The seminar

The American Christian Artists Seminar which has taken place annually from 1974 untill 2000 in Estes Park, Colorado, has mainly encompassed MOR music *3), with concert performances, devotional sessions and practical workshops which amateur or aspiring artists and musicians can choose to participate in. This was the model that Leen La Rivière chose to imitate when discussing the possibility of a European seminar in 1980.

At the end of the 1970s in Europe only 1 or 2 overtly Christian performers in each European country were reckoned to be making a living out of their art. Thus in order to reach those who would respond to the new venture, Floria and La Rivière, in their discussions, chose to use their already established networks for the Continental Singers to get information about their proposed seminar into churches, youth groups, choirs and arts organisations.

Key people in each country were co-opted onto a steering committee, ideas and possibilities were put forward, and targets for a European seminar were formulated. These can be summed up as follows:

  1. It was the declared intention that the multifarious cultures of the continent of Europe should all be represented, and so spokespeople from as many nations as possible were invited to be members of the committee (now called the Council) and to take part in deciding which artists and teachers were to be invited.
  2. The seminars were intended to be as far as possible ecumenical (or ‘inter-denominational’). In the event, for the first few years the make-up of the Council, and indeed the majority of the first people to attend, were predominantly from the Protestant evangelical wing of the church in Europe. Indeed it was a problem to find representatives from all the denominations. This was partly out of suspicion from churches about a new entity and partly out of theological suspicion, especially when such an organisation was bound to affect the young people of their congregations. For conservative evangelical churches anything relating to the arts, let alone the performance arts, was considered ‘of the world’, (even demonic in the case of some rock music *4); for those of a Catholic tradition, sacred music was one thing but the new ‘Christian arts’ were seen to be an invention of evangelicals. It was a number of years before Catholics were to be convinced of the purposes and aims of the Christian Artists movement though later they became widely represented both on the Council and also by artists, teachers, and registrants.*5)
  3. It was decided that the Seminar would aim to attract practitioners from all artistic disciplines. This proved impossible in the early days, as the seminar could only grow according to what was acceptable among Christians and in the churches of Europe. In the early 1980s new and contemporary styles of music were becoming more widely used amongst Christians but there was little understanding of the use of fine art, and theatre or dance in the church were still an anathema in some denominations. The integration of these other art forms proved to be a slow process.