Church on the Corner

Church on the Corner is an Anglican church in an old pub in Islington, London


We have set up a part of this website for creative ideas for church, a place to throw ideas around, or ask for advice. I hope it will be a resource for our service leaders or any of you involved in communicating, and a way of continuing our pursuit of authentic creative worship.
It is moderated by some of the experienced creatives in church so you can throw ideas at them, or seek their wisdom on how to do stuff better…

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20 thoughts on “Creative Consultants

  1. Stephen Mawhinney says:

    Church and the church service

    As it was my blog that started all this (though if I’m being honest I think Pete has to take most of the credit for the volume of response) I thought I’d weigh in with my tuppence worth again.

    I’ll keep it (relatively) short and (relatively) sweet. Wanted to draw an distinction between the use of art / creativity as a church and the use of art/creativity for a church service.

    Personally, I’m up for us as a church doing as many varied and different things as a group to connect with God, to connect with people and ultimately to connect people to God. There are many different types of people out there (somewhere between 9 and 192 depending on how much you pay for your segmentation with us) so we need a variety of different ways to connect with them and reach them with the gospel. Whether that be painting, sculpture, gardening, acting, standing with a megaphone in Oxford Circus, coffee shops or whatever give it a go. I’m not saying I’ll join you for all of that but hey, I don’t expect that what I like will necessarily rock your boat either. So yes let’s think outside the box, or as the marketing people like to call it now, engage in some blue sky thinking.

    But, but, but I think we have to be a bit more cautious with our service, hence the original e-mail. It’s more mass market, it’s for Christians and non-Christians and it’s the thing most people associate with a church. [Somebody who knows more about these sort of things can say whether you are allowed to refuse entry to a CoE service or not]. So when we think about the service then we’ve got to be thinking about how people are used to being addressed en masse and doing things for a broader audience.

    In summary, let us know be limited about what we do as a church and let’s use all our talents and gifts (creative or otherwise) to grow the kingdom. However, for the service we need to bear in mind the broader audience and the setting. Therefore some combination about combining the weight of tradition (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it by another name I suppose), learning from the world around you and using our gifts in the correct context is required.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we may have a genius in our midst…!

    All Saints Interloper

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oooh, right and left brainers rift! I couldn’t make up my mind which camp I am in, so took a test on tickle called the brain test, and found my left and right sides are equally dominant. Is it true that it is left against right brain in this debate? Check yourself with the brain test on tickle and lets find out…

  4. Mark says:

    Wow – 16 comments so far is a record! This seems like a really important discussion. Keep it up!
    Who says we can’t sell alcohol on the premises (theoretically)?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just so we can clarify one thing, people, much as I think that bringing back the bar is a good idea, it may not work in an Anglican Church. We can’t sell alcohol on the premises, and we can probably only push the ‘suggested donation’ thing so far. Non-alcoholic bar has been tried before and not been successful…and the bring your own option?…..

  6. Anonymous says:

    To a certain extent, some of the discussion above reflects how our left/ right brain dominance affects our own particular worship needs. If you’re generally somebody who is drawn to information and propostional statements (a ‘left brain’ person if you’ll forgive the broad brush statement) then it’s likely that more linear, structured worship formats will connect with your needs. In the same way, for ‘right brain’ people to be satisfied, less structure is important, with more intuitive, perhaps expressive elements (crayons etc!)
    My understanding is that only geniuses relate equally well with both sides of their brain, so it’s important we recognise the need for both approaches as represented in our God-given diversity and avoid presenting one as ‘better’ than the other.

    All Saints Interloper

  7. Anonymous says:

    To a certain extent, some of the discussion above reflects how our left/ right brain dominance affects our own particular worship needs. If you’re generally somebody who is drawn to information and propostional statements (a ‘left brain’ person if you’ll forgive the broad brush statement) then it’s likely that more linear, structured worship formats will connect with your needs. In the same way, for ‘right brain’ people to be satisfied, less structure is important, with more intuitive, perhaps expressive elements (crayons etc!)
    My understanding is that only geniuses relate equally well with both sides of their brain, so it’s important we recognise the need for both approaches as represented in our God-given diversity and avoid presenting one as ‘better’ than the other.

    All Saints Interloper

  8. Garmon says:

    No no no. Not just a folk music service Pete. That is, like, SO last week. Put on a low-fi-emo/electro-postcountry-alt-folk music worship service and I’ll be there.

    At least we’d find out whether God does care about how we worship him!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Not wanting to continue the debate but just wanting to clarify my points.

    It was merely a perception that some may consider drawing pictures with crayons an act associated with children….. I do of course realise some people enjoy drawing with crayons or indeed chalk, charcoal or paint. Why don’t we start an arts class with bean bags and meditation to encourage the churches creative gifts!

    The ‘if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ comment was not a reference to the church as a whole or indeed to us as individuals as we are all broken. I just didn’t see the evening service as broken in terms of it’s format. If one wanted to be creative and to engage with people on a alternative level perhalps a 5pm folk music service could be an option. I know Garmon would enjoy that.

    Be real and down to earth in your delivery of the gospel on a sunday night and your not going to get too many complaints.

    As for the bring back the bar idea I could not agree more a Friday night open mic night with cheap bar is a great way to introduce people to the church and make them realise that Christians can be normal…… sometimes. Just keep Neil away from the bar!

    Love ya guys

    Pedro

  10. sammy says:

    here’s some responses

    er… art for art’s sake, or art for art’s sake for God’s sake. definitely. make it pretty, make it ugly, don’t make it dull.

    I think God does care about how we worship- not as much as whether we worship though- but he cares, he’s part of it.

    the building is not ours to sell.

    i think it does define us, or defines the way we think about our identity. does it reflect us? could we be the same people somewhere else? would something be lost/gained? pub/old church?

  11. sammy says:

    if only arsenal could think inside the box… 🙂

  12. Anonymous says:

    Pete, I have to disagree with you, the’aint broke don’t fix it’ just isn’t right. The church in the UK is still declining and if we don’t do some different Islam will be the major religion within the UK. Don’t stiffle people doing church differently. Surely COTC should be a place where we try new, innovatibe forms of church. Where we might get it wrong, but we also might just get it right. Lets continue to think outside of the box, how church should be done. One think we are talking about here is how we can start a church through football. It might fail, but it might just work.

    Jon Hamilton.

  13. Jeremy says:

    Well, herein lies the problem for Church on the Corner I suppose, and at some point we need to decide whether we’re just another church, or if we are open to something new. If we’re happy with a normal service and the ‘not broken, leave well alone’ philosophy, then lets sell that pub and stop pretending.
    And if we actually are a creative, innovative faith community who are willing to try things differently, then let’s get the bar back in! Or better yet, meet in an actual pub.
    Our ‘is it a pub? is it a church?’ building on the corner is kind of defining us, in my view.

    Great to see some real debate on the blog, by the way. Thanks for taking the time, people.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Normal church service? and what exactly would that be…

    I do see that we have talked about this issue for some time and I also see being naturally and ‘organically’ creative should mean that we shouldn’t need to discuss it at length first.

    However I think that having the space to think it thru, to ponder why and how we worship God, how we can be more inclusive, how we can help people to see God in their world, means that we do not start offending people left right and centre and also allows people the space to have a few opnions to share and also to hear.

    If you don’t mind me saying its better than just offending people with comments about behaving like children. I know for a fact that when one of my friends was asked to think about how God had been an influence in their life and then given the option to draw it out, they loved it, and I am also sure it still sits in their room to look at, and reminds them of God in their Life. Yes its not everyones cup of tea but it IS SOME PEOPLES cup of tea.

    Peter you’re right God doesn’t care how we worship him and I agree we should just ‘get on with it’, however exploring new ways (and old ways) of doing so, means we are constantly evaluating what we believe and why. Only a good thing surely? I know I don’t just want to follow what has always been done because thats what we ‘do’ and have always done.

    As for don’t fix what aint broken…. maybe thats for another time!

    We have all been made in HIS image and all be made unique, lets allow ourselves to be different and express God in our lives in different ways.

    Bee – not normally a blogger, so my thoughts maybe a bit confused but I was reading and then suddenly found myself in the comments box before I knew it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Steve,

    I agree, for the last four months all I have heard is rhethoric about the format of the evening service. I personally feel it has been more damaging to the congregation than good. GOD DOESN’T CARE HOW WE WORSHIP HIM AS LONG AS WE DO IT.

    Providing you stick to three principles you can not go wrong

    1)Don’t change what isn’t broken
    2)Don’t do anything that makes people want to cringe and think these Christians are like little kids (I.e draw cartoons with crayons, plant tomato plants, write a song / psalm about God)
    3)Don’t ask people to turn to a complete stranger and talk to them about GOD…. seriously forcing a nervous person to do something they may not want to do is never going to encourage them. They will never come back!

    I think it may be time to move on from this subject and talk about God in our lives and how we can be “letters of recomendation to God”. I appreciate some may see that representing God can also be
    in our evening service but I think we have got the point; we want to be more relevant to our community to try and make church more accessible.

    Maybe we should just get some bigger doors and hold a normal church service, controversial as that may be!

    Pete (sorry forgot blooger login)

  16. vicky says:

    I think Stephen raises a valid point. We need to be careful that people don’t leave church more struck by the form than the content, by a creator rather than THE Creator, entertained but not enlightened.

    Fortunately, most of the ‘creative’ stuff that I’ve seen at church has helped to point me to God and at the very least has challenged the common perception that church is dry, dull, boring, old-fashioned.

    But I’m not interested in art for art’s sake in a church service. Unless it’s explicitly helping me, others, visitors, seekers, to understand more about God and/or to worship Him then I think we’d be better spending our time and energy on other activities.

  17. Mark says:

    What is the problem with art for arts sake?
    I think you need to mention that to God given how much time he seems to have spent on all this pointless beauty.
    Do we need a motive to create, or to love what is beautiful? I think it simply reflects being made in the image of God. And the functionalism of industrial society where form follows function seems to have proven to be frankly dehumanising.

  18. Jeremy says:

    I agree, art for art’s sake is useless, and if we’re doing it to be cooler than other churches then shame on us.
    However, I’m not sure about the ‘model’ and how close we need to stick to that. We need to be relevant to everyday life, and when you think about it, just how often does the average person listen to a central speaker do a verbal presentation to a group of people sat in rows? They tend to fall in two contexts I think: entertainment (the cinema, football matches) or education (lectures, classrooms). The gospel is both and neither of those -we’re presenting a whole way of life. It can’t be presented just like a business seminar, or a training event, because it’s not just a piece of useful information or good advice, or a consumer option. It has to be more than that, and we have to be able to communicate it with our entire lives. We need our central speakers, of course. We also need our musicians, and our writers, our poets, our painters. And we need our accountants, teachers, lawyers, market stall holders and cabaret impersonators, whatever we all are, demonstrating what it is to be a Christian, because the actual sunday service is a fraction of what it is to be church anyway.
    To come back to the stuff we’ve been doing in services, I guess it does appeal to certain people and not others. I obviously like things are a bit more conceptual, and I can understand that that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. When we look at the world though, we see people are quite used to picking up on subtle or even quite abstract forms of communication. Just watch an advert break and you’ll see some of our culture’s most creative communication at work. At church we tend to go for the Ronseal approach, but there is more to the gospel than that.
    Anyway, let’s keep talking about it.

  19. clare says:

    i like that you’re thinking ‘missionally’ steve i.e about the importance of our commission as church to be a light to our communities, but i also think that its important to challenge the way we as a church creatively communicate and interact with our faith. i think that we do use types of art to do this already in our services, mostly singing songs, and i dont think there is anything wrong with wanting to vary that a bit, particularly when you consider that a diverse group of people, tastes aside, has a whole range of different learning styles.

    i accept we have to check ourselves so we arent doing it for the sake of i dunno looking cool and different or something, but i think if you talk to anyone with a vision of enlarging and diversifying our creativity in our understanding, worship and mission, you’ll likely find out as i have, that they share a vision that means keeping culturally dynamic and relevant to be accessible to our generation, while working out our full purpose together as followers and worshippers of christ.

    oh and i like your idea of thinking more broadly about what ways our culture commuinicates: conferences, seminars etc. i think it would be great to hold a conference on an issue that we hold dear with parts of our wider society e.g. ethical issues like refugees and asylum seekers, local and global poverty, ethical living, ethical business practice… lets chat sometime…

  20. Stephen Mawhinney says:

    Art for art’s sake?

    One question I would ask is why are we being creative in a church service? Is it to be different and stand out from other churches or is it to reach out and appeal to a certain demographic. I don’t know what the vision team’s answer will be but I would go for option b.
    If it’s to reach out to a certain group then look at how we get messages across to them in similar events. For example, business seminars, pitches, lectures, training events, rallies even documentaries. What is the unifying theme across most of those? I’d say a central speaker telling us their point. Where is the creativity used and how is it used? The creativity is mainly used to aid the central speaker to get their point across and, to be honest, in this type of communication the creativity will be used in a fairly direct manner. Used in ways to help implant the idea in the mind such as acronyms, mnemonics, soundbites or chants and used to help bring the idea alive such as videos, illustrations and pictures.
    Where am I going with all this? I think we are in danger of having creativity for creativity’s sake in our service. Let’s do x, y or z because it will be creative rather than I need to make this point so I’ll do this to get it across. It might just be me but for the last couple of months I feel like I’m having more conversations about the presentation style of the evening service rather than the content of the evening service and that concerns me. So I’d say are we using creativity properly if that’s the case?
    If we are to learn from the communication styles of the world then let’s see how most of us get told a message, idea or point of view when a large(ish) group of people are gathered together. By moving too far away from this model we could be in danger of losing their attention (these things are researched to the nth degree to maximise impact), making them uncomfortable (they may not used to the style) or perhaps worst of all, becoming irrelevant.

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