DITA is pleased to announce that our next research project, Theology, Modernity, & the Visual Arts (TMVA) has received full-funding from McDonald Agape Foundation. This project is part of a larger enterprise established by DITA in 2015: Theology, Modernity, & the Arts (TMA). TMA undertakes research in three main areas: music, the visual arts, and literature.
This newly-funded visual arts stream asks: How can modern and contemporary visual art help us read modernity with Christian eyes – in particular, with minds and hearts attuned to the scriptural vision of the New Creation in Christ? In the context of a world increasingly reliant on the communicative power of the visual arts, this project aims to help us examine this common language with maximum nuance and integrity, while at the same time holding onto the possibility of what Rowan Williams describes as a “world being interrupted and transfigured by revelation.”
This new phase of the TMA project will examine four expressions of the relationship between the visual art and Christianity in our modern context:
This new TMVA project will be directed by Professor Ben Quash at the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London, where he runs the Christianity and the Arts Masters program in collaboration with the National Gallery of London. This is a unique partnership between a theology department and an international arts museum.
At the core of this research enterprise will be a series of public conferences at four major galleries in the United Kingdom, the United States, and continental Europe. At each conference, a group of scholars and theologians will engage in intensive dialogue, both with each other and with a wider community of art critics, curators, and art historians.
This kind of interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarship linking Church, academy, and major art institutions represents another major step forward in DITA’s mission to ignite a vibrant dialogue between theology and the arts.
DITA is grateful to the McDonald Foundation and all the participants of the TMVA project for their visionary leadership and support of this boundary-crossing initiative.
Dr. Ben Quash
Ben Quash grew up in County Durham and Monmouthshire. He read English as an undergraduate at Cambridge, and then (as a second degree, whilst in training for ordination at Westcott House) theology. Doctoral work on the theological dramatic theory of Hans Urs von Balthasar combined these literary and theological interests. He was Chaplain and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and a lecturer in the Cambridge Theological Federation from 1996-1999, then returned to Peterhouse as Dean and Fellow until he came to King’s as Professor of Christianity and the Arts in 2007. From 2004-2007 Ben Quash was also Academic Convenor of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme in the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity, developing research and public education programmes in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and their interrelations – and indulging a delight in Scriptural Reasoning. His publications include Introducing Christian Ethics (with Samuel Wells) and Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe (with Michael Ward).
Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts partnered with the Nasher Museum of Art and Duke Chapel to host an exhibition of Miserere et Guerre, a series of 58 intaglio prints by French artist Georges Rouault (1871–1958). From March 5 through April 6, during the Lenten season, Duke Chapel displayed images from the series that unmask human duplicity and self-deception through the lens of Christ’s passion and suffering. The Nasher’s tandem installation, on display from March 18 through July 23, highlights scenes that illustrate the plight of refugees and the devastations of war.
To celebrate the Divinity School’s 2016-2017 Opening Convocation, Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts (DITA) hosted Call and Response: Two Days of Theology and the Arts. The events included a poetry reading interspersed with musical responses, a panel on visual art and the call to ministry, and a culminating event featuring nine principal musicians from five national orchestras and Duke University.