This Worship/Art page shares Collister UMC's journey in creating a more inclusive church environment. This is ongoing work for us, but we'll share resources and ideas so that others may take these steps, too. Some of the ideas are free or practically free and other ideas require permission from the artist and monetary compensation for intellectual properties, commission fees, and purchasing of art works. We have included information for artists and crafts-people that have spent their whole lives creating and reflecting God’s character in their work, and we invite you to connect with them.
Our first step… We recognize that Jesus was not a white man. Jesus’ body, as a Middle Eastern Jew, was most likely brown. To continue to have incorrect images of Jesus in our sacred space, means that we hold a narrow and false understanding of him, as well as sending a message to all who look at our windows that if Jesus is white, then God must be white. This simple act of darkening Jesus’ skin reminds us that God chose to become incarnate not in a white body, but in a brown body.
Wendy's Journey As a small child I would look up at the magical stained glass windows in our church and imagine myself in the stories they told. Later, as a woman, looking at Mary I was always petrified at the thought of being her and finding out I was pregnant and how much faith and courage she must have had. The imagery had a profound impact on me because I could visually relate to the images partly because the people in them looked like me. Through church imagery I saw physically someone like me at the well, me at the river with my baby and cleaning Jesus's feet with my tears. Imagery and art in the buildings that we are trying to learn about God and know God better in, is very important. If we can see ourselves in the biblical narrative and in God's story it is more likely we will succeed in becoming part of God's present day story and good works. When a church building does not include images of all ethnicities and types of people, it is not welcoming everyone into God's story.
Creating an inclusive environment for all of our parishioners and for those who may one day come through our doors, is part of our call as Christians to draw the circle wide, love one another and not exclude anyone from God's ongoing story of Good News. I hope all churches will examine the images and art in their sanctuaries, classrooms, and buildings. Each congregation should ask, "Are we creating an environment where all people can see themselves in God's Kingdom? Are there examples of people of all different races, abilities, genders and ethnicities in God's story?"
I am excited to share the unfolding work our church is doing, and I hope this will give you a few tools and inspiration for your church to take these important steps for a more inclusive worship space. I know God is with all of us, working within us to help us live and tell God's story.
Images below are of Wendy Blickenstaff's repainting our stained glass windows to reflect Jesus's actual body.
We are thrilled to partner with Black artist Laura James in the correction and rejuvenation of our worship space. Please explore her beautiful works of art:
Collister UMC members respond to their racial justice journey
As the Spirit has moved our congregation, creative expressions of lament, desires for healing and hope have emerged. We invite you to listen to original worship music and take in our original art. Because we believe all gifts are from God, we in turn pass these gifts to you if they would be helpful in your worship setting.
DJ Brown is a singer/songwriter in our congregation. He recently wrote this song, "Ever New." He's also attached lyrics and chords in case your worship team would like to bring this song to your community.