Creatively Active

Darlings, just a quicky, and you’re gonna do all the heavy lifting!

Last night I was chatting with a new friend and was having the conversation we’ve all had many times, where we explain how it is possible to cherish Scripture without taking it all literally. That was one part of the conversation. Another part of the conversation was about being a clergy person, and how the image and persona of clergy is changing in this era and how I want to speak to that topic, use digital media to mentor clergy in the exploration of that topic together, and model that in my own ministry. I said, basically, that the reason I am such an unusual character to him is that I’m one person, not two: and that most clergymen he had met and known in his life were obliged to have a public persona and a private one, where they felt safe to “let down their hair.”

I imagine you’ve had this talk with folks before. That wasn’t the “holy cow” moment for me. The “holy cow” moment for me was when this man said to me, “You’re the only minister I’ve ever met who has an active creative life.”

I said, “You’re KIDDING!” But no, he wasn’t. For him, a pastor was a person who was serious, studious, and spent his time making parish rounds, preaching and attending potlucks.

I thought about this, and I thought about all of you, my pigeons, men and women of many ages who are indeed scholars and Bible readers and parish visitors and potluck goers and preachers, but who are also knitters and singers and guitarists and composers and painters and chefs and gourmet bakers and sculptors and actors and poets and quilters and filmmakers and milliners, weavers and dancers and I thought I’d ask you to please comment here and share with my friend the ways that you, an ordained minister, are creatively active. I think he would get a real kick out of seeing the variety of ways you express your creativity.

Now that I think about it, where has creative expression fit into our limited repertoire of clergy personae? Not much, eh? You don’t see that milquetoast pastor dad on “Seventh Heaven” or the bookish minister from “Gilead” or the kindly Rev. Alden on “Little House On the Prairie” plotting out a new sewing project or taking tap dance lessons or packing up his viola to go play with the local symphony. They do ministry stuff all day. So if you didn’t know any better, you might go away thinking that ministers aren’t creatively inspired people or people who love art, need art, and need to make art.

So do tell. What is your creative joy and inspiration?

P.S. Thanks for your feedback on the banner. I know it’s not quite the right dimensions. Mea culpa. I’ll be leaving it up for awhile and then trying another one. Because it’s fun, and we’re going to keep at it until I find one that feels just right, like Goldilocks.

35 Replies to “Creatively Active”

  1. I draw, knit, cook, and make up cryptic crosswords–you know, the ones with those weird clues that don’t sound like they make any sense because they’re all about anagrams and puns. (I would like to say I write crosswords, but I haven’t ever put them into an actual grid. I just have lists of words and their clues.) Also, creating worship and writing sermons are very much a part of my creative life, though I appreciate your friend’s wanting to know what we do besides that.

    I can only speak for myself, but I think in addition to the media image of clergy as rather dull, bookish types who wouldn’t know a samba from a samosa, people don’t know the extent of ministers’ creative lives because we don’t share them with our congregations. I have been trying to do that more.

  2. What a great question! The most creative thing I do is parent. Parenting requires the bulk of my attention and focus and doing that in a way that has integrity for me is a primary branch of my vocation. It is the most fruitful and challenging task I can imagine. In our community I’m of course known to be a clergy person but I’m also a mom who fixes three meals a day, folds more laundry than I can imagine, and endeavors to always have room for one more at the table and in the minivan. In doing this and maintaining good relationships with kids and parents alike the kind of integration you talk about is absolutely imperative, because you can’t be one person at church and another person outside of it. Like all creative endeavors it is a work in progress.

  3. I have been a clergy-mom (and I agree with Madge about the creativity parenting requires); I quilt and knit; I read “brain candy” and go to movies; I experiment with cooking and “re-compose” rooms in my house (moving stuff around in attractive ways — changing which piece of furniture goes in which room, sometimes changing the purpose of a room completely). For a while my husband and I went dancing ever Friday night. Now, I don’t do those things as often as I would like to — but if I don’t do them occasionally I’m no good to anyone.

  4. A good bit of my creative side overlaps with my ministry. For example, I started painting (‘writing’) icons after the death of my first husband. I include them in worship, teaching, and retreats when it is appropriate. I have played mountain dulcimer for ages, and started playing Celtic harp a few years ago. I use both instruments on a regular basis in worship and pastoral care. I agree with Amy that writing sermons and planning worship are creative activities that are central to my vocation. Some of the less public aspects of my creative life include cooking, gardening, drawing, and writing.

  5. I write fiction, sing, play oboe, do a little bit of graphic art and photography, and I dance. These are all the things I do regularly, and do not include anything I have done in the past but don’t do now.

    There are two other pastors at my church, one a retired pastor who does ten hours a week of visitation. He cooks beautiful dinners and sings in a pastors’ choir. The other pastor is the senior pastor so she has less free time, but she sings and does gardening and flower arranging.

  6. I make jewelry, scrapbook, knit, garden, decoupage, design glass mosaics, do a little sewing (mostly curtains and comforters for my home) and quilting. In recent years I’ve incorporated scrapbooking into our church’s ministry by developing a congregational scrapbook where we make and display pages of new babies, new members, weddings, special events, and individuals remembered in memorials. We are also part of a community donation vegetable garden, which lets me garden as part of my job! Last Christmas, in addition to liturgical responsibilities, there was a rash of deaths/funerals and other special needs related to my congregation. I got through it by promising myself that as soon as possible I would sit for an evening and string beads. There’s something meditative in the creative process of designing jewelry, and it can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it.

  7. I read, write, cook, and bake bread. I craft and make all kinds of things for my home. I just finished repadding and covering my dining room chairs. Over the years I have taken tennis lessons, furniture painting classes and mosaic classes. I have also taken art class with our middle school students which was just marvelous. And amen sister about the creativity necessary for parenting!

  8. Indeed, I think that making sure we “create” is an integral part of our “imago dei”! I draw, knit, crochet and weave, and make finger labyrinths and do mosaics. My goal this year is to make all my Christmas gifts. [Note to self: better get started, dear.] I totally concur that crafting and delivering sermons is an expression of our creativity. Some day, I hope to be part of a theatrical production.
    Here’s a wish/dream I had when I was exploring what I wanted to do on my first sabbatical some 3 or 4 years ago: I wanted to go to adult art camp. During the summer, kids can go to art camp, where they do drama one week, drawing another, painting, potting, and so on. Alas, I could find nothing for anyone over about 14. The sabbatical I took was life-changing and wonderful, but I still wish there was an adult art camp for me to go to.

  9. I make my own greeting cards using stamping and I cross stitch (well I’m taking that hobby up again after a many year hiatus). I also love to read, mostly fiction, but every now and then non-fiction – just finished “Drop Dead Healthy” by AJ Jacobs and laughed my head off… and learned a lot too. And I love to cook. I am lactose intolerant and vegetarian so I eat mostly vegan meals. I find it forces me to be creative in the kitchen. I enjoy reading food blogs and trying out new menu ideas – in fact I cook much more now than I did when I ate meat (5 years ago now).

    Most of the ministry friends I have (which is most of my friends) are quite creative. We’re stampers and quilters and singers and writers and musicians and bakers – all variety of hobbies. I think it’s a part of being in ministry because when you see how wonderful and amazing God’s creation is, it inspires you to impact your own space in imaginative ways.

  10. In addition to parenting and homemaking-related stuff, I am a competitive swimmer/triathlete. Not sure how “creative” it is to plot out long runs and swim sets, but I think it adds plenty of spice and enjoyment to my life!

  11. I had to giggle at your viola statement- I *did* play the viola with any local group I could get into for years! (I don’t anymore, after a broken hand, I don’t feel I have my viola playing up to snuff at the moment. Maybe some year!)

    I knit (I currently have a gargoyle on the needles), read, and with my husband away on a long work event (he’ll be gone for six months!) I might start writing again.

    I also train for sports, which is a significant endeavor. Most of my sport friends don’t know me as a minister, so they only know me with the hair let down. They do know that I AM a minister, but they don’t attend my parish. Keeps me real!

  12. I have been out of the professional church world for a few years now to take care of my children, but I have always been a writer. I wrote copy for many churches, for many years, but I have always found solace in staring at my own honest and sometimes ugly thoughts and emotions in the reflection of a computer screen.

    I would guess that most clergy-members simply don’t have time for creativity. I’ve never worked for a pastor whom I didn’t believe earned his salary. They are expended caring for the church while desperately trying to hold their personal lives together.

    Also, I worked with a pastor (of a formerly Pentecostal church) who was a professional clogger/buck-dancer in his limited free-time. He danced on the Grand Ole Opry for many years alongside artists such as Garth Brooks and Loretta Lynn. Talk about exercising a creative side…

  13. We are interesting people, aren’t we!?

    I am sort of a craft-omnivore. I spend the most time on knitting/fiber art and designing jewelry, but I also do collage, and paint, and sew, and I sing whenever I have the chance. I try to bring a creative consciousness into my worship and preaching whenever I can — I consider a good sermon to be an act of poetry as much as speech, and I am always trying to bring beautiful things into the worship space.

    Also, I’m a referee for flat-track roller derby. Not necessarily creative, but awesome and fun.

  14. I silk paint and do papercrafting… I bake and ice cupcakes, I zumba! I’m more creative now than I was before ordination – but getting enough time to do all the things I want to do is hard, but that’s what days off, crafting retreats and sabbaticals are for!

  15. I’m a singer (Opera, Lieder- at a semiprofessional level), play the Cello in an orchestra, I’m a horse-rider, runner, skier.
    And since I got my new sewingmachine for Christmas last year I started sewing, mostly quilting but also a sipmle dress so far.

    And all this inspires my ministry. 😀

  16. Here’s another witness to the glories of Ghost Ranch art camp. Absolutely amazing to get the so-gorgeous-it-hurts scenery, easy company of other adults (great for us introverts who don’t like traveling alone always) and art, art, art, all day long. I took a collage class a number of years ago that really kicked my artwork into a new gear. I also think of my line dancing as creative. I’m learning new dances – and if I’m absorbed in learning, I feel creative.

  17. Re: Art camp – another option – check with a local artists’ guild. Many of them have members who offer group and solo classes.

  18. I’m a rabbi and I have a very active creative life. While I’ve recently abandoned some of my more “crafty” pursuits (crochet, sewing, collages) because of time and tendonitis, I have an active writing life that includes taking weekly classes, going on week-long workshops, and writing on my own. It took a few years to find these outlets, but it has been a really enriching search. I’m still searching for a way to nourish my musical and theatrical self (violin, guitar, and general musical theater diva-ness), but the shower and the car do just fine for now. Also, I hang out with crafty people, so we sometimes do projects together or have “craft nights.”

  19. My primary creative outlet is knitting. Both my mother and my grandmother were prolific knitters; my father and uncle wore ONLY hand knit socks. So I grew up with it and it’s like breathing to me; I can’t imagine life without it. For me it’s as much about learning, focus and mental discipline as it is about making something; there are so many interesting and complicated techniques to learn, and just so much general knitting lore that I’d like to absorb — although I’ve been knitting actively for 50 years, I think I will always be a beginner!

    Knitting feels like an almost literal link with my foremothers — that length of yarn ties me to them as effectively as any visible resemblance or DNA. It also links me with my daughter, who for a time was a better knitter than I was. We always have something to show each other and rave about!

    I also made up stories for the Children’s Moment in church before I retired. This was a fun way to express the point of the sermon which would come later, and to do it in a way that children would “get.” I found it very creative and freeing to approach my sermonic material through the perspective of a good-hearted dog (my dog Berry OBM, who was the hero of all the stories) and think of simple and endearing ways to express the points I wanted to make.

  20. Before I became a pastor, I studied and performed as a concert violinist. Along with pastoring full-time, I still keep up some of the performing today, in part because I am married to an symphony conductor, and in part because I could never leave the amazing creative world of music. The adventurous life of a gigging musician feeds my preaching soul like nothing else. Besides, my musician friends have been some of the better theologians I’ve encountered so far.

  21. My immediate reaction to your new friend’s comment is that this was a pretty typical putdown by a run- of- the- mill, secular humanist. Imagine if you generalized about his profession and said, “Gee, I’ve never met a doctor(or whatever line of work he’s in) who wasn’t totally different from his professional self in his ‘down’ time. Never met a doctor who didn’t have a creative side.” He’d think you were nuts. EVERYONE thinks they’re creative if they consider themselves remotely human, right?

  22. Let’s see…I’m a knitter and weaver and I often dye the warps I use in weaving. I performed in the world premier of an opera in February (my 16 year old son played one of the leads–I was the second woman from the left…). I write bad poetry and wonderful short stories. I preach and cook and teach and garden. Creativity is essential to my life and ministry. We are called to be co-creators in this world of ours.

  23. i love seeing everyone’s responses – wow! wish i could see their projects or listen to their music.

    my creativity flows out through:
    – my organic, edible, food forest-like garden (I’m slowly transforming our 1/4 acre lot in LA)
    – creating yummy vegan dinners for small groups of friends
    – home decor
    – vegan baking (cupcakes, scones, cakes, cookies)
    – singing
    – story for all ages – i created a character named “chalice girl” and I like to play with visuals and music during this part of worship

  24. Right now I am having fun trying out making jewelry. Last summer I redecorated my bedroom, using fabrics and also framing some prints. It’s always something, just not usually the same thing.

  25. Thank you for SHARING, pigeons!!! This has been a wonderful thread, and I’ve learned so much about how interesting we really are.

  26. Wow…we are a creative lot. I write creatively. I bake and have become “the baker” for my extended family for birthday cakes. I like to design cakes that will be colourful and fun and hopefully taste good too.

    Right now I’m in a state of mourning and exhaustion so my hobby is sleeping. I nap, I read magazines that aren’t about anything in particular. And I pray. A lot.

  27. I bake, cross-stitch, write songs, play piano (badly) and belly dance!

  28. Hi, I am not an ordained minister but wanted to mention that Squam art retreats look pretty neat. Thanks for sharing all of your gifts, everyone!!

  29. I run some, I knit a bit, I’m active in community theater – acting, leading camp for kids, etc. I parent -A LOT. I love to read fiction and need to get back to non-liturgical writing. I dream.

  30. I am a photographer, fiber artist (felt, embroidery, etc) and live for my yoga practice. And I cook as spiritual discipline and creative practice and as an act of caring for my family.

  31. Oh, my. This is one of the most fun and invigorating threads that I’ve read in a while. What an amazing and generative group this is. I’m not an ordained minister (I’m a community organizer) and feel like I always wear my creative hat. Collage is my art of choice and I just took a weekend class that is having me jump out into unfamiliar places with my art. Thanks for your query, PB.

  32. On July 21, 2012 at 7:57 am, Susan wrote:

    “My immediate reaction to your new friend’s comment is that this was a pretty typical putdown by a run- of- the- mill, secular humanist.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see where this was a putdown at all. I am the person that PeaceBang speaks of. The conversation lasted over three hours and a very small part of the entire conversation was quoted. I learned a great deal from the discussion we had and some things I was unsure or misinformed about became clearer for me. I certainly didn’t stereotype PeaceBang – I was struck by her openness and honesty. It was refreshing. Stating the fact that I had never met another member of the clergy like her was not a putdown – and she knew it – but rather a compliment to her way of teaching the Scripture and allowing people like me to have a discussion such as this with her. Lastly, the term “unusual character” were PeaceBang’s words, not mine. She is unlike any other member of the clergy I have met, and I enjoyed our discussion very much. Those in her congregation are lucky to have her lead them. She showed me tolerance and understanding, and listened to me when I had questions. I also listened to her and that makes me anything but a “secular humanist”.

  33. I’ve always loved drawing and art, although I expressed myself through fiber arts for many years, spinning, dying and weaving. One great delight was working through a theme and series of Lenten services and having my team take the sketches I made and spend an afternoon turning them into painted banners. I found doodling during meetings deeply helpful – I find images, ideas and even emotional processing in those little drawings!

  34. I cook and read and write, but most recently (as in last summer when I did my first unit of CPE) I discovered…FURNITURE REFINISHING as a creative outlet for all the feelings of ministry. There really is nothing I’ve yet come across that a little time with a power sander and a jigsaw (no, not the puzzles) can’t tune out and up and get me back on the soul-caring road. So far I’ve built a coffee table, bookshelves and a completely re-painted antique bedroom suite. The great thing about it is that my mind gets exercised in a new way (thinking about angles and cuts and engineering type stuff), the power tools block out a lot of head noise (excuse me, hon. I can’t hear a word you’re saying while the saw is going!), and in the end I have a new addition to my home that I truly cherish.

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