First Presbytiarian Church of Port Charlotte

Dear friends,

Happy 2008! I trust your holiday celebrations and worship life have been meaningful and rich. I personally am always in a sort of funk after Christmas. The reason? I just don’t want it to end! I love Advent, cherish the ongoing celebration of the incarnation, and even revel in the “business” of extra musical work / concerts / decorating / entertaining. I know - I’m a little short of a full deck! However as an artist, I think it’s natural for the church calendar to be important to me, and observing the mystery of Christmas is a huge part of that. In all the miraculous beauty of winter, Christmas music making, advent church life, and advent devotions with the family everyday, I am yearly moved in a myriad of ways. Then this year's calendar plunged us from holly sprigs to ashes as Lent came early and Easter the soonest it’s been for many years. Unfortunately, many congregations do not observe the season of Lent. That’s really a terrible loss. As important as resurrection is how we get there!

Much of what happens to us in observing these holy celebrations is perfect material for our discussion of healing and worship arts. This issue we pick up where we left off talking about transformative spiritual healing through art. I said we would move into the sanctuary next. While it is spring, let’s reflect on Christmas just past as a starting point. I know each of us experience this time differently in our various churches. Our discussion isn’t about style however – it’s about art in worship – how it can and should be poised to promote God’s powerful healing.

God's Perfect Design

bulletThose serendipitous yet powerful moments of experiencing art in life that I mentioned last time, are all over Christmas and Advent. Outside the sacred world, the Christmas season is filled with light, music, feasting, gathering, and giving. Think about it. Here are some raw facts all of us can relate to. Most of us have cathartic memories of family Christmases, both positive and negative, that are easily brought to poignant remembrance by just a smell in the kitchen, a song at a mall, a card someone sends, etc. The power of those memories, many of which we cherish, is the same power I believe is unleashed by God directed art. The visitation of a present experience provoking a memory from long ago is one of the many inspirations artists use to create. We even spend a good deal of time creating new experiences with family and friends to keep memories alive. In reality, most of these are art driven – decorating, music, attending special events, feasting and the like. Reflect back to December and I’m sure you’ll see how this plays out. Link personal relationship to any of these moments and you have touched yet another powerful result of celebrating the season – through the arts. Admittedly, all this leads both to good heart warming stuff - and potentially a lot of stress!

In worship it’s much the same – except for one thing. The object of all we celebrate should be the incarnate One and His loving Father. The symbols of years of church history are rich with spiritual intent – fresh evergreen in wreathes as a symbol of everlasting life, extra lighting as a symbol of the Light of the world, the presence of all sorts of mangers on communion tables and in narthexes as a reminder of Christ’ lowly earthly entrance, and stars in all sizes and shapes reminding us of so much of the 1st Christmas but especially that there is a guide and a way to Him. These barely touch the surface of artistic expressions in churches that some count on, others idolize, and many see rightly as healthy reminders and touchstones of the incarnation. In the performing arts world it could be said this is the most spectacular and moving part of the church year. While there can be a little too much frenzy or maybe a bit too much “performance” mentality, in most sanctuaries at worship and for special concerts, the holy mystery of the birth of Jesus is expressed musically and dramatically in ways unspeakable. Indeed many find their way to Christ here – for the very first time. I would guess that each of us could share a music experience in worship or at a sacred concert that we cherish yearly – for any number of reasons. It might be deeply spiritual or just plain reassuring to hear. Both are okay.

Here’s the kernel of truth I see in both the secular and sacred observations we’ve made. There is design involved – there are designers – there is delivery – there is motivation and inspiration – there is intent to move, provoke, remember, entertain, and bless. If you are an artist you already know the next part! These things are all present in artistic expression. If we are doing the stuff of daily and corporate worship, which we agree God created us to do, all this art has potential to bring deep healing to our lives. From families hanging garland and lights to singing carols side by side in church, we are hopefully transformed each year to see the miracle of Christ and all it brings. We reach out to those we have neglected with special invitations, we give time and energy to church, we practice and attend arts events, we carefully and critically observe as the world moves to hyper speed gift giving, and yes we struggle with our own spiritual state as we compare it to the temper of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even Herod. And friends, hopefully, prayerfully, we are a bit more transformed, more whole because of recognizing and celebrating the Designer – and His grand design. Without art, in the world and in the church, I don’t think it would be too drastic to say this would be impossible.

May we learn to be a people who acknowledge and utilize to the fullest all that God’s artists have to offer – carefully, with prayer, and to seek His healing for each of us and His church.



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The Journey
God and Ron Connecting

bulletThe season of Lent has been traditionally a good time for me. I mean good as in a serious walk of personal reflection and sacrifice – leading to a grander celebration of the Resurrection. I honestly had a lack luster Lent this year – not much to say except that I purposed to reach out to God each day. I know my relating to Him is not a trip in a candy store nor an attempt to get out of “prison” experientially. I pray the steadiness of my efforts will result in good fruit down the road. The good news is that while I feel “flat spiritually”, I can cling to the truth that He is anything but flat!

In reality a season of searching and looking for spiritual grounding is a right thing – a Christian thing – a Biblical thing! I heard and then sang a song recently called “Come to Jesus” by Chris Rice. Here is the first verse. Rest with me in these words!

“Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die.

Oh raise your head for Love is passing by.

Come to Jesus, come to Jesus,

Come to Jesus and live!”



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From the Other Side

Your response to the first email article was wonderful! Thanks so much to those who wrote and please know how much I will count on your thoughts, prayers, and words. They are encouragement writers can’t live without!

Click to read our previous newsletter bullet

Ron and Cynthia Arden
My deepest thanks for your time spent here. I would be blessed even more if you’d pass this on to friends and church folk. Also, visit the website for tasty news about cds, workshops, and concerts available:

bulletRon & Cynthia Arden
A Cross Between Concert Ministries
2729 Enoch
Zion, Ill 60099