Event Shares Findings of Sacred Imagery in Los Angeles Congregations Project
The Brehm Center at Fuller Theological Seminary invited the public to explore the intersection of visual culture with Jewish and Buddhist spirituality through an interfaith arts colloquium Thursday, October 23, held at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. "Temples of the Heart: A Colloquium on the Role of Visual Culture in Spiritual Practice," was led by Fuller Professor of Theology and Culture Bill Dyrness and shared the continued findings of the Brehm Center’s Sacred Imagery in Los Angeles Congregations project, one of three similar symposiums thus far.
The Sacred Imagery project began with a 2004 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to study the role of visual images and culture in Christian worship. A renewed grant has allowed scholars at the Brehm Center to expand their research, beginning to look at the various ways in which images, architectural space, and ceremonial practices express and inform other faith traditions. The study is especially interested in how these traditions are both changing and persisting in the dynamic pluralistic setting of Southern California.
Leah Buturain, senior researcher for Luce Sacred Imagery, shared the results of research at Los Angeles synagogues Temple Emanuel, Temple Israel, and Adat Ari El, complemented by images of Jewish community life by freelance photographer Bill Aron. Leaders and congregants enthusiastically participated in interviews about the role of the visual in their personal and corporate faith experiences.
Initially, some participants doubted that modern Judaism, as a largely textual religion, also emphasized a rich visual culture. However, when asked about specific objects and rituals, many realized that the sensory, including the visual, was indeed quite relevant to their spiritual practice. Buturain also found that "even as some communities create new rituals, within the same temples there are people retrieving more orthodox and traditional ones."
The second presentation, by Hirokazu Kosaka, artistic director of Los Angeles’s Japanese American Community and Cultural Center, served as a preview of the Brehm Center’s upcoming research initiative: visual culture in Buddhism. Kosaka, who splits his time between Los Angeles and a Buddhist monastery in the Toyko area, shared his impressions of two favorite gardens and explained the significance of the veranda as a space in between the categories of outdoor and indoor. "In Japan, we even have different names for various shades of gray," Kosaka said. "Our language and culture is about this buffer zone."
Regarding the relevance of the Sacred Imagery project, Leah Buturain quoted evangelical leader Jim Wallis: "More and more people find themselves drinking at the wells of each other’s spiritual traditions and engaging in a deep and common quest."
Additional information about upcoming Brehm Center events can be found by calling 626-304-3789 or emailing email@example.com.