I still do not consider myself to be a creative person. My pastor always identifies me as creative, but I am not sure I can see that yet. I have come to recognize that I think in pictures. Sometimes I hear words strewn together so beautifully that I can see those words come together as a whole in the form of a picture. It is new to think of myself as an artist.
Recently, I read Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” That to me is what helps me to claim my prayers on canvas as art.
Art is an expression of the self—there are as many ways of expressing a truth as there are people. Probably more. Art leads me to wholeness in the same way God breathed life into a lifeless being: it defines my identity and gives me purpose. Without art, I’d exist, but mechanical would be a better word to describe that existence. With art, I am able to be passionate, to define what makes me feel whole, and own the liberty to pursue it. Art allows me to depart from the world of materialism and find value in something rich and intangible. It’s what I’ve been circling around this whole interview. It’s the thing that saved me in Iowa, saved me again and again in my darkest moments. It’s what brought life into my existence, whether it be through writing or something completely other. The art isn’t as important as what it expresses.
It’s called love.
This past Lent, our wholeheARTed guest for this week, Slats Toole, embarked on a daily spiritual practice of writing poems and then sharing them publicly via Facebook and social media. Each day, these poems broke beyond the noise and frenzy of social media to offer moments of truth so visceral it's as if you could feel them lift from the screen and come to life. So many of us were moved by these poems, as they arise from the personal, but point us toward the whole—of the journey of faith, of our identity in God, of life itself.
As a recent Princeton seminary grad, Slats shares their gifts widely through hymnody, preaching, poetry, and sound/theatrical design. They also work to resource and empower the Church at-large to break beyond the binary of gender in liturgy and worship.
As a team, we at Sanctified Art often find ourselves consciously—and subconsciously—thinking about the practical and big picture implications of the art we create. Our creative process often revolves around these questions: How will this art be used? How will it stir imagination, invite participation, and offer space to heal? How might what we create become life-giving for others?
These questions are rooted in a bigger, more philosophical question: What, exactly, does art do? There is no one answer, of course, but we can't deny that art does something. It affects us, even if we create it with no greater intentions or expectations.
This week's wholeheARTed conversation couldn't have come at a better time. After the white supremacy rallies in Charlottesville, we're ever reminded of the undercurrent of racism that rocks our nation—in slow and steady tides, and in extreme, raging storms.
In a world where guns and money and hatred and fear often have such a strong grip, why art? Why spend time nurturing our creativity when we could nurture broken bodies and institutions instead?
Our wholeheARTed guest this week lives out a creative calling that roots her in collaboration—with inspiration, words, and people. As the Executive Director of Rev Gal Blog Pals, an online platform connecting women clergy all around the world, Rev. Martha Spong believes in the power of words to create sacred space and common ground. As a pastor to pastors, clergy coach and author, Martha lives into her multi-vocational calling with her creativity by her side.
Many of us self-proclaimed "artists" and creative types often profess a common creed. EVERYONE'S AN ARTIST, we say—to strangers, to friends, to unknown readers on the internet. Despite the disbelief we're bound to face, we proclaim what we've found to be true: our identity as creators is not determined by WHAT we create, only by the fact that we DO create—being alive is inherently creative.
Scraps and scribbles. The corners of receipts and the edges of envelopes. Idle moments in traffic. A stroll down the grocery aisle.
Inspiration has no grand arrival—she shows up in spurts, often beyond the realm of convenience, announcing herself to you. The question is not if inspiration will show up; the question is if you'll be attentive enough to notice and courageous enough to respond.
A wholeheARTed life integrates all the parts of who you are so that you might welcome each day with courage and compassion, giving your whole heart to God, self, and others. Leslie Cox, our WholeheARTed guest this week, shares about her journey of becoming, of living into all that she was created to be. She cannot separate her creativity from her sexuality, her ministry from her love for storytelling and photography. Her journey reminds us all of what it means to navigate critique, vulnerability, and authenticity to truly come home to yourself.
A few months ago, we received an email that went something like this:
"I am a Lutheran pastor and artist who has been feeling a strong pull of the Holy Spirit to express the Gospel through the visual arts.
I would like to talk with your group some time, simply as people who seem to share the same calling. I understand myself as a preacher who paints, or as a drawing theologian. I think we have that in common."
They called him the golden voice. He was tall and dressed to impress in his patent leather shoes and swanky tailor-made suit. He a carried a well-worn bible and displayed a formidable stride when he walked, which seemed in concert with his serious demeanor. After the choir finished their selection, he stood up to address the full-capacity crowd who had gathered to hear him preach. With skill and precision, he moved from introductory remarks and pleasantries into a masterful exposition of scripture in a sermon he titled, “What a little chicken saw.”
Some people are visionary creatives, seeing possibility for beauty and collaboration in the midst of what has become tired and all-too-familiar. Daniel Heath is one of these types, working graciously through music, people, and visual media to gently nudge communities forward into fresh ways of thinking, hearing, seeing, and worshiping. Daniel has both the imagination to dream and the determination to enact big ideas in real and vibrant ways.
A Sanctified Art began with conversations around wholeheartedness. How could we as creatives offer a wholehearted approach to faith, and worship, and church? What would it look like to connect our hearts with our hands—to fully integrate art with our vocation and service to the world? How might we harness our creatives gifts to inspire others in living and loving wholeheARTedly?
This summer we're widening our circle to feature the voices of those who also find themselves blending creativity with their faith in a variety of ways and contexts.
Why use a stapler when you can use a needle and thread?! Binding a paper booklet with string makes it studier than with staples. Plus it looks cool. The Sanctified Art crew recently released a bundle of resources for summer (which, according to the Christian liturgical calendar, is labeled as part of “ordinary time”). The bundle is called Anything But Ordinary (see what they did there?), and the whole thing seems fantastic. But since most of my college-aged congregation is scattered for the summer, I settled for buying an individual copy of the Anything But Ordinary Summer Study Journal.
We are NOT interested in selling products for mindless consumption. We create resources to empower you to get creative in your unique context.
We create so that YOU will create. Creativity begets creativity, after all.
But here's the thing: creativity is hard—especially when we do it alone. Because creativity is always better when shared, we're offering some ideas and thoughts for how to engage each of our resources for Lent.
We hiked a mountain at 5 am, in cold rain, and nearly froze to death for the sake of the art. The introverted among us needed breaks. The organized among us needed a plan, and the late among us, well, ran late. We worked through meals, neglected sleep and every ounce of self care, due to poor communication. We carried our egos too closely to the surface, grappled with disappointment, failed to see the hurt on one another’s faces, and had to find the strength within us to say,
“Stop, I need to talk.”
June 12th, 5:45 am EDT: Mass shooting in Orlando night club.
My alarm rang in tandem with the BBC news update.
Sighing with a mix of fatigue and desperation, I felt ashamedly numb to the "news" that hardly feels like anything new. I set my phone and emotions aside, hurrying to prepare for my work later that morning at Pleasant Hill Presbyterian.
We sat together at a small urban table by the window, the leaves shuffling down the sidewalk like a fall parade led by the wind. And for two hours my hands stayed clasped around my mug, while Lisle’s hands moving freely through the space—painting pictures in my mind and sketches in her notebook—of this idea she could not name.
We talked about art, about the Spirit, about the church and what She needs. We talked about her training and my lack thereof. We talked about caffeine and seminary courses, and women in ministry. And all along, she was twirling.
In these ink meditations, artist Hannah Garrity explores the interplay between the three persons of the Trinity. Fluid and free, these abstract dancing figures express movement, intimacy, and connection.
A Trinitarian Call/Response Liturgy
(Feel free to adapt or use this liturgy written by Lisle Gwynn Garrity)
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
God is both three and One, many in unity.
But how can it be?
Below is an overview of all of the resources we have created for Pentecost.
Even if you have your eye on one or two of the resources, our vision is for you to incorporate the entire bundle of resources into your ministry to:
- engage all learning styles and abilities
- provide options for children and youth to actively participate during worship
- foster connection and relationship-building within your community
- welcome all, through engaging visuals and creative opportunities, to join you in your worship and ministry
- invite everyone to see and experience Pentecost in new light