For a long time in the early years of my Christian walk, I felt quite schizophrenic. I was generously discipled by older believers, which meant that I learned huge amounts and grew rapidly. As a result, I came to love the Gospel and the Bible deeply. This led in turn to ministry opportunities, Church of England ordination, and service in two UK churches and at a small seminary in Uganda. It was a fairly tried and tested evangelical (of a British kind) path. But something was always missing.
It was an idle conversation with an old friend in ministry, essentially. We both spend a fair amount of time at our desks and so we chat most days, mainly about triviality and absurdity. It keeps me going on the days when I don’t actually speak to a soul for hours on end, and I like to think it does him good, too.
Assuming that artists are to be visionary prophets, what might that look like? I think it means pursuing at least three separate (though not mutually exclusive) goals.
For nine years, I was on the senior staff of All Souls, Langham Place in London. Many in the USA will know it as the church where John Stott attended throughout his long life (he joined as a toddler and only at 86 moved to his retirement home). But in the UK, if people are aware of it at all, All Souls is more likely to be known as “the BBC church.” This is because Broadcasting House is our immediate neighbor, literally a few paces away, and for many years, it was the church from which BBC Radio’s Daily Service was broadcast every morning.
Just the mention in some Christian circles of Modern (capital M) Art (capital A) will guarantee glazed eyes, knowing smirks, and a handful on the edge ready to pounce.
Someone may well mention the infamous “pile of bricks” bought for a fortune by London’s Tate Modern and they’ll pour scorn with words like “even my five-year-old could do that.” It won’t cut much ice to argue that their five-year-old could not have done that (as Susie Hodge has argued in her intriguing if a little uneven book from 2012, Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That.) Neither will it help much to mention that the Tate Modern was the UK’s second most popular attraction in 2017, and that is despite being a decommissioned 1940s Power Station and containing only artworks made since 1900. Something about that place must be connecting with people! But let’s leave that to one side for now.