Art, religion and spirituality have forever been entwined with one another. Music, drama, painting, sculpture and poetry have all been ways to explore the mysterious experience of what it means to be human and, more specifically, to express the mystery of life lived in relationship to God. And so it’s no surprise that the roots of drama are religious, that music and the visual arts have flourished within the Church and that poetry both abounds in Scripture and has been created by many of the Church’s people.
At Saint Paul’s the arts abound. Whether in the prayerful quality of our music, the use of poetry and fiction in preaching, the art in our worship spaces, the Umbrella Theater Arts group, musicians using our space for performances, or the number of artists who are active members here: we are formed here by the arts and are committed to nurturing them and those drawn to the creation and performance of art.
Anglican and Anglo-Catholic Sensibility and the Arts
Anglican and Anglo-Catholic spirituality are world-embracing and incarnational, meaning that they affirm the body and human experience as a pathway to God. Anglo-Catholic liturgies, therefore, are full of elements and actions that stimulate the senses: images, statues, incense, chanting, singing and listening to beautiful music, flowers, candles, living water, crusty bread and fragrant wine, the movement of the body in prayer through gestures that are meant to express the inexpressible.
Anglican and Anglo-Catholic heritage are full of men and women dedicated to the arts—poets George Herbert, John Donne, T. S. Eliot, Christina Rossetti, Lucy Shaw, translators and hymn writers John Henry Neale, Samuel Crossman, John and Charles Wesley, John Newton, and Timothy Smith; writers C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Charles Williams, priest Stewart Headlam who, contrary to Victorian norms, worked to connect dancers and actors of the day to the Church and its riches. All of these people are witnesses to the interweaving of the arts with the religious sensibility and the use of the arts to bear witness to God.
Links to Articles
“The High, the Deep and the Domestic” Anglican Verse and the Voice of God’s People
Lecture Delivered by Edith Humphrey, Wycliffe College 2 March 2005
“Art and Christian Spirituality: Companions in the Way” by Luci Shaw
“The Rev. Stewart Headlam and Friends: Anglo-Catholics, Atheists, Actors, Aesthetes and Radicals,” Talk given by Nigel Sinnott to the Existentialist Society, 1 August 2006