Friday Arts Day: Art and Soul with Michelle Sanders
Michelle Sanders is an artist, pastor, teacher. Michelle has planted an alternative- style church called Kaleidoscope, its focus is on the arts and social justice. Its heart is to reach out to those who would not normally step inside a church. She holds a doctorate of ministry and has many years of experience as associate minister in a large church and is heads up the Arts at Tabor College.
Michelle’s vision is to reclaim the arts and use them as a medium for discussing things that matter and communicating the good news of Christianity. Sanders uses painting to invite people to tell their story. She also runs an “Art and Soul” course to teach people who suffer from anxiety and depression to paint, and “Art for Justice” involvement at local markets.
Michelle has recently written a book called ‘Art and Soul – Generating conversations with the community throughout the medium of art’. This book surveys several initiatives for connecting with people through art. It will inspire and encourage Christ followers to step out and create places to engage with their community.
“The church is in major decline in the Western world. We cannot continue to use past evangelistic models to reach out to our modern world. Art and Soul explores ways of generating missional conversations in the community through the medium of art, offering theological reflections as well as practical strategies on how to connect with people outside of the church”.
Art has always been used to tell the story of the bible. In mediaeval times when most of the community could not read, the story of the bible in pictures, was told through the art of the stained glass windows.
Photo by Atilla Siha
Our challenge today is how to use art to connect people with Christ. This is the message behind Michelle Sanders book Art and Soul.
“How do we engage people with Gods story who aren’t and won’t come to church” (x).
Art is the answer. We need to find a way to engage people with the Good News. Approximately 40% of scripture is about story. Yet most unchurched people see scripture and Christianity as being all about rules and harsh doctrine. They also view the church as being a place only for Christians.
The whole point of the Gospel is to take it out into the community, into their lives and into the worlds in which they live. This is the main premise of the book. Art and Soul looks at creative ways that we can connect, that we can be a bridge between the world and Christ.
“There is a cultural divide between the church and community that needs ago be crossed” (p14).
The point of mission is to contextualize the message of Jesus to all cultures including our own. We must be able to move out of the four walls of the church. Unfortunately the majority of Christians do not have a clue how to relate to people outside the church. They are ill-equipped to understand social issues like depression, anxiety, abuse, loneliness, homelessness, domestic violence etc. In other words, the real issues that most Australians are facing. We the church should be bringing hope and life out of the walls of the church into a broken world. Unfortunately the church is too focused on maintaining itself.
Michelle shares about using art as the language to bridge the community to the hope of the world, Jesus. Art transcends barriers and reasoning and can ‘open up the curiosity within’.
“A missional engagement requires immersion in culture, to listen and to ask questions” (p43).
Michelle spends the last two chapters explaining practical ways to do this. She shares about how she engages in missional immersion. She takes art into the market place, into prisons to develop understanding around reconciliation. She offers Art and Soul courses to help people navigate depression and anxiety. She shares stories, strategies and powerful examples encouraging us to explore ways of generating conversations in our communities through the medium of Art.
This review by Dr John Drane sums the book up well.
‘Michelle Sanders offers an exciting vision for art as a vehicle of spiritual transformation combining insights from theology and culture with her own stories of using art to explore and celebrate the presence of the divine in today’s world’.
Stage Design Lisa Hunt-Wotton photo by Mal Austin, Art by Michelle Sanders
Art & Soul is a 10-week program that uses art to explore emotional responses and thinking that can lead to depression and anxiety. It is designed in a unique way; each week commences with an overview of the relevant topic including; Identity, Core Beliefs, Power & Shame, Holistic Health, Loss & Grief, and other themes and how it might be outworked in the participant’s lives.
This is followed by a 90-minute art lesson built around the theme, each week the participants do a complete painting, including tonal painting, perspective, colour and more – the night is completed by small group discussions around the theme of the night. all the different groups run in a similar format.
Kaleidoscope meet at 4:30 pm on a sunday afternoon and are moving to Beaconsfield Community Centre O’Neil Rd Beaconsfield on 12th April.