Following on from the most recent blog on creativity and Ephesians 2:10, here are the word-based responses from the morning.
This verse underlines our togetherness as an expression of God’s creative work. I may well be special as an individual, but more importantly we are God’s masterpiece as a community and it is us – a joined-up expression of God’s poetic and artistic skills – who produce the fruit of goodness in this universe.
As God’s handiwork – his masterpiece – we are not however meant simply to hang in some cosmic gallery to be admired, but rather we are meant to be inspired by that masterpiece to create masterpieces ourselves, which in turn will give birth to new masterpieces. God’s creation was never designed to be static but self-reproducing, multiplying the original masterpiece trillions of times over, each one unique but bearing the DNA of the original.
Similarly, the masterpieces of Messy Church need to keep propagating themselves with ever-new beauty, colour, variety and distinctiveness, while still bearing the mark of God’s original creativity. God invented creation with evolution built-in. Messy Church values are the DNA from God that we have, but we must not be surprised if the resulting ‘reproductions/innovations’ reflect a huge amount of variety and difference. God loves difference rather than carbon copies of the original masterpiece.
Christians are those who are in Christ and those in whom Christ lives. This is all about Christ-centredness. This is what it means to bear the stamp of God’s handiwork.
Within Messy Church, Christ should be discoverable in every part. Every element should bear the maker’s mark and be recognisable, just as the antiques expert can recognise a piece of Majolica, Wedgewood, Chippendale or Murano glass whenever they come across it. I wonder then whether we have focused enough on this particular value? How might everything that happens in Messy Church carry the aroma of Christ which is a fragrance from life to life (2 Corinthians 2:15). Have we really got a book, for example, or some other resource that helps Messy Church reflect on this?
Just as God prepared good things for us to do beforehand, it made me think of us preparing the activities for Messy Church beforehand so that our Messy congregation can ‘walk in them’ as it were! God gives us the gifts, talents, the resources and the ideas and trusts us to work with them and produce a good result.
But just what is a good result? Not necessarily a pretty one nor certainly a perfect one, but one that is pleasing to God because it does good – good being at the heart of God’s nature. The sort of good seen in enhancing someone sense of self-worth, for example, or giving them a chance to flourish, or releasing in them the joy of creativity, or making each other smile, or contributing to a sense of belonging, community and being loved. This is what does us all good and what God enjoys to see, way beyond the particular craft or game or messy activity that was the means towards this end.
I also wondered what this verse might have meant for the first hearers of this epistle as it was read out in the churches in and around Ephesus. Ephesus was known for its creation but mainly of silver models of Artemis, which were sold in the marketplace. Surely this verse from Paul was hugely affirming to the group who listened, who probably felt they had no particular status in the scheme of things socially but who in God’s eyes were very special. It must also have been hugely encouraging, assuring them that they did have something they could offer God and each other that was valuable. And it was also hugely comforting that God had chosen them to make a difference for good in this world.
Going back to your helpful sheet for us, nobody seem to comment much on the magazine exercise which I found fun, especially as I ended up with an advert for a dress in Prima magazine, which was the nearest mag I could lay my hands on. The exercise made me feel slightly pressurised at the beginning to find connections but then mildly surprised to find I did have connections with what was a very feminine photograph (there are other things too in the photograph to catch my attention!), and then I was happily pleased to discover how creative juices can flow even from an unpromising context!
Your list of creative words were interesting. I would add ‘surprise’, ‘joyfulness’, ‘wonder’ and interestingly ‘evolution’. It’s interesting to note in the creation story back in Genesis the emphasis on each part of the creation then being ‘asked’ to go on and reproduce itself and to create from within. This is back to your comment about innovating rather than creating out of nothing I think
The Messy Church practice/activity that most expresses the creativity of God for me has been conversation! I think conversation is definitely one of the hallmark distinctiveness of Messy Church. Conversation seems to be almost deliberately ‘outlawed’ in most worship services. You might just chat briefly as you shuffle into the seat alongside someone or as you exchange a greeting at the end of the service, but nothing happens during the service itself! Conversation has been siloed off to the Bible study group, the home group, the coffee time, etc. for those who can make that.
As for question 7 about discipleship, etc, I think creativity is a key aspect of our humanness and our likeness to God that can encourage and lead to growth as a person. So therefore this is naturally a vital prerequisite to discipleship!
And the one thing that we could do to make Messy Church more creative is I think strangely ‘to let go’! To let go of perfectly organised crafts; to let go of a beautifully told story; to let go of a well-tuned and rehearsed song; to let go of the perfect meal; and to let go of knowing exactly what is going to happen!
How is your image in some just as much as others? What does it mean when you say let ‘us’ make humans in ‘our’ image? How big are you, God? My mind can’t get my head around you. Help me to see your creation as you see it. Help me to love like you love. It’s easy to see you in some, but not in others. Allow us to see you in everyone, and you in us more clearly. Amen.
The green confessions of Nat Turner article
We should recognise each day the value of creation, and the gift that it is to us – admiring its intricate detail and complex structures.
We should immerse ourselves with it and use to connect spiritually with God, as we are the rest of creation is formed and made by him – so there is a connection there that should be explored.
We must not restrict anyone (regardless of skin colour, circumstance or nationality) the gift of creation that the world offers. No one should have less opportunity to live around trees, green grass, animals, ecosystems, fresh air or go on walks in nature.
Nat Turner was a slave, racially persecuted by white people, but also a Christian preacher familiar with nature, with a deep environmental wisdom. When he hid in the woods from attack, he saw visions and prophetic images that gave him the motivation from God to rebel against persecution. It was his time in nature that aligned himself with God and God’s ways for him.
6. What Messy Church activity or practice has most expressed to you the creativity of God?
Being in nature, admiring it, having different plants, seeds, fruit, vegetables on a table that people can touch and feel.
7. Can creativity impact discipleship, salvation, church growth (or other aspects of God’s work in humanity on your mind at the moment)? If so, how?
The more we appreciate the creativity of God, the more we can grow closer to him and understand the vastness of who he is. Established church doesn’t always let you experience something of the creativity of God; they just show you picture of trees, and tell you about it. Messy Church wants you to experience this side of his character. And this experiential learning is a part of the discipleship journey.
8. What one thing could we do to make Messy Church more creative?
Get outside of our buildings more and explore God’s creation.
Creativity: letting go of responsibility to succeed, if ‘we are God’s handiwork’ and they are ‘his plans’. Our responsibility is to ‘take the paths he set’, to notice the ‘good works’ he’s prepared for us and to choose to do them.
Discipleship: creativity means accepting there must be wastage and failure in order to ‘succeed’. That people are like ‘living documents’, never finished, just as good as we can be at a particular moment, always being rewritten, edited, made true for the present.
How could we make Messy Church more creative? – perhaps by sharing more about how rather than what (sharing how to tell God’s story well, how to listen well and create space, how to see our Messy Church as one of God’s good works prepared for us to do). Explain why it needs to be so resource-hungry, why there will be waste and cost and why it’s good to take risks at every level. Maybe through the planned online training course?
Thankfulness that children demonstrate the simple act of doing and being for their own sake.
When the star stopped shining
The star stopped shining, so they threw it away.
He opened the grey bin and plunged his hands into the slurry. He found the dead star, pulled it out, wiped it down on his sleeve, washed it clean, scrubbed it and prised out the ground-in, dried-on grime from every last crevice. His palms caressed the rasping surface. His thumb inched across the shattered edges. He put his finger through a hole in the side and remembered what it was to be landfill.
And unimaginably as a bean sprouting, his life pulsed into the wreckage. What was shattered he fitted together, shard by microscopic shard. What was infected he scoured and healed. What was crushed he eased back into shape, smoothed and reformed, then lit the light and breathed to warm its heart and span it out to dance across the galaxy of reborn constellations.
PAUL and ALISON notes attached as images.