January 10, 2020
Writing with Imagination
When I first met our Artist-in-Residence, Jim was pastoring another church. As our two churches, and at the time a couple of others as well, would engage in yearly Lenten gatherings, we would also discuss the activities that were going on at each other’s churches. As Jim shared about a writing workshop that he led each week, several of us from my church thought that it sounded interesting. So, one Wednesday evening, we gave it a try. Our group almost doubled the size of the writing workshop, and we continued to participate in it for a couple of years.
The basic format was that Jim would first play some music for us, and then would ask us to respond to it. When everyone was done writing, we would go around the table and share the resulting prose or poetry with one another. Then we would write three or four additional times, each of them begun with a prompt from Jim, something such as, “I was so excited when…” After several minutes of writing each time, we would then again share our creations with the group.
It was amazing for me to both enjoy the process of writing, and to become aware of how often my vocabulary was fairly limited in certain ways. I actually began to search for words to add interest and creativity to my writing, and found that the process of doing that carried over into my sermons and other writings.
After those couple of years, Jim needed to take a break from leading the workshop, and he asked if I would be willing to lead it. I agreed, and we moved the meeting to my church. I used his basic process, but focused the new workshop on helping people to write about life memories, from early childhood and school memories, to various adventures and experiences throughout their lives. While this took more of the form of memoir writing, there was still a great deal of creativity that emerged as people told their stories. For some of the people, the reminiscing was great in itself. For others, these became stories that they could share with their family, and even leave for future generations to hear in their own voice. All in all, it was a fun and creative way to engage people’s imagination, and to invite them to share their lives with one another.
These are just two ways in which writing with creativity and imagination can have an impact upon individuals and upon the group as a whole. And, for churches who have very little in the way of funds for the arts, this is as close to a free activity as it gets.
January 3, 2020
Writing with Creativity
One of the final ways in which we celebrated Advent through the arts was by sharing a variety of readings and songs that were developed in our Scripture as Theatre workshop. This is a process that began several months ago, which involved explorations of various scripture passages, preliminary development of characters and settings, initial drafts of works and then editing of those writings.
Our Artist-in-Residence then further edited the monologues and dialogues written by members of the workshop, and we spent several sessions rehearsing and refining the presentation of the works. In addition, workshop members submitted words in verse to be used for songs to enhance the experience, and our Artist-in-Residence then set those words to music.
The presentation took place on the fourth Sunday of Advent after our worship time, and people graciously and expectantly stayed to experience what folks had done. Participants in the workshop were stationed at various places in the room, and we shared the individual stories and the dialogue pieces, sometimes accompanied by musical portions and sometimes standing just on their own. It was fun for me to share in the process and the presentation, and people were very receptive of everyone’s work.
One of the great values of such an experience is the creativity that it evokes from the participants in the workshop. Some people have written before, both personally and professionally, and others have come to the Workshop with interest but feeling that they have nothing in the way of creativity to offer. Yet, what emerges from the process is a surprising wealth of imaginative work, and people both produce a product and also feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. Then, together, participants offer a gift to the church community.
I will write more next week about other ways in which churches can engage people's imagination through creative writing. If you should have further interest in the process I decribed above, please email me and we can discuss it.
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