Five New Books on Worship, Culture & the Arts

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One of the great things about shifting to a summer rhythm in my job is the opportunity to dive into resources on worship and the arts. During most of the year, I am knee-deep in programming, relationship-building, and working with staff. But this summer I have spent time building curriculum for new programs we have launching next year. I’ve settled in with coffee and a notepad and explored new works on worship, culture, and the arts. Here are my five favorites:

  1. Drinking from the Wells of New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Imagination in Reconciliation by Kerry Dearborn
    Dr. Dearborn explores the timely topic of reconciliation through the lens of pneumatology. We often look at Christ’s work as the starting point for engaging our broken cultures, but Kerry reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the author of holy imagination – and our imaginations must be sanctified in order for us to understand the positions and experiences of those who are different than ourselves.
  2. Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura
    Mako Fujimura, well known Japanese Christian artist, offers a gripping exploration of Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, Silence. Engaging film-making, culture, and pain borne in cultural his heritage, Mako offers “connections to how faith is lived amid trauma and glimpses of how the gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden cultures.” As our own context becomes increasingly critical of orthodox Christianity, this glimpse at history and art offers beauty and hope.
  3. The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World by Sandra Maria Van Opstal
    Sandra Van Opstal, a leading practitioner in multi-ethnic worship, gives us a practically-rooted and theologically-informed guidebook for thinking globally about worship. I would have liked to see Van Opstal look more carefully at our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters, but the piece offers a great set of ideas and tools when used in conjunction with other works in liturgical studies. As our nation and our world struggle to overcome racially-motivated injustice, this book is a timely resource for those of us designing worship in our increasingly diverse culture.
  4. The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit by Paul J. Pastor
    Author and editor Paul J. Pastor calls us to open our minds and hearts to the third person of the Trinity in this beautifully-crafted collection of theological essays. Half academic and half artist, Pastor weaves a compelling narrative, both personal and cosmic, guided by the metaphors of the seven stars and lampstands from the book of Revelation. The book reads devotionally and will lead you to experience the world with new eyes toward the Spirit’s work.
  5. Who’s Afraid of Modern Art? Essays on Modern Art and Theology in Conversation by Daniel A. Siedell
    For those of you dipping your toes into explorations of the visual arts and modern art culture in your churches, Siedell’s book is a great entry-point. He gives us compelling small bites like “Reimagining Patronage,” “The Dark Light of Thomas Kinkade,” “Rublev’s Holy Trinity: A Promise in Paint,” and other trajectories that will move us beyond the sentiment of “my kid can paint that.” Though written with a Reformed nuance, this collection of essays offers a bridge to understanding for church leaders wishing to help parishioners in discipling the eyes, and engaging contemporary visual culture.

Bonus: If you are feeling inspired, check out Modern Art and the Life of a Culture by William A. Dyrness and Jonathan A. Anderson. It’s academic (and Reformed) but it engages Hans Rookmaker’s classic book Modern Art and the Death of a Culture with a new theological lens for our time.

And P.S. – someone needs to write about worship, theology and arts from a Wesleyan perspective. Any takers?

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