Welcome to A Visual Feast!
This website is an on-going collaborative project of artists, writers, preachers, and poets, who examine the intersections of art and faith. If you are interested in participating in the project or offering a submission, please click here.
A Visual Feast is a devotional and homiletical resource for people to use in conjunction with the lectionary readings of the church year. The site is organized according to the liturgical days of the three-year lectionary. For each day, you will be able to access the following material:
- an image of art chosen in relation to the readings
- a brief historical description of the art and the artist; and
- a devotional reflection on the image that is related to the Scriptural readings for the day.
Why create another on-line resource for the lectionary and preaching?
While many on-line lectionary resources exist, the explicit integration of the visual arts into devotional and homiletical reflection on the lectionary readings is often absent or underdeveloped. In A Visual Feast, our purposes are as follows:
- To increase the use of the visual arts for teaching and preaching in the Church;
- To create an easy-to-use resource for pastors and Christian educators, where they can find ideas, art work, and inspiration tied to the liturgical year;
- To value the contribution of artists to the expression and development of the faith and, where possible, to support the work of contemporary artists;
- To reintroduce the importance of art in the spiritual life of the faithful.
For each day of the liturgical year, you will find an image of art, a brief historical description of the art and the artist, and then a devotional reflection that links the art to a theological teaching encountered in the text. This interaction of art, faith, and devotional reflection may provide you with a moment of devotional reflection in preparation for worship. It may offer a visual artifact that can be described or used in bible class. Or it may even provide you with an image that can be used in an image-based sermon design.
As you consider using these images, please observe the legal restrictions of copyright law. For description of the practice of fair use in relation to the display of art in religious worship, see sections 107-118 of Title 17 of the United States Code, attending particularly to Section 110 on page 24. You may also find helpful resources on determining fair use at the following website: http://www.benedict.com/Info/FairUse/FairUse.aspx.
Art and Preaching:
When you incorporate art into preaching, there are two decisions you make as a preacher:
Visual or Verbal Depiction:
The first decision is whether you rely on visual or verbal depiction of the image.
Visual depiction will offer the hearers a visual display of the image. It can be displayed on a screen or it can be printed on an insert placed into the worship folder that the people can take with them for contemplation at home. This display must be in accordance with the limits of fair use, and some images may be displayed in a worship service but not reproduced for a worship folder.
In visual depiction, the image is more powerful but the preacher has less control of how people respond to the image. They will remember the image (having seen it) and yet they may have trouble following the preacher’s description and interpretation because they are engaged in viewing and responding to the art on their own. Sometimes, it is helpful to display the art before the service begins so that your hearers can see and visually explore the piece before the sermon begins.
Verbal depiction will rely upon language and the imagination to evoke the image in the minds of your hearers. Sometimes, verbal depiction can be more personal as the hearers contribute to the construction of the image in their imagination.
In verbal depiction, the preacher has much more control over how the people respond to the image but the image may be less memorable (depending upon the clarity and power of one’s description). In describing the image, try to use concrete language that evokes the image for the hearers and, yet, also attend to what details you include and exclude. Your goal is not to reproduce the entire image for the hearers but rather to describe the aspect of the image that is important for the theological teaching you are seeking to communicate. Just as in telling a story a preacher is going to manage the details for the sake of the meaning, so too you will want to manage the details of the image you describe for the sake of the meaning you are communicating. In addition, attend to the poetic possibilities of your language. Sometimes, as you describe a concrete detail, you can use a particular phrase that has poetic or metaphoric possibilities later in the sermon. So, the gold on a canvas is described as a “glimpse of a rich kingdom bleeding through” and that phrase later describes the crucifixion of Jesus wherein we have a “glimpse of a rich kingdom bleeding through.”
Illustration or Structure:
The second decision is how the image will function in the sermon: as an illustration or as a governing metaphor or structure.
Sometimes, images can be brought into the sermon at the level of development. The preacher is developing an idea for the hearers and, just like the preacher would use a story to illustrate an idea, the preacher uses an image instead.
Other times, image can serve to structure the entire sermon. For image-based sermon structures see here.
Whether you are visually displaying the image or verbally describing it and whether the image is forming an illustration in the sermon or structuring the sermon, one skill you will want to develop as a preacher is the ability to look at images from various perspectives in order to arrive at a variety of teachings. For a listing of various perspectives that can be used in working with images and a lecture that takes you through the use of these perspectives, see here.
May God bless your contemplation and preparation of his word as you come and enjoy this Visual Feast.
The Rev. Dr. David Schmitt
The Rev. Dr. Erik Herrmann
The Rev. Brad Malone, assistant editor