May 14, 2018
Oldfields, Newfields, and Balancing Tradition and Innovation
After the Missional Voices National Gathering last week, my wife and I spent Sunday afternoon at Newfields (the rebranded Indianapolis Museum of Art). I draw much of my inspiration for MV (and ministry) from art museums and other places and groups that are looking to creatively gather and connect people.
What I found at Newfields was a perfect way to cap off a week of conversation about innovation, creativity, and courage in the Church.
Newfields is working to find the right balance between traditional museum and innovative gathering space. Its director, Charles Venable, is seen as either a visionary or a heretic. And if you read profiles of him or Newfields (here, here, or here, for example), replace the work “museum” with “church” and I think you would find a great discussion of what our future may look like.
As it turns out, the Church isn’t alone in trying to grapple with ancient tradition and modern realities. The way people gather is changing. The way people spend their free time is changing. The way people seek meaning and purpose in life is changing.
And that affects art museums just as much as it affects churches.
But Venable and Newfields are working to balance the tradition and innovation. The centerpiece of their vast gardens is Oldfields, a century-old estate once belonging to the Lilly family. And just a few steps away from that traditional beauty is a place for outdoor gatherings with food trucks, games, and more. Newfields hasn’t demolished its legacy and gone completely in the direction of modern and interactive. But neither has it forgone innovation for the sake of “what used to be.”
That’s the discussion I seek to have with folks. How can we balance the beauty of our traditions, without becoming traditionalists. And how can we embrace innovation without throwing away our heritage? I think Newfields is experimenting with ways it might strike that balance in the art world.
How can we in the church look to strike that same balance?
Also, as I walked through the galleries inside the museum, there were several pieces that stopped me in my tracks. I hope to spend the next few weeks in this space examining those pieces, how I think they connect to the conversations that were shared at Missional Voices, and what we all might learn from them.