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26 April 2017

Creativity in the Church - more than flags and flowers?

Illustrations by Luke Swinney

We always love hearing from our members about the ways they're bringing the good news of Jesus to their community. From churches running Messy Church to open mic nights, the Church is reaching people in ever-diverse ways. Alexandra Davis spoke to three Alliance members to learn more about their own creative ministries.

Stephanie Lamplough, Salvation ArmyStephanie Lamplough, Salvation Army
I'm an assistant director for music and creative arts at the Salvation Army, a role that was introduced in line with the new Fit For Mission structure. I oversee creative arts for the territory, from corps and outreach centre, to territorial events. As it's a new position I have found myself creating new initiatives and resources so that creative arts can be accessible to all and it has been fantastic to see how drama, dance and visual arts are already being used.

Christianity is all about Christians having a personal relationship with God and I think that being creative is a way that a lot of individuals feel that they can express themselves and their faith. When used as an act of worship it can help create an atmosphere conducive to prayer. Having grown up in a church where creative expressions of faith was not the norm, I now appreciate the freedom to express myself and my faith. 

Many people take part in drama, dance and art in their everyday lives and can use them to express creativity in a way that can bridge a gap with those who don't know Jesus. Non-Christians can easily be invited to a play or concert or to take part in dance and drama groups. Drama and dance are also very public - dances to Christian music can be done in the street and people will often stop and watch.

All Christians need encouraging and social gatherings such as an art club or dance class bring people together so that they can share their faith alongside other passions.

I believe that as a Church family we can encourage more Christians to use their creativity by being open to new ideas and suggestions. It's also about thinking 'outside of the box' so that new and exciting ways of worship are on offer. The music and creative arts team are currently working on resources that are accessible for corps, including drama scripts, video tutorials and the Christian Zumba class DANCE FIT FM (Dance Fit For Mission), which launched at the beginning of March.

Ian Jones, One Way UKIan Jones, One Way UK
One Way UK has been providing training and resources to equip churches for more than 25 years in the UK, Europe and all over the world. The purpose of our ministry is to encourage and inspire others to use puppets and other creative arts to share the good news of Jesus. We have been made in the image of a creator God and we want to share the gospel of Jesus using puppets and in other creative ways including gospel illusions, drama, storytelling, ballooning and many other art forms. Our creative productions team design and build many of our puppets here in the UK.

Puppets are an incredibly powerful way to reach and connect with children from just a few months' old to children more than 100 years old! The truth is that anyone of any age or race can relate to and engage with puppets.

Our passion is to inspire others to use puppetry in sharing the gospel. Our experience has been that not only do children relate to puppets, children themselves are also great puppeteers! From the age of nine or even younger, children can express themselves using their own creativity through a puppet when they may not be confident enough to do so by standing upfront, whether in church or out in the community. As part of a Christian puppet team, not only do they witness to others, but they also live out, discover and grow in their own faith through what they do and share as a team.

As a Church, we should all be encouraging everyone to use their creativity that comes from God for the glory of God. Remember: never underestimate the power of a puppet!

Springs Dance CompanySprings Dance Company
Based in London and reaching out across the UK, Springs Dance Company is a professional dance company that has a Christian ethos at its heart. We perform and teach in churches, schools and theatres. We nurture and connect people and communities, and we encourage those of all ages to enjoy dance. 

One of the joys of dance is that it reaches people in ways that words can't. Many people find that they can't engage with listening to talks or reading books. Our work reaches across language barriers straight to the heart of a very visual generation.  hen working within the Church, we bring faith- illed dance and breathe life into scripture and worship. We help churches reach out to and engage with their local communities through performance events and workshops.

Being creative ourselves can allow full expression of self and of faith, and can encourage and develop our understanding and experience of a relationship with each other and with God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The first story in Genesis is an act of creativity, abundance and life. As children of God, we have His life-giving Spirit within us – a Spirit of life, wholeness, joy, fullness and overflowing creativity. To be creative is to reflect the very nature of God.

Sharing both the joy and freedom of moving, as well as the discipline of creating and performing dance that communicate stories and messages, is a huge part of Springs' ethos. Step by step people have the chance to learn to sensitively explore creativity and physical expression.

Using creativity within the context of one's life and faith can manifest itself in many ways. Within dance it could be to extend personal worship through movement, to create community by teaching dance classes, to encourage children to find a physical spirituality or by using dance to communicate a message – "a visual parable" as a dance was once described.

The moments when the Church encourages this best is when each person is supported in the way they communicate and worship; and the whole self – body, mind and spirit as one is valued. 

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