Fragmented Prayers and Contemporary Art

How the Christian story helps us understand modern art

By Heather Peterson, from Humane Pursuits

The lyrics fall and lift, peeking under and setting down emotions layered within me. The soft-eyed young man sings with a pure sound as he plays his guitar. Afterwards a second songwriter gathers his textured voice into a rock beat, summoning us, his audience, into personal and biblical stories.

“Who did you enjoy most?” I ask my friend in the car, and she tells me the final vocal artist because she loved his narrative style, and I say the first because I could feel what he was saying. It’s not that one option is better than another (my friend writes her own songs with nuanced emotions), but I wonder if we sometimes favor the narrative but neglect the expressions of fragmented emotions as too incomprehensible.

Grim sinks hang on a wall. The holes for the missing knobs are empty eyes, the basins yawning mouths. The photo of this image is featured above an article by Daniel A. Siedell, an art scholar. He writes that the artist Roger Gober creates the sinks without drains, indicating a lack of fulfilled expectations. [i] Siedell’s point is that Christians avoid contemporary art like this that’s dark and hard to understand. I get it.

A sculpture of a naked, bruised body of a woman left me dumbstruck when I attended a Kiki Smith exhibit on a date with the man who is now my husband. I haven’t sought out unfamiliar contemporary art since. But Siedell recognizes such art as a prayer to an “unknown god.” He says, “to hear this prayer, Christians need to recognize their own vulnerability and fragility rather than expecting art to affirm our piety and power.”kiki_sixgirls

Can I accept art that grieves me with half-told tales of human ruin? Can I accept art that I cannot explain?

Organic and abstract, occasionally sensual, my friend’s pencil drawings are not pictorially representative except for the content their viewers project into them. In one, I could nestle in a rounded white space and nap. They make me feel without words. My art group talks about an opportunity to show them in a church setting, and excitement beats within me. We need these, I think, to look at and marvel about but not have answers to questions about their meaning.

Encounters with contemporary art could release us to acknowledge our own stratums of emotions that meld indecipherably. Words aren’t always necessary. In Scripture, people tear their clothes at terrible news. Sometimes, we wail incoherently when someone dies. Other times, it is a shred of a prayer: gasping on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” from Psalm 22.

s06pcongWe Christians tout our metanarrative, where in the end there is justice and reconciliation and a Savior with blinding white robes. Yet I live desperately trying to tie up my personal narrative’s frayed ends. Many people I know have lost loved ones in the last half year. Some of the deaths were senseless and unjust. If we search vainly for a divine reason, some meaning missed, we risk compartmentalization of our hearts and further despair.

Like Jesus, I can lament in fragments when the time comes and sometimes just moan with my hands turned up. And like Job, there is a time to cover my mouth and listen. When I encounter contemporary art, may I honor mute and bleak expression as fundamental to being human. May I plead with God to help me and the artists for a trust in the bigger and better Story.


Andrew Peterson Concert and Workshop

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reserve your spot now for our year-end event with Nashville recording artist Andrew Peterson.

Artists' Luncheon and Workshops - 10am - 2pm Evening Concert - 7pm


About Andrew Peterson

For more than twenty years now, Andrew Peterson has been about the business of quietly changing lives in four-minute increments. In the city of Nashville where music is an industry in the same way fast food, generic greeting cards, and bumper stickers are industries, Peterson has forged his own path, refusing the artistic compromises that so often come with chasing album sales and radio singles and creating instead a long line of songs that ache with sorrow, joy and integrity, and that are, at the end of the day, part of a real, ongoing, human conversation. More.



Malcolm Guite's Transfiguration poem

Here we share a poem from our upcoming March 28 speaker, Malcolm Guite, for Lent. (Register now for the event!) Malcolm explains: "Continuing my series of sonnets ‘Sounding the Seasons’ of the Church’s year, here is a sonnet about the Transfiguration, when we remember how the Disciples, even before they went to Jerusalem to face his trials, had a glimpse of Christ in his true glory. The feast of the Transfiguration is usually celebrated on August 6th, but The transfiguration is also the set reading for many churches on the Sunday before Lent. And just before Lent is a good time for it too, as I believe the glimpse of glory in Christ they saw on the mount of the Transfiguration was given in order to sustain the disciples on the journey with Christ towards Jerusalem, towards the events of Holy Week, and through darkness of Good Friday. Indeed it is for a disciple, looking back at the transfiguration from Good Friday, that I have voiced the poem."

(You can also listen to Malcolm read the poem here)

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’, On that one mountain where all moments meet, The daily veil that covers the sublime In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet. There were no angels full of eyes and wings Just living glory full of truth and grace. The Love that dances at the heart of things Shone out upon us from a human face And to that light the light in us leaped up, We felt it quicken somewhere deep within, A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope Trembled and tingled through the tender skin. Nor can this blackened sky, this darkened scar Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

"This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies also available in Canada via Steve Bell. The book is now also out on Kindle."

Register now for our event with Malcolm:


Incarnation and Imagination

Featuring Malcolm Guite, Cambridge University Saturday March 28 7:00 lecture (reception to follow)

Location Holy Trinity Anglican Church 13990 Gleneagle Drive Colorado Springs, CO 80921



About the Event

If we claim truth is found in Word made flesh, Christianity cannot merely be something “spiritual” we keep contained. Through Shakespeare, poetry, and John’s Gospel, this talk will explore the spark at the core of Christian creativity.

About the Speaker

malcolmguite4Malcolm Guite is a priest, teacher, rocker, and jazz poet at Cambridge University. He writes extensively on poetry and the poetic imagination.

About the Anselm Society

A renaissance of the Christian imagination...learn more.

Does Beauty Matter?

Saturday February 216:00 vespers in the sanctuary (optional but highly recommended) 7:00 lecture in the fellowship hall

Location (NOT at Holy Trinity!) Holy Theophany Orthodox Church (near American Furniture Warehouse) 2770 North Chestnut Street Colorado Springs, CO 80907

This event was canceled due to a snowstorm--we hope to reschedule for the fall!


About the Event

We all have within us a memory of someone we’ve never seen—God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has put eternity into man's heart.”) When we encounter beauty, we often feel a deep longing that is inexplicable—or is it? This talk will delve into the experience of beauty in the context of Christian worship and theology.

Holy Theophany Orthodox Church has been kind enough to offer to host this lecture--you are invited to join us at their short vespers service at 6:00pm for an encounter with beauty in worship.

About the Speaker

johnsonJunius Johnson is a scholar, freelance writer, and musician. He is assistant professor of historical theology at Baylor University.

About the Anselm Society

A renaissance of the Christian imagination...learn more.

The Heavenly Host

by Father Matt Burnett  

Bright creatures.

Hard as light.

Supple as water.

Gliding through Time.

Space is our garden.

Power is our being.

Heaven is our native home.

To see us gathered is to see no limit. To see no end of us.

To meet even one of us is to fear and tremble and shake.

To become dumb.

To become fertile.

God Almighty.

Beyond ken and knowing.

Yahweh is our King.

And in an instant, in every direction, the expanse of us bow knee and head to Him, cry full praise to Him.

We would conquer cosmos if He commanded.

Our captains speak tender words to His other creatures so small and frail.

We hold our breath.

Tonight Flesh breaks us.

We who are of might and power now weep and love.

We have always and never seen this.

In the presence of the one, so very small, mucus-covered Child, we are as nothing.

And in an instant, in every direction, the expanse of us bow knee and head to Him, cry full praise to Him.

Morning and Evening Prayer Throughout Advent

Holy Trinity is doing morning and evening Advent prayer from the Book of Common Prayer every weekday (except Tuesday nights) throughout Advent. Mondays 7am and 7pm Tuesdays 7am Wednesdays 7am and 7pm Thursdays 7am and 7pm Fridays 7am and 7pm

If you want a 20-minute break from the pace of American December, and to be reminded what Advent is for, join us. All are welcome.

What to expect:

The full text can be found here (click "Daily Office"). You are welcome to come a few minutes early for individual silent prayer.

Holy Trinity is located at:

13990 Gleneagle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921.

Call us if you have any questions: 719-331-3084.

Join Michael Ward for a VIP Reception Before the Sept 28 Event!

It's not every day such an inspiring speaker comes to Colorado Springs. The Anselm Society is a growing group of people who are passionate about a renaissance of the Christian imagination. We want to find more such people and empower and inspire them in their creative quests! Michael Ward has kindly agreed to join us for a small reception with just such people. Will you be part of this special group?

How you get an invitation:

Get 10 people besides you to attend the event. Get it in your church's bulletin or announcements, email your local friends, share it on Facebook or Twitter, put a flyer in the coffee shop with your name written on the bottom.

There's a spot on the registration form where people can tell us how they found out about the event. If we see your name 10 times, we'll send you an invitation!

Refer your friends now!

Share this link via email or social, or tell your friends about it, and encourage your friends to come! Make sure you ask them to mention your name on the signup form.

Ancient Hebrew Scrolls Exhibit

On Wednesday, July 30, Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Colorado Springs will host a free exhibition of Ancient Hebrew Scrolls, sponsored by the Christian Heritage Foundation located in Cleburne, Texas. Register

After you've registered, join the event on Facebook to connect with your friends who are going!

This exhibition will present the only complete set of the entire Tanakh in the whole world that you can see. The other three known sets are in the Vatican and are not open to public viewing. All 39 books of the Old Testament will be present in 16 Ancient Hebrew scrolls.  In addition, the display will include 6 Torah Scrolls, one as old as 600 years, as well as a 300 year old Haftarah, a collection of Torah portions from the Prophets used during times of gentile reign over Israel.

The exhibition will open at 6:30 pm and end at 9 pm. There will be a 40-minute lecture about the process of producing the scrolls and the ways in which God has preserved his Word given by Messianic Rabbi Marty Cohen at 7:30pm.  Holy Trinity Anglican Church is located at 13990 Gleneagle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Phone is 719 964-1838. Direction to the church is available at

SCROLL back card




On Good Friday, this year, I heard the words  "It is finished,"  in a new way.  Bigger.  More powerful.  The Trinity knew how wonderful and hard their Story was going to be long before it began on earth.   They were in this amazing tale together.  They had to be brave for our sake.   And then, at last, Christ could finally say, "It is finished."

What followed was Real Life.   Hope came alive.  Other things became alive.  And nothing more can be done to make them more alive.  "It is finished."  Goodness is alive.  The good desires of our heart.  The good desires of our creative spirit.  The good desires of living  on earth.   Hope for everything good.  Hope surrounding  us.  Hope giving us Comfort.  These things of  Truth need to become our very nature.  Everything has been accomplished.  "It is finished."  And now we need to be the brave ones.

And yet as we live out our own stories, our confidence will be attacked.  We need strength and encouragement  in our own unique journeys.  That's hard because we live on a battlefield.  There are landmines.  There are arrows and rockets from the Enemy.  We know that it is the fire that makes the iron strong.  Or out of the ashes come the phoenix.   And yet . . . and yet.  We are only human, after all.

We have the negative voices inside  our  head expecting that we will hear their lies.  They hope, too, but not for Good.  The desires of our hearts can be trampled.  Do not  be afraid.  (I say this for my own sake, as well.)  The real Truth  that lives in our hearts can become stronger, bigger.   C.S. Lewis knew that the Stable held something bigger than our whole world and that the entire story of Narnia was just the title page.  A reminder that we do not see things, or the proportions of them, the way God does.

Creativity is one of the great enemies to the Enemy.   When art is for Goodness sake, it is always connected to God.  Anything good that is created comes from God.  And Goodness cannot be destroyed.

At one time, not so long ago, I had a very large collection of books.  They were a source of strength,  knowledge, and even wonderful fun.  Old and beautiful books that can never be replaced.  They represented Goodness.  But the vast majority of them, that took a lifetime to collect, are now gone.  A terrible fire came along that thought it was going to wipe them out.  Yes, that seemed to be the plan.

Their physical presence was no longer here, and  my sadness was so deep.  I wondered at the time, had my husband and I spent those years of happy collecting in vain.  But, here's the thing.  I believe now that they are somehow still alive.  They certainly live on in my head.  Funny, but that's where they were always meant to be.  That was their original purpose.  I, indeed, will always miss them; their loss is my wound.  And yet the spirit of them could not be destroyed.

If something has been taken from you that you love,  don't let the Good that was represented be turned against you to become a source of anguish.  Yes, the Comforter has much to do for you.  But know also that the Goodness is alive.  The Goodness of Narnia lived on after a New World was found and entered into.  We do not know the importance or the long lasting effect of the goodness we create.

I love the Gershwin song "They Can't Take That Away From Me."  Music, even when not designated as "Christian," can be Good art.  Goodness connected to God, connected to Truth,  connected to Message, connected to happiness.  Hold onto Truth.

Eastertide takes you out of a world of vinegar and into the land of milk, honey and new wine.  Take the sustenance of that and do whatever you were meant to do.  Be brave.  No matter what your age or circumstance.   Be creative.   God, the Creator, who is the giver of all good things, will see to it that all of the goodness you make will always live.

Seen on Facebook

You know you have a fabulous church community when a quick glance at Facebook after Resurrection Sunday worship finds you these posts by church members: "Rosing from the Dead" by Paul J. Willis

Shared by Michelle Hindman

We are on our way home from Good Friday service. It is dark. It is silent. "Sunday," says Hanna, "Jesus will be rosing from the dead."

It must have been like that. A white blossom, or maybe a red one, pulsing from the floor of the tomb, reaching round the Easter stone and levering it aside with pliant thorns.The soldiers overcome with the fragrance and Mary at sunrise mistaking the dawn-dewed Rose of Sharon for the untameable Gardener.

From The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Shared by Sarah Clarkson

"Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly.

'My lord, you called me, I come. What does the king command?'

'Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!' said Aragorn...

'I will, lord,' said Faramir. 'For who would lie idle when the king has returned?'"

From Paradise Lost by John Milton

Shared by Brian Brown

“Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense! That all this good of evil shall produce, And evil turn to good; more wonderful Than that which by creation first brought forth Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand, Whether I should repent me now of sin By me done, and occasioned; or rejoice Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring; To God more glory, more good-will to men From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.”

From poet and Anglican priest John Donne

Shared by Matt Burnett

We think that Paradise and Calvary, Christ's cross, and Adam's tree, stood in one place; Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me; As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face, May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.

Heard after our Resurrection Sunday service, in which we pass out bells and ring them loudly every time anybody says "Alleluia!"

Shared by Brian Brown

"Easter at Holy Trinity--WE don't need any more cowbell!"

He is Risen!

John Milton, Paradise Lost:

“Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done, and occasioned; or rejoice
Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring;
To God more glory, more good-will to men
From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.”

Southwell Litany, Days 2 and 3

Day 2 - From weakness of judgment, from the indecision that can make no choice and from the irresolution that carries no choice into act; Strengthen our eye to see and our will to choose the right; And from losing opportunities to serve you, and from perplexing ourselves and others with uncertainties … Save us and help us, o Lord (The Southwell Litany) Day 3 - From infirmity of purpose, from want of earnest care and interest, from  sluggish indolence and slack indifference, and from all spiritual deadness of heart: … Save us and help us, o Lord (The Southwell Litany)

Ash Wednesday and Beginning of Lent

The Southwell Litany was written by a 19th century Anglican bishop and you'd be hard pressed to find a more searching, yet not shaming, self examination. We'll post a stanza every day, Lord willing, during Lent. 1 - From moral weakness, from hesitation, from fear of men and dread of responsibility; Strengthen us with courage to speak the truth in love and self-control; And alike from the weakness of hasty violence and from the weakness of moral cowardice: Save us and help us, o Lord (The Southwell Litany)

Peter Leithart Lecture on Dostoevsky Coming Up

In prison, Dostoevsky discovered that the desire for freedom was the wellspring of human action. But this wellspring comes from a deeper source: Christ and his promise of a future kingdom. Focusing on Notes from the House of the Dead, Notes from Underground, and the Brothers Karamazov, this lecture will examine the intertwined themes of Russian nationalism, freedom, and Christ in Dostoevsky’s thought.

Click here to access the event page with more information and registration

The Church Needs Hobbits (and most of us are Hobbits anyways.)

Good stuff at Brian Brown's piece, "The Church Needs Hobbits."  Please take a look at Brian's really encouraging post. It can be a great reminder, esp. to those of us at either "half time" or "just getting started" ages,  that we will flourish and God the Father be crazy-pleased with us as we live into Role more than Resume.

He is moving His Kingdom forward and we are called to participate.  He has important-even-if-not-flashy roles for most of us based on a myriad of considerations: yes, skills, but maybe even more could be personality, strengths, weaknesses (!), healed places, broken places, blind spots, needs of those around you (maybe it is less about us, than them), and His desire to shape souls more than, let's face it, uhm, well, egos?

We want to be chosen as the superior candidate; that's what Resumes are for.  Fair enough. But, in the bigger Drama of Life, maybe Role is even more critical than Resume.  There is a depth and contentedness to this that is so deeply Good.

Huzzah for the Hobbits!

"Advent: A Reminder" by Ruth Moon

Advent: a reminder that redemption

is pending. It shimmers

in the icy air;

the cinnamon steam

rising from coffee mugs;

the patch of blue sky

above the sanctuary steps.

Until then, our limitations loom

as someone misses the high note by a half step,

confuses heaven and hell in the Creed,

or burns a finger lighting the candle of hope

on Sunday morning.


-Ruth Moon