Sunday, April 11, 2010

the use of art in growing a fresh expression: being church in a time of cultural change

Church as rugby club? Or touch team? I referred last week to this question, quoting an article by Kevin Ward, in which he explores changes in voluntary groups and ways people belong. (Kevin’s article is here, my post last week is here). As I wrote in the Sociology for Ministry lecture:

So, consider that alongside the decline in church, is a widespread decline in all voluntary associations: from Lions to labour unions, from political parties to bowling clubs.

In New Zealand in 1970’s about 400,000 people played rugby. By 1990’s it had plummeted to 100,000.

Why? Factors include authoritarian and controlling environment, rigid structures, high institutional overheads, dress code, conformist culture, lack of choice, repression of individual for sake of community.

At the same time, touch rugby, while only started in an organised sense in 1990, had by the year 2000 over 272, 000 registered participants.

Why? It is minimalist, gender inclusive. Individuals can choose their own team, while teams can choose their uniform and name. Time is limited and there is a high value on socialising and fun.

In other words, traditional structures based on long-term commitment and exclusive loyalties are less attractive than single stranded, less formal, smaller groupings.

It helped me make sense of a most stimulating Sunday afternoon I’ve just had at a Resurrection and Art seminar. It’s one of four Sunday afternoons being offered by the local Catholic Theological College, exploring Jesus passion and art; resurrection and art; Mary and art; Trinity and art.

Two hours, great visuals, a mix of history, theology and spirituality. Along with a nice afternoon tea. It was a most worthwhile afternoon.

I came away reflecting that here was an institution (Catholic Church) providing a way to play touch, resourcing people’s spirituality without requiring them to in any way be part of the institution.

What intrigues me is how this can be self-resourcing and self-starting. There were about 40 people booked, each paying $20 a session. Take out a bit for facilities (which would be unused in most churches at this time of day anyhow, the advertising (which is giving you profile even if no-one turns up), and the morning tea and you still have around 30 hours for a staff person to work up a lecture. That’s enough time to put together a pretty good talk.

(I tried to do this a number of times at Opawa, but the person I kept tried to lure to start the conversation was too booked up and I was too busy and the energy required by the Easter and Christmas Journey made other forms of creativity harder to initiate).

Do it for Easter/Pentecost. Do it again at Advent. Do it again on Waitangi Day/Australia Day, using indigenous art.

Each time, provide a set of art pieces as postcards. After a time, invite people to do more research on the artist and the theology and meet again to share their findings. Or simply to gather in a few weeks to reflect on how their artpiece as helped their journey. Slowly you are building a new community – being church in a new form in a time of cultural change.

Posted by steve at 06:16 PM