Many students had their first experience with Orthodox Christianity and Islamic art during a trip last weekend to Kansas City.
Students in Honors Integrated Theology visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to tour the “Medieval and Islamic Art” exhibit on Saturday, Nov.9, before experiencing a Vespers service at a Russian Orthodox church. The next morning they attended a Sunday church service at a Greek Orthodox church.
“I had never had any experience with Orthodox Christianity,” said Hannah Nestor, one of the students who went on the trip.
She was also fascinated with the symmetry and geometric shapes used in Islamic art.
Muslim artists do not show people or animals in their sacred texts, which has lead to a very distinct form of art based on Arabic lettering.
Islamic art is very different from the many icons painted on the walls of Orthodox churches.
“The most enriching thing about Greek Orthodox worship is that it involves the whole person,” said Dave Vila, professor of religion and philosophy, who teaches the class along with Chad Raith, assistant professor of religion and philosophy.
He further explained how the service engages a person through sight with the icons, taste with the Eucharist, touch by kissing the icons and smell by the incense. Through music, chanting, bells and reading of Scripture, hearing is engaged as well.
Vila said the entire service is deeply theologically focused.
“Everything in their worship service points to Christ,” said Nestor.
She also said before going on this trip, Eastern Orthodox Christianity had been a very lose concept in her head.
“We go on this trip because it allows students to see and experience the very things that we are talking about in the class,” said Vila. “And it is a lot of fun.”