Today I’m concluding my interview with Paxson Jeancake, Director of Worship and Arts at East Cobb Presbyterian Church in Atlanta (www.ecpca.org/worshipmusic) author of The Art of Worship: Opening Our Eyes to the Beauty of the Gospel, and founder of Rhythm of Worship, a ministry that seeks to serve the church and cultivate the creative process by offering musical resources, foundational teaching and practical training (www.rhythmofworship.com).
Earlier this year, Paxson issued a Call to Artists at his church to create works based on the theme of the Ascension. The work that resulted was fascinating and meaningful for the church as a whole.
LeAnne: Let’s talk about the submissions themselves. There were paintings, collages, photography, poems, essays, and more. Describe one or two pieces that stand out in your mind as particularly powerful or compelling.
Paxson: Sally Apokedak, one of our newer members, wrote a parable called “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Pregnant Woman.” She used a dialogue between the woman and her quadruplets in her womb. They asked her questions about the world and told her how comfortable they were in the womb. She said to them, “Oh, but you don’t know what you’ll be able to experience here—or how much more wonderful the things are that you’ll be able to see, taste, and touch.” Sally’s parable showed the tension of living in the world with the presence of Christ (and with darkness too) and the longing for our final home. But one day the King of Glory will be with us!
Another example was of a poem by Linda Drummond, who recently became a Christian and is filled with the newness of that relationship. She was going to encourage her son to write something for the literary arts category but she started reading the scripture texts herself and before she knew it, the words to a poem came almost faster than she could write. She only made two changes before she submitted the poem, which she titled “You Choose.” She had planned to encourage her son but ended up submitting something herself.
LM: Would you say that you have a large number of artists in your church, perhaps more than other churches of similar size?
PJ: We may have one or two professional artists, but for most of the people who participated, this was a way to express something latent in them, a passion that they have not had the time or the focus to reach back and pull out. I love giving people the opportunity to express themselves and a theme to work with. It’s a way that we can all value and celebrate the arts.
For Sally Apokedak, it was encouraging that her new church home holds the arts up as a high value. It shows that we have a place for creative people to use their gifts to edify the body. We’ve been intentional about trying to draw them out. These are small steps. We have also bought paintings and commissioned photographs that we have hung in the narthex.
And we’ve recently issued another Call to Artists as our church is about to be immersed in the Gospel of John. The theme is “Signs”, which comes from the heart of John’s Gospel narrative found in John 20:30-31, which begins, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book…”
LM: This sounds like a great theme—there’s so much to work with, both graphically and otherwise. Before we finish today, tell me how we can listen to “King of Glory,” your song that kicked off the Ascension theme.
PJ: Our CD, Ascension, is on iTunes. Just search under my name and it should pop up. “King of Glory” is the second track on the CD. Also, the Ascension CD is available for purchase from our website, www.rhythmofworship.com.