Artistic Diciplines

The arts are a form of discourse, a means of communication, a record of what humans believe about the nature of the world. Here at Wesley, we understand that the arts are a way of doing theology, of thinking about the nature of God and the relationship of that God to humankind and to all creation. Each of the arts speaks with its own distinctive voice, using the expressive language of body and breath, color and form, movement and sound. In chapel and classroom and studio and study, the arts proclaim the gospel, ask hard questions, and explore the inner lives and outward experiences of both practitioners and audience. 

  • Biblical Storytelling
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Literary Art
  • Music
  • Visual Art
  • Student storytelling at the Heart the Arts Festival 2013Biblical storytelling aims to provide an experience that engages an audience's entire being--eyes, ears, heart, gut, muscles, sinews, solar plexus and soul--in a visceral way. Unlike traditional theater, where the audience is a third-party observer of interactions between multiple characters up on stage, storytelling pulls the audience into the action (even if they never leave their seats) through eye contact between teller and audience. Listeners are invited into the action and ultimately become co-creators with the teller in a way that makes it very difficult to remain a passive listener. A frequent response is, "I felt like I was there."

    But before this can take place, the teller has to undergo a disciplined process of deep internalization, exegetical research, prayer and meditation, and exploration into personal connections with the story. Even though sticking close to the words is encouraged, the story isn't memorized ... it's embodied in a way that makes the word truly become flesh. In other words, biblical storytelling is an incarnation endeavor.

    Adjunct Faculty, Dr. Tracy RadosevicAssociate faculty Dr. Tracy Radosevic
    Tracy Radosevic is a professional biblical storyteller, educator, retreat facilitator, and preacher. Since 1997 she has traveled the globe bringing her unique brand of humor, faith, and insight to the sacred texts of the Bible, allowing her audiences to experience these stories in new, engaging, and refreshing ways. An active member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers since 1990, she now serves as the dean of their Academy for Biblical Storytelling, a one-year certification program. Tracy hails from Ohio but currently resides in Baltimore where she is involved in Habitat for Humanity, the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, and is Artist-in-Residence at her church: Mt. Vernon Place UMC.

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    Student dances at the Heart the Arts Festival Dance at Wesley has been evolving for many years and has joined the other arts at the seminary to become a regular occurrence in chapel services. Through this primary venue, it has been a vehicle for gathering the community, witnessing and interpreting, blessing and reflecting, and enlivening with festivity. If this sounds like liturgy, it is! Movement is a language, like music or words, and it is a language that is available to us in the church. But dance in worship is not only about a soloist or group of dancers dancing before the congregation; as liturgy is the work of the people, liturgical dance can also be the dance of the people as we worship God.

    Because there is not a dance studio at the seminary, dance has overflowed into nooks and crannies all over campus. Past rehearsals and performance projects have been seen in classrooms, the tunnel, the Art gallery, the courtyard, the refectory, and dorm hallways. Since 2002, a variety of dance artists have led half or whole day workshops at Wesley, including Clare Byrne, Sharon Mansur, Boris Willis, Sylvia Soumah, Chris Fitz, and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. Many of these events have been co-sponsored by the Potomac Chapter of the Sacred Dance Guild. The seminary also hosted Judith Rock for a 2 week residency in 2003 and has benefited from the continued support of Rev. Bruce Stewart.

    Dance at Wesley introduces students to what the early church knew and the contemporary church is in the process of recovering: there is great wisdom in the body. When we affirm and honor the body as part of our experience, in and beyond the walls of the church, we trust deeply that the One who gives us life was one of us and continues to meet us where we are. Through the most ancient medium of the body, we dance that meeting.

    Adjunct Faculty, Kathryn SparksAssociate Faculty, Kathryn Sparks
    Kathryn Sparks is a dancer, choreographer and teacher. Since 1995 she has focused on sacred and liturgical dance, honing a sophisticated set of tools for using dance creatively in worship. She has danced, choreographed and taught at the local, regional and national levels of the church and has pioneered the workshop and year round dance offerings for the seminary. In addition to her extensive work in churches, Kathryn has also created and directed evening length, community-based dance concerts involving professional and amateur dancers alike. She has had a life-long connection with the Iona Community, based in Scotland, is an active member of the Sacred Dance Guild, and enjoys dancing and playing with her local InterPlay community. She holds degrees in dance and theology.

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    Student group performing at the Heart the Arts FestivalDrama began in the church, and it rightly belongs in the chancel today as a powerful form of Christian witness, proclamation, testimony, and praise to the Creator whose gifts of speech, music, movement, and pictures are richly reflected in the dramatic event. Our most sacred rituals - communion, baptism, confirmation, laying on of hands, and many others - are themselves holy dramas that embody and re-present the earliest experiences of the Christian community.

    Students in Tableau for chapelAt Wesley Theological Seminary, we seek to reintegrate drama as a holy and intentional part of the life of the church. From biblical improvisation (bibliodrama) to liturgical drama, playwriting, and production of full-length plays, students at Wesley have the opportunity to explore the holiness of drama and its manifold uses in ministry. A series of course offerings enables students to equip themselves with the basic theatrical tools for ministry; to develop their individual talents as actors, directors, and stage managers; and to explore interests in playwriting by developing original monologues, scenes, and short plays for use in ministerial settings and in worship services at the Seminary. Students are encouraged - and in some courses, required - to venture outside the Seminary to explore Washington's diverse professional theatre scene - one of the most vibrant in the nation.

    Adjunct Faculty, Deryl DavisAssociate Professor, Deryl Davis
    Deryl Davis is a local actor, director, and writer working in Christian Education. He has performed with professional troupes in the Washington, DC area and studied with Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, as well as with local theatres including Shakespeare Theatre Company and The Studio Theatre. Deryl holds a master's degree in theology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a member of the Washington Playwrights Forum. His articles can be regularly seen in the quarterly "Washington Theater Review," where he is senior writer.

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    Student, David Stewart reads his poems at the Heart the Arts Festival 2013Literature is art made out of words – verbal art. The words of a poem, a novel, a play, a spiritual meditation, are the medium for imagination. Images, metaphors, the sound and music of words open our imaginations and our hearts, so that reading and writing become, not simply analytic exercises, but a way of prayer.

    My courses in literary arts at Wesley invite students to discover the religious imagination at work in verbal art, and to draw on their own imaginative response to literature to move toward deeper spiritual and theological insight. The poet Denise Levertov provides a guiding principle when she writes:

    "Poems present their testimony as circumstantial evidences, not as closing argument. Where Wallace Stevens says, "God and the imagination are one," I would say that the imagination, which synergizes intellect, emotion and instinct, is the perceptive organ through which it is possible, though not inevitable, to experience God." From "A Poet's View", in New & Selected Essays (New Directions, 1992), pp. 245-6.

    Adjunct Faculty, Dr. Kathleen Henderson StaudtAdjunct Faculty, Kathleen Henderson Staudt
    Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt works as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the Washington, DC area. At Wesley Theological Seminary, her courses focus on connections between literary art, the theology of grace and Scripture, and the spiritual practices involved in reading and writing poetry. Students in her classes are encouraged to respond creatively to the literary works that they read. She also teaches at Virginia Theological Seminary She has offered retreats, workshops, and poetry readings at the Washington National Cathedral and at area churches, including the annual Evelyn Underhill Day of Quiet offered at the Cathedral each year in June. Her poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in Christianity and Literature, Cross Currents, Sewanee Theological Review, The Anglican Theological Review, and Spiritus. She is the author of At the Turn of a Civilization: David Jones and Modern Poetics, as well as two books of poems: Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture and Waving Back: Poems of Mothering Life. She blogs at poetproph.

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    My commitment to raising awareness of the power of music and its particular means of communication in worship pervades each class I teach and each rehearsal I conduct. I am a musician, yes, but primarily a church musician, and it is within this context that I operate. I believe strongly in community-building within the choirs I conduct, as I am fully convinced that mutual care and prayer for one another are a key to singing well together. We explore music of many cultures (especially South Africa, where I lead inter-cultural immersion trips for Wesley students). I am also committed to sharing the ways music "makes a difference" in the world through classes on Spirituals and on Music and Social Justice.
    Eileen Guenther, Director of Music

    Associate Professor, Dr. Eileen GuentherProfessor, Eileen Guenther
    Dr. Eileen Guenther , Associate Professor of Church Music at Wesley Theological Seminary is iIn her third term as President of the American Guild of Organists (the largest organization in the world for organist and choral conductors). She is a national and international organ recitalist and has performed in recordings with Etherea Records, the US Air Force Orchestra and Vista Records (London).  Her interest in global music has taken her to teach in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire and she has led Wesley students on six trips to South Africa.  As an extension of her ministry she leads workshops on Spirituals, global music and clergy-musician relations for musical and denominational organizations.  Dr.Guenther’s book, Rivals or a Team? Clergy-Musician Relationships in the 21st Century was published by MorningStar Music Publishers in 2012.  She is Director of Music at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.

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    AIR Trudi Ludwig Johnson carves a wood blockFrom the prehistoric painters drawing by uncertain firelight deep in the caves at Alta Mira; to Michelangelo aiming hammer blows at blocks of marble to force them to release the sculpture held captive within; every printmaker who ends each day with cramping hands and aching back after endless hours of bending over a work table, painstakingly chiseling fine lines into a hardwood block; every potter who stays up all night to tend the kiln, every muralist who scrambles up and down scaffolding to get a better view of the day‘s work, artists have always grappled with the sheer physicality of what they do.

    Courses in the visual arts help students learn to see with new eyes, to consider the relationship between visual art and the church, and to understand the contribution that the visual arts have made to theological understandings throughout the ages, and to appreciate experientially the connection between matter and spirit. Whether learning to draw as a contemplative discipline; studying the art and architecture that have shaped Christian worship through the ages; or responding to the demands of materials as diverse as stained glass, clay, wood, or paper, students discover how material form both shapes and expresses inner vision.

    Visual Art at courses at Wesley are taught by Deborah Sokolove, and our Artists-In-Residence.

    Director and Professor, Dr. Deborah SokoloveDirector, Dr. Deborah Sokolove
    Deborah Sokolove teaches courses in art and worship. She received her B.A. and M.F.A. from California State University at Los Angeles; the M.T.S. from Wesley Theological Seminary; and the Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies from Drew University. Before coming to Wesley as Artist-in-Residence in 1994, she taught art, design, and computer animation at the university level. Her book, Sanctifying Art: Inviting Conversation Between Artists, Theologians, and the Church was published in 2013; Calling on God: Inclusive Language Prayers for Three Years of Sundays, was published in 2014. She has contributed articles to ARTS, Image, Call to Worship, and Lectionary Homiletics; prayers for several Sundays in each volume of the Abingdon Worship Annuals since 2011; and for several books on religion and the arts as well as the “Art, Studio” entry in the Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions. Her paintings have been shown locally and nationally, and are represented in numerous collections including two works in Oxnam Chapel: a set of Stations of the Cross, and Sanctus, which was created as part of the chapel renovation. Sokolove is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the North American Academy of Liturgy, Christians in the Visual Arts, and is on the Board of Directors of the Society for Religious and Theological Studies. She is a Steward of Seekers Church, an intentional Christian congregation in the tradition of Church of the Saviour, where she serves on the worship planning group and frequently preaches and leads worship.

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