Notte Bianca

My reflections on our Notte Bianca experience have been published.  See below for the English language version.Le mie reflezioni sulle nostre esperienze di Notte Bianca sono state pubblicate.  In italiano qui: http://vociprotestanti.it/2013/05/17/e-la-chiesa-jim-ma-non-come-lo-conosciamo/

It’s Church, Jim, but not as we know it….”

30 April 2013 my Church was invaded by aliens, at least that’s how it felt at some moments.  (for the 1987 reference, if you have time to waste, watch the truly silly “Star Trekkin’ across the universe” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCARADb9asE).

The Klingons in question were the revellers of Via de’ Benci.  We are in party central, with 100s of young people (and some not-so-young) enjoying the local bars, music and sitting on our steps with their backs up against our securely bolted church doors.  But during the evening and night, of the “Notte Bianca” (White Night), the celebrations to usher in the bank holiday of 1st May (the workers holiday), we joined in, at last.

When I arrived nearly 4 years ago, church members spoke with looks of horror about the state of the Florentine streets after dark.  It is noisy place but the streets are busy, well-lit and the local authority is trying to deal with the problems caused by cheap alcohol and excessive consumption.

So, how does a Methodist Church reach the point where people wander in, beer (or wine) bottles in hand?  Florence is best known for its renaissance art – but the city is home to  contemporary artisans, artists, actors, sculptors, musicians, all showing us what they see, how they feel about the city, about life, about love.  For me, all art is spiritual because it seeks to express the often hidden qualities of life – peace, beauty, and to challenge our inherited notions of power, justice, human relationships.

When you dare to open the church doors and look out on the drinkers, clubbers and loud people, if you truly look, you see joy and friendship, the release of stress and tension, loneliness, attempts to escape daily life, vulnerability.  Surely the Church should be present OUT THERE, not locked away?

So the idea of “Viaggi Spirituali” or “Spiritual Journeys” was born as an attempt to open the church to the world outside – of the arts and the street life – so that people can begin to see the church as a place for reflection, interaction, peace and challenge.  I was asked “why an art exhibition inside a church?”  I responded. “If not here, then where else?”  As Christians we are trying to understand the meaning of life, to seek out and put into practice love and reconciliation.  Artists help us to do this, through their different view-points, their unique gift to see what we non-artists do not see, through the way that seek to lead us to beauty and truth or expose ugliness and lies.  When we invite in artists, Christians, from other faiths and those who simply said “I have faith”, we have the opportunity to dialogue with them, to ask how one piece interacts with another, to begin to see more deeply and understand life from other perspectives.

It was a big risk – I feared that no-one would come in, that art works would be damaged, that I would be embarrassed, that we’d have to call the police.  Instead, people flooded in – some looking truly puzzled, asking “is this a church? it can’t be!”, others slowly taking in the varied art, video, performances.  The artists were interviewed, a welcome opportunity to hear their creative thoughts and were available for people to ask questions.  In the courtyard, a labyrinth for prayer and meditation, light by candles, offered an opportunity for reflection on the experience and a refuge from the street noise.  People ran it, or walked it slowly beer bottles in hand, reading the suggested meditations.  Others sat and watched for a while, seeming to reach an inner calm, before being drawn to walk the path carefully finding the way through.  It was an oasis of calm amongst the festivities.

It was a risk too for my relationship with church members, who have always resisted the idea of opening the church in the evenings, out of fear of damage and drunkenness.  But 6 of them came (that’s 50% of an average Sunday congregation), and marvelled at the vitality of the evening, wondered about the art, the performances, and joined the labyrinth meditation.  People from other churches commented that we had found a good way to relate to the city – we were on the wavelength of the people partying on the street, we didn’t require them to like church music, or appreciate renaissance art, just to come in and take a look around.

I don’t know if people will remember their experience inside the church, or even be curious enough to return – I do know that welcoming around 3-400 people into the church was a very positive experience for us.  As far as I am concerned, Church should also be “not as we know it”, and those aliens can come again.

 

1 maggio / 1st May

What a wonderful night!  Che notte meraviglioso!

A huge thank-you to all of the partecipating artists.  Un ringraziamento enorme a tutti gli artisit partecipanti.

The final list was:  L’elenco finale era:  Abrahams Street Art.  Jason Arkles Sculpture.  Xhovelin Delia Art and Film.  Ric Stott, Photography.  Silvia Teri, Mixed-Media.  Chiara Danti, Art.  Peter Farrington, Art.  Chapman Hamborg, Art.  Luca DiVolo & Eleonora Tancredi  Music.  Silvia Monet  & Anna Cudin Theatre.  Nehemiah Brown & his gospel choir.  Plus Roberto Davide Papini, Journalist & Liz Wicks art restorer and curator.

What a wonderful night!  Che notte meraviglioso!

A huge thank-you to all of the partecipating artists.  Un ringraziamento enorme a tutti gli artisit partecipanti.

The final list was:  L’elenco finale era:  Abrahams Street Art.  Jason Arkles Sculpture.  Xhovelin Delia Art and Film.  Ric Stott, Photography.  Silvia Teri, Mixed-Media.  Chiara Danti, Art.  Peter Farrington, Art.  Chapman Hamborg, Art.  Luca DiVolo & Eleonora Tancredi  Music.  Silvia Monet  & Anna Cudin Theatre.  Nehemiah Brown & his gospel choir.  Plus Roberto Davide Papini, Journalist & Liz Wicks art restorer and curator.

Video: http://youtu.be/YFxjICIXVzI

 

 

Pubblicità it rev

Publicity  eng rev

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply