Critical Book Review aLexandra novitski

"A Creative Church"

by Todd Smith

The Christian world today has developed immensely over the years. The idea of art within the church has increased in its creativity and has motivated people to use their gifts of art to spread the gospel. Art in the church has played a major role in the saving of people’s souls because this type of evangelism is able to touch people in ways that are more meaningful. Whether it be through music, architecture, or illustrative books, those who are not saved are made more aware of the power of God’s Word and how the gift of art can be used to capture that. Churches have begun to develop a better understanding of how the arts can be used to glorify God within the walls of the church and this book does a wonderful job in guiding the reader through that.

The book titled, “A Creative Church” by Todd Smith is a nonfiction written in 1998 and has since been developed over the years. In the introduction to the book, the author describes his childhood and experiences of art styles within his own church. The author grew up in a Christian family surrounded by Creatives within his own church (Smith Introduction IX). He developed a growing interest in art throughout his childhood and into college where he also studied religion. He was continuously involved in art groups on campus and also created illustrations and sculptures for church messages. In the 80s, he began studying the idea of Creatives in the church and how they were shaping Christianity. In viewing the outside physical features of the book, the cover displays an interesting blend of photographs of a woman with the images of a stringed guitar and a beautifully crafted church overlaid inside her figure. The design is clean and aesthetically pleasing and has a wonderful balance of white space.

The book aims to cover the idea of the integration of arts in the church throughout the twentieth century and into present day. There have been many key figures throughout the twentieth century that have played a major role in the development of art in American Christianity. An example of one of these given in the book would be John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist Episcopal minister, and Lewis Miller who started a summer camp in Chautauqua, New York that sought to teach people about the arts and how they could be incorporated in churches (12). Theater is one of the types of art that became a major involvement in the church setting. Various theater groups began to evolve and incorporate drama, dance, and singing in spreading the message of Jesus Christ (52). Music was another aspect of art that became a major part of Christian churches. Singing schools became popular in emphasizing the idea of worship and songwriting. Southern gospel music had evolved and had utilized locations such as churches, camp meetings, singing conventions, radio, and television in order to spread this new genre (66). Contemporary Christian music was another genre that grew popular in the twentieth century. Protestant and Catholic churches took over this kind of genre and allowed it to become an international phenomenon. The visual arts had developed as a part of the artistic culture in Christianity. Architecture was used a visual symbol to communicate aspirations of the Christian community. This type of art within the church dates back to the 1200s when England introduced the Salisbury Cathedral with its decorative nave arches and rib vault designs (Kleiner 205). Illustrators like Frank Beard and Ernest Pace used their gifts in art to create cartoons and comic books to bring about a new visualization of scripture stories. Even people like Martin Luther and Lucas Cranach the Elder had begun designing illustrative books for Catholic editions and the Luther Bible in the 1500s in order to portray significant passages in the scriptures (Meggs and Purvis 94). When computers had begun to advance in the technological world, they had introduced Bible games, para-church ministries used for education and evangelism, audio streaming, and blogs. Finally, dance was the next art movement to become involved in Christian churches. One of the first movements of dance in church had taken place at Saint Mark Episcopal Church in New York City (Smith 108). Many acts of dance in the church were not limited to organized dance, but spontaneous dance as well. This was an expression of worship to God that was personal and involved the body, mind, and spirit. I particularly liked to see that the author chose to include these specific aspects of art into the book because there are many art forms that contribute to the church setting that are not limited to visuals.

The book overall, addresses the thesis that the author has implied which is that art has developed in integration within the church throughout the twentieth century and into present day. The author does a wonderful job in providing subsequent information that leads us from one time period to the next. The structure of the book is concise and easy to navigate. Each header has its own proper hierarchy and appropriately describes the main ideas of each paragraph. With the introduction to the book, this is a perfect lead off of what will later be discussed. Each of the following main points simply label each of the aspects of art that were significantly involved in churches. The author avoids putting in his own personal opinion which I find very effective since the book attempts to inform the reader of factual information regarding the different art movements.

Bibliography

Gardner, Helen, and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Concise Global History. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2017. Print.

Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. Hoboken: Wiley, 2016. Print.

Smith, Anthony Todd. Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2015. Print.

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Alexandra Novitski
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