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Posts Tagged "Church Actually by Gerard Kelly":

‘God’s Brilliant Idea’: Gerard Kelly


‘Framing Collioure’

When I visited Collioure in 2008, I was deeply struck by the ‘Chemin du Fauvisme’ exhibition. Like thousands of tourists before, I stood looking at a grey church through an empty golden frame and was convicted of my own lack of vision and imagination. What would it take, I wondered, for me to see the colours a great artist might see? What courage would I need to celebrate what I saw, even as others around me, more rationally defined and fearing excess, named me wild?

A student more of mission than of art, more familiar with churches than galleries, I accepted this rebuke at the very heart of my faith…this has become a vital metaphor to me in recent years as I have wrestled with the loss of colour that so many people describe in their experience of the Christian faith…in the century since Derain and Matisse first painted in Collioure, tens of millions of people have walked away from commitment to the Christian churches of the West…And those walking away from faith often experience their journey as a kind of liberation. Looking back over their shoulder to see what they have left behind, they see grey. Old buildings; empty creeds; bland faith. What they do not see is colour and life.

And yet the church is, in its origins, God’s brilliant idea…It is a sparkling idea, a concept radiant with light and joy. Words like ‘brilliant’, ‘bright’ and ‘beautiful’ can legitimately be used to describe it…What happened to the fountain of colour God switched on at Pentecost? Where did the explosion of joy go? How did a movement of life and exuberance become, for so many, a source of greyness in our world?

…Can we break out of the greyness of our church experience to discover the riot of colour God intended? Is there a route back to the brilliance of God’s plan? Like Mark Figueres with his empty frames, I want to ask you, ‘What do you see?’ and challenge you, perhaps, to see more.


God’s brilliant idea #1: ‘Shine through them’

The church exists because God has committed himself to work through people. This is the fulfilment of the Creator’s long-held intention to shine wisdom through his human creatures into the world he has made. We will explore this as a prismatic plan: the many colours of God’s wisdom displayed through redeemed human lives…What does it take to shine God’s light into every corner of our culture?

God’s brilliant idea #2: ‘Give them power’

A second biblical metaphor for the church is… a human community indwelt by the Holy Spirit…What is God doing in us that will empower and resource what he plans to do through us?

God’s brilliant idea #3: ‘Help them love’

The third brilliant idea, perhaps the New Testament’s most dramatic metaphor for the church is ‘the body of Christ‘…We will ask whether the recovery of servant love as the very mark of the church might not lead to a renewal of its life and mission, asserting that God’s kingdom runs on meekonomics – the subverting of power and wealth that brings the margins to the centre. How might a tidal wave of small acts of love change the direction of our over-consuming culture? What does it mean for us to incarnate anew the very life of Christ?

God’s brilliant idea #4: ‘Make them one’

Lastly, we will discover the New Testament’s future-focused vision of the church as ‘the bride of Christ‘, a body resplendent with beauty reflecting the colours and contributions of every culture on the planet. ..What does it mean to truly celebrate diversity?


I want to suggest that in our quest for [a truly missional church] there are colours we will need to recover; wavelengths of God’s mission to which we have perhaps become blind.
It is significant that science, and not aesthetics alone, played a part in shaping the work of the Fauvists and the colour-revolution they gladly joined. Their work was, in part, a response to changes in their cultural landscape.

In the closing years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, two areas of research were moving ahead at such a pace as to make new experiments in art not only possible but inevitable. The first was the development of photography and the associated experimentation in the behaviour of light. Early discoveries in photographic processing showed as never before the relationship between sight and light and revealed much that had never before been so fully understood. This led to discoveries about refraction and the nature of colour that gave avant-garde artists new confidence in their experimentation. They were freed to ‘see’ more than they had ever seen before, understanding that the light pouring into their eyes carried many more colours than their rational minds had previously acknowledge.

In parallel to this, developments in the manufacture and import of pigments were offering to the painter unprecedented power to reproduce the colours he was seeing. Year by year new pigments became available or affordable, and each one added to the artist’s armoury. The Impressionists, most notably Monet, were the first to take advantage of these developments and break into new areas of experimentation with colour. The journey was taken further by the Post-Impressionists and by Seurat and the Pointillists – who painted by applying thousands of tiny dots of disparate colours – until the baton was passed by the Fauvists and beyond.

All in all, the art world of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a carnival of  colour, a global celebration of polychromatic light. As representatives of this period, Matisse and Derain, honoured to this day in the town of Collioure, stand as ambassadors of colour – prophets of a technicolour future. The wildness of their paintings should not be dismissed as naive and over-imaginative playfulness: it is underpinned by a deep and essentially scientific interaction with colour. The Fauves are not Surrealists. They are not trying to tell us what they have dreamed or imagined. They are trying to tell us what they see. Colour, for them, is reality. It is our paler, more monochrome view that is imagined, imposed on our vision by a cold rationalism that insists on informing us that stone ‘is’ grey. Derain and Matisse want to break open the limited and limiting exceptions that dull our senses. They are artists engaging with a changing world. They want to free us to see all the colours light has for us.

Can you hear the Holy Spirit, through them, calling you to a fuller vision of the church?

This is an abbreviated version of the introduction to ‘Church Actually: Rediscovering the brilliance of God’s plan’ by Gerard Kelly, published in 2011.

The author acknowledges Bishop Pete Broadbent as the source of the phrase ‘God’s brilliant idea’: Bishop Pete in turn says about this book: ‘Gerard helps us re-own our puzzling, sometimes frustrating, church and see it in all its glorious technicolour. Enjoy!’

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