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Creative arts festival: clowning, puppetry & more for the Gospel

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Shomburg Road Baptist Church has a clown for a pastor.

Not only is Buddy Lamb a clown, but he’s also a comedian and an illusionist. He often wears all those hats at the same time, including his pastor’s hat — whatever it takes to remove barriers so the people in his community can hear and respond to the Gospel.

“We recently had a block party at our church,” said the pastor of the Columbus, Ga., church with about 80 in worship each week. “We had clowns, puppets, magic tricks and did a lot of other fun things. There were about 70 to 80 people there from the neighborhood around our church. At the end of my act, I gave a five-minute presentation of the Gospel. Nine people responded and some of those were baptized into our church.

“Creative arts are more than just fun and games. They are legitimate vehicles for evangelizing and discipleship.”

More than 100 instructors and 1,200 participants who share Lamb’s perspective participated in the National Creative Arts Festival at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C. The event is the largest — and possibly the only — event of its kind in the world.

“There are many events that focus on one discipline such as clowning or puppetry,” said Christy Haines, festival director and executive director of Christian Creative Arts Association. “This is the only one I know of where we bring together such a diversity of creative people for the purpose of leadership development and teaching how the creative arts can be effectively used in worship, ministry and missions.”

The Nov. 7-9 event, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, featured instruction in clowning, comedy, illusion, drama, interpretive movement, mime, puppetry, visual art and technical elements of production such as lighting, sound and the use of computer technology — all with an aim toward religious application.

“That’s what I appreciate about this conference,” said Bob Reed of Christ the King church in Southgate, Mich. Reed began clowning 18 years ago as a ministry but slipped more into performing for secular audiences because it paid better — and more consistently. “I lost my focus and got out of it a few years ago. I’m back now and doing it strictly through my church. It’s fun again and is very rewarding. Conferences like this help me brush up on my skills. You can go to a clowning conference every month if you want, but this goes beyond the technical and teaches the arts as a ministry.”

Jamie Tubbs came for opportunities to meet people like Reed. Tubbs, a member of Valley Dale Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala., is a self-described “strong introvert” who is transformed once she puts on her clown makeup. Tubbs attended the festival as a newcomer to clowning and puppetry as ministries.

“I wanted to get more of a foundation in both and to find out where God wants me to go with it,” she said. “I was hoping for some inspiration, and I’m certainly getting it.”

Lamb, who also is a drama consultant for the Georgia Baptist Convention, said he believes more churches should explore ways to incorporate creative arts into their ministry approach.

“We live in a visual world,” he said. “People in our culture are Web-savvy, exposed to all types of multimedia and are more visually oriented than at any time in the past. We’ve got to tap that, meet them where they are and use the arts to communicate God’s message of love to them.

“Another reason churches need to incorporate creative arts is because not everybody in the church is a Sunday School teacher or kitchen help. There are expressive people in every church who are oriented toward the arts. Giving them this ministry outlet makes them better Christians because they have a way to express their Christianity. That makes them better church members.”

LifeWay conference centers will host future festivals. Periodically check the Christian Creative Arts Association’s website (www.ccaaonline.org) or conference center news at www.lifeway.com for more information.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LALA’S LESSON, EVE IN EDEN, ILLUSTRATIVE ILLUSION and MOVEMENT WITH MEANING.