It’s always been a joy for me that my jobs usually afforded me the opportunity to be creative. I began by studying theater. When I left college I moved into radio (long story) and discovered that my ability to tell stories, express meaning and emotion just with my voice made me successful as an on air personality. I could do more than just read the news or update the weather. By approaching all those routine items with a little creativity it helped me connect with my audience. That turned into an almost 20 year career as a radio personality (the top of the pyramid in those circles. At least the way I look at it. Another topic for another day.)
For the last 15 years I’ve paid the bills by “taking my talents” into the church. My role there is as teacher, mentor and minister to young people. The ability to tell stories well, to communicate concepts in a manner that is interesting and engaging is a huge gift here. Having great core material to work from doesn’t hurt either! Creativity is something that can help me here as well.
Let me drop something in at this point. It’s something that any creative person already knows but a lot of us had to learn the hard way. Creativity is a trial and error process. Sometimes thing work out beautifully the first time (somewhere, for someone) but very often it is a process filled with discarded ideas and attempts. Learning to deal with that can be a huge hurdle. Again, another topic for another day.
So here’s my latest attempt at bringing a little creativity into my work with the Gospel, young people and the church. It’s actually based on something I did before (I posted a photo on Facebook, HERE). Let me give you a brief overview.
In the Episcopal Church we recognize seven principal kinds of prayer. (You can find them on page 856 of any Book of Common Prayer) Unfortunately, from a teaching point of view, most of them have names that are church jargon (Penitence, Oblation, Intercession, Petition) which creates a stumbling block. It’s tough to have to learn a whole new language before you can learn the concepts. But those are the names I’m stuck with, so how can I ease the way to learn them? I decided to create image based “tokens” to help people connect. I created the ones linked above (which are slightly larger than quarters) last year while I was unemployed. They’re really designed more for personal prayer use than teaching. So this year I moved up to three inch wooden discs and fiddled with some of the images I’m using. Here is what I’ve created this time: (Click on the image for a larger version)
Adoration : Lifting our hearts and minds to God with no request other than to enjoy the divine presence. That always strikes me as basking in the warmth of the sun.
Praise : Our understanding is that God is pretty awesome. Creator of the Universe, the whole deal. We don’t praise him to try and suck up and get something but because God is worthy of praise. Pretty straight forward here, hands raised in praise.
Thanksgiving : I was raised to say thank you. We say prayers of thanks for all the gifts we have received, for anything that draws us closer to the divine goal. We are given things out of God’s love for us and we say thank you out of our love for God.
Oblation : Prayers and actions of giving back what God has given us to the work God wants done in this world. Traditionally, we are asked to give the first fruits of our labor, “off the top” as it were. The image of grapes as those fruits is traditional and appeals to me.
Penitence – This was the image that I changed for this set. Originally it was an eye and a tear but that felt like I wasn’t getting the whole concept. Penitence isn’t just about feeling sorry for doing something wrong. It’s confessing that we screwed up, doing what is possible to fix the problem and working towards not doing it again. So the image here is a torn piece of cloth and the needle and thread of penitence mending what was broken. I like it a lot better.
Creating these tokens has a special meaning for me. To do them properly means I need to put myself into a quiet, creative, dare I say it, even prayerful place. I need to slow down and focus on what is being created. It doesn’t always happen. Take a look at the left arm on “Praise”. That was the first one I did on this project and I wasn’t in the right “head space” for it.
Like I said, creativity is a process of trial and error.