Beautiful News for the Artist

There’s a quote on the wall in Pastor Wes & Jamie Oaks' dining room that says:

IF YOU LOOK AFTER GOODNESS AND TRUTH, BEAUTY WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.
— ERIC GILL

Eric Gill wrote this as a typographist in the early 20th century who was considering the conflict between industrialism (specifically the printing press) and human craftsmanship. However, my late husband Greg and I routinely talked about this thought in the context of art and the church. Is it true? Will beauty take care of itself? How does that happen? I think my knee-jerk reaction to that quote years ago was suspicion. If we don’t directly and intentionally take care of beauty, won’t it necessarily fade or diminish in substance and quality? Isn’t that what we’ve seen happen in the past? Isn’t beauty a monster that must be fed?

As the years passed, I became more comfortable with that idea, that if we looked after goodness and truth, beauty would take care of itself. Now, I’m increasingly convinced of it. I’ve never seen it play out well for the believing artist when the direction of intention was reversed. Making much of beauty is disastrous. Making much of Jesus is beautiful worship. How this plays out at The Painted Door could be understood in one way as, “If we look after artists - and their belief and understanding of goodness and the truth about themselves and their God- art will take of itself” or, to expound a little more plainly...  Artists, we care about YOU. Are we mesmerized and moved by your work? Yes, but... do you know Jesus, your Creator? Do we want to support you in this messy, loud, and incredibly competitive, art-filled city? Yes, but… have you found your rest in Him? Are we thankful for your creative presence and voice in our church? Emphatically yes! But… have you considered the freedom He has offered you in the death of yourself and your resurrected life in Him?

There is a beautiful thing that happens when we walk in the doors every Sunday morning and we are not artists, lawyers, doctors, mothers and fathers, data analysts, students or carpenters… we are brothers and sisters loved by our Father. We worship together not based on our honed skills, natural abilities or position in life, but out of a common need, a common rescue and a common dependence on one known and proclaimed Savior. And as you exit those doors every week and find yourself back in your home, workplace, classroom or studio, I hope you are confident in your true identity and emboldened by the goodness of the Father’s love for you... even as you put on the uniform of whatever identifies you in the world.

In Robert Capon’s book More Theology and Less Heavy Cream: The Domestic Life of Pietro & Madeleine, he writes about the identifying use of “Christian” in front of various pursuits, particularly “Christian music”, and has this great quote:

“If these people are both Christians and baritones, bards or brokers, we should rejoice that Jesus has so many competent supporters.”

In other words, our competencies are incidental to the life of faith, worth rejoicing over but of no differentiating value. The artist has a noble (and possibly tragic) goal of becoming competent in their field, as does anyone in their work. Jesus offers to artists (and all of us!!!) the possibility to untangle our work from our identity, and thus, to go forth into all pursuits with zeal, vulnerability, and strength - and the priceless freedom to leave all success and failure and every consideration of reputation or desire for a pat-on-the-back in the arms of an Abba Father who has already given us every good thing. What beautiful, beautiful news! 

- Sam Connour, Music & Art Dirctor