We’ve talked about the Spiritual Arts Collective as a very organic process that has been hard to define, and hard to capture in words. In many ways it is similar to trying to describe a diving experience – words just can’t quite capture or express God’s Spirit at work in us and other in the world.

The team...at work

Time and time again, people who have joined us in this project have named that they were looking for a reason to reconnect with their faith and with a faith community. Most have self identified as spiritual, many with some background in a faith tradition and a few with not connection to faith at all. In the end the catalyst for bringing them back to a faith community, was the invitation to explore their spirituality through the arts in a community setting. We gave people an immediate way to feel that they belonged in this faith community, where their gifts would be needed and valued. They knew how they would fit in before they even entered the building or engaged the project.

I believe that the true catalyst was God. It is as if God created a spiritual earthquake in our midst here in Edmonton, unearthing some gems and a plethora of natural resources.

Acts 16:26
“Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”

God unearthed, or shock people out of their internal prison and released people refreshed with great passion for justice and belonging, people with a willingness to experiment, question, explore and express their journey in life. The spiritual earthquake awoke a hunger or longing in people who feel isolated or metaphorically imprisoned, people who have been hurt in the past by institutions or communities. This quake turned past barriers of the institution into rubble creating space and room for deep conversation, for play, for collaboration, for beauty to be created and emerge.

Finger Painting

It has been a scary time for many of us here at the church. This project has been a true test in trusting in God, trusting in the Divine presence, trusting that the Spirit is working in us and others and gifts that are being freely offered and shared are being honoured.

What has been interesting is the mixture of people engaging the project. We have people who struggle with mental illness, people with some disabilities, people with physical health issues, people who are care givers in the community, and people who are just plain curious. We have had institution seeking us out to partner with or to share our project with others that they reach out to. Recently a local Theological College that offers a Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality Program with an Art Therapy Specialization has inquired about partnering with us to be a practicum site for their students.

Our desire to reach out to people and meet them where they are at has echoed other people’s desires to give back to the community in which they live, to reach out and connect with their fellow citizens. The spiritual quake has opened up opportunities to share with our project and our learning at a conference event hosted by another local University, with other congregations, and with other social organizations.

This spiritual quake has left me in awe, and spiritually inspired by the power and grace of God’s spirit, of God’s divine presence. A spark has been ignited in our midst and the flames of friendship, openness, and passion for human contact and human expression, and desire for understanding and meaning is gathering people into its warmth. The effects of this spiritual quake reach far and wide. The Artists-in-residence are seeking out ways to connect with the congregation, and these desires are meeting identified needs of members within our congregation that we has staff have been unable to meet. The resources and this spiritual quake unearthed are truly divine gifts which bring with them hope, healing and the transforming presence of God. And for this we are truly thankful.

Written by Rev. Karen Bridges

engaging the arts while building community