ArtTalk: living conversations another way

by Michael N. Jagessar

One of the projects we have encouraged and endorsed as moderators of General Assembly is ArtTalk. Supported by the Mission Department and with the Legacy Fund providing financial artsupport, ArtTalk offers creative opportunities to facilitate church projects and activities through the use of visual arts. It is facilitated by the Revd Elizabeth Gray-King, an artist/theologian and a minister of the United Reformed Church. ArtTalk is intended to enable ‘living conversations’ on matters of faith and faithfulness to take place and to include a larger diversity of the giftings across the United Reformed Church.

Christians, especially those of us from Protestant traditions, can be very “wordy”. Yet, for many, words can be hard to find and may even hinder conversations on matters of faith. Many of the “punters in the pews” find it challenging to verbalise their faith story. Some struggle to find new and appropriate words, while others may despair at their attempts to breathe new life into over-usedVision 20 20b words in order to share their faith. On the other hand, many will respond to and talk about pictures or objects more readily than they would about doctrines and theological ideas. As people explain what they think and feel about an image, it is ‘easier’ to share their own stories/journeys and connect these with faith. ArtTalk draws on this reality to enable people to share and connect their stories and faith by conversing about and around images.

Accompanying ArtTalk is a glossy Image Resource Pack created by Elizabeth Gray-King. As conversation starters, these can be used in a variety of ways and contexts, and I encourage churches to get their copy. These images remind us of the potential of art to disclose and actualise Living Water wholethe present, giving it a concrete and felt reality. As an incarnational medium, the paintings make one profoundly aware of possibility and embodied-ness. They highlight the presence of grace in and through the messiness of our lives, while helping us to catch a glimpse of ‘mystery’ in the ordinary. Such ‘seeing’ or ‘glimpsing’ needs discipline and patience, drawing on all of our senses, or, if you prefer, being “literally brought to our senses” as we experience the ‘holy’.

As ArtTalk continues to “lift-off” and blossom, I invite churches to consider participating in whatever way they are best able to do and/or to send us information on similar work they are already involved in. We are hoping to make all the exciting and creative art projects in the URC availablearttalk dancing online. Whatever form visual arts may take for you, I invite you to see ArtTalk as growing and deepening Kingdom values as we set our feet ‘homewards’.

Art, of course, cannot save us. But, at its best, it bears witness to something “beyond the hills”, as the psalmist declares. Art does not show us the world as it ought to be. It shows us the world as it is, here and now, and enables us to see that our redemption is always present and available. For as a holy person once observed: ‘we are all thirty seconds away from salvation’. Try picturing that!




4 thoughts on “ArtTalk: living conversations another way

  1. Sharon

    Nearly didn’t get my comment through as the Capture Code wanted me to answer nine x 7 and as someone with dyslexia in math this is one of my difficult areas!

    May I use this blog to run an article in our magazine?

    It explains the ArtTalk vision as lot better than the URC official magazine article (!) I am from Christ Church Tonbridge URC and past issues can be seen on our website. I am hoping to interest some of our small groups to try a series of six or so meetings based on the pictures rather than the more usual text based meetings, or maybe to have a discussion group running out of our cafe!

  2. Michael N. Jagessar

    Kindly feel free to use the article. All the best with the small group series. With best wishes. Michael Jagessar

  3. Edward Sheldrake

    I have been trying to discover what size the ART TALK illustration / reproductions are before considering whether to purchase.

    E Sheldrake

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