Aesthetics and Worship

MS 3XN3/5XN5/6XN6

The beauty and wonder of the story of God has been and continues to be told around the world by writers, poets, painters, composers, sculptors, architects, artisans, preachers, theologians, biblical scholars, and others. While one person may see the beauty of God’s face or the wonder of God through creation, another finds beauty in the humanity of Jesus or in the majesty of the ascended Lord. One hears the whisper or sees the fire or feels the wind of the Spirit, while another perceives the hand of God or the beauty of Christ manifested in their neighbour. Some glimpse magnificence, but others perceive beauty even in the darkness where they hoped to see light. In many cases, believers worship God more deeply and perceptively through artistic works that participate in the unfolding story of God and of God’s people, past and present, at worship.

So, the story of God is at the heart of this course in Aesthetics and Worship. But the church has had a troubled relationship with the arts, sometimes welcoming, sometimes prohibiting. Today we see expanding awareness of the value of the arts in worship and increasing efforts to interlace theology and the arts, but churches often default to the lowest common denominator. Churches want arts that make people feel good, are easily accessible, and are widely appreciated, but significant art may require much more of us. Meanwhile, the struggle to be inclusive but discerning about the arts in worship compels us to move towards a more nuanced vision of welcome and wisdom. Come to this course with a spirit of exploratory adventure and be prepared to engage in a collaborative conversation. We won’t solve the issues, but we will develop a deeper understanding of theological aesthetics and a greater awareness of how the Spirit of God is moving through the arts and artists in places of worship. These link us worldwide in a community of worship that has potential to transcend boundaries of many kinds and direct us back to God himself, who is both the originator of beauty and of our worship.


  • understand that aesthetics and worship matters for the Church and for your own life, and
  • grasp how the story of God and the church may be revealed through the arts, and how the arts in worship can challenge us to live more deeply as worshipers and believers.


  • produce two significant pieces of work that probe theological aesthetics in ways that are relevant to you, and
  • develop your practice of noticing where and how the arts contribute to worship and what gets in the way.


  • develop a longing to glimpse divine beauty that can lead towards fuller worship of God, and
  • allow your senses, heart, and mind to dwell in the beauty of God’s ways and creation, even where it seems unlikely or even impossible.