I noticed this article this morning, and was particularly struck by the following quotation from an artist from an open letter apparently addressed to American churches:
"An artist's relationship with you [the church] has not been easy; we are often in the margins of your communities, being the misfits that we are... Instead of having quality artists at the core of your worship, we were forced to operate as extras; as in 'if-we-can-afford-it-good-but-otherwise-please-volunteer,' Extras."
What are we to make of this? Well, it is great to see someone striking a blow for the `marginalised.' While we are at it, my wife is pretty marginalised too. As an excellent baker of cakes, she has been shunted to the very periphery of church life. Indeed, the whole of church history can be told as the story of how cake-bakers have been excluded and kept permanently on the margins: just to add insult to injury, her cakes are only ever consumed in the church lobby, after the close of the service -- the symbolic exclusion, both spatial and liturgical, could not be more brutally oppressive if the thing had been managed by a politburo chief from North Korea.
Dare I say it? These artists are poor dears, at least compared to those in church who are currently unemployed, trapped in dead end jobs, struggling as single parents to bring up their kids, or going to work each day in a place where their faith is mocked and derided.
Few things make my blood boil more than those who spend their lives doing things they love in pretty comfortable environments, who take so much pride in being `misfits',and who, as a hobby, complain about how hard life is for them in the church. Come to my congregation on a Sunday morning -- I can introduce you to a few people who are really suffering in this world.
And as a marathon runner, I want to say to the churches: our relationship with you has not been easy; you meet on a Sunday morning, which means I am restricted only to those races run on a Saturday. You have thrust me and my gift to the margins. Instead of having quality long distance runners at the core of your worship you have..... And so on, for predictable page after predictable page.
There's never a taxi driver around when you need one.