During a Sunday morning visit to Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum, youth attending General Synod were introduced to a variety of works created by artists with no formal training. The tour gave the young people a chance to consider the parallels in their own lives. They don't have any formal training, they aren't theologians, but they can express their faith in the church and share their faith by expressing the church to others.
"This museum hopes to inspire us to do and not just observe," says Ben Mercier, a member of Evangelical Reformed Church, Frederick, Md. While acknowledging that churches, including his, are filled with art – especially stained glass windows – this art reflects the expression of previous generations. "We need more art. That was them; this is us."
"Someone needs to spark the art."
Mora Pearl, from First & St. Stephen's Church, Towson, Md., goes further. She believes that art in church reflects worship and other traditions practiced by congregations. This is a form of diversity, she said, that makes a church like the United Church of Christ stronger as these various traditions come together with a shared purpose. "Art is a great way of telling stories with your friends."
For Blaisdell Frampton, from Chapel Street Church, Lincoln, R.I., viewing art created by un-trained artists is an appropriate metaphor for how lay people should not be anxious about expressing faith, even if others disagree or do not understand.
"You can be whoever you want even if you have no special training."
More than 180 youth are involved in the General Synod Youth program, immersed in plenary, and participating in field trips, service projects and group activities.
Tim Kershner, celebrating his 13th Synod as a newsroom volunteer, is associate vice president of marketing & communication at Centenary College of Louisiana.