For much of the time during the first several months of lockdown, Transpositions was on its usual summer break, but we did stay aware and connected with the unique ways in which both the arts and theology could speak into this time of pandemic, as well as how life-giving it was to be able to see and express responses to conditions in which words often fail us. The meaning-making and resultant hope that theology can provide was apparent in some of the ways theologians responded in sermons, liturgy-planning, blogs, journals and webinars, including God and the Pandemic, a much-watched webinar conversation between Rt Revd Professor Tom Wright and Francis Collins, Director of the US National Institutes of Health – followed by the release of the book by Wright. Liturgically, church-going Christians got used to new ways, at least temporarily, of being church. Decisions weighing how best to serve congregations were and continue to be grounded on theological considerations foundational to gathering as a community, worshipping, and celebrating the sacraments.
I would argue, however, that of the acronyms representing the disciplines of ITIA, ‘A’ (for the arts) truly has had its ‘day’ since coronavirus surged into a COVID-19 pandemic. In my lifetime – more decades than I care to admit – I have not seen a half-year so in need of artistic expression and creative outlets than March to September, 2020. (I know I risk eating my words, as what the coming months or years hold is still so very uncertain.) When people are restricted in their every movement outside (and in some cases, inside) their homes for months, with activities cancelled, and sports and entertainment outlets reduced to pre-recorded online spectating, the arts can speak into the resulting void like no other discipline, save for epidemiology. And we have been hungry for it.
Locally in St Andrews, ITIA Transept artists responded over the summer by making art around agreed upon themes relevant to the current lockdown climate and sharing our pieces over Zoom fortnightly. The conversation and deep relating that occurred lifted our spirits and kept us very connected during quite an isolating time. It also provided a sense of empowerment to have our say during a time in which we had lost so much control, even of some fundamental human needs. The art that emerged was thoughtful and inspiring, and ranged in expression from poignant, lamenting or rebellious to whimsical.
the arts can speak into the resulting void like no other discipline
Personally, I launched a Facebook page inviting people to speak into the lockdown void, as I was feeling the particular loss of live theatre and performing. Inspired by the story of Esther in Hebrew scripture, the page is called For Such a Time as This and is intended as a repository for people to ‘speak art’ into the void of the empty stages and galleries all over the world.
This year, we will provide a glimpse of the art shared in response to this time of pandemic, distance and chaos, and will be featuring works from ITIA Transept artists. We welcome hearing about your projects as well! Please contact us if you would like to contribute to future series.