Creativeness in Parish MinistryWritten by Rev. Canon David Smith
Creativeness is one of the themes which Natural Church Development has identified as important for congregational health. So for example it is good if parish leaders remove barriers that limit people’s ministry or if parishes often try new things and are creative in their evangelistic activities.
I recently had a meeting at St. Mary Magdalene’s Picton and was impressed by the creative spirit I encountered.
Since my last visit they have replaced their main door to the church with a clear glass door. A member of the congregation is a carpenter and he offered his time, talent and treasure by making and installing this new door. It is very attractive but its greatest value is that now everyone passing by the church can look into the gorgeous place of worship and are able to see the stained glass window depicting Christ’s ascension. It was a creative way to display their hope in the risen ascended Lord and going from a solid door to a glass door says loud and clear (at least to me) everyone is welcome to join us. We have good news that we celebrate and we would love to share that with you. In fact when come into the church through the week there is a welcoming sign that says something to the effect, “We are glad you have come into the church .Please feel free to visit and pray and if you like come to the office where there is coffee ready you can chat with the priest”.
I thought this was a wonderful idea and you never know who God might send in to pray and talk. This is especially true for this parish as they are on the main drag in Picton and so there is a lot of traffic both vehicles and walkers going past the church every day.
Thanks be to God for the creative abilities of the carpenter who built the door and to the parish leadership for giving it a try.
St. Mary Magdalene’s also has a very talented artist. I am sure they have many but on my brief visit I was treated to the creative work of one gentleman who has gifted the church with two pieces of art. One is a striking depiction of a cross that has been hung in the chapel. I am sure many people will be moved to examine its meaning and to think about the role of Christ’s cross in their lives.
The other piece is hung in the hall. It is very attractive but a bit abstract which prompted one of the men I was meeting with to ask me “what do you think it means?” and because I had no clue what it meant it gave him an opportunity to explain and in so doing talk about the christian faith. I thought it was a beautiful, creative and effective way to share ones faith and because it is in the hall, where I am sure many people not associated with the church will gather from time to time, the artistic work will engage all kinds of people in similar conversations.
So as you can see I was impressed by the creative energy the congregation was displaying and I think it will be used by God for His Kingdom.
I would encourage congregations to support artists, poets, musicians, carpenters, and others in offering to God works that will engage the hearts and minds of people to see anew and to celebrate the wonders of God’s love for His world. As I write this message I am looking at Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son, a magnificent painting that always draws me into how much God loves me through Christ’s death and resurrection. Of course the inspiration of the painting comes from the wonderful story teller Jesus who could have simply said God loves you but instead portrayed this love in a captivating unforgettable tale.
For parishes to be creative, I think you need to set aside time to pray, to be quite and to refrain for awhile from the urgent needs and business to allow God to speak to you. I also think times of fun and laughter generate new ideas and free people up to new possibilities.
For me, I do not think being creative means abandoning the old and I certainly do not think it means making God into our image or tampering with the foundational truths of the Gospel. It is not being different for difference sake. Therefore our primary source of creativeness is The Holy Scriptures and the working of the Holy Spirit. It is exciting to think of how God can use us to build for God’s Kingdom through the agency of the gift of creativeness God has blessed us with.
The Rev David Smith is the Stewardship and Congregational Developement Officer for the Diocese of Ontario.