Midweek Blog: Creativity and Spiritual Formation

The Leadership Team recently approved my sabbatical proposal for this coming summer, so I thought I would use this month’s blog to let the congregation know a little more about what my plans and hopes are for this time away from normal duties.  The guiding question that I have decided to spend my sabbatical focusing on is:

How can nurturing lives of creative expression support opportunities for deepening spiritual formation?

This question has emerged from a number of different threads in my life, but at the heart of it is my interest in exploring how acts of creativity and creation help us to explore, express, and make meaning of our lives and our experiences of the Divine. 

Somewhere along the line, I think many of us stop thinking of ourselves as artists.  Maybe this is because we think that title is only reserved for those who get paid for their art.  Maybe it is because we think we are not as skilled as others.  Maybe it is because we have too narrow a view of what counts as art. In Christian circles, we regularly talk about “God the Creator,” but we forget that ‘creator’ can be another word for ‘artist.’  How would our spiritual lives be enriched if we began to think of ourselves not just as created in the image of God but as “creative in the image of God” (to borrow a phrase from Katherine M. Douglass’s book of the same name)?

One of the guiding metaphors that has helped me think about this question is imagining the difference between viewing faith as a trip to an art museum versus viewing it as a trip to an artist workshop. Instead of treating religion as something that happens when we gather to experience and admire what others have created in response to encounters with the Divine, what would it mean to see the practice of religion as an invitation to explore our own creative responses? 

To help me explore these ideas and questions, I will be spending most of my sabbatical time working through the 12-week program by Julia Cameron titled, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.  This resource is one that has been recommended by a number of sources, both from within CMC and beyond.  More than just another book to read, The Artist’s Way is a self-led program that includes regular practices, disciplines, and weekly activities for exploring and nurturing creativity. (If any of you are familiar with this program, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it.)

Along with The Artist’s Way, I plan to do some reading in the field of theopoetics, a theological discipline that is hard to define but generally seeks to do theology in a way that makes connections between creative expression and meaning-making.  In the little bit that I have already read in this field, I have found it to be a refreshing corrective to theological approaches that tend to be very analytical and mind-centered. 

There are other things I plan to do during the sabbatical both on a professional development level and a personal level, but this post is already a little too long.  Instead, I’d love to hear from you all what sorts of creative endeavors have fed your soul and how you nurture creativity in your life.