Students Talk Theology and Art in NYC

The Brehm Center hosts two new immersion classes in the Big Apple

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Manhattan's West Side got a visit from Fuller students as they kicked off the Brehm Center's new one-week immersion course with a walking field trip to the High Line, a mile-long elevated park built on an old freight rail line.

The group of 16 students, led by Professor Todd E. Johnson, theological director for Fuller's Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts, commented on the architecture and the artwork peppering the buildings and walkways along the High Line.

"Many pieces of art or art programs can be a center point for a community," Johnson said, noting that churches and Christians can use art as a conversation piece.

This brand new one-week intensive course is titled "Theological Method for Worship and the Arts," and will explore the various ways in which theology can be conveyed through art and artistic communication. The course has brought students from all over the globe including Ireland, Britain, Singapore, and different states on the East Coast.

(To view more photos from the first day of class, click here.)

As the class communed on the steps of one of the High Lines many seating areas, Johnson introduced questions such as how does space affect community and a sense of humanity, and what responsibility do Christians have for their physical and social environment.

Richard Min, an MDiv student at Fuller's Pasadena Campus, said he was intrigued in the way the historic rail line was transformed into a peaceful walking place.

"It reminds me of the passage in Ecclesiastes where it says there is a time when rain falls and a time when the sun shines," Min said, adding that the space communicates an impermanence of people and their desires.

Florida resident Paige Reddick, who is getting her MDiv through Fuller's online program, said she feels that nature bears a direct connection to God.

"It's more challenging to feel that connection in urban areas," she said. "Art can open up more avenues."

After the visit to the High Line, the class reconvened at the International Arts Movement, which donated its space for the Brehm Center to hold their classes.

The afternoon discussion turned to topics such as Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, the influence of New York City art and music, the power of the artist and how to engage in theological discussion of art.

"Not all art is religious, but many forms of art engage with issues of ultimate concern, like life and death, love, and betrayal," Johnson said. "Sometimes art communicates in such a way that it has 'gospel overtones,' and the question is how to build bridges between those artists and God."

The class will continue through the week and will include additional field trips to the Cloisters museum and gardens, which features art and architecture of medieval Europe, and a tour of galleries in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

The week will be followed by another one-week intensive course titled "Calling: the History, Theology, and Experience of Christian Vocation" jointly taught by Johnson and Dale Savidge of Christians in the Theatre Arts.

To get live updates and photos of the students' experiences in New York City, visit twitter.com/fullerseminary and instagram.com/fullerseminary.

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