At our church we are currently preparing for a community wide Art Auction. Last week we covered every inch of wall space in our building and hung up over 200 pieces of art created by church members sometime during the past 4 years. We’ve also had many local artists donate pieces to be sold during our auction and we expect over 500 people from the community to come to this event.
With Art hanging everywhere in our building it has been really fun for me to see people slowly walking our sanctuary and hallways, gazing at each piece as they walk by. I’ve picked out a few favorites that I’m hoping to take home but I kind of assumed “my favorites” would be everyone else’s favorites too, so I’d probably never win the auction. However, I’ve been surprised to listen as everyone shares their thoughts and favorites with each other. The pictures I thought no one would want are the exact ones some people are bidding up and almost every piece of art has multiple bidders. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and art has a way of drawing different people in through different ways.
I’ve always been amazed by artists because I have a hard time writing my name legibly. That is probably why I appreciate art so much and why it draws me into the Father; because I know it’s something I can’t create myself. David Morgan’s, book The Sacred Gaze – Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice addresses the need for us to gaze at images more then we already do. Morgan’s book is a deep book and adds layers to my understanding and appreciation of art.
Morgan starts off his book explaining what it means to gaze “A gaze is a practice, something that people do, conscious or not, and a way of seeing that viewers share.” This is something I’ve been seeing everyday for the past week as people walk around our building but it was on the next page we see Morgan define “Sacred Gaze” and where I felt challenged as a pastor. Morgan states, “Sacred gaze is a term that designates the particular configuration of ideas, attitudes, and customs that informs a religious act of seeing as it occurs within a given cultural and historical setting. A sacred gaze is a way of seeing which invests an image, a viewer or an act of viewing with spiritual significance.” As people walk around our building gazing at the different pieces of art, what can I do to help people turn their gaze into a scared gaze?
Morgan’s book walks through the importance for, not just gazing, but sacred gazing. Morgan sates the reason for this book when he says, “ “I wish to show how visual studies can contribute to the scholarly understanding of religion. The value of theoretical reflection should be measured, finally, by the contribution it makes to illuminating the actual objects of study: the visuality of religion.” In other words Morgan is showing us that how we gaze influences our beliefs.
Throughout Morgan’s book he methodically shows us that we cannot fully understand different faiths without understanding the power Art and Images have in shaping what one believes. Knowing that how we gaze impacts what we believe has left me wondering, these next few weeks as people walk through our church gazing at the images and drawings what kind of things can I be doing to help people turn their gaze into a sacred gaze?
 David Morgan, The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 2.
 Ibid., 3
 Ibid., 27