Churches collaborating in ecumenical mission through the creative arts and working with artists.

‘Healthy faith communities should be able to appreciate and access multiple art forms for spiritual growth. Sacred art can help us regain the ability to be still, to be awestruck. It can help us regain our balance in an over messaged world in which we drink shallowly from our culture’s running tap of words. When people get a taste of how creative our God is, it is harder for them to walk away. Creativity subverts cynicism.’

John Hayes in Mission in Marginal Places: The Praxis 

“The mission of the church is to communicate the Gospel to people in ways that touch every fibre of their souls. At the heart of being human lies the power of imagination. In every culture there are story tellers and there are the stories we carry within ourselves. The arts has the power to communicate and to translate pain, joy, delight and despair into deep stories that stay with us forever. The mission of the church through the arts is not to be used as a commodity or seen as a niche ministry. The arts are the heartbeat of human experiences that, if used well, have the power to communicate the Gospel in transcendent ways that will invite every soul back to where our story has begun, in the heart of God.” 

Peterson Feital, pioneer missioner for Arts and Director of The Haven + London. 

Creative arts and the church in Bristol 

A great example of ecumenical missional involvement in the creative arts comes from Together4Bristol.  

Kingdom Creatives is a community who share the Christian narrative and are passionate about creativity. They provide a mobile, organic space and prioritise nurture and encouragement for the artist/creative and anyone who enjoys creativity. Originally a movement that came from Christ Church Clifton, Bristol, they have amalgamated with the Together4Bristol Arts Sphere. 

As a network they have three objectives, which they explain as follows: 

Gather: To build relationships and unity 
‘We have a committed core team, adopting principles of support, sharing and endeavouring to prefer one another. We see this as both the model and catalyst for transformation. We gather creatives through Zoom (mentoring about 50 creatives), and various events: small, such as socials at the Everyman Cinema, and large, such as the Party in the Park, with thousands of people, in 2013.’ 
Grow: To learn from God and each other 
‘We don’t wish to duplicate others’ work; instead we aim to refer artists to the most appropriate organisation, individual or project for their needs, ideas and creativity. We have been involved in city-wide gatherings, such as Going Deeper at the Colston Hall in 2013, which explored arts issues from Christian perspectives, and recent outreach gatherings at the Colston Hall and at Trinity College.’ 
Go!: To act together and as individuals 
‘We want to find out what people want and how Kingdom Creatives can work for them. Action will include convening, initiating and coming alongside projects, plus conferences, such as Press Red, in 2019, about violence and abuse against women worldwide.’

CTE’s Ben Aldous spoke to Erica Bebb, Kingdom Creatives’ director, to hear more about their story: 

Erica started life in speech therapy, but felt called by God to go back into the performing arts. She started a Christian performing arts company with her husband Richard – mainly around the performing arts and dance. The idea was that this would be in a form that was accessible and easy for people connect with. Not only in theatres, but also in local churches too.  

Erica was surprised to be called into ordained ministry. She trained part-time at Sarum College in Salisbury. During her curacy at St Edyth’s in Sea Mills she set up what she calls “a fresh expression of expression”, rather than a fresh expression of church. It became a place for artists of all types to connect and explore faith. She now works for Christ Church Clifton and also as Arts Advisor for the Diocese of Bristol.  

Erica told me she very much, “felt called to be outside the walls of the church.” Kingdom Creatives then is a network church – it’s an organic project-based community. Erica said she saw that artists respond best to projects, so she liked to use the image of “a Gospel train”, which artists can get on or off depending on the project. Erica explained: “Artists thrive on the creative moment”. Sometimes they are involved in a whole series of projects.  

Erica started meeting in places where creatives naturally meet – not the church: “A really good series of workshops at the Bristol Beacon saw Kingdom Creatives connecting with artists who were seeking spiritually, and those of other faiths. Often artists are de-churched Christians who have been injured and wounded by their experience of church. Lots of artists feel misunderstood. What can arts really bring? What is the great jewel that comes from the arts? The arts hit the visceral – the emotional self. Every art form is an expression of our shared humanity. Quite a robust presentation of the gospel can be made and people experiencing it deeply connect, because they love the actual art form.”