Sunday, May 16, 2010

Painting a Presence

With the economic crash, a lot of property has gone vacant in the Phoenix Valley. The start-up congregation where I am an intern is actually in a shopping center that's completely empty except for us. So to let people know that we have not abandoned the place, we painted our presence on the windows and invited members and friends to join in! The theme was "Growing in Grace."

I love that she added an oil spill.

One of my favorite parts was when people created a line of hand-prints from youngest to oldest.
The baby couldn't grasp the concept of a hand-print, so he did a foot-print.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easter Connections

Once again Freestyle Arts Association inspires another project. I took the idea of their string-sculpture, and modified it for a neighborhood Easter event. Instead of wooden x's, we made crosses. But people were still invited to take any color of string, any length, and attach it in any way between the two crosses as a way to visualize our interconnectedness with one another in Christ.

The crosses were free standing, that way even without the harnesses, we still had to hold them up and had the opportunity to talk to people as they contributed string to the sculpture.
We also added a station where people could make butterflies which to add to the sculpture. The symbolism being the transformational power of our interconnectedness.

Instead of nylon rope, we collected batches of brightly colored yarn.

My ubiquitous Reed College water-bottle, proclaiming "Communism, Atheism, and Free Love" to the Easter crew.
Some of the kids found a way to attached yarn that I hadn't seen before.
All in all it was a great way to get to know folks, and hopefully give them a joyful and affirming experience in the spirit of Easter.

Easter Transformation

The cross that was created for Lent was transformed for Easter. Sunday school children made butterflies and engulfed the cross with them as a symbol of new life in the resurrection.

We pounded nails into the cross, and it was these nails to which the butterflies were attached.

We also used some chicken wire to attach butterflies...I'm not sure what the symbolism is there...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lent as Collaborative Journey

During the season of Lent the congregation meditated together on the story of the Prodigal Son. Each Wednesday for five weeks we read a little more of the parable and members of the congregation shared their reflections on the story through original poetry, songs, painting, carpentry, and crocheting. Worshipers were invited to stand up and walk around the sanctuary at any time during the service to examine the paintings, meditate on the cross, and feel the prayer shawl.

The shawl was made by a team of people who would hand it off each week and pick yarn that they felt expressed their week's segment of the parable.

The first week's segment is a bright blue with an open stitch and light yarn; all seems well for the younger son as he takes his father's wealth and spends it in foreign lands.The second week's segment is dark, mixing red, black, and brown in a tight weave as the younger son has spent all his money and finds himself living with pigs, forbidden to eat even the food that the animals receive. The younger son realizes he needs to return home.
The third week returns to the original stitching as the younger son returns home and his father runs out to meet him with joy. The color is now a dusty green as the father throws a party to give new life to his road weary son.

The fourth week's color is a dark red, as the elder son hears of the celebration for his brother and becomes angry that someone so irresponsible should be welcomed with such joy.

The fifth week does not receive a new segment, but instead a trim and surrounds the shawl. This is the constant love of the father that surrounds both brothers. Each side is a different color. One is black and one is white, signifying the father's words to his eldest son about the younger, "he was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found." One is green and one is yellow, signifying the congregation's own journey through Lent, from the season after Epiphany (green) to Easter (yellow).

Though this first canvas looks blank, it's actually been covered with gesso, a substance which gives the canvas roughness and texture so that it can bring the image to life. Also, if you look closely, there are blue streaks.

Our painter was sick one week, hence only four paintings, but she's planning to do more for Maundy Thursday.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Sign" Vocational Discernment Game

The Fund for Theological Education, sponsor of last summer's art adventures has struck again!

Apparently a lot of young folks graduate from college and think, "I have no idea what I want to do with my life; I'll volunteer for a year!" And then after a year of service they still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. And so FTE has hired a group of 6 young people, including me, to develop a three day vocation discernment retreat for volunteers in religious volunteer programs like Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, etc.

We are coming at the project from the perspective of story. What is my story? What is my community's story? What is God's story? How do they connect? (sound familiar) One of the things we wanted to do was talk about how other people have been shaped to live out their part in God's story. As such, we developed the following game based on Clue:

Various characters include:
Anna Mow, one of the first women ordained to ministry in the Church of the Brethren, was a minister, teacher, missionary, seminary professor, author of many books and sought-after speaker. Her influence spanned the globe, but she is most remembered for her ability to care deeply about each person she came into contact with and her loud, raucous, infectious laughter.

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, former anarchist, and devout Catholic convert. Dorothy spent most of her young life fighting injustices as a crusader journalist. She believed that religion was did not address the social concerns of the day, but gradually found faith after her daughter was born. In the 1930s, Day began publishing the Catholic Worker, a newspaper specifically designed to let working people know about dignity of life that Christianity taught. When people began coming to the paper’s office looking for food, Dorothy and the staff did what she could to feed them. This led to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. Her writings and lived example of a total dedication to the Gospel, especially voluntary poverty, communal living and pacifism, continues to be a challenge to Christians everywhere today.

Jeff Johnson, realizing the societal harm that comes from systemic obliviousness to any segment of humanity, Jeff Johnson has worked in various capacities to make visible and empower the gay and lesbian community, people with AIDS, immigrants, and workers. Despite being approved for ordination before the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America banned non-celibate homosexuals from ordination, Jeff co-founded Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministry and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project to create a means for other homosexuals to be ordained within the Lutheran tradition.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Bodily Form Like a Dove

A few weeks ago, I was preaching on Luke 3:22, "and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

My point was that the God speaks to us through everyday objects and interactions. So the week prior I told everyone to bring a camera or other digital picture taking device to worship. Then during the sermon, I sent them outside to walk around the area and take pictures of where they saw God in the neighborhood. When they came back I asked them what they saw and encouraged them to take pictures throughout the week of where God speaks words of affirmation to them. They were to email me the picture before Friday, and the next Sunday we had a slideshow of what people saw.

Here are a few of my favorites:

To see the complete collection, click here, or visit and look for "Do You See God at Work Here Too?"