Pioneers: Ian Traynar on art, praise and worship and a Christian world view

Wednesday 1st February 1995

The Christian Musicians And Artists Trust, CMA, has become a key organisation in supporting Christians involved in the arts. It has been birthed by IAN TRAYNAR. For the second in our series Tony Cummings talked to the arts pioneer.

Ian Traynar
Ian Traynar

Where there are new initiatives designed to help grassroots Christian artists there you will find the CMA. Be it organising conferences, pioneering a Bulletin Board listing for Christian concerts, running the Arts Tent at the Cross Rhythms festival or a dozen other activities, CMA is an organisation clearly prepared to get its hands dirty. It is the brainchild of ex-teacher and worship leader Ian Traynar. In the 70s Ian became increasingly involved in the house church movement, at one time sharing a home with church planters John and Christine Noble. Ian began to write worship songs like "Built Into A Temple" and "Why Should I Lose My First Love". Ian remembers those formative years. "I started travelling with many different preachers as a worship leader. By the early 80s I was in a malaise. I was trying to find my own identity and got very confused. I suppose I was looking for a pat on the back and in worship ministry there wasn't much of that - you were always the first in a meeting setting up with the PA boys and always the last out with the PA boys. It was the preachers who got the pats on the backs and the queues to minister and all the rest of it. I somehow felt I was missing out. I even tried preaching and I failed quite abysmally."

At a conference on worship Ian found himself back in his room weeping before God. Ian remembers: "God convicted me that I was not treating the gifts and abilities I've got with due respect."

Ian threw himself passionately into a full time itinerant worship ministry. In the early 80s Ian met journalist Dave Roberts who was involved with the Christian Music Association run by Geoff Shearn. The main raison d'etre of the CMA was the setting up and administration of a copyright licensing scheme whereby churches could pay an annual fee and receive a licence which gave them the right to reproduce the words on overhead projector or songsheets of the vast majority of copyright worship songs.

Remembers Ian, "What Geoff and the others at CMA discovered was that a lot of churches were crying out for help with their worship bands and their ministries. So Dave Roberts began putting seminars together. He pulled Graham Kendrick and myself in and we ran some successful seminars. Then in 1987 Geoff asked me if I would be a consultant to the ministry side that CMA were developing."

Soon Ian was editing the CMA quarterly magazine Worship and turning his hand to a wide range of CMA activities. But in 1990 there was a major shake up. The copyright licensing scheme was placed in new hands; the American organisation Church Copyright Licence Incorporated, and with CCLA taking the main source of revenue, CMA seemed a dead duck. But, keen to see the ministry side of CMA continue and anxious to expand the work beyond simply worship music to incorporate all the arts, Ian took the bold step to re-invent the CMA. "I felt if we changed the initials there'd be too much of a radical break, so I kept the name/initials of CMA because many churches identified with the work that CMA were doing." Moving the office from Eastbourne to Bristol Ian began to explore deeply, not only into the theology of worship but the whole of human creativity and its link with the spiritual realm.

"I wanted to understand biblically a good foundation for worship, and as I did I began to see a clear biblical framework for doing creative things that we would call art. I began to meet artists who had no idea of their calling, a sense of their calling - they were just doing art because they were gifted at it. They didn't realise that they had a specific calling, a sense of identity, because a lot of the Church had frowned on the arts and they were probably being a bit marginalized, so the only thing that kept them going was because they had a natural gift.

"I had the vision to see if we could place a sense of calling in the artist, to keep doing their art in the face of a pretty hostile Church. As I began to talk to artists and encourage them along that line that's exactly what I saw take place. I saw them coming alive, I saw hope coming into their eyes and the early vision I had for CMA was that we would try and network some of these artists together to give a sense of community feel to some of these artists because I felt they needed that. I felt they needed some kind of community. So much of the art I was seeing was happening in isolation and was lacking a bit of quality because of that."

Networking is still at the heart of CMA's multifarious activities, putting artists of similar disciplines in touch with each other. A cornerstone of this is CMA's quarterly Encore magazine which contains a mass of information and contacts on a wide sweep of artistic endeavours and artists. Since its inception CMA has changed its structure. It is now a charitable trust dependent on donations. It has also become, in lan's words, "a very lean, mean fighting machine" administratively. One of CMA's key initiatives at the moment has been chairing a committee of Christian music industry people to develop a series of conferences and a comprehensive training manual called 'The Event'. Together these will give even completely inexperienced people quality information to put on a music concert. Comments Ian, "Live performance is the key to a healthy music scene and Britain desperately needs a new wave of people with a heart for music to put on concerts and events in their town. At the moment they are intimidated from doing so by all the things one needs to know to put on a successful event - booking the artist, the hall, legal requirements, effective publicity, PA, etc, etc. When The Event' is launched later this year it will, I believe, be a very significant step in the development of Christian music in Britain."

Ian is convinced that a key need is for evangelical churches to begin to think more deeply about the arts. "We evangelicals have majored on the importance of personal salvation. So we've got a strong emphasis on mission. We're in the Decade Of Evangelism indeed. I feel there seriously needs to be a balance to that perspective, that is we need to see how a Christian worldview touches the whole of life. We've got to grasp that our faith touches business, politics, education, science, ecology and of course, the arts. I'm not somebody who's into great criticism of the evangelical church cause I'm birthed in it; I love it. But I believe we are seriously lacking in our interpretation of Jesus' message. We're in danger in the 20th century of twisting Jesus' words to mean something else. We need the prophets. I was listening to Jim Wallace this morning talking about that passage about the people who had no vision the people perish. Without the prophets we are not seeing the full picture. I think artists are see-ers, because they're visionary kind of people. They see, they look; they're observers of society and have got a very strong message to proclaim. Of course they may not see it clearly. One of the biggest problems I feel about the Christian artist is that they don't fully see what a Christian worldview is. You see why do we have to have the word 'Christian' artist? Why do we have to keep prefacing that, as artists, we are 'Christian' artists? I don't meet Hindus who call themselves Hindu painters or encounter Marxist architecture.

"Christians involved in the arts need to get to grips with the foundation of a Christian world view and let it pervade their experience and their understanding like never before. That way they can get on and be human beings in God's world and their art will speak profoundly of that. At the moment sometimes we're developing a Christian sub culture where Christians get this sort of tainted evangelicalism and get involved in a little Christian ghetto. We've got a job out there to do, to redeem culture and redeem the public space. We've got to be out there as Christians being salt and light, it's the message of being salt and light really as opposed to this majoring solely on the evangelism front."

With Ian Traynar working tirelessly on artists' behalf, CMA seems destined to flourish for many years to come. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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