One of the features of our local area is the developing Arts scene and the City Council’s ‘Parnell Square Redevelopment Plan’ towards a cultural quarter by 2016. This plan builds on the impressive work of the Gate Theatre, the Hugh Lane Gallery and the Dublin Writers Museum. With the historic Rotunda Hospital and Ambassador Theatre dominating the centre of the Square and the Garden of Remembrance, now famed for Queen Elizabeth’s bow, crowning the north end; and with plans to incorporate these into the overall scheme, the future looks bright. http://parnellsquare.ie/
This redevelopment plan has spurred us on to develop a Christian arts ministry that will feed off and feed into the local arts scene. Since God’s purpose is to have a flourishing world inhabited by image-bearing, fully human Humanity; a world that reflects His glorious truth and beauty, it is wholly appropriate that we should become experts in discerning God’s presence, responding to God’s grace and appealing to the residual longing in every soul for justice, relationship, spirituality and beauty. Once upon a time the Church had strong connections with the Arts – informing and being informed by them, but for various reasons this interaction has receded and has even become hostile. Thankfully many Christians around the world are rediscovering the need and benefits of artistically informed theology and theologically informed artistry. Since God will assuredly establish the New-Heavens-and-New-Earth to vindicate the material creation, we are confident that every production inspired by faith, hope and love will have its place through all eternity.
Spurred on by our context and our conviction, we invite anyone from any artistic discipline to join our conversation. John W.de Gruchy insists, on the basis of his theological expertise and personal experience of South Africa, that Christianity and Art can combine to transform society. He approves of Deborah Haynes’ depiction of the artist as prophet (Walter Brueggemann interestingly reverses that role when he depicts the prophet as poet), and of the four moments of biblical prophecy that should be embodied in the work of the model artist:
- The ability to discern and analyse critically what is happening in society in relation to the past
- The ability to identify with the plight of society’s victims
- The ability to unmask hypocrisy
- The ability to evoke hope which results in action
In all of this it is important to appreciate that, “Genuine prophecy is not the enunciation of universal ideals, but the addressing of specific issues within particular contexts in such a way that those who see and hear are challenged to respond.” In this way the prophetic artist envisages new futures of healing and redemption.
(Source: John W.de Gruchy, Christianity, Art and Transformation, CUP, 2001)
Our Arts Ministry is still in its infancy but our strategy is threefold:
1. Abbey will promote God’s call on Christians who are already engaged in the Arts by:
- Identifying with them in the centre and on the edges of the Christian community
- Affirming them in their God-given talent
- Surrounding them with Christian love, example, inspiration and care
- Providing them with a platform upon which to perform and with support throughout their endeavours
This will be achieved through a range of networking activities such as personal contact, existing directories and websites; arranging contact with and between artists via seminars, retreats, lectures, weekly Celebrations and Cell Groups; and organising annual programmes for exhibitions, concerts and performances. Such a programme will be designed to complement the surrounding Arts movement in Parnell Square.
2. Abbey will promote the Arts within the Church in Parnell Square, Ireland and worldwide as an essential gift to it from God for others by:
- Incorporating the aesthetic into all aspects of church life
- Exposing people to the creativity in our world and the gifts of others; encouraging them to discover, develop and express their own latent talents
- Challenging Christians to understand, appreciate and value the creative passion to experience God firsthand and express this encounter in fresh ways
- Committing to those who dare to set out on the unpredictable journey – reassuring them in their early experiments; giving succour to those who have been battered by their toil; and celebrating with those whose contribution is being admired.
This will be achieved through an annual programme of exhibitions, concerts, performances, seminars, lectures, debates and workshops designed to appeal to the novice and to the expert; through guided visits to galleries, theatres and cinemas; through the development of a resource library and connection into related courses; and through a programme of resident artists and internships
3. Abbey will promote a distinctly Christian contribution to the interests, issues and attitudes that prevail in society through the Arts by:
- Engaging humbly and sympathetically with artists who practice outside and even in opposition to the beliefs and values of Christianity
- Assessing fairly their contributions
- Affirming whatever element of God, truth and beauty may be present in their work; and, as God directs, seeking to redeem that which is contrary to God, truth and beauty.
This will be achieved through sustained dialogue directly and indirectly with the wider Arts scene; through contributions to Arts magazines and journals; through participation in public debates as opportunities arise; and encouraging our members to get involved in theatres, museums, venues and events.