Not Just in the Children’s Sunday School Hall

By Donna K. Fitch

As soon as I said it, I realized the fallacy of the statement.

A friend and I were discussing worship and the arts and I said, in a disparaging tone, “Putting up artwork in the church or having a gallery, that’s so basic. I want more robust integration of the arts in the worship service.”

Basic it may be, but for most churches with which I’ve been associated, displaying artwork is far from an action to be dismissed out of hand. I quickly walked back what I said. The idea has been on my mind ever since that conversation.

The tiny church out in the county where I served as worship minister for a couple of years had fifteen people present on a very good day. The sanctuary was adorned with stained glass windows depicting various symbols of the Christian faith, but I think that was the only artwork present. Except for the Victorian-era reproduction of a traditional blond-haired angel hovering over two children hanging in the basement fellowship room from a nail driven into the cinder block wall. I have no idea how long the piece hung there, but the colors were faded so that they were now a dull blue and various sepia tones. I never asked where it came from or what the significance was. I suspect the members had passed it so many times it was now unseen.

That paucity of art on walls is what I think of in most churches I’ve experienced. Sanctuaries are austere places where the colors of the carpet and pews were often in dispute. Where was the artwork? Well, in the children’s Sunday school hall, of course.

Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, wrote, “Your artist is a child and it needs to be fed.” Throughout the book she speaks of the artist as a child. Artwork on the walls of the children’s Sunday school hall should be encouraged, but that should not be the end of it. Let’s emphasize the care and feeding of our inner child through artwork on the walls.

Sure, it’s basic. But basic is a good beginning. Let’s make art on the walls normative in our church buildings throughout, not just in the children’s hall.

Donna K. Fitch

Founder and editor, Making Glory

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