Seven years ago, Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA renovated a small, single-car garage into a downtown art space and then guess what we named it? We named it The Garage. Since then we’ve hosted monthly art openings, potluck dinners, letter-writing days, some amateur film screenings and literally hundreds of concerts (five years ago, The Lumineers played in front of eight people on a rainy Sunday, long before they were writing songs for The Hunger Games, #neverforget). The space opens out onto a street and, during concerts, passers-by either gather at the entrance or in a park on the other side, pausing, at the very least, to listen to a string-band from New Orleans or a surf-rock trio from Portland. “This is crazy!” they say. “There are cars driving between the audience and the band!” They listen for a while and then they go home. Sometimes they come back, but it’s usually another chance-encounter when they’re on their way downtown to meet friends, only to be surprised again by a small crowd of people gathered in the park, watching and listening. I can count on one hand the number of people who have ended up attending Christ Church because of The Garage (I’m pretty sure it’s zero). I don’t think anyone has ever heard the Good News of grace through The Garage. And most people don’t even know that The Garage is connected to Christ Church at all. And yet, we call this ministry.

What value is there in a church being culturally connected? How does a concert or an art opening actually minister to people in need? Mockingbird, of course, is world headquarters for culturally relevant Christian truth, but how does a church interact with its local arts scene on a meaningful level and avoid using a bait-and-switch agenda?

From our Garage Video Sessions:


I have found in my own experience in New York City, that the more insular and ‘closed’ we become as a community the more repellent we become to those who don’t have the same background or beliefs. This seems especially true for those of us in creative vocations— when we create within this insular bubble our craft risks becoming propaganda. I believe the gospel only speaks to real life issues. Unfiltered and uncensored. Whether you are sharing in a small group, an AA meeting or through a piece of art— an honest, raw exploration of life should always be the prerequisite for hearing the Gospel.

By examining the realities of life, through avenues such as art, lectures and other various types of media and production The Olmsted Salon hopes to find common ground between the church and culture at large opening the door for conversation where previously conversation was untenable. Our Mission is simply “To explore life through culture and conversation”. We have an internal (church life) focus and an external (outreach) focus. Internally, we seek to create platforms for parishioners within the church to share their ideas and experiences through their creative vocation. In doing so, we hope to sharpen each other creatively and in the knowledge of the Gospel, further equipping one another to confidently engage with the culture at large. Externally, we seek to curate projects and relationships within the larger New York community which examine real life issues in compelling and original ways, ultimately re-casting the church as a safe and authentic place for dialog.

Join Sam Bush (Music Minister at Christ Church and director of The Garage) and Dusty Brown (director of The Olmsted Salon, the Arts and Culture Ministry of St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City) will be leading a breakout session on finding a common ground between church and culture.

Wild is Love – The Jazz Conceptions Orchestra at The Olmsted Salon from Alex Nguyen on Vimeo.