The moment I stepped into the sanctuary I knew that this was going to be something different. The only lights in the worship area are blue and they light the stage, where a white bearded DJ sits mixing an eclectic beat. The music comprised a unique combination of electronic sounds, strings and percussion, with the occasional echo of everyday sounds – chirping birds, bells and vocals. A light white smoke drifts among the amps, wires and speakers. A fragmented mural Jesus looks down from the high wall behind the stage. A thoughtful transcendence fills the room. It smells like coffee.
Canvas Conference 2016 is about to start.
The uniqueness of the atmosphere is amplified by the uniqueness of the crowd that has assembled. The guy next to me makes videos and plays something like five musical instruments. I love to read and write. The audience around us is composed of a wide variety of creatives including photographers, designers, musicians and writers. In the coming days we will hear from poets, preachers, professors, theologians, rappers and singer/songwriters.
What brings such a crowd together? Many things. Aspiration. Inspiration. Networking. But perhaps the heart of the endeavor is a desire to recover a clearer picture of our humanity. Who are we? Why do we create? What deeper reality within our own hearts does our creativity point to? The theologians help the artists think more thoroughly about the reason for their creative drives. The artists help the theologians see the moving beauty of the things they profess. Together they work to build a more wholistic sense of what it means to be human, both in our hearts and in our minds.
Honestly it is hard to think of a single aspect of our daily lives that is not permeated by creativity. We cannot merely live. We long to live beautifully. We want meaning and significance in the little moments. What explains such a personal longing for art? A personal God who creates. He is the God of fiery sunsets, epic mountain peaks, rainbow colored frogs and birds that spread their blue feathers to dance to each other. He is mixing the shades and tones of the galaxies even when no one is watching. He leaves upon our souls the fingerprint of his image – a personal, spiritual being that needs beauty and meaning to move forward. This is what we are.
And yet there is a dark side. Our creativity often brings forth perversion, distortion and ache. Call it what you want, but just as creativity fills every aspect of life, so does our fallenness. Something is broken, disconnected, disrupted. In many ways the christian story of the world is the story of (re)creativity. Though we seek to be our own gods and live a life independent of our Maker, he finds a way to make profound beauty, even out of our ashes. Jesus comes to pay the price for our rebellion and opens the door to reconnect us to the One who created us. He begins the work of taking our pride and selfishness and resculpting our hearts to sing the only song that the universe sings. We are his divine work of art, the trophies of his love and grace.
Creativity and (re)creativity are at the heart of the story of the world. This is the story that Canvas Conference 2016 set out to tell. And it did so in a manner that was both compelling and spectacular. It challenged me. It made me think more deeply about myself and the world I see. It helped me continue to bring my creative drives to their proper places. It enabled me see the real beauty that surrounds me everywhere I go, the fingerprint of the ultimate Artist.