Art Exists to Share God’s Story

By: Bethany Farrell

Worship and art have been intrinsically intertwined since the beginning of time. The Bible introduces God with two identifying characteristics: He was there in the beginning, and He is a creator. The rest of the Good Book gives us a taste of what His imagination and creativity brought to life (in summary – everything), and artists have spent the rest of time trying to capture that creativity in the form of stained glass, paintings, poetry, song, dance, photographs, tapestries, concertos, etc. Humans are drawn to art and creativity because we are fashioned in the likeness of the ultimate Creator.

The use of art in worship has changed over time, but it has always been present. In the building of His temple in Exodus 31, God was intentional about prioritizing beauty – not only utilizing artists but blessing them with the gift of His Spirit. King David danced with all his might before the Lord, showing full surrender in his praise. When Jesus walked on earth, He ministered through parables, introducing people to the ways of His kingdom with imagery and short stories. There is evidence of stained-glass windows adorning churches as early as the 7th century, making it possible for even the illiterate congregants to become familiar with Bible stories. If you look closely, you will find innumerable examples of how artists throughout time have used their gifts to bring people into a closer relationship with God – to tell His story, and to tell it beautifully.

In a similar fashion, the arts in The Salvation Army Southern Territory have been an ever-evolving presence in worship. After decades of timbrels, theater troupes, musicals, and the rogue dance or two, the first Territorial Creative Arts Ensemble (TCAE) was established in 2007 under the leadership of Roberta Simmons-Smith. This flagship team of eight singers/actors/dancers met three times a year for ministry weekends around the territory, and to support Commissioning events with artistic offerings. TCAE often traveled with the Territorial Band and Songsters (now Southern Staff Band and Southern Staff Songsters) and would also tackle their own ministry weekends presenting full-length plays and programs. This ensemble built great momentum for the arts across the territory, and the presence of scripts, dances, and other creative elements became a well-accepted standard in programming.

In 2022, after observing the development of the arts and artists across the territory, Territorial Creative Arts Director Bethany Farrell rebranded this ensemble as the Territorial Arts Ministries (TAM) Team, adjusting the vision to meet the needs of both the artists and the field. Today, the TAM Team roster boasts over twenty artists of various artforms, all with a passion for Jesus and a willingness to volunteer their time and talents in ministry to others. By expanding their forces, TAM is afforded the flexibility to meet a greater variety of requests throughout the year, sending out casts of two, twenty, or anything in between.

If you watch closely, you will find the TAM Team supporting four divisions and six events of all different sizes over the next several months. You might see them leading divisional rehearsals, creating videos for worship services, writing and sharing scripts and choreography, performing at a local event, or even painting on the Commissioning stage. There is no limit to their creativity because it is God-given and God-driven, and they are eager to explore where He leads them and how their ministry will continue to develop. Maybe He will lead them straight to you!

At the heart of it all, the TAM Team exists for the same reason that art itself exists – to share His story. He will always remain center stage. To God be the glory!