The Seventh-day Adventist Church, generally speaking, has had a problem with art. To be more specific, the Adventist Church has struggled in knowing what to do with creatives. Because art, in its many forms, can be evocative, imaginative, emotive and often fictive, it doesn’t always fit nicely within the modernist worldview that birthed Adventism and continues to drive so much of what the church does. Sure there have been the Harry Andersons and the Jaime Jorges (whose art has sometimes felt like precious metal forged into ladles for dishing up doctrinal soup), but the shelving of The Record Keeper is the classic example of how art outside boxes freaks out some church leaders.
The North American Division’s SONscreen Film Festival is one way that Adventists are trying to make space for young creatives in film.
Another is the Pacific Union Conference Church Support Service’s inSpire, launched in 2012. Here’s how the inSpire website describes the project:
inSpire is one of several projects being sponsored by Church Support Services, a research and development entity for creative ministry in the Pacific Union Conference. inSpire is a web community where Seventh-day Adventist members gifted in, and passionate about the creative arts, can share their ideas and creations in a collaborative way. Songwriting, drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, poetry, videography and more can be used in powerful ways to convey God's stories of hope and healing to our churches and surrounding communities.
There's still a sense in which the project sounds more Hope Channel than LA Philharmonic—still art in service of the goals of the Adventist Church as much as the Adventist Church in service of the arts (one could make the case that art for art's own sake could—even should—be considered integral to the mission of the church, but that's a topic for a different article). Nevertheless, efforts like inSpire are crucial steps toward fostering a more creative, artistically-oriented Adventist community. The Pacific Union Conference is serious about encouraging an array of arts, and is throwing resources into promoting creativity.
One way they’re doing that is with the inSpire 2016 Songwriting Contest. With an open call to all Adventist songwriters, inSpire plans to record and release an album of original worship, featuring winners of the contest. Here’s the fine print:
Each song should be an original worship song written and recorded acoustically that conveys a spiritual message. The top 10 songs will be included on an unplugged inSpire CD that inSpire will produce and distribute. The collection will be offered free to anyone who wishes to download it, but a physical CD will also be produced and sold at cost.
Execution - Each song should be submitted as an MP3 recording. We're asking that the recording quality be as best as you can get (preferably in a studio, but if not, with quality equipment in your home). We prefer an acoustic guitar, or piano, singer/songwriter style recording that clearly features the lyrics and allows the construction of the song to shine.
Works submitted must be created by you and not entered into a previous inSpire songwriting contest. Neither should they be derivatives of other copyrighted works. For example, do not submitted modified hymns.
Song Limit - Each songwriter may submit up to 2 songs
Submission Fee: $15 for one song, or $25 for two.
Submission Dates - January 7 - March 24, 2016
To submit an original piece to the contest, visit the inSpire 2016 Songwriting Contest website.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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