J Scott McElroy

Over the Rainbow Transcendence in Church

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity on September 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

“Imagine if the local church became the place in culture to experience creativity, transcendence, and beauty.”

That’s one of the thoughts behind The New Renaissance Arts Movement  that I’m part of.  Honestly, these are things that are not often experienced in many churches. At least not yet.  So, over the summer we presented The Creative Church Conferences in Indy and Boise to create forums for ideas that could inspire artists and church leaders to be facilitators of God’s creativity in local churches.  To our joy, inspiration did happen on many levels.

One moment that particularly thrilled me came during one of our worship sets in Indianapolis. Before the Saturday evening session with Theresa Dedmon, Jason Barrows and The Heritage led us in a beautiful worship set made up of many of their original songs.  A sweet, restful spirit washed through the place.  We’d absorbed nearly two full days of teaching and discussion up to that point and the chance to settle in God’s presence during worship was serene. Then Jason took it to another level. He and the band surprised us with a nearly a capella rendition of “Over the Rainbow”.

I’ve been to a number of “seeker-sensitive” churches that will use “secular” songs during worship for various reasons. Sometimes it works better than others. I’ve heard some songs that felt completely out of place and forced, and a few that did add something special to the worship. At our church we’ve worked songs like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (1) into the mix with good results, and we often integrate a chorus from “Babylon” by David Gray (2) into the worship song  “I Love Your Presence”(3), which is wonderful and often brings me to tears.

But this version of “Over the Rainbow” knocked my socks off. In the situation it seemed like the perfect song; just sublime and peaceful, at the same time nostalgic and heavenly minded. You could feel the Holy Spirit’s hand on it, comforting us, giving us a pure and simple gift. Really, a beautiful, creative, and transcendent experience–just what we were there to talk about creating.   A number of attendees just “lost it” with joyful tears.

At that moment I realized that there might not be another song that captures the basic human longing for heaven so well, “Christian” songs included. It’s made up of rainbows, dreams, happy Bluebirds, simple lyrics, clear voices and lovely harmonies. No deep theology, just truth that our heart can connect with. No evangelism, just the desire to be with our Father in a better place.

I wonder if we wouldn’t do well to introduce that kind of childlike joy and longing into our churches and services a little more often.

Here is that rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by The Heritage. I haven’t been able to stop watching and listening to it. Enjoy!


(1)See “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, HERE

(2)See “Babylon” by David Gray, HERE

(3)See “I Love Your Presence” w/”Babylon” chorus from Bethel Worship, HERE

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  1. I’ve just discovered this movement of artists and I’m so amazed! After so many years, a lifetime really, of working in business, I’ve felt Him calling me back to my first love: the arts. And now I find that He’s been calling all of these other artists in the same way He’s been calling me. It’s like being Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when he discovers that this crazy calling in his heart has been heard by other people all over the world, too, and he’s not alone. It’s all so wonderful!

    On the topic of music, since I’ve been saved, I’ve always wanted to hear someone sing “You Are So Beautiful to Me” in church. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bor44-RK44U. Isn’t He though?? So happy to be following your blog! :))

  2. The whole conference was great but yes…that was a very magical time. That’s for sharing again.

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