The Arts as a Means for Discovering the Ways of Knowing

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer, once opined that while today we have a myriad of instruments to explore things we never imagined, we can no longer see directly what is in front of us! Our thinking and talking about God, he suggested, do not aid us necessarily in growing toward a relationship with God. The “Church,” to which Merton devoted his life, once asked, “What has Athens [Greek culture] to do with Jerusalem [Jewish culture]?” Today, we might wonder instead, “What has artistic life to do with religious life?”

We, that is Union Avenue Christian Church, would answer that question with a resounding “everything!”

The arts help us to encounter the holy and the sacred. The arts provide the means that allow us to perceive life’s ultimate meanings. The arts inspire us to look at ourselves and our lives, reminding us of the possibility of a full human life — full in the sense of the exercise of our imagination, the use of our perceptions and senses, and the questioning of the unknown and the incomplete. The arts remind us that faith precedes theology just as character precedes moral decision making and consciousness precedes experience — that our knowing of God precedes our conceptualizations about God.

The arts are our most profound reminder that we humans cannot live by bread alone. Art and the intuitive way of knowing are foundational to the Christian life of faith. Theology and the intellectual way of knowing, while also important, are secondary and dependent on the first.

We invite you to participate in and contribute to the ongoing dialogue and appreciation of the arts that we at Union Avenue Christian Church treasure deeply.

Celebrating Creativity and Spirituality Through the Arts

The Arts Group of Union Avenue (AGUA), since its inception in 1988, has played an important role in the ministries and evolving congregational life of Union Avenue Christian Church. AGUA is committed to providing the congregation and its surrounding community with opportunities to celebrate and participate in the arts.

AGUA celebrates artistic expression as God's creativity working through our human lives. To that end, AGUA is responsible for many culturally stimulating activities that set Union Avenue apart from other urban churches. AGUA has supported the development and artistic endeavors of Union Avenue Opera from its inception in 1995. The group provided an opportunity for a 100-year-old artist to exhibit her paintings for the first time.

AGUA is dedicated to sharing art with the community. The group provided an opportunity for a 100-year-old artist to exhibit her paintings for the first time on the occasion of her 100th birthday! The group makes it possible for AP art students at Soldan International Studies High School and local St. Louis artists to exhibit artwork in the spacious Gretchen Brigham Gallery. A current project includes creating a collaborative workshop environment for neighborhood children (from an after-school program) and the artist whose work is showing in the gallery to explore and create various mediums of art. This hands-on experience empowers neighborhood children to exercise their imaginations and be a part of a creative process that engages their senses and encourages them to question the unknown.

gretchen brigham gallery

gretchen brigham gallery

Union Avenue Opera was founded in 1995 by Scott Schoonover, music director of Union Avenue Christian Church, with the blessing of the congregation and the support of the Arts Group of Union Avenue. In the early years of the company's existence it was an artistic ministry of the church. The company eventually obtained its own 501c3 status, allowing it to apply for and obtain funding from a broader selection of funding organizations. In August 2011, Union Avenue Opera presented the Missouri premiere of Jake Haggie's Dead Man Walking to great critical acclaim. In conjunction with the production, UAO and Union Avenue Christian Church invited anti-death penalty activist Helen Prejean, CSJ, to speak at a large public gathering on the UAO stage about her ministry and her relationship with the central character of Dead Man Walking. Since then, the company has produced Missouri premieres of Doubt, starring Christine Brewer, and the Wagner Ring Cycle [reduced and adapted by Jonathan Dove]. Every summer since 1995, the sanctuary of Union Avenue Christian Church is transformed into a theatrical performance venue, complete with sunken orchestra pit. The congregation of Union Avenue Christian Church continues to share a close and symbiotic relationship with Union Avenue Opera, and in 2019 the company will stage its twenty-fifth anniversary season.


“WHO IS GOD?” — Midwest Exhibit is a juried exhibition of artwork created by 18 midwestern artists, which runs October 1 – December 1, 2019. The ARTS GROUP OF UNION AVENUE hosts an ARTISTS TALK Saturday, November 16, 6 – 8 p.m., an evening to view the exhibit and hear artists talk about their work and process.

‘Who is God?’” is a question asked throughout the world and over the centuries, resulting in many different understandings of God. These understandings can overlap faith traditions, or at times lead to violent clashes. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, spoke about finding God in all things, and indeed, the artists in this exhibition have found God in a variety of ways, ranging from the grandeur of nature to the humble roadside stone slab bearing the simple blessing of St. Francis of Assisi, ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep you.’
— Rev. Terrence E. Dempsey, SJ, Juror


Saturdays from noon - 3 p.m.
October 12 – Jan Aughey
October 19 – Adelia Parker
October 26 – Milo Duke
November 2 – Polly Sievert
November 9 – Valerie Rippey
November 16 – Amanda Jolley
November 23 – Shirley Nachtrieb
November 30 – Ann Croghen

View the exhibition catalog online (type “Who is God? Midwest Exhibit” in the search feature), and stay up-to-date with Gallery happenings on Facebook.

The Brigham Gallery is open daily; it's best to call (314) 361-8844 to verify daily times.


733 Union Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri63108-1037

(314) 361-8844

Our well-lighted parking lot is located directly behind (west) our building, which is located at the corner of Union Boulevard and Enright Avenue.

Our building is wheelchair accessible.