Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Book Available!

Good art draws us in – to linger, to question, to discuss, to simply enjoy.  It’s also true the artist has “drawn” into an artwork a lifetime of study, practice, reading, and a world of stories and themes.

This book discusses some of what I've learned about art, architecture, and film after years of study and taking small groups to world-class art museums in Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, and Greece.

The story I tell begins with differences I find between "looking" at and "seeing" art, and then moves into descriptions and reflections about selected works in Florence (Michelangelo's David), Bonifacio's Slaughter of the Innocents in Venice, and Bernini's Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Following that we take a look at the fascinating stories behind the large obelisk in the middle St. Peter's Square and the course of its long history as a bit of monumental architecture.

I close out the book with a few short poems from Sicily,  and then a look at what's been "drawn in" Fernando Botero's "Abu Ghraib" and James Cameron's film Avatar. While these are clearly not classical Italian art, I wanted to show how what I learned in my studies of the Italian pieces can be applied to a more modern art exhibit (Botero) and even to a film like Avatar.

The book is now available at Amazon.com, in a color or black and white paperback.  While the color version is a bit more expensive, those who already enjoy art will benefit from the color imagery.

Drawn In: Dramatic Encounters With Art by Michael G. Bausch.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's in the Sanctuary: Summer Sunday Ideas

My last post suggested “preaching your sanctuary” as a way to help people see the richness going on in architecture, furnishings, and fabrics.  Read on for specific suggestions on how to do this:

1. Ask children, youth, and adults what they notice in the worship sanctuary. “What do you see that you've often wondered about?” What is it? Why is if there? What does it have to do with our worship, or this congregation?
2. Call attention to any symbols in the sanctuary: look around to notice and explain any Latin and Greek words or initials found on crosses, woodwork, banners, or windows (INRI, IHS, XP(Chi Rho), AO (Alpha-Omega). What shape of crosses are there, and to what do these refer? What other symbols do you see (doves/Noah's ark or Holy Spirit, flames/Pentecost, etc.)
3. Notice numbers of things: how many windows are there? How many light fixtures? What else seems to appear in numbered groups? Note possible religious symbolism or references of numbers:
1=beginning, God
3=divine completeness, Holy Trinity
4=Creation, four directions
5=Five Books of Moses (Torah, teaching)
6=The created world (six days)
7=Completeness, perfection, seventh day or Sabbath rest
8=The first day of the new week, New beginning, new creation
10=10 commandments, responsibility
12-perfection, governance: tribes, disciples
4. Notice colors in the room and in windows, and note possible meanings:
Yellow - "warm," "exciting" holiness, halo, light
Green - "peace, stillness" growth, life; Church Season: Common Time
Blue - peaceful, deep, "typical heavenly color"; water, sky
Red-glowing, alive, joy,energy, Holy Spirit;Church Season: Pentecost, Reformation  
White- "Harmony of silence" purity, clean, new, Church Season: Christmas, Easter
Violet-"sad," repentance, passion; Church Season: Advent, Lent
5. Notice any shapes in woodwork, panels, walls, windows and possible meanings:
Triangles (3 sides=reference to Trinity)
Circles (no beginning or end=eternity)
Rectangles (foundations=strength)
Squares (4 equal sides=balance)
Organic shapes: found in nature, like grape clusters, leaves, vines, flowers

Other Teaching and Preaching Possibilities
Notice opportunities for developing a series of sermons, children's sermons, or confirmation lessons about:
-Symbols, shapes, colors, and numbers in the sanctuary, their origin, history, and meaning today
-Fabrics in the Sanctuary:
Flags: If there are flags, what’s their story/history/colors/symbolisms; what do they represent, why are they located where they are, how are they connected to worship life? What questions do they raise, and what might be learned from them?
Banners: Notice the colors, symbols, themes, and placement. Who made them, and why? Are they seasonal, or regularly there? What is the connection to worship?
Vestments and Clothing: who wears what? Do clergy and choirs wear something that sets them apart, and why? Are there any dress codes for your congregation? Are there any unspoken expectations, or spoken ones? What is welcomed and what isn't, and why? The Bible speaks about clothing, so examine some of those passages: Deut. 22:5, Zephaniah 1:8, Ezekiel 44:15-18, Mark 12:38-40, Luke 6:19, Matthew 6:28-33, James 2:2-7, Ephesians 6:14-17, Colossians 3: 12-15.

-Furnishings in the Sanctuary:
Many churches have a lectern and a pulpit, while others have a single podium which serves both functions. What are the functions, and how are they different? What's the history behind this furniture, and what significance does it hold for us today? Where are they placed in the sanctuary, and why? What is their contribution to worship?
Most churches have an altar or a communion table, and some have both. What is the difference between them, and are there any rules or customs for what is placed on them (fabrics, candles, Communion elements, offering plates, plants, flowers, etc.) and why? Are any of these given as memorial gifts to the church, and who gave them, and why?
-The Windows
How many are there and why? Are there stories in the windows? What are the colors, shapes, and symbols, and what do they say to and about the worshipping community? Are any of these given as memorials, and who gave them, and why? With 6-8 windows you have that many sermons or lessons to give! People will tell you how they never heard these stories or explanations before and how they so appreciate what you've helped them see and understand about their sanctuary.
--Building Features
Notice the interior “sections” to your sanctuary and learn about these terms: narthex or foyer, the nave, and the chancel. What different functions do they serve? Can you see a shape to the nave and chancel: square, rectangular, circular, octogonal? What does this shape say about this congregation? Is there a cruciform floor plan-Latin Cross or Greek cross? What does the ceiling look like? Does it evoke something “upward” or heavenly, or more sheltering or, ark-like? Does the exterior have a unique shape?
--Artworks:
What artworks, as in paintings or sculptures, are in the church facilities? You might help your people really “see” them by bringing them into the sanctuary on an easel, or by projecting a larger image on a screen, and helping them understand the history, artistic vision, story and message of that particular work of art. For example, many churches have Sallman's "Head of Christ" or Leonardo's "Last Supper." Much can be drawn out of these particular works of art, as well as from others in your church.
Thanks for reading this far!
The above material is meant to get you started with experiencing your worship facilities in new and engaging ways, and communicating this with congregations as early as this summer.
For more information on preaching with visuals and with your architecture, go here to find my book, Feeding Imaginations: Worship That Engages. You can also order my Silver Screen, Sacred Story. Using Multimedia in Worship there or at the publisher, rowmonittlefield.com.
Check my website for other updates at screenpreaching.com and thank you so much!!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's Summer: Do Something Different!


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It's summer, and a perfect time to try something different with your congregation when people are in summer mode, when the core of your congregation is still attending, when visitors tend to come by, and when you want to refresh yourself and try something new.

With our increasingly visual culture, and screens everywhere, people are used to looking at things for their content.  Why not help them look at the sanctuary in which they are sitting, and see things in a fresh way?

As Shakespeare noted, the world around us is full of sermons waiting to be preached: "...tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, good in everything... " Why not in your worship space?

Remember how Joshua told the people crossing over the Jordan River to put up a tower of stones to capture the children’s attention (Joshua 4:6-7). Seeing the stones, the children would ask why the stones were there, and the children’s parents could then tell the story of the significance of that place.                                           

Our worship spaces are similar monuments to memory, full of stories of the congregation and its reasons for being, as well as of the people who gave their time, energy, and donations to build and sustain the space. 

Each sanctuary has stories to tell with mysterious symbols to describe, and, in a world where people ask few questions for fear of appearing ignorant, who better to ask those questions than a preacher on a summer's day? 

A wonderful starting point for beginning a process of preaching architecture is to ask the children or youth what they notice in a sanctuary and to invite them to ask their questions about things the children or youth have seen. The young are curious, and, as visually oriented as they are, have noticed things that caught their attention.  A couple of summer children’s messages inviting these questions about the sanctuary can then lead into a series of sermons about the architectural forms (layout, windows, furnishings, fabrics, symbols) and the stories behind the forms.

I’ve practiced this process with four congregations I have served. Each time I’ve received comments from people who say they have worshipped their whole lives in that sanctuary and never heard a sermon telling about the connections with the sanctuary and windows to biblical stories or have never heard anyone talk about the symbols the people have noticed on the sanctuary walls, woodwork, baptismal founts, pulpits, lecterns, and altars.

Worship leaders mistakenly presume people know the "language" of their worship spaces. What an opportunity it is to be able to help people look at what’s right in front of them – and to see it fresh and new! The windows are telling stories, as is the altar or communion table. The position of the pulpit tells a story; the light fixtures just might contain hidden messages; and certainly where you have or have not placed the baptismal fount says something about the congregation's relationship with the sacrament.

Much may be gained from preaching architecture. It can:
  • Capture the attention of those in the congregation who are curious, who have an interest and aptitude for buildings and architecture, and who have a personal investment in the building and upkeep of the space.
  • Provide a valuable multisensory learning experience as the congregation focuses their visual attention on common elements of the church while listening to the preacher's observations and insights.
  • Acknowledge those who have sat through worship services and focused their attention on some of the visual details in the sanctuary while listening to sermons, music, and prayers.
  • Affirm the long history of a congregation as you speak of the origins of its church and the history of the building(s).
  • Recall and affirm the positive memories long-term members have for their church.
  • Develop a sense of unity and boost a sense of congregational identity as the congregation’s relationship to the space is named and nurtured in new ways.
  • Enrich the worship experience for those eager to learn more about the church they’ve chosen for worship.
  • Heighten awareness of the particulars of a sacred space and stimulate reflection on what makes a space holy.
Do you want more ideas?  Check out ways to "preach your sanctuary" with my book, at Amazon:




Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Multimedia Lectionary Resource

Recently I came across the website gospelfeelings.com , a lectionary-based resource with multi-media examples connected to the scriptural texts of the week.  You have a choice of different views of the materials (by date, text, or imagery) and can click anywhere in the lectionary cycle.

Screenshot from homepage
This is a wonderful site. You can hear song selections, view artworks and other visual imagery, and read prayers and poems related to the passages. The weekly program is designed for personal reflection, or for sharing with others in a worship setting. A Tumblr version shows the most recent week's texts on the front page. There is also a Facebook version of the site.

What is refreshing about the site is a commitment to provide music, imagery and other creative liturgical resources without advertising and other efforts at monetizing.  Someone is doing this because they love to do it, and are contributing out of the goodness of their heart. It is a wonderful creative gift for those looking for imagery, music, and prayer/poetry resources relating to the weekly texts.





Sunday, June 5, 2016

Visual Preaching in the Summer


Summer is a great time to add visual content to preaching.  The relaxed nature of the season offers opportunities to try new things for a week or two, and even build some attendance when people know there will be something different and visually interesting to hold their attention.

Here is an idea that could work on July 10 for lectionary preachers with Luke 10:25-28 and the Great Commandment (best by referencing Mark 12:29 and the Shema).  For those not using lectionary, this idea can work on any Sunday, or save it for next Valentine's Day!

While visiting the Vatican Museum in Rome, I noticed the stylized heart from an old sarcophagus with the heart serving as the "O" in the DOM, the abbreviation for "to God most good and great."


What struck me was how this heart is not like the usual imagery of the hearts we see!

Some time later, while holding my young granddaughter in my arms, I noticed that her ear seemed to keep the shape of this heart! This seems to be common with most infants and toddlers until the ear develops into a more adult (less heart-like!) shape.


Combining these images of hearts with the shape of toddler ears and various scriptures can offer some effective visual anchors to your theme, as with Proverbs 2:2, or the Shema in Deut. 6:4-9, and with the Great Commandment particularly in Matthew 22:36-40, or Mark 12: 28-31.


Amazingly we find a connection with ear and heart from the Rule of St. Benedict,  "Attend to the Master's instruction with the ear of your heart."  We may also realize our heart of love grows out of response to God: "We love because God first loved us."  (I Jn 4:19)





As our bodies, minds, and hearts grow and change over time, we gain love's wisdom and continue to be called into a life of compassion, generosity, and loving kindness!  




Monday, February 8, 2016

Preaching St. Valentine's Day 2016

A few years back I posted in this blog a St. Valentine's Day sermon possibility for those not using the lectionary.  You can click 2010 in the Blog Archive, or you can find it linked here.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Art As Public Collaboration


What is worship if not art? For me, worship is at its best when it is art.  Worship and art involve beauty, mystery, inspiration, revelation, challenge, collaboration, creativity, meaning-making, and impassioned purpose.

These thoughts were stimulated by a presentation I heard yesterday from Amy Franceschini, an artist and designer of Future Farmers.  I invite you to browse information about a course she is teaching at UW-Madison this semester to learn about her work, and then to visit FutureFarmers to see samples from the collaborative community projects this group creates.

Of particular interest to me is the Flatbread Society involving farmers, bakers, oven builders, artists, activists, soil scientists, and city officials, and the "Reverse Ark" project involving a collaboration with an environmental scientist, the Los Angeles Mayor's Office, the Department of Water, a priest, and a computer scientist.

The Flatbread Society Seed Journey is another project designed to transport ancient seeds found in Norway to Jordan, where they originated.  The "seed mast" pictured above is filled with ancient grains grown by members of the Flatbread Society in Oslo, Norway.

These projects, and the others listed at their website, are examples of a rich and deep multi-disciplinary approach to the art of shared living in an interconnected world.

As I listened to Amy's lecture in the context of an Art Colloquium, I was challenged to connect what I was seeing and hearing to "art." Such is the FutureFarmers method: to broaden perspectives through participatory projects, playfully, so "participants gain insight into deeper fields of inquiry-not only to imagine, but to participate in and initiate change in the places we live."

What I draw from this is a reminder that in church settings, beautiful worship that connects to a church's central mission and purpose will involve engaging the skills and gifts of a variety of people in a participatory and collaborative process that welcomes innovation and creativity, while nurturing spaces that open one another to inspiration and revelation.