It’s been a few months, but we’re still celebrating the third annual Imagination Redeemed Conference, held by the Anselm Society from April 26-27, 2019 here in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For two days participants from all over the country enjoyed thought-provoking presentations, workshops, worship, and joy. It was a blast!
Here’s a recap, if you weren’t able to attend. (Or if you did, this will jog your memory and help you relieve the enchantment!)
IN THREE ACTS
Friday evening’s “Act I: Remember” focused on the roles of the arts within the sacred community. Hans Boersma, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based theologian and author of Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, helped attendees explore worship by discussing how music can make us harmonious with Christ.
Boersma then joined fellow keynote speakers John Skillen and Junius Johnson for a panel discussion led by Anselm Society founder and CEO Brian Brown. A recording of the panel discussion, which looked at what it means to create art for church worship, may be heard on the Society’s Redeemed Imagination Podcast.
Early Saturday morning, Skillen, author of Putting Art (Back) in Its Place, opened “Act II: Understand.” Skillen explored the integral role of visual art in the life of the Christian community and spiritual formation in centuries past. A professor of literature and the arts at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts, Skillen made the case that a renewal of all of the arts in the modern church is crucial and desperately needed today.
After lunch, Johnson, a professor of historical theology at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, introduced “Act III: Embody.” In this orientation Christians are called to take the gospel outside the sacred space of the Christian community to the fallen world. Johnson, author of The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty (to be published in 2020), spoke on how the beauty of authentic art (and lives) is a compelling point of contact hard to ignore.
In between keynote messages, attendees could choose from an abundance of breakout sessions. Workshops topics included art in the community, spiritual formation in song, sonnet-writing, communicating our redemption story to a secular world, moral values in film, how to celebrate, and writing as bearers of the image of God.
Presenters were Brown, a Colorado Springs-based professional in the nonprofit sector; Lanier Ivester, a writer and contributor to The Rabbit Room who lives on acreage outside Atlanta, GA; and Amber Salladin, conductor, pianist, worship leader, singer, and educator in Manhattan, New York. Anselm Society board members Lancia Smith and Heidi White also presented. Smith is a Denver-based author, photographer, and founder of The Cultivating Project and of the online magazine Cultivating. White is a writer, educator, classicist, and speaker from Black Forest, Colorado.
ART AND WORSHIP
The meeting hall doubled as an art gallery, full of original art by Anselm Arts Guild members. On Friday evening, Brown introduced this year's commissioned conference painting by Guild member Megan McCluskey entitled “Cathedral Skies.” The 48” x 72” oil on wood panel captures images of cathedral arches floating in luminous clouds over Pikes Peak. McCluskey, in a video produced by Anselm Society videographer David Moum, shared how painting connects her with the Creator.
The weekend culminated with the “Offering of Beauty,” an extraordinary evening of music, hymns, scripture, readings, dance, and prayer arranged specifically for the conference.
The musicians, conducted by Salladin, were Megan Prahl (harp), Terri Moon (violin), Amanda Long (violin), Danica Smith (viola), Nancy Brown (oboe), Greg Brown (bassoon), Steve Kinderman (trumpet), Junius Johnson (French horn), and Mike Danforth (trombone). The Forte Handbell Quartet performed a selection. David O'Reagan (tenor), Charli Mills-Shelton (soprano), and Christina Brown (soprano) were vocalists.
Cheri Orr and Amber Ball were the dancers. Brown, White, Michelle Drake, Ivester, Clay Clarkson, and Johnson were the event's readers. Fr. Matt Burnett officiated.
PRAISE FOR THE CONFERENCE
People came from Georgia, Iowa, Washington DC, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, Florida, Michigan, British Columbia—and Colorado—to the conference.
A visitor from Roanoke, VA, said the weekend was “rich and soul-filling.” The speakers wrote that it was a joy to participate.
Another speaker described the conference as “exhilarating,” and said the Anselm Society's work and vision is “remarkable and gratifying and encouraging.”
Dates for the 2020 Imagination Redeemed Conference haven't been set yet, but other Anselm Society events may be found at www.anselmsociety.org/upcomingevents.