Critical Book Review: A Creative Church By: Amanda Lynch

The book, "A Creative Church" by Todd Smith gives its readers insight to the renewal of the Arts within the church. The author touches on branches of art like music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and more. Each of these topics have a section in the book dedicated to them. They give the reader details about the art itself, how the renewal happened, significant people who took part in the renewal, events that took place during the renewal and much more. Most importantly, Smith incorporates how Christianity ties into the events, people, and arts. This is the most important aspect due to the fact that the objective of the book is the renewal of the arts in Protestant and in Catholic churches. Overall, the author does and excellent job of informing his readers by supporting the objective of his book with plenty of information and evidence of the renewal.

Smith starts his book off with setting the stage of the time (the late nineteenth century) and introduces the readers to important figures of the renewal. For instance, Smith explains that developments like society's, schools, and camps started to pop up, which would set a path of inclusion of the arts into American Christianity...

"If a function of evangelism was reaching the souls of the population through artistic media... then it would be for colleges, universities, and seminaries, interested in the intersection of art, theology, and culture to broach the appeal to the intellect" (Smith 17).

This gave the renewal of art within the Christian sphere to influence culture as well. 

Some of the important figures of the renewal include: William H.P Faunce, Harriet Cecil Magee, Ralph Adams Cram, Esther Newport, Colin Harbinson and many more. Each of these well known people had strong voices and influence during the renewal time period. (Smith).

For instance, William H.P Faunce, President of Brown University, was part of the Federal Council of Churches. Their mission was to "revive" the Spirit pf Christ within their society. (Smith).

William H.P Faunce

Ralph Adams Cram, was a member of the Religious Education Association. He gave many speeches on the importance of educational and spiritual significance of church architecture. (Smith).

Ralph Adams Cram

Esther Newport, also known as Sister Esther Newport, founded the Catholic Art Association with the goal of using Christian art for the church, education, and in homes. (Smith). 

Sister Esther Newport

All of these historical figures used their voices and used their influence to spark the passion for renewal for arts within Christianity. The author does an excellent job informing the reader with who took part in the renewal and how they took part in it. I personally liked how he used a variety of examples of all different kinds of people to show that you didn't have to be a certain way to take part in the renewal: everyone was different.

The author continues with the body of the book, which goes into detail about the certain aspects of art that were renewed within the church like theatre, music, visual arts, and dance.

He starts with theatre; originally, the idea of mixing Christianity and theatre was a completely foreign concept. The movement started with "The Wayfarer" written by Reverend James E. Crowther. It increased the desire for drama to be included within many denominations. Eventually theatre companies including Christianity started to form. For instance, the Acacia Theatre; a touring Christian theater company that wanted to reach their audience, Christian and non-Christian. They included Christian values and moral into their performances. (Smith).

Another theater was the Christian Youth Theater. It was an after-school program for students aged 4 to 18 that provided educational opportunities. (Smith). The author does a well-done job of explaining the different aspects of how Christianity is used within drama. 

The author continues with informing the reader about the renewal of music within Christianity. Singing schools and gospel groups and musicians started to develop like: James David Vaughan, the Virgil stamps, Charles Albert Tindley, Thomas Andrew Dorsey, James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, and Ralph Carmichael. Contemporary Christian music became more prominent with young believers during the 60's and 70's. After contemporary Christian music became popular, music festivals like the Faith Festival and the Ichthus Festival started to become popular as well. (Smith).

Next Smith goes over visual arts. Included in visual arts is architecture, illustrators, comic book artists, television shows and computers. Church designs started changing due to modern times. Comic book artists started to create Christian comic books, and Christian TV shows like Veggie Tales started to do well within the market. (Smith).

Lastly was the renewal of dance. Dance started to become an accepted form of worship due to the Charismatic and Jesus movements. (Smith). Overall this part of the book was very informative and I learned many new details about Christianity & theatre, music, visual arts, and dance.

The book in general was well written, and does a good job of informing the readers of how the arts were renewed within Christianity. The author, Todd Smith, clearly did a lot of research while writing this book as there is a plethora of examples and details he includes. This book is an interesting read and it is in-cooperated nicely within ARTS 105. I think it was a useful book due to the new knowledge I've gained from reading it. It has given me a better sense of appreciation for arts and its history within the Church. Even though it is a class requirement, I would recommend it to anyone that's interest in art history to read it as well. 

Credits:

Created with images by DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library" • byJoeLodge - "37/365 Church" • geralt - "cross sunset sunrise"

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