Greg Jarrell, Dawn Anthony, and I are artist theologians in residence at Myers Park Baptist Church right now. We started at Epiphany (January 2021) and we will serve in this role through Easter Sunday. In December, we got together via zoom to talk through some ideas we had; things we wanted to explore or offer to the congregation. We knew we'd lean into our gifts and skills and we'd listen to the folks at the church to make sure we were responding to their needs and desires.
Here's the great joy of this experiment... the folks at Myers Park are truly letting us be Artist Theologians in Residence. They have taken seriously the resources, playlist, requests, and suggestions we have made. Creative exploration of themes has been welcomed. We've been given space to spread out, try new things, lead the congregants, and voice our opinions. In short, Myers Park Baptist trusts us to do our work and to do it well.
Here's the key, they don't require us to get it right or to do it perfectly. Rather, they accept what we offer and provide feedback and helpful response. We are in creative conversation with one another.
This kind of working relationship has been a joy filled experience. Trusting and mutual, creative and active, experimentation has led to deeper reflection, common threads, meaning making, and serendipitous interactions. Here are a couple of example of what I mean:
When we first came on as Artist Theologians in Residence, Pastor Ben gave me and Dawn a tour of the church building. He talked to us about the architecture of the Sanctuary, inside and out. Dawn spent some time researching history and architecture and discovered an amazing connection. This discovery developed into a really rich connection with another congregation. It happens that the other congregation's story directly connects with the Lenten theme we were forming. These common threads developed further into a podcast and Sunday morning coffee hour. (I won't spoil all the surprises. The juicy details will come out in February).
We talked with Ben about his vision for the church in 2021. This discussion led to Dawn's suggestion for the congregation to watch and discuss a documentary. After watching the documentary, the themes for the Lenten series as well as the connections from the podcast became even more pronounced. During a Sunday morning Coffee and Conversations, congregants gather (via zoom) to discuss the documentary and as we are discussing, Greg reads a scripture passage and tells a story. It happens that the scripture passage and the story directly relate to parts of worship, parts that he did not previously know about.
Serendipitous connection after connection! Something is unfolding throughout this experience. It is a joy to be a part of.