Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Experiential Advent

Our church had it's own version of a Christmas event. Art, art installations, narration, video, images and music all came together for what was called The Voice. Inspired by Chris Seay's narrative of the same name, we asked the question, "what does this world look like with the light of God and without?" Really this is essentially why we light lights at Christmas. The Advent (meaning "Coming" or "Arrival") of the light of the world was finally realized. The waiting has ended.

We began the evening with groups of people entering a story room that felt a bit like being in a crowded cave. Following a short narrative on advent and the contrast of light and dark, each group was then invited into a world of darkness. The "darkness" portion of the evening was sobering with each artist creating pieces that spoke to the absence of light, void of goodness. The video, the images and the music all reminded us that there are many ugly aspects of this world. "Uncomfortable" was the most common comment for most people during this time. And that is the point. Darkness is still with us in so many parts of our world and we cannot insulate ourselves from it. One interesting dramatic piece was a room where people were invited 10 at a time where someone shared how amazing their life was now that they had all of the "stuff" that they wanted. While they shared this, they were also stuffing their face with chocolate cake. Darkness can also be found in consumption as much as overtly painful situations.

After time to take in the art pieces and the interactive wall where people shared their thoughts on darkness on a large canvas, people were invited to come on the stage where the curtain was drawn and a narration began. The narration took people on a journey of light and dark, concluding with a protracted time of silence and complete darkness that was obliterated with a match to light the candle that then changed everything. As the curtain opened again, the light from the candle now made its way to the artists who carried their flames to each of their pieces. Each canvas, picture, video and music was now infused with light and the result was palpable. Hope, joy, laughter, energy and beauty now infused each piece. "God with us" was not simple a drama to be watched but now immersed in light, it was to be felt. Several people said that they burst into tears while leaving through the curtain with such an overwhelming sense of joy and hope.

And the "Consumption" room was now replaced with the same actors who now were holding "Communion" elements. One woman said "when I went through the curtain, the first thing that I saw was the communion and I just wept and felt compelled to go and receive. It was an awesome experience."

To watch the art transform from dark disturbing images to pieces of beauty and hope was truly inspirational and it fully captured the essence of what this season is really about without the fluff and stuff. Thank you to all of the artists who made the evening possible.

HERE is our talented church photographer Amy Paulson's take on one of the pieces. The photos shown in this post are from Amy.

May you experience advent in a new light this season.