Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Last week I shared that 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Abbey of the Arts’ existence as a virtual monastery. I will be reflecting back on some of my reflections from the Archives and tracing the development of the Abbey this year. From the beginning, my heart has been sparked by the conversation between contemplative practice and creative expression and how it might be a force for transformation in the world.
Here is a reflection I wrote in the first month of creating the blog on Creativity and Social Transformation:
If in the Judeo-Christian tradition we believe that we were created in the image of God, a God who is continually at work bringing to birth the Universe and the God who “makes all things new” then why isn’t creativity something that gets more attention in our church communities?
I think, in part, it is because creativity is threatening to institutions and to the status quo. Also, from working extensively with persons in ministry, church culture can be just as consumed with busyness as the rest of the culture (sometimes even more so) and creativity takes time and space to nurture and nourish.? It requires a real commitment to cultivate.
“Creativity” is also one of those words that can conjure up images of self-help books or seem self-indulgent when there is just so much other work to be done.? Creativity itself is also a neutral term, essentially meaning to make something new.? It can be a tremendous force for good or for bad—even things like nuclear energy and war technology are brought into being through the insights of the creative process.
Precisely because of this spectrum of creative acts do we need ways of bringing creativity into a communal context, into conversation about the promise (or potential detriment) of the new ideas being born within us.? We need places where we can hold the new things emerging in the context of discernment.??Creativity also requires practices like Sabbath-keeping, humility, dream-tending, ways of freeing the imagination, and making space (and many others)?to be nurtured in healthy ways, practices about which our religious traditions have great wisdom and which I will continue to explore in more depth here and in my own life.
We live in a time that so desperately needs new visions and ideas, new ways of being and doing in the world.? How do we negotiate peacefulness and alternatives to war and hunger and the ravages of illness? ??How do we make our communities places where we can?all?thrive together?
We may begin creating for ourselves, delighting in the joys of self-expression, claiming ourselves as artists of our own lives—an often difficult, and necessary,?step and why books on creativity are often bestsellers.
But a commitment to creativity and the practices that help to support it ripples out far beyond our solitary concerns, especially when intentionally brought into the community.? What would happen if our faith communities dedicated themselves to being places of healthy creativity?? What kind of power might we unleash if we gathered together to dream dreams and free our imaginations to discover new possibilities and new ways of being?
Creativity is nothing short of essential to our vitality, our hope,?and our future.
I also have an article in the newest issue of Network Ireland on “Earth: The Original Monastery.” If the article resonates with you, you might be interested in joining us for our Lent online retreat.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner