When the latest issue of Divinity, the divinity school's alumni magazine, came out this fall, readers may have thought they were getting an art-school publication by mistake. The magazine included articles on the role of artists in the church, the theology of jazz music, and "A Defense of Christian Kitsch."
The theme was chosen to reflect the divinity school's arts initiative, one of the few in the country to examine the relationship between theology and art. Sparked in part by the 2008 hire of Jeremy Begbie, a theologian and classical pianist who studies the interplay between music and theology, the initiative has spawned student groups such as the Creation Arts Group, which curates an annual art exhibition and musical performances. The arts played prominently in the school's fall Convocation and Pastors School, which offered attending pastors breakout sessions on prayer and dance, writing spiritual autobiographies, and theology and jazz.
Divinity Dean Richard Hays says he has long seen the arts as "a way of cultivating disciplines of attention and forming character in such a way that it makes people good interpreters of the Word."
"Artists are seeking to give expression to their spiritual quest through their work of artistic creation," he says. "One of the things we need to do as a divinity school is to help us think well about how we do that, and we need to do it with integrity, theological depth, and consciousness."
As for the magazine, "we've had a very good response," says Divinity editor Heather Moffitt. "Someone who attended the Convocation and Pastors School got the magazine and was so pleased she told us this is the place where she wants to be, and now she's applying to the divinity school."