Why bother with the fine arts in church?

In an age when the fine arts seem to be a favorite target of budget cuts, why should that bother anyone?

I can remember hearing classical music as cartoon background music when I was a kid–even though I didn’t know it. But for people of a certain age, there are some tunes that can’t be heard without seeing Bugs Bunny relaxing in the forest or Elmer Fudd with his trusty shotgun, swearing that he is going to “kill the wabbit…”

But is there any “value” to the fine arts? to classical music–and the organ–especially? Or are they just nice frills that can easily be cut with no harm?

For some folks, I think that must be true. Yet for others of us, a world without the arts is a world that in many ways is not worth living in…a drab, colorless world with nothing that nurtures the soul.

And unfortunately, it seems that the idea that fine arts aren’t really necessary has penetrated into many of our churches as well.

I understand that there are many styles of music and worship that minister to different people. In fact, I attend an outreach┬ácongregation that regularly uses bands in worship…..except that once a month, I am asked to provide the music on our keyboard–music from my background (which is as a classically trained organist), and it is well accepted.

So yes, the fine arts are important in worship–hopefully!

But even more than that, they open doors to conversations and opportunities to share in safe ways. People will come to fine arts events who would never come to “church” stuff–and in those environments, can feel safe to raise questions about why I do what I do. It’s not that they give me carte blanche to beat someone over the head with my faith witness–they don’t. But they open doors for dialogue to occur, misconceptions to be corrected, areas of commonality to be found.

So why bother with the fine arts? Well, besides the obvious (to me) answer that for many of us they nurture our souls, they are yet another way in which people from many backgrounds and traditions┬ácan find ways to share together in worship and praise–and learn from and about each other–without all the “stuff” that often gets in the way when we try to talk church.