Creative Space Summer – A P.S.

One of the things we say we’re about is being a missional church. Being missional can take on many different ways of being lived out. Sometimes they will be ministry opportunities within the Dwelling Place. Sometimes it will be service opportunities with neighbors or otherwise reaching out to our neighborhood. Sometimes it will be partnering with groups who don’t necessarily claim the Christian story. My co-leader in the Big Kids Class has become a one woman idea factory. I just got this e-mail after telling her about my Creative Space Summers idea/experiment:

Hey Friends,

In thinking about the arts program for this summer and even craft stuff for Sunday school, I’ve been trying to think of ways to use the arts/crafts. In the book I have been reading, “Jesus for President,” Shane Claiborne tells how their church practices the resurrection by taking old “dead” things and uses them, like using an old fridge for a compost bin or planting flowers in old toilets (that grosses me out). He also talks about how they see making beauty where there was nothing or ugliness is practicing resurrection….bringing life to the dead around us. SO…I was wondering if we could pray and talk about ways to use the arts program to bless not just the kids, but the community.

Amber makes cards. She said she is willing to teach a class on how to make these really cool cards. Now, here is the question…who could the kids bless with the cards? The homeless? Outreach kids or workers?

[He Who Would Be Head Pastor], I wanted you to be in on this email so you know what kind of stuff is going through my mind. See what you have done to me?!? Actually, I feel more like I am practicing the presence of Jesus in my life now then in all the years of Awana, VBS, and a myriad of other activities combined. Thanks to all of you! Cindy P.S. Another “marginalized” group we could bless with our artsy craftsy kids stuff is the people in nursing homes. When my mom was dying, we were told over and over again by hospice care how blessed she was to have us…her family. They said there are so many people out there dying alone.

Like I said, it’s an ongoing experiment, but I love it when people take up the reins and fill out what being missional means rather than waiting for the “leaders” to do the imagining for them. He Who Would Be Head Pastor sent the following note to her:

Hey, I am all for you – keep dreaming and thinking big – I have a real heart for these things as well. This actually fits well with the series we are doing. I am trying to give people a bigger theology and a bigger understanding of the gospel than ‘Jesus just comes to save your guilty ass and forgive you’ to more of a wholistic understanding that God is healing the entire cosmos – he will not just wad this wicked earth up and throw it away, but he will redeem, reconcile, renovate, restore what he originally made and and and and he invites us to partner with Him in the healing of the cosmos. All these social justice issues that fundamentalits pushed to the side because they were to busy ‘winning souls’ are now very central to the gospel when we understand a big gospel that includes even the healing of the globe. I pray that God continues to stir your heart with these things and together we can do our part and partner with God. What a great and glorious calling – could there be anything better in the world than to partner with the Creator in bringing about His glorious end for all things when He will eventually fill everything with His presence. I look forward to partnering with you and God in bringing about His redemptive purposes in our time and place.

Sometimes I love this job.

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Creative Space Summers

I refer to most things that go on at the Dwelling Place (heck, the Dwelling Place itself) as an ongoing experiment. This is because when it comes to starting a ministry or running with an idea, well, you can’t be afraid to fail. Helping to run the “Big Kids Place” inspired me to tweak a few things about Creative Space.* Now, Creative Space was tweaked last year to incorporate our work with some of the homeless teenagers from Outreach Inc. This summer, since my kids will be home for the summer, and likely driving me nuts (and I mean that in the most deeply spiritual sense), I was trying to figure out what we could do to stretch ourselves creatively and occupy our time. But let me back up.

The Sunday after Easter, instead of having the kids back in our classroom, I had them stay in with the rest of the congregation, in the back. He Who Would Be Head Pastor was doing a sermon examining how the Resurrection changes everything in our lives. I was having the kids draw pictures to describe what the Resurrection means to them. I was so impressed with what they came up with (and what parts of the Resurrection story captured their imagination – without realizing it, they essentially covered all of the stations of the cross). I then spread the pictures along the communion table so that the congregation could have images to think about as they took Communion. With that, I had my inspiration for Creative Space summers.

Basically, we’d have a series of structured projects:

-Collage Art: the kids will interpret themselves through pop culture, using magazines and newspapers to cut out images.

-Art Journal: this is a four week project where they will craft their own journal. This will be a mix of crafts and words as they will take turns describing: 1) themselves 2) their friends 3) their family 4) their beliefs

-StoryTeller Sculptures: will be a two week project where we will sculpt the main story teller in our lives. We will then write a story that the storyteller has told us as well as a story about the story teller.

-Photography week: I’m letting the kids loose with cameras.

-Scrapbook week: we’ll be scrapbooking the images captured the previous week.

-Comic Book weeks: we will be telling a story using pictures (and some of the photos).

I was definitely not encouraged to pursue this by my son’s suddenly taking the arts seriously (and having a piece displayed at his school). On the positive side, this will double as a pilot project for a larger arts ministry that a few of us around the city are working on. And I’m following my own advice: I might as well keep experimenting … my dating life alone inured me to the prospect of failure.

*Not that writers are superstitious or anything, but all of the stories except one that I’ve written at Creative Space have sold. And my friend and I just finished the first draft of our movie script. So as far as getting actually projects completed, I’d consider that part of the experiment a success.

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Creative Space: Lessons Learned

Sometimes we have to go with an idea, run as hard and as fast as we can, spend whatever resources we have in order to find out we’re wasting our time that much sooner. We have to experiment … and fail. Learn and start again, and not be afraid to fail. Realize that something is not working and not be afraid to shut it down, even if a remnant is still benefitting from it. Or that could be me rationalizing why I shut down Creative Space for the summer.

Officially, it was on hiatus, I simply had no intentions of starting it back up. I figured if God wanted it, He’d provide the people for it. Actually, it isn’t what I figured. I was a little bitter that my vision hadn’t taken off and was off pouting in silence. One of the things that I realized was that Creative Space, the first go around, was my vision. It went exactly as I envisioned and planned it … and flopped on its face. Thus, any pride of being able to say “I did it” or even “We (the Dwelling Place) did this” was gone. That was one of the lessons I learned in its down time.

However, some folks started whispering in my ear that we ought to start the ministry back up. Which was fine, I just wasn’t going to be the person leading it. You quickly find out who was serious about it by putting the burden of starting it on their shoulders. Once I started hearing “how can I help?” I was ready to start seeing about putting together the structure – one that could run without me. That was lesson number two, allowing the right people room to come in and do what they are passionate about.

My next step was to talk to people. People inside the Dwelling Place and outside (as a couple of the voices prodding me didn’t even go to my church, but wanted to see a ministry like it take off). Lesson number three, if you want to be able to best use your people, find out what they do and what they want to do. I only pursued as step as I found people interested in helping with it.

With that in mind, here’s what the overall plan currently is:
-Creative Space will start back up in January of 2007 (January 9, 2007 to be precise)
-it will meet Tuesday nights at the Dwelling Place starting at 6:30 pm
-we will be working with some of the teens from Outreach Incorporated. What we’ve seen is that art speaks right to where they are and cuts through the crap of life. We will be acting as mentors for them to help them express themselves (however that may be) as well as collaborating with them on a few projects.
-in addition to the loose format of an open gym night for projects, there will be six areas of interest:

1) Film. We will be working on creating a movie for our Christmas 2007 service. We like the idea of using people’s artistic gifts to do a production, however, to be honest, I hate cantatass. The movie will be written, directed, and filmed by the folks at Creative Space. We may even do the next Outreach documentary.

2) Writing. One of our projects will be a book/photography project with the working title “The Face of Homeless Teens.” We will be helping the teens tell their stories alongside photo essays of them.

3) Art. Artists from creative space will be doing a series of paintings, poems, and photographs so that the story of the bible will be told around the main room of the Dwelling Place.

4) Music. Some of our people will be helping the kids lay down tracks and helping them fulfill their music vision. We’ve even made contacts who would be willing to sell the CDs. Others under this area of the ministry will be helping score the movie or documentary projects.

5) Dance/Drama. We have people who want to be able to express themselves through dance. Also, these will be the people who will act in the film.

6) Individual projects. This was our sole area of interest the first time around and this will still be a place for artists to come and encourage each other. We have free wireless at the Dwelling Place, so bloggers can blog and other writers can research. In addition to the other artful expressions, folks can scrap-book (okay, that’s actually a concession for my wife).

Our goal is to eventually be able to do a once a month a gallery showing/open mic night, complete with a coffee bar. We’re partnering with other churches, too. Helping them where we can in doing what they do within the arts community; why reinvent the wheel? It’s not about who gets the credit, but getting the work done. That’s where we are – we’ll see how it goes.

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