Two week-long intensive courses will be offered in New York City this summer
The Brehm Center for
Worship, Theology, and the Arts is offering two new classes this summer
that will bring students to the Big Apple.
The week-long experiential learning intensives are taught in
New York City and include excursions to some of the most famous and iconic art
scenes, and guest lectures from teachers, artists, and theater-hands working in
the city that never sleeps.
“Not too many seminaries offer theology courses where you
immerse yourself in the context you are studying,” said Nate Risdon, associate
director of the Brehm Center. “Nor are too many seminaries teaching courses
that look at the relationship between theology and the arts to the depth that
Professor Todd E.
Johnson, theological director for the Brehm Center, will be heading up both
classes. He says that besides providing a uniquely NYC flavor, the classes will
give students intense community learning experiences.
Students enrolled in the courses will interact online before
meeting in NYC, and once on the ground, engage in the classes, which will emphasize
exchange of ideas, questions, and opinions, Johnson said.
The two classes are called “Theological Methods for the
Arts” and “Christian Vocation.” The theological methods course is similar to
the Worship, Theology, and the Arts Touchstone course currently offered at
Fuller, but Johnson will use NYC’s museums, galleries, and other art resources
to help serve as examples of the intersection of theology and art. Renowned
artist Makoto Fujimura, founder of International Arts Movement and the Fujimura
Institute, is slated to be one of the guest lecturers.
The vocation class was created because of a book co-written by Johnson and
Dale Savidge of Christians in the Theatre Arts titled “Performing the
Sacred: Theology and Theatre in Dialogue.”
“We received so much positive feedback from people about how
helpful it was in naming the vocational questions raised working in theatre or
any art that we thought this was an itch that obviously needed to be
scratched,” Johnson said.
As a result, a directed reading course on the history and
theology of vocation was held in NYC in the summer of 2010. The class included meetings
set up with Christians involved in a spectrum of roles in theater. The course
this year will be expanded to include conversations with people from other arts
as well. And the Brehm Center is teaming up with groups like the International
Arts Movement, Church and Art Network, and Center of Art and Work to make the
class a larger experience.
Elspeth Noble, who graduated from Fuller last year with a
Master of Arts in Theology, is an alumna of that first NYC class in 2010. She
said this was the course for her to
take while at Fuller.
“I have a background in theater, and the whole inspiration
of coming to the Brehm Center was to explore theater and theology in dialogue,”
Noble said. “This class gave me the opportunity to explore the concept of
Christian vocation in an artistic and theatrical context. We had ‘formal’ class
time in the Empire State Building, and we had great ‘informal’ class times
meeting Christians throughout the theater world.”
Students also had their “fill of Broadway and off-Broadway
productions which were ripe for conversation regarding the intersection of
faith, the arts, and culture,” Noble added.
Current MAT student Christopher Manus hopes to enroll in
both NYC classes. With a Master of Fine Arts degree under his belt and
aspirations to start a community arts ministry, Manus said the courses combine
his passion for using art to talk about God.
“A strong calling for me is to bring Christian and
non-Christians together to collaborate on artistic projects such as theater and
film,” he said. “Dialogue fosters relationships, and to me, relationships are
the key to communicating and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Plus, the offering provides an opportunity to take a travel
course that is less expensive than the immersion
classes that go overseas.
Master of Divinity student Jennifer Thigpenn said that as a
Southern California native she’d like to experience the music and art scene on
the East Coast.
“People I’ve met that are from the East Coast think so
differently than West Coast people, so having been in this L.A. culture my
entire life, to go there and get a little bit of a taste of that would be
amazing,” Thigpenn said. She serves as worship pastor at New Heart Foursquare
church in Simi Valley.
She noted that it’s easy to become narrowly focused on the
place she lives and works. She hopes the NYC trip will help to broaden her
But the class is not limited to MAT or MDiv students who are
pursuing worship or arts concentrations. The class isn’t even limited to
individuals pursuing a masters degree.
Students working toward the six course Theology and the Arts
certificate program at
Fuller are encouraged to make the classes part of their experience. And
individuals, who are simply interested in exploring art and faith in New York,
can sign up too.
“The richness of theological education informs every
component of the Christian life, whether we are in vocational ministry or
merely longing for a deeper theological understanding of our calling in
business, the arts, education, politics, entertainment or family life,” said
Christy Tennant Krispin, contributing author to Christianity Today’s “This is
Our City” column. “This course is designed to stimulate our thinking and
provoke our passions as they reflect the gifts and opportunities God has placed
“I would highly recommend this class to others,” she said.
“The combination of academic study, relational time with artists, and the
opportunity to watch and interpret a wide variety of performance art was
entirely inspiring and still gives me food for thought two and a half years