I spent this past week in Charleston, SC with my fiancée, my two brothers, and my sister (also, four dogs and one cat...talk about allergies!). This was a trip to see family and also celebrate my engagement which happened two weeks ago. It was a long drive for such a short period of time, but it was well worth it. I have been to Charleston several times before but this time specifically allotted me the chance to really enjoy what the city offered. For two days I was able to get my head out of books and my feet into the water. A nice celebratory dinner and a sunset sail boat ride along the bay made for an excellent Saturday evening.
It got me thinking though, especially in lieu of recently reading and hearing Andy Crouch speak on celebrating culture (author, Culture Making). I walked through downtown Charleston and found the markets. These small vendors were not mass producing computers, ipods, or cell phones. They were creating the small things which testify to the creator attribute which we’ve all been given.
They were creating culture with their hands; they were celebrating art, beauty, and cultivation with what they offered to the passer-byes. Whether they knew it or not, creating is a testimony to the imago dei within us. We have a God who is the Creator and he intends for us to glorify him in sharing in creation. What it means to bear God's image is, in part, to bear the image of a creator.
As I strolled by the shops–even buying a mantled butterfly which caught my eye–I noticed the old, stone built, Victorian style churches on the corners. These churches were open to the public to stroll through and take photographs. The cemeteries of these churches, for being places of the deceased, were places of beauty and awe with the gardens that surrounded them. A thought provoking place to say the least. And the point which got me as I stood there is this: The Church stood flat in the center of culture and was celebrated as part of it.
How many churches can stand on the corner of culture and say that it contributes to it in a significant way? How many churches are celebrated for what they offer and for the way they give back and celebrate culture? Few. Too few. The churches of Charleston could offer up to the city something which was celebrated immensely within that time period: the beauty of art and architecture. It stood as a beacon of creativity signifying the tension of a world in the midst of a revolutionary change. God’s kingdom stood with such power and immensity that it not only offered something to culture, it towered over culture! We don’t celebrate art and architecture in the same way as generations past; but where culture is celebrated, shouldn’t the church be there?