There it is. That’s the new, revised, shortened-so-you-can-memorize-it, mission statement of anima: the Forum for Worship and the Arts at Samford University. It names what we hoped to do when anima launched in 2012, and it clarifies what we’ve continued to do since anima’s inception.
Before anima emerged from the womb, two separate thought patterns surfaced consistently among Samford leadership: 1) all of the possibilities inherent in worship and the arts, and 2) research related to teenagers and the church. Over time, these two thought patterns merged into a single vision: the unexplored potential worship and the arts might have to engage teenagers as full, active, conscious participants and leaders in worship.
Research says that 40-50% of today’s teenagers will walk away from the church before they graduate college. While that message can be doom and gloom, we don’t read it that way. Stated positively, the research suggests 50-60% of today’s teenagers have the potential to keep the faith. That’s good news! And, so is John Drane’s observation in The McDonaldization of the Church that “we live in a time when the overt search for spiritual meaning has never been more intense than it is now.”
So, here we are at anima, taking the dialogue between the church and the arts to a sacramental level. We’re doing it because we believe that twenty-first century worshippers want to engage the mystery of God with all that they are. It’s no longer enough for teenagers to know about God. Teenagers want to know God. They’ve grown up in a post-9/11 world where violence, division, and destruction seem to dominate, and where words alone are inadequate. In our attempt to cultivate wholeness, unity, and beauty, we see the arts as a means of catechesis – or faith formation – for the future.
By providing teenagers with opportunities to connect their imagination, creativity, and enthusiasm to the possibilities and power inherent in the arts in their myriad forms, we hope to highlight for the church the potential of a new generation that seeks not only to know about God, but to feel the pulse of God – a God of beauty, truth, and love.