In November, 2010 I was in Kingston, Ontario attending a course on transformational leadership. The workshop leader engaged us in an imaginative exercise using just pencils, paper, straight lines and curves. Out of these simple elements came some surprising new insights into my own attitudes and beliefs. It was an “aha” moment for me: I realized that the simplest exercise of my imagination could lead to deep, even profound, new self-understanding.
I don’t call myself an artist, but, like every other human being, I have an active imagination and I enjoy being creative. It’s fun. I wondered, is there a way to connect the joy of imagining and creating to the deep spiritual questions that most of us have? And, of course, there is.
I am a Christian minister. For more than 20 years an important part of my work has been listening to people’s deep questions about life and faith, and helping them to find the answers they are looking for. And for most of those years I have felt an aching, incoherent dissatisfaction with all the ways that I have tried to do that. Even when things went well, I felt that there was ‘something more’ that might be possible.
That “aha” moment in Kingston opened up a new and unexpected direction for me. I began to ask around and I discovered that there are all sorts of creative, arts-based approaches to spirituality. Many people, in all sorts of settings, are finding answers to their questions and growing in their relationships through the exercise of their imagination in the creative arts. So why not here in Ottawa, and why not through my church, the United Church of Canada?
The vision for Faith and Arts Ottawa has grown out of these questions, and others like them:
- Where can people who have a personal faith open up about their questions and doubts without feeling judged?
- Where can people who are not part of any religious organization open up and ask their spiritual questions?
- Can older adults with a life-time of spiritual experiences find common ground with young adults who have no experience of faith or faith communities at all?
- And so on, and so on.
I think that we need to ask these questions and then set out to find the answers. I don’t know where we’re going, but I do know it’ll be a fun ride.