A Little Theology with the Arts and Crafts

Fall Arts & Crafts Show & Sale coming Dec. 5

Fall Arts & Crafts Show & Sale coming Dec. 5

We are almost completely taken up with preparations for the Fall Arts and Crafts Sale, coming this Friday, December 5, 9:00 a.m. in Winn Center. The sale has grown, as we will be holding the December Gender and Ministry Committee meeting at the sale, the V-Day Project will be screening the film Until the Violence stops at 3:00 p.m. in McAtee A, and we’ll be enticing last-minute shoppers with an informal reception (including wine) beginning at 5:00 p.m. — if we have any merchandise remaining by that time! If not, perhaps the reception will just have to be a celebration.

The Fall Arts and Crafts Sale is one of our regular fundraising events, so we always hope for a successful sale. But the sale also allows us to get the Women’s Center out of the Center and into the main thoroughfare of the Seminary community, which we like — taking the Center to the community, rather than always expecting the community to come to the Center, so to speak.

And then, there is an element of depth to the subject matter of the Arts and Crafts sale. (As there is with most things, when one stops to think about it.)

Consider this: the book of Exodus contains 9 chapters or so devoted almost exclusively to the artisanal requirements of the Tabernacle. First the HOLY GOD lays out the exquisitely detailed plans (25-28). Then (after a fling with a golden calf — a kind of negative artisanship, in which Aaron figures as a demented goldsmith) the people bring materials — not just raw materials, but hand-crafted and fabricated ones (35). Finally, artisans are called by name — Bezalel and Oholiab — as having special skill and teaching ability (inspired), and then the work is carried out — again, with a lot of text devoted to the description of the work (36-39).

Without going into the commentary about symbolism of various motifs, numbers, and colors that attaches itself to these descriptions, it seems worth noting this: all this careful human creative work, this art and craft, ultimately becomes a habitation for the presence of the HOLY ONE. At the end of chapter 40, the glorious presence of God of Israel surrounds and fills the sanctuary.

It’s hard to believe that movement — from attentive, dedicated human activity, activity that crafts the stuff of creation into a precise and beautiful form (isn’t that what art is, or part of what art is?), inspired by a vision from “somewhere else”, a vision of what isn’t yet but might be, to the recognition of the presence of the Holy One, with us — is either coincidental, or confined to the time of the ancient Israelites. The practice of art and craft is one of the practices wherein people encounter God.

Well, we’re not saying that people will see God at the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale. Exactly.

But our attention to arts and crafts is one way of saying that it is unjust to disparage and disregard this area of human activity — as we people have done for long, in consequence of its association with the feminine. Unjust, and unwise, since artisanry is part of that human work called for and called forth by God, that goes in to crafting the people and the beauty in which God desires to dwell.

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