published Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Churches, artists work together for understanding

Can artists and churches learn from each other?

That’s what the series “The Artist in the Church: Observations for Christian Artists and the Churches That Love Them” hopes to promote at the Salvation Army’s 614 Corps’ ReCreate Café today and the next two Saturdays.

“Churches have had a love-hate relationship with art throughout the centuries,” said Tenika Dye, event coordinator for the ReCreate Café.

“Oftentimes, artists feel unwelcome in the church for various reasons,” she said. “Artists don’t always fit the mold, and they may be off-putting to the very religious. Instead of going through [a time of] understanding, artists just avoid the church.”

On the other hand, Dye said, “churches don’t know what to do with artists. They march to their own drumbeat. They have a different perspective. [Churches] are not overtly, blatantly malicious. They just don’t know what to do with [artists].”

The series will be led by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga theater professor Steve Ray, a former national drama director for Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia and former professional theater director, playwright, actor and musician.

He will share observations from his career. Each free session — 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — will be largely discussion-oriented, with two topics offered per session.

Today’s topic are “The Gospel Truth: Why the Artist Is Often at Odds With the American

Church’s Preference for Sentimentality Over Truth” and “Curiosity vs. Fear: Sometimes Seeking Is Not Safe.”

On July 23 the subjects are “Performing as a Gift: Why Fear of Performance Often Encourages False Humility, Which Is Simply Pride Disguised” and “A Hearth for Outsiders: Following Jesus’ Lead in Welcoming Outsiders.”

On July 30 the topics are “Profanity, Nudity and Piety: Where Should Lines Be Drawn?” and “The Artist as Prophet.”

The discussion is open to every discipline of art, Dye said. And the church should not be seen as any particular faith or denomination but the church universal, she said.

While many churches employ various art forms and have long passed the day when certain disciplines were verboten, she said, some well-meaning people in churches will pat themselves on the back for presentations that lack quality and craft and are “cute rather than being thought-provoking.”

However, many churches are “open to exploring and including different [art disciplines] but don’t know how to go about it,” Dye said.

“We want to given them ideas on how to connect with artists already in their midst,” she said. “Artists are visceral, emotional. People connect with them. Art is one of most powerful tools we have on the earth.”

In truth, said Dye, artists and churches have much more in common than they do in conflict. “Both are interested in the truth. Both see beauty in creation.”

The artist’s voice, Dye said, needs to be heard in the church.

“They have a perspective that is unique,” she said. “It’s not the same as the scientist or the theologian. ... Artists create. God gave them that ability. If a church can get hold of that, that is something that could be very powerful. Why leave out [the influence] of one of the most powerful things we have?”

Contact Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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