By Rob Russell
The sounds of Mozart and Vivaldi brilliantly executed by the most artful of musicians. A 115-year-old building, resplendent with both Gothic Revival and Victorian touches. Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered together for something bigger than themselves. To think of the past two concerts at St. Veronica’s, only one word really comes to mind: beautiful.
Regardless of our background, our particular affiliations, or our lifestyle choices, the beautiful things in life bring us together in a sense of deep appreciation and awe. Whether it’s a beautiful mountainscape, a reflective painting, or just the newest puppy walking the street of his West Village neighborhood, there is something about beauty that not only fuels our imaginations but also creates an emotional and even spiritual reaction.
But why is this the case? Why is beauty so moving? A classical concert or abstract painting offers no survival value in our advancement as a species. Relegating beautiful things merely to the process of natural selection seems to cheapen them. Is beauty really able to sustain our affections if its sole purpose is sheer practicality?
Alternatively, perhaps beauty is merely a cultural creation. The things we find most moving become moving not in their own right but because we make them so. Apart from the challenges of understanding the trans-cultural phenomenon of natural beauty, such as a sunset, this view at best means that every culture and every individual is perpetually and indescribably in the business of ‘beauty-making.’
But there is a third option. What if we as a species value beauty because we come from beauty? What if our tears for music, our silence for a sculpture, and our indescribable urge to photograph breathtaking scenery find their origin in our origin? As like begets like, what if we love to create beauty because we were created beautifully and intricately?
This is the core of why I recently launched a Christian start-up in the West Village called Restoration Church. As long as beauty exists, so will the desire to believe in God. Our value of art and imagination carries too much of our cultural ethos for us to discard it as simply a means to an end. We believe beauty matters. And, at its most basic level, this is part of what a belief in God is based on: We are created to value beauty because a beautiful God valued creating us beautifully.
We all love the beautiful history our neighborhood is known for—the lovely artists and works of art that have their roots here. As a new church meeting in the Creative Cultural Center underneath St. Veronica’s, we desire to be a part of the beauty of this community. From volunteering at our neighborhood concerts to engaging actively as fellow neighbors, we are excited to continue to serve alongside organizations like WestView News as we make beautiful things together.
Rob Russell and his wife, Riley, moved to New York in order to invest in the city as a family and as followers of Jesus. In the spring of 2016, through the support of several partner organizations, Rob began the process of building a team to launch the Restoration Church; he is now the Lead Pastor of the church.