Aesthetics and Worship

MS 3XN3/5XN3/6XN6

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, and other artisans and artists. One may see the beauty of God’s face or the wonder of God through creation, while another encounters the humanity of Jesus or the majesty of the ascended Lord. One hears the whisper, or sees the fire, or feels the wind of the Spirit, while yet another perceives the hand of God or the beauty of Christ manifested in their neighbour. Some have glimpsed magnificence while others have found darkness where they hoped to see light. In many cases, believers may worship God more deeply and perceptively through these artistic works as they participate in the unfolding story of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of believers past and present at worship.

So, the story of God is at the heart of this course in Aesthetics and Worship, and the Nicene Creed, which lays out the structure of this story, provides us with windows through which we will explore the integration of aesthetics and worship. (The Creed will be slightly reorganized to fit the academic calendar into the church calendar.) The church has had a troubled relationship with the arts, sometimes welcoming and 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 the church often defaults 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 something 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 all 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 the initiator of our worship.


  • understand why reflection on aesthetics and worship matters for the Church and your own life
  • grasp how the story of God and the church is revealed through the arts


  • be attuned to how a longing to glimpse divine beauty can lead towards fuller worship of God
  • be more perceptive to how the arts open our senses, hearts, and minds to the ways of God


  • have produced two significant written or creative pieces of work that probe theological aesthetics in ways that are relevant to you
  • have developed significant experience in the practice of noticing where the arts contribute to worship and be challenged by seeing how others perceive these