I had been unsettled and restless for months. I knew something was brewing. For me, God’s promptings and urgings usually start with a sense of unrest and a need to do something. I’ve learned to recognize it and prepare myself for some unknown adventure. I never know when God will pull the trigger, but I wait with patient anticipation...ready to go. I heard the “gun” go off when Brad presented the Journey Project for the first time during a shareholder meeting. The church was going to be doing something very big in response to the growing needs of the ministry. After hearing about the heart of the campaign and learning more details, I wondered if there could be a place for artistic expression in this venture. What does a church capital campaign have to do with visual art? Let me back up a bit. I’ve struggled to find my place in the body. I knew in my heart that God had created me to make beautiful things for his glory, and I’ve been doing that, but how is art to be used by God in the church? What is my role? What is the role of art? I’ve been learning in the last year or so that artists are called not only to point to God through the beauty of their creative endeavors but also to nourish God’s people through their creativity, awakening life and inspiration as only visual expressions can. The arts can activate parts of our brains and spirits that otherwise go untouched. I was starting to understand that the arts, in general, have a big part to play in the mission of the church: growing brothers and sisters in Christ and also reaching those who don’t know him as of yet. I wanted to start testing this theory, but I didn’t know how to start. Ok, back to the Journey Project.I got the first inklings of how the arts could support the mission of the church during this Journey Project meeting. After speaking briefly with Valerie, our Communications Director, I was invited to share my ideas with the other creative team members at a planning meeting. Upon presenting my thoughts about using a collaborative, visual art expression in conjunction with the Journey Campaign, the idea took on a life of its own, and it started to be honed and tweaked by the other creatives at the meeting. This wasn’t my idea--it was God’s,so I threw it out there and let my other creative brothers and sisters give input and thoughts. What amazing results! My initial idea was transformed into a six-week, progressive art installation. After spending some time in the studio experimenting with our design ideas regarding chevron shapes and mixed media processes and imagery, we landed on using colored paper as the background with a symbolic image transferred on top to unify the handwritten responses. We worked with the pastoral staff to come up with a simple, poignant question that would ingrain the mission of the weekly message into the hearts and minds of those attending and participating. This was key. I wasn’t doing this to make a pretty piece of art; I wanted this activity to impact people deeply. Each week, I picked up Sunday’s written responses and would spend the next day or so reading through the responses and sorting them.On average, I received 400-500 slips of paper each week! The vulnerability and honesty of the responses were astounding--a sacred offering to God from hundreds of hearts. It felt important to use each slip that was submitted, and since I could only use around 150-200 pieces of paper per panel, I needed to come up with a different way to use all the other papers. That’s where the hanging paper strings idea was born. Again, I can’t take credit for the idea. I believe it was God the Master Artist at work. I mulled ideas around in my head...came up with many “duds” until the concept came together through the use of diamond, paper shapes threaded on burlap string and hung from branches picked up from around the church. This visual expression allowed for each heartfelt written response to be celebrated. The ability of the installation to move and “breathe” reminded me of the winds we face on our journeys as well as the movement of the Spirit. The branches symbolized constant growth and the reminder that we are to abide in the vine and that we are far more beautiful together than apart. So, back to the panels. Over six weeks, the process of collection, production and installation became routine, but not stagnant. Each panel had something new to share about our corporate journey, and each panel brought growth and change within me. Each time I would work on the pieces, whether sorting, gluing or transferring imagery, I would feel my heart swell and bloom. My spirit needed this far more than I knew. Through this experience, I grew to love the individuals that participated. I didn’t know any names, but I got to be touched by their stories. I fell more in love with my God. I saw God working in myriad ways through each response. I saw the sovereignty of his timing and his hand. I saw his love. I saw his grace. I was not expecting this at all when I started this project, but when does God ever just meet our expectations? My hope for this art project is that it will be a visual reminder of our journey together at Faith. That it will point to the Gospel and God’s constant provision for us. I also hope that this will be just the start of the creative fire in our church, one that is fueled by his Spirit and brings his Kingdom in the name of Jesus.
Amelia Furman is a mixed media artist located in Loveland, CO. You can view more of her work at www.ameliafurman.com or follow her at @ameliafurmanmixedmedia on Facebook and/or Instagram. If you feel God leading you to use your artistic gifts at Faith or want to find community with other creatives at Faith, please contact Amelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.