Starting in January 2014, Robertson-Wesley United Church (RWUC) through the Spiritual Arts Collective Program will host 3 new collectives, each one with a different artist from the artist-in-residence program. The spiritual arts collective is a pilot project at RWUC where community members gather to create something as a collective. Each individual brings with them different talents which together help shape the collective. Led by a chosen artist, they will embark on a 2 month journey to create an artistic project surrounding the theme.
The spiritual arts collective program is coming to a close in a couple of months and we are well underway with our very last collective for the year. In the midst of all the preparation for this collective, the other groups and participants are getting ready for their own productions or installations, whether as part of worship services, during fellowship or very soon at the Oliver Community Festival.
As it stands, the spiritual arts collective is a program that focused mostly on outreach. It uses the arts to reach out to people as a means to begin a conversation about life, about faith, about spirituality and much much more. Since its beginnings, it has reached out to a number of individuals from different backgrounds. Some have come directly from the church, some from the community surrounding the church; some new to the neighborhood; some from other churches and others simply called by the spirit. Many of the participants are people who know the artists, and through their work with this program, they have shown interest in the church. The objective of the program was not to see more faces on Sunday morning, rather it was to offer a program for people seeking to explore spirituality and faith through the arts. We know that people have been wounded by the church or by life, whether past or present, and the spiritual arts collective can be a healing process where in to explore this. It is our goal as stewards to offer a safe and comfortable place for God's children in our home, in our church and in our midst and we welcome anyone and everyone.
Thus, the arts can allow us to fully let go of the constraints & barriers, the structure or the pressure and allow us feel the ebb and flow of PRESENCE. Our presence - in the moment- not the past or the future, but the present is what the current collective is exploring in their gatherings. How do we find presence in the present? The group will now collectively find ways to express this over the next couple of months, and during their collective gatherings they will explore movement, group mandalas, art journaling and more. Along the way, they will build community and share with each other the many different and hidden talents each one of them possesses.
As the artistic team, we continue to reflect on the value and place of such a program. Looking forward into the following year, we are faced with a difficult question: "How can this program continue to exist without funding from the church?" Currently, the spiritual arts collective program is funded through monies received from the Helen Mack Fund. These funds help cover costs relating to Casey's position as the program curator. Costs such as staffing, rental space, administration costs, are considered donations-in-kind from Robertson-Wesley United Church. The artistic team has applied to various other funds for the program and is still awaiting answers.
For now, we can be satisfied that the program has had a successful inaugural year. Just over 50 people participated actively in the spiritual arts collective and more than 75 expressed interest. This does not include the many volunteers along the way. I would like to express many thanks to Rosemary Dunbar, Rose Hamel, Allie Romao and Nancy Heule for their help with hosting the collective gatherings. These lovely volunteers shared their time and energy to offer a most welcoming feel to our collective participants by providing them with lunch. Thank you again. Not only was the food DE-LI-CIOUS, you made our guests feel at home in this place!
Why a Spiritual Arts Collective?
Our hope is that when the collective meets, they will explore a life forming and/or spiritual question or theme and this will enable the group to create something that can be shared with others. It would be up to the group to determine where they will share their creation: at a community event, a stand-alone creation in a public space, or a Sunday morning or alternative worship time. We want to provide an empowering and safe place for participants to share their spiritual journey through any of the arts including visual arts, drama, dance, music, writing, community initiatives or political commentaries. The collective process has the power to create strong relationships and build trust.
God's Spirit at Work
In the United Church one of our statements of faith says, "We believe in God who has created and is creating, who works in us and others by the Spirit." The collective process builds deep relationships and would be an accessible way for people to express themselves and see God's spirit at work.
Arts and Spirituality
Creating and appreciating beauty in our midst is one of the things that draws people together. In her article The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining, author Christine Valters Paintner, says "In art-making we have the freedom to reclaim our feelings, voice, and truth and give meaningful expression to our commitments, values, and ideas." We see our role at Robertson-Wesley United Church as enabling this kind of artistic creation that can shape people's lives, help them reflect on their stories, and project who we are today as we continue to grow together in hope.
There will be no monetary cost to the participants of the spiritual arts collective. The only participant cost is the commitment that you bring to the collective process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to be an artist to be a part of the Spiritual Arts Collective?
No, this is your opportunity to try a variety of artistic methods and see what you like to do. All you have to be is willing to try!
Do I have to be or become a member of the church?
No, this is open to anyone who is interested with no strings attached. It doesn't matter how old or young you are, it doesn't matter if you are religious or not, all we ask is that you come with an open mind and heart. Bring your questions, your stories and your passion and be willing to share these respectfully with others.
Does this cost money?
No, all we ask is your commitment to engaged the process and share your energy with others.
Please see the Gathering Workshop dates for each Collective.
To register for a collective, please click on the link below to access our on-line registration form.