NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Clowns, mimes, puppeteers, dancers and actors turned out by the hundreds to learn how to use their talents to communicate the gospel message at the 2001 National Creative Arts Festival, Nov. 8-10 at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
Sponsored by the LifeWay Church Resources Division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the conference attracted more than 1,600 people from across the world — including delegations from Iceland and Germany.
“The six people from Germany had just returned from a mission trip to Brazil and they wanted to learn how to use the creative arts on the mission field,” said Christy Haines, the festival’s coordinator and a LifeWay drama consultant.
Haines said she estimated more than 600 churches from coast to coast were represented at the three-day festival, not to mention the international contingent.
“It really is the largest meeting of its kind in the world,” Haines said. “And we were so excited with how this year’s conference went.”
Held every four years, the festival is designed to teach churches how to integrate the creative arts into ministry and missions.
“We want to enhance what churches are doing, not change what churches are doing,” Haines said. “Some churches use creative arts in worship, some in ministry and some in missions. We have some churches that do all three. We want to provide resources and workshops to help churches however they use the creative arts.”
The festival theme, based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, reminded conferees that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
Haines said the festival featured 120 faculty members teaching 450 different workshops.
“Many of the conferees told us they were impressed with the spiritual depth and sensitivity of our conference leaders,” Haines said. “We looked for faculty who had a true commitment to ministry as well as their professional expertise. We didn’t want one without the other.”
“I thought it was an outstanding conference, probably the strongest overall faculty we’ve had at a national conference,” said Ev Robertson, director of drama at Carson-Newman College and drama coordinator for the conference. “I think it was also spiritually uplifting. That’s one of the major goals of the festival — a time of spiritual renewal.”
Haines said this year’s conference emphasized missions.
“Almost any church of any size is doing missions,” she said. “And that’s a perfect place to use the creative arts. We invited our mission agencies to attend so they could let our churches know about opportunities for them to serve on the field.”
The International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Woman’s Missionary Union, Centrifuge and M-Fuge displayed exhibits with information on how local churches could use puppetry, clowning and other art forms on the mission field.
The SBC’s Cooperative Program’s booth provided skits and other materials that drama teams can use on mission. In addition, Super Dude and Andy the Faithful Sidekick, made appearances at the festival to sign autographs and promote their new mission-based skits.
“A good many of the churches that are growing and reaching into the community are using the arts,” Haines said. “Our job is to train the troops in using better puppet techniques, using clowns in hospitals and developing multicultural communication for creative movement and mime.
“We wanted to let churches know that there are mission opportunities out there and we are excited about that,” she added.
Haines related the story of how a small Baptist church in the mountains of east Tennessee is reaching its community through the arts.
“Ewtonville Baptist Church in Dunlap is very small but every year they put on a huge pageant,” Haines said. “Hundreds and hundreds of people from across the area turn out to attend. It’s amazing the outreach that is being done. They came to the conference so they could learn how to do lighting and build sets.”
The festival featured elaborate worship services featuring music, banners and performances by professional Christian artists including Re:Creations, Bill and Linda Cates, Fishworks and The Company from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Haines said local church groups had the chance to perform in front of a large audience during showcase performances. Fifty-five groups delivered performances and were evaluated by faculty.
From small country churches to megachurches, Haines said there were workshops for everyone.
“Sometimes, our participants think they are the only ones out there,” Haines said. “Coming to this conference gives them a chance to see that they are part of a larger movement. It allows them to connect with other people across the country who are doing the same thing.
“One lady told me she was so moved because she had always dreamed of doing creative arts in the church, but didn’t know that it was okay,” she said. “So many of our conferees are blessed to know that God can use the talents, all the talents, he has given them.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CHURCH DANCE, MIME GROUP, NOW YOU SEE IT, TOM TOOMBS, CP MISSIONS, SUPER MISSIONS, FACE PAINTING, ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE.