"Naked" Church: Church in a nude art exhibit

Our Church moved to a new location yesterday and I loved the new venue, but it made me laugh a little. You see most Sunday’s our church meets in smaller separate groups either at the Springer’s house (an English speaking gathering) or at the Flek’s house (a Czech speaking gathering), but once a month we all come together in a larger venue to talk and worship together as a community.

So, yesterday we had our common gathering in a new location at this great little café right by Old Town Square. So, what made me laugh about the location? Well, the room we were meeting in was also used to display art and the art it is displaying right now is a nude exhibition. All of the pictures on the wall were black and white pictures of nude women. Some were tasteful and just slightly suggestive and others were full frontal nude shots. What a setting for church, right?

Honestly when I first walked in I didn’t even notice the pictures because I was busy setting up some crosses and candles on the tables. When I finally did notice them I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable. I live in Europe and I have seen some pretty risqué things since moving here. I try to be open-minded. I love art and have often admired nude sculptures and works of art. But, looking at these women completely exposed in newly taken black and white pictures I saw myself. In a weird way I suddenly felt very exposed as I looked at them and that made me feel very uncomfortable.

Throughout the course of the night something changed, though. By the end of the time I could look at these pictures full on and see not only beauty but freedom. By the end of the evening I didn’t feel uncomfortable looking at the pictures any more, instead I could genuinely admire them.

It got me thinking about nakedness, and vulnerability, and openness, and authentically. It got me thinking about being who you are and allowing others to genuinely see who you are. Honestly, even though I would consider myself fairly cultured those pictures on the wall last night were some of the first truly nude pictures I’d ever seen. And it makes sense that they would make me feel uncomfortable and awkward at first. But, as time went by the shock factor wore off and I was able to really look at them and appreciate them for what they were. I wonder if the same is true with being vulnerable with another person or another person being vulnerable with us – at first it feels really uncomfortable and awkward, we’re not used to it, but then after a while it becomes more natural and we can be more vulnerable and accept another’s vulnerability more fully the next time we are faced with it.

Here are a few other reasons that I like the pictures on the wall and a few other things that it got me thinking about:

  • It reminded me that when we come before God we do so naked. There is nothing we can hide from Him. He created us and He knows us intimately. We are always as exposed before God as the women in the pictures were before us. And yet, God doesn’t look on our nakedness and feel uncomfortable (like I did at first) and he doesn’t look on our nakedness and judge all the little faults and failings and love-handles and wrinkles, instead he looks on our nakedness and calls us His beloved.
  • It also reminded me that I want to live authentically before God and others. I don’t want to try and cover myself up and be something I’m not. I don’t want to try and hid my true self from others and make myself look better than I am, or even just different than I am. I want to be free to fully expose the person God made me to be at my core. I want to allow others to see my true self and live from a place of deep authenticity.

So, overall I liked “naked church”, as my husband nicknamed this week’s gathering, and I’m looking forward to next time.

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman

Photographs by Beth Stedman