Theologie en plein air

Painting: Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood. John Singer Sargent. 1885.

This week I’m doing some work with Murrumbeena Baptist Church. We’re going to be having a look at some gospel stories in their neighbourhood. We’ll be seeing how the neighbourhood and gospel might interact in dialogue.

In preparation I’ve been doing some research on the neighbourhood. That’s included walking around the neighbourhood with Asher and Carly, who are part of that church. We’ve talked about what we already know about the neighbourhood. I’ve also spent some time at the State Library doing research.

I think one of the interesting things about the neighbourhood has been the story of the Boyd family, who were residents of Murrumbeena. The painter and sculptor Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd is probably the most famous member of the family, but he was actually part of a large family of painters and sculptors.

Arthur Merric Boyd’s grandparents, Arthur and Minnie Boyd, were what was called en plein air painters. That means that instead of painting inside a studio using rigid, academic rules of composition, they went outside into the natural light of the wider world. Their aim was to paint the world as they saw it, and not let artistic conventions warp their depictions of the world.

I think the church needs its own en plein air movement. What if we did theology en plein air? What if we did our Bible reading en plein air? If we stay inside when we read and reflect, I think there is a danger that’s our theology and and the story we live out of has no connection with the very real place we’re situated in. There’s a lot we can miss if we keep our reading of the Bible inside private or sacred spaces like our homes and our churches. So this week I am looking forward to reading the Bible en plein air with some of the locals in Murrumbeena.

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