Webinars, video to feature new resources on visual art and intercultural worship

Published: October 5, 2022

Together in Worship, an online collection of free worship resources from Anabaptist sources, is pleased to announce the launch of a new resource about the use of visual art in worship.

Four women sit in a row in front of a tree
(l. To r.): Rebecca Slough, PhD, Professor Emerita of Worship and the Arts at AMBS, with AMBS students Karen Martinez (MDiv 2022), Anna Ressler (current MDiv student) and Mary Ann Jacobs (MDiv 2021). They collaborated on the Together in Worship video resource. (Photo provided)

A Creative God: The Visual Arts in Worship is a video project that explores how seven Mennonite congregations in southern Pennsylvania and eastern Virginia use visual art and other visual elements to enrich their corporate worship.

The 45-minute documentary video was produced by Rebecca Slough, PhD, Professor Emerita of Worship and the Arts at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana; and Jerry Holsopple, PhD, Professor of Visual and Communication Arts at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and a 1987 AMBS graduate.

The video and an accompanying discussion guide are designed to inspire the imaginations of congregations who are ready to explore how visual dimensions of worship might expand their relationship with God and with each other.

Two webinars will be held to share about the documentary and its related resources. Both events are free and open to the public:

  • Teaching webinar hosted by Anabaptist Worship Network: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022; 2–3:30 p.m. Eastern Time; register here
  • Video premiere webinar with question-and-answer session with the documentary team: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022; 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time (75 minutes); register here

As part of the project, EMU visual communication students and AMBS theology students conducted interviews in the summer of 2021 with key leaders in seven intercultural Anabaptist congregations that use visual art in worship.

“We believed the selected congregations had insights to share with the broader church about creating worship spaces that welcome all who want to participate,” observed Slough.

Holsopple was inspired “by the thoughtful ways the artists and leaders approached the visual arts in their own worship spaces and practices.” He observed how the creators of the art were themselves changed by the use of their work within worship: “Many seemed to be more connected to their worshiping communities.”

Slough and Holsopple described the students who worked on the project as “representing a span of ages and cultural experiences that enriched the work of our intercultural documentary team.” They credit these students — Mary Ann Jacobs (MDiv 2021), Karen Martinez (MDiv 2022) and Anna Ressler (current MDiv student) of AMBS; and Asha Beck, Mykensie Davis and Allison Shelly of EMU — for their insights and input.

Another dimension of the project was finding visual art by Anabaptist-Mennonite artists that can be projected in places of worship. Two AMBS students, Anteneh Setegn (current MA student) and Kajsa Herrstrom (MDiv 2022; current employee), curated and prepared images that can be downloaded from the Together in Worship website. Slough encourages Anabaptist-Mennonite artists to submit artwork to Together in Worship for use in worship. She believes that carefully chosen visual art enriches the expressive dimensions of Anabaptist worship.

Sarah Kathleen Johnson, chair of the Together in Worship leadership team, points to this project as a wonderful collaboration: “Together in Worship is excited to partner with scholars, pastors, worshiping communities and universities to develop and share worship resources from an Anabaptist perspective.” 

She hopes that this project will inspire new partnerships.

Slough and Holsopple are grateful for the participation of the following congregations in the project:

  • Community Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Immanuel Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Laurel Street Mennonite Church, Lancaster 
  • Manantial de Vida Ministries, Harrisonburg
  • New Hope Fellowship, Alexandria, Virginia
  • Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Whitehall (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church

These resources were made possible through a 2021–22 Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. Additional funding came from the Marpeck Dean’s Fund. 

To explore the A Creative God collection, visit the Together in Worship website.

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