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Worshipers Use Photography to Spark Conversations About Faith

One valuable way to get people to talk about their faith is to invite them to take photographs. “The key,” writes Joan Huyser-Honig on the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, “lies in understanding that people are the experts on themselves.” By asking them to take photographs that articulate their faith, we create opportunities for participants to explore their faith and discuss their discoveries about themselves and God.

The Calvin Institute promotes worship renewal in Christian faith communities, in part through its annual Worship Symposium, a three-day conference that takes place in January. At the 2014 event, Roman Williams, who teaches sociology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, led a workshop on using photography to spark conversations about worship and faithful living. “When I ask people to take photos,” Williams said, “they focus on what’s important to them. They come to me with answers to questions I’d never think to ask.”

Guidelines for taking photographs may be delineated in two ways. Participants may be asked to engage in either “photo elicitation” or “photovoice.” Photo elicitation involves individuals taking pictures that answer open-ended questions like, “What encourages or inhibits worship?” Photovoice involves asking photographers to picture community strengths and weaknesses, and to discuss, select and caption imagery that will be put on public display.

For more ways to use art in worship, see our resource page, “Where Religion, Theology, Art and Culture Intersect.” For more ways to encourage the exploration of faith in daily living, see our feature article, “Take Action: Understand and Improve Worship Dynamics.”

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