What’s in a Name?

Responding to a request from the Board of Fine Arts, the Deacons recently approved a change of the Board’s name to the Board for the Arts. Though this may appear to be a minor change, it reflects board members’ belief that the new designation better represents its current work and future aspirations.

The new title reflects changes in two words: First, the deletion of the word “fine,” which the Board concluded could misconstrue an understanding of what art can do in the context of religious practice. It hearkens to an older paradigm that stratified and separated genres of art into high and low, classical and popular, schooled and folk. Genre, the Board understands, is not a predictor of quality.

Second, the new title suggests that the Board will be an active advocate for the integration of the arts into the life of the church rather than a repository of the arts.

Particularly at a time when Plymouth Church strives to be more inclusive, the language the church employs to describe itself should align with such efforts. The Board for the Arts submitted this title change believing it more accurately embraces the actual work of the Board, while acknowledging the very important connection between an aesthetic and spiritual understanding of experience. A review of the recent work of the Board for the Arts reveals an inclusivity that the new title is meant to represent.

The Statement of Purpose for the Board for the Arts declares that “We believe the arts are an avenue to the sacred—that art challenges, comforts, and inspires as it deepens our spiritual development, congregational connections, and commitment to new and diverse voices.” In that spirit, the Board aims to use this change of title as a catalyst to engage the congregation in an active enquiry of how the arts inspire and inform our spiritual understanding.