Art is, apparently, the new religion. A suspicion born by many parts of the church towards the arts has contributed to a sense of dichotomy between ‘art’ and ‘religion’. To be human is to follow a God whose image is creative and whose revelation is artistic, and yet these components of the Christian faith have been widely neglected. This has particularly impacted artistic people who are trying to follow Christ authentically. But is has also injured the Church’s engagement with the bible and with a world which increasingly looks to art in its search for meaning. Faith lacks transcendence, imagination and impact, while Christian artists often feel alienated and redundant.
“…a mystic influence [on the church] held that the arts were in themselves worldly, unholy, and that a Christian should not participate in them… [In the church] there is no artistic insight, nothing to point to, no answer to the relevant questions of the rising generation.” Hans Rookmaaker, L’Abri.
We long to see spiritually healthy artists responding to this need as part of the Body of Christ, and are setting out to foster this in the following ways:
- developing community among artistic Christians, where they can mature in their faith and art, and fulfil their role in the world and the church;
- equipping the church to embrace the contribution of its artists, for the enrichment of the church community and its engagement with culture.
“Freeform encouraged me to celebrate the uniqueness of my perceptions and expressions. My confidence has grown and I now feel excited when asked to write for other contexts. I took some of my photos and hung them on the walls of a local cafe. I even sold some! Since getting involved in Freeform, I have become more ‘me’. Rather than sitting in church and at work feeling a bit annoyed that a part of me is missing, I now feel more integrated and less superficial somehow. And my little written offerings and the photos I’ve taken are things that have brought joy to others, have opened up significant conversations and deepened relationships.” Emily, member of Freeform.
In Year One (2011), we have launched two substantial events, both of which ran this summer:
- Wayfarer Arts conference: An international conference for Christians in the arts, hosted by Lee Abbey and in partnership with the Wayfarer Arts Trust, with artists from eleven countries across Europe, Africa and North America.
- Keswick Unconventional: An artistically-oriented programme within Week 3 of the Keswick Convention, aming to establish a community of artists who enrich the Convention’s teaching programme and engagement with the town.
In addition to promoting and preparing these lead projects, we have three further Year One objectives:
- The completion of formal charitable registration
- The establishment of the community’s infrastructure through building our on-line presence, database, and ministry profile.
- The development of materials for the lead events, as well as for the various faith and the arts contributions (spoken and written) which are being requested.
There are a number of things which make us distinct in what we’re trying to do. Here are a couple of examples:
- Our focus is on the artistic personality, rather than the artistic vocation, as the starting point for discipling artists. As such, our work is not restricted to professional artists, but encompasses anyone with an artistic temperament.
- We believe that a passion for the arts and imagination are a logical conclusion of – rather than a challenge to – an evangelical passion for the authority of Scripture.
Freeform is being led by Jez Carr, whose background and gifting in music, leadership and pastoral ministry make him ideally placed to fill this role. Jez intends to give half of his work time to Freeform, as quickly as funding releases him to do so.
Our burgeoning ‘council of reference’ includes:
- Dr Krish Kandiah (Executive Director: Churches in Mission, and England Director for the UK Evangelical Alliance)
- Jonathan Lamb (Chairman of Keswick Ministries and Director of Langham Preaching)
- Rev Andrew Rumsey (Vicar of Christchurch, Gipsy Hill, a published poet, writer and musician).