Theme reflection by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity from A Sanctified Art LLC
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:1). Jesus commissions seventy followers with these words, inviting them to be peace-bearers in new lands. Perhaps we might utter a common refrain today: “God’s grace is abundant, yet our churches are few.” What does discipleship look like when we fear there aren’t enough hands to carry out the work?
In Luke 10:1–11, our focal scripture for the 2020 APCE Annual Event, we see a stripped-down, bare bones approach to discipleship. Jesus sends his followers out in pairs to enter new towns and visit as humble guests, receiving the hospitality of those who will take them in, and staying long enough to foster deep relationships and rest in God’s peace. The work is not easy—“See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). And yet, little infrastructure is required. No bags, purses, or sandals are needed. No capital campaigns, coffee house sanctuaries, or strategic visions exist in this approach. The mission is simple: be a gracious guest, foster relationship, heal the sick, proclaim the nearness of God.
In light of this passage, “Getting Outside the Box” appears less like a pursuit for novelty and more like a command to get back to the basics. Before trying to escape our boxes, we need to identify the boxes we have created and what keeps us trapped inside them. Is it our fear of failure? Our resistance to risk-taking? Our discomfort with uncertainty, chaos, or experimentation? Our drive to self-preserve instead of pursue the prospering of others? Is it our worry that too few laborers will cause the harvest to dry up and spoil?
In order to get outside the box in ministry, perhaps we need to dismantle the boxes that trap us and others, to strip away what is rotting or unnecessary, and to rebuild the box so it can truly be a home for all. Not all boxes should be left behind—many of them offer a foundation or structure to hold us safe. But stepping out of them helps us gain perspective so that we can return to them and reconfigure them faithfully.
With these themes in mind, we, A Sanctified Art, are thrilled to be shaping worship and art elements for the 2020 APCE Annual Event. We are a team of four creatives in ministry. Together, we collaborate to create art and multimedia resources for worshiping communities. We bring scripture and liturgical seasons to life through visuals, poetry, curriculum, meditation films, devotionals, sanctuary art, and more. We formed out of a shared calling to offer the church practical ways to integrate visual art and creative spiritual practices into their worship and community life.
For many, the ministry of A Sanctified Art might appear “outside the box.” We surely break beyond traditional definitions of ministry—and, with much gratitude, two of us are ordained as validated ministers to do this work. We invite congregations to try something new, or to see scripture rendered in different ways. We believe that beauty and creativity can become a balm to stifled imagination and weary hope. We need the prophetic, connective power of art in our churches.
However, for us, art is about getting back to the basics of faith. It’s about reconnecting to God through all of our senses—to see, feel, and breathe in God’s grace. Art helps us remember that before scripture was written as words on a page, it was spoken, dreamed, imagined, and visualized. It helps us engage God’s living word.
Art is not meant to be a gimmick or a trendy trick to increase your worship attendance. It’s a tool to awaken us to the sacred that surrounds us. Historically, visual art connects us to our past. Early Christians filled catacombs with images of faith, honoring those who had passed on by marking their graves with reminders of God’s greater story. Theologically, creativity returns us to our roots—as children created in the image of a divine artist who calls us to be co-creators of justice, beauty, and abundance. The imago dei is our first calling.
At the APCE 2020 Annual Event, we will explore our theme and focal scriptures through familiar worship rituals and also creative expressions that may be new to you, such as live painting, worship art installations, visio divina, and kinesthetic prayer. We hope you will come open to the ways the Spirit might be stirring through color, poetry, movement, and music.
As we prepare for our time together in Little Rock, may we live our lives believing that the plentiful harvest is truly enough. It’s not up to us to ensure that everything in the harvest grows—instead, we are called to tend, prune, and share the abundance that comes forth. The harvest is plentiful. May our lives and our labors reflect this endless promise.
The A Sanctified Art Team:
Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity (Founder, Creative Director)
Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman (Founding Creative Partner, Director of Branding)
Rev. Sarah Are (Founding Creative Partner)
Hannah Garrity (Founding Creative Partner)