Faith is deliciously sensuous. It calls forth from us a long, loving look at the extravagant beauty of the world.
Faith brings mindful seeing, a renewed attentiveness to the handiwork of God all around us. In faith, we are invited to attend to things small and large, fragile and threatening, with patience, delight, and awe. We are summoned to linger over particularity with heightened sensitivity and expectation of surprise. Faith transfigures our casual seeing into the wonder-filled, wide-eyed gaze of a child.
As children of God we have been created in God’s image. Memphis Theological Seminary’s Theology and Arts Program (MTAP) believes that exploration of the arts is not optional, but is an essential part of our faith. MTAP exists so that we can engage in creation alongside God who is the Divine Artist calling us to recognize beauty in the Theater of God* which is all of Creation. Our own creative acts bear witness to the hand of God. As created and creative people, we do not sit back and watch the Artist at work, but we are called to join in, to participate, and to create in order to respond to the Divine Artist. The arts is that place where theology gets traction.
This is why we seek to find intersections where theology meets the arts. When we do, we find ways to fully realize our humanity as we participate in creation together and alongside God.
We do this in many and varied ways:
We offer a Doctor of Ministry in Theology and Arts.
We provide space on campus for local artists to display their work in rotating art exhibits.
We incorporate the arts into our regular worship services.
We offer MTAP electives in our Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degrees.
We provide opportunities to have conversations with artists about their work and faith through our regular Art & Soul Theology and Arts Lunch Hour events.
We partner with local arts organizations to offer discounted or free tickets to art happenings in our
We value our faculty who are artists in addition to being theologians – photographers, musicians,
actors, writers, poets, storytellers, and singer/songwriters.
We have an art studio open to students on campus (coming soon!).
* “Theater of God” is a phrase coined by Presbyterian theologian, John Calvin.
The Memphis Theological Seminary Theology and Arts Artist-in-Residence Program is as unique as MTS and its home, Memphis. Supported by local philanthropists Henry and Jeanne Varnell, artists have ranged in preferred media. Dancers, poets, visual artists, actors, and musicians have served anywhere from 6 months to two years among students, faculty and staff at MTS. The purpose for the artist-in-residence is to compliment the current theology and arts curriculum on campus. What makes our artists-in-residence unique is their ability to not only work at the intersection of theology and arts, but also communicate the ways in which they do so. Artists-in-residence regularly participate in our weekly worship services, provide presentations for classes, lead workshops, and exhibit their work. By doing so, our students gain hands-on learning about what it means to be an artist theologian and learn ways to bring their own ministry contexts to the intersection of the arts and theology.
Our current artist-in-residence is local visual artist, Martha Kelly. She is completing the first of a two year term while living daily as a working artist in Memphis, TN. Previous artists-in-residence include:
Our Theology and Arts program would be incomplete without a creative space where students, faculty, staff, and guests can access supplies and explore their gifts.
The MTS Art Studio is open to members of the MTS community and guests during regular business hours (visitors can receive a visitor’s pass from the reception desk in Founders Hall). The studio is located in the Facilities Building. Use of supplies is free, and donations of new or used supplies can be made by contacting the studio manager – firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the on campus studio, MTS also supplies a Mobile-Art-Studio as an outreach to our neighbors. Once a week this mobile studio is shared with our neighbors at Manna House.