Our artistry is our ministry

Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control.
~~ Julia Cameron

“How do you bring your art to your ministry?” he asked. For years I have enjoyed poetry and martial arts, but kept them compartmentalized from the rest of my life. There was my art and the rest of my life — personal and professional. Then a poet friend asked me, “How do you bring your art into your ministry?” His invitation and insight were revelations. His question started me down this road of marrying the two — outer and inner, professional and personal, my poetry and martial arts with my work and ministry. I committed in 2015 to begin being very conscious of bringing my art into my ministry.

What is your art? What does it mean for you to bring your art into your ministry in a responsible manner? And to bring it not in an egotistical way or a way that says, “Look at me,” but in a way that makes space for people to bring who they are into the space of community and worship, their creative selves.

Truth is, our art is what gives us energy and life. By tending to it, we stay in touch with our souls and unique, deeper Self. Living our art is not about anything measureable. I have found the most important things in life can’t be measured, controlled or qualified — they are to be lived as a deeper mystery. When I am practicing my art and bringing it to my ministry, I stand in groups and congregations differently than when I am not. Art allows me to have my own sense of Self while being in a group or community. In other words, living our art is an important part of ministry excellence.

Instead of writing about living my art and bringing it into my ministry, let me do it by offering a poem I wrote to demonstrate my art and the practice of bringing it into ministry.

Horizon photo 20150109_171347
Photo taken by Blake Gilliam near Carmel, California, 2015


What is our relationship to horizons?
The sky pink, orange and blue, older because the day is over.
No wind, only oak-shaped shadows cast on green grass and empty parking lots.

Back to the horizon — ball of fire settling for the evening, for rest
as the soft light of the waning moon begins her rise.

Horizons too abstract exhaust.
Concrete, tangible, close to the heart,
horizons give life
from the vast edge
beyond itself.

My progress toward the horizon,
my gaze keeps drifting toward it,
the unstable line gently
ascending and descending,
like a human voice in a lullaby,
inviting us to the next step
or we sleep.

(W. Craig Gilliam, 2015)

Questions to Ponder:

  • What lies on the great horizon?
  • What lies beyond it?
  • Do I take the next step or do I sleep?

Our art does not have to be good; it simply needs to come from that deep, sacred place within. Yes, over time we improve and grow in our art, and there is appropriateness to sharing it, but the invitation and evocation is to start; start from where you are. The poet Mary Oliver in the first line of her poem, Wild Geese, writes, “You don’t have to be good. . .” The point is, if we have to be good to start, we will never get started. We start from where we are. We grow as we make the journey.

What is your art? What is your dream calling you to do that you have always wanted to do but have been afraid to take the first step? Where is life for you?

I believe excellence and living our art are close companions. Living our art, while frightening, is also inviting and life giving. Ministry at its best is not science; it is art. In all of our talk about excellence, this component of art is what many of our systems, in my opinion, are missing—too many methodologies that stifle creativity and do not give enough freedom and space that invite and nurture courage, energy and new life.

As an artist friend when looking at a white canvass with paintbrush in hand, comments, “What do we do with the white spaces?” Or the poet friend who asked, “How do you bring your art to your ministry or work?” Our ministries are about bringing our art; looking at the white spaces and what we bring to it. But like any great artist in any art form, she or he is also looking beneath and around the white spaces and known realities. It is creative play.

May creation continue and the soul, your soul, and its art, express itself and who you are as you do your ministry and work. In the words of the poet, Louise Gluck, “. . .the critics have ideas. We artists. . . are just children at our game.” We are all artists; we are invited to let our lights shine; our best ministry is our art brought to bear consciously in who we are and what we do.

  • How does your art inform and influence your work/ministry?
  • How is your work/ministry an art?
  • If you don’t have a form of artistry that you have cultivated, what might your artistry to develop and practice be?

When our work becomes our art, then we model excellence and often do not even realize it.

  • For the new year, what is the art that you commit to bring to your ministry?

Agree or disagree, you are invited into this conversation.

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