Ikon and Logos – An Exciting New Venture

Holidays are a great way of discovering the latest trends. Going away generally means you’re in closer proximity to a wider range of people, they are more relaxed and (in warmer climes) showing more of their skin than back home.

From my observations over the past fortnight away, two of this year’s trends are:

  • The ongoing march of (increasingly intricate) tattooed symbols across the whole body and
  • The addition of waterproof action-cameras to the now ubiquitous selfie-stick.


Tattoo at the beach

Tattoo Photo: Andrea Preda

Both of these trends are symptomatic of our increasingly visually-orientated culture. Bodies have become a portable canvas for meaningful images (although that meaning is often lost on the viewer) and even waves and sand cannot stop the constant filming, photographing, editing and broadcasting of our lives.

Over the past few years I’ve been thinking about how Christians engage with Visual Culture, especially as we think about communicating the living Word of God into an image-saturated world. In the words which are used at the licensing of every new minister in the Church of England, how do we profess the faith that has been handed down to us and to proclaim it afresh in each generation?

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that I’m going to be developing this thinking as I start a research Doctorate at Durham University. In September I’ll be joining Durham’s Doctor of Theology and Ministry (DThM) Programme, studying part-time, alongside my role as Vicar of St. Pancras Church in Plymouth.

In the New Testament, Jesus is described as both logos and ikon, word and image. The provisional title for my thesis is: Ikon and Logos – Communicating the Living Word in a Visual Culture.

I’ll particularly be looking at how Church of England theological education institutions are preparing people to minister in a visual culture, as I:

  • Survey what colleges and courses are currently doing;
  • Identify people who are exemplars of good practice in this area;
  • Reflect with and work together with some of these people to teach others how to engage with visual culture in a more meaningful way.

Hopefully, en-route I’ll be revisiting the art-history study I began on my sabbatical, seeing how previous generations used visual imagery to communicate in a non-literate culture. I’m also hoping to experience how everything from fine-art to photography and art installations to Instagram are now bringing the gospel to our visual generation. I might even need to get a selfie-stick.

If you are interested in reading a more detailed summary of what I’m intending to research then you can download it as a PDF by clicking the image or the link below.

Let me know what you think…


Ikon and Logos – Communicating the Living Word in a Visual Culture


6 thoughts on “Ikon and Logos – An Exciting New Venture

  1. Fab. Three thoughts: first, don’t forget to check out what people are doing online, which is often much more visual than our offline communication; second, take a look at Frank McGregor’s work in Stoke (e.g. http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/jesus-messiah-s-face-2-000-sticky-notes-shelton/story-19906158-detail/story.html) and third, maybe get in touch with St Barnabas’ Dalston, which is a church specifically working to reach the artistic and creative community.

  2. Really glad to see that this is going ahead, Jon – sounds fascinating. As an instinctive (and I think to some extent thought through) iconoclast, I eagerly await your findings!

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