Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An Age of Church Experiements

The crazy ministry I'm trying to develop in Brooklyn is mentioned in the Christian Century, along with a lot of other awesome new congregations.  I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the church in an era when the institution supports new visions of how to embody God's love. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Web of Hopes and Memories

On Sunday, a group of folks went to McCarren Park to weave a web of hopes and memories in a tree. 
We had strips of brightly colored paper, pens, staplers, and a sign inviting passersby to write down a memory of a park and a hope for this park.  The goal was to have people write down something about parks, past or future, on a strip of paper, then loop the paper into a circle, and connect it to other strips of paper.  The result would be a giant colorful sculpture of Williamsburg's interconnecting hopes, dreams, and memories about parks.
Initially, when there was only a bare tree, no one seemed interested in the project.  But as the initial group hung their own links on the tree, passersby became more intrigued. 
 Of all the interactive art projects in which I've participated, this is probably the one to which most people had some frame of reference.  Perhaps because of that, it was also the one which most people would look at,  but not come over at participate.  It took constant invitations to make art and share memories to get folks involved.  However, a few people participating seemed to encourage others to participate.
  So that at times there would be waves of folks sharing memories and dreams.  
Dogs were especially good at encouraging folks to participate.  And one dog even added a link to the web by sharing an abstract representation of a park memory (or hope, we aren't sure).
It was wonderful to hear people comment on how the project reminded them of special memories that they had forgotten.  One of my favorite moments is when someone shared a memory of a park in Austin, and two strangers beside her exclaimed that they were from Austin.  Perhaps because of the positive memories and connections that the project brought to people, some of the folks who participated in the project got  really excited about it and encourage other strangers to do the same.  Special distinction goes to Mario Aguila who spent three hours convincing even the most disinterested hipsters to write positive thoughts on neon paper and hang it in a tree.

By the end, the web itself showed the beauty of our interconnects hopes and memories.
(That's Dan Dilliplane off to the side, who came up with the idea for the project.)

For some close-ups of what people wrote and the web as a fashion accessory, click "Read More."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Art Show Plinko

This past week, St. Luke's Lutheran Church hosted an art show!  

The show was designed to be an opportunity for art students from Pratt (located across the street) to connect with local artists from the Brooklyn community through showing their work together.  As a result we had an eclectic mixture of about twenty artists showing paintings, photographs, and sculpture throughout the sanctuary and parish hall.  We even had a silent film projected on the sanctuary ceiling and a performance by Zombi Jazz.
(This string of paintings is by Ari Dallas, who also runs Happy Doggs, a dog-walking company)
(Despite the awesomeness of the sculpture, people seem more interested in the food)

I, of course, could not pass-up the opportunity to do some interactive art.  So I retooled Christmas Plinko for a day-time art show.      
The glow-sticks were replaced with golf-pegs and the glow paint with screen printing ink.
This time, when participants dropped golf balls covered in paint down the board, they would win prizes of suggested random acts of art show kindness such as "ask a stranger what their favorite artwork is," "ask an artist what inspires them," and "complement an aspect of an artist's work."  "Point out something amazing to a stranger" remained unchanged from Christmas.

The visual art turned out much stronger with the screen printing ink than with the glow paint. 
Particularly up-close

The social art was harder to judge.  Because I setup outside of the art show to draw in passersby (and to avoid splattering paint on the floor), I couldn't really see how people carried out the prizes that they won.  However, there were some great conversations as clumps of people played who were either leaving the show or stepping out to smoke!  And while the art show was a great way to get the community (and the congregation) to think about the church building in a new way, I think that the most meaningful connections didn't happen during the show, but beforehand as artists helped each other set up their work.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First Press and More!

I just got written up in the Greenpoint Star!  Read the article here.

Also, this Thursday, an art show which I helped organize will happen at St. Luke's Lutheran Church (259 Washington Ave, Brooklyn 11205) from 7pm-10pm.  The show is designed to bridge the art student community from Pratt with local Brooklyn artists.  Also, the band Zombi Jazz will be playing.  And there may or may not be interactive art on my part...check it out!

Finally, a sermon preached 3/4/2012 at St. John's Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Greenpoint on Genesis 17:1-16, Romans 4:13-25, and Mark 8:31-38.

Today we are going to talk about differences.
            Have you ever seen those cartoons in the newspaper where two nearly identical pictures are listed side-by-side, and you try to spot the differences between them?  Well, I'm going to try that with two verses of scripture.  The first is from Paul's letter to the Romans (4:19) that we just read, the second, is from Genesis 17:17, one verse after our lectionary reading for today ended.  Here's Paul: "[Abraham] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb." Now here is Genesis 17, "Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"" 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

High-Velocity Bibles and Magnetic Poetry

On Sunday night, I hung four bibles from a ceiling and invited people to smash them together.  
To make art! To make conversation! To make sacred text!

To clarify, this was at the Animamus Art Salon, the bibles were magnetized, and people wrote poetry on them.   

Here's how it went down in 5 simple steps:

1.  People would arrive at the art salon and notice bibles hanging from the ceiling above a table covered in paperclips and magnetic poetry

2. I would invite them to write a verse on the cover of one of the bibles using double-sided magnetic poetry (this is possible because the bibles were magnetic...because I glued magnets to the inside of their covers).  I encouraged verses to be about what participants would include if they were to create their own sacred text.

3.  Participants were then asked to document in a handy-dandy notebook what they wrote .

4.  Participants then pulled back the bibles and smashed them into each other!
In the collision, some of the words of poetry would transfer from one bible to another, some would fall off, and some would stay where they started.  But one way or another, the words that each person wrote physically connected to the words that someone else wrote, and were changed in the process.  Which brings us to:

5. People examined what of the old remained and what new poetry had been created by comparing the covers of the post-collision bibles to what had been documented in the handy-dandy notebook. 
(Click here for more pictures of this and the other amazing presenters at the salon) 

I did this to start a conversation about how the Bible is not a single book written by a single author, it's a library.  The Bible is a collection of texts written by different communities with very different views over the course of very different periods of history.  As a result, the Bible conflicts with itself, contradicts itself, and contains everything from war stories, to erotic poetry, to nihilistic philosophy.  And that's what makes it sacred.  The Bible's holiness comes not from having an exclusive claim to truth, or even a consistent message about God, but from being the surface on which people throughout history have let loose their deepest, and often most broken, convictions about what it means to be human in search of the divine, and let those convictions collide.  And in that collision of convictions, some have transferred, some have fallen away, and some have remained but were remade for future generations to smash into. 

And so with this project, I invited people to do just that, to join the smashing, to join the colliding, to join the recreating of the sacred conversation throughout history.
 (one of the bibles after it had collided four times)