Aesthetics in Church

I have been thinking about this topic recently and I wanted to use this space to act as a sort of sounding board for some thoughts I have on the matter. I should like to start with the simple premise that aesthetics matter. In the sort of utilitarian, practical-minded bent of many evangelical churches, this can sometimes be a difficult case to make. This has started to change, and not just in Greg Thornbury’s wardrobe:

Attention: This is not the next Doctor Who

Attention: This is not the next Doctor Who

(Seriously though, this man is well-dressed, and he has a White Falcon!) The sense of it that I get is that aesthetics are seen by many as this nice little dressing that goes on the top of more solid, practical things. But much in the same fashion that Keynes notes that most practical men were in the thrall of some long-dead philosopher, most people who think that church worship services should eschew too much of a consideration of aesthetics are simply acceding to aesthetic decisions that have been made elsewhere. This clip from The Devil Wears Prada explains it much better than I can:

Now this is not a call to become obsessed with aesthetics, we certainly wouldn’t want an elders board to look like the editorial meeting of a magazine, but simply to acknowledge that even neutral walls and dusty rose carpets are the results of much thrashing about design. All those cheesy patches on the church keyboard? Ditto. This starting point shouldn’t lead us to conclude that aesthetics should govern everything that is done in a worship service, but simply to accept that aesthetic choices are inescapable and that a dull aesthetic is an aesthetic nonetheless. You aren’t escaping this with khakis and unaccompanied psalms.