Creator, the Created, and Creating: Art at Blessing the Waters of Life By Karen M. Keady, McKenzie Watershed
My favorite conferences are those that find simple ways to address a complex issue in as many modes and voices as possible, all for the purpose of sharing our interests and generating ideas and willpower to make God’s world a better and more just place. Add a breathtakingly beautiful setting at a cultural crossroad, and you have this September’s PEC conference at Menucha on the Columbia River Gorge near Corbett, Oregon. Blessing the Waters of Life takes place in a natural setting so dramatic that just arriving moves visitors to awe and thankfulness. Reflection and contemplation happen almost without effort.
My part in this year’s conference is to consider what role art plays in such a gathering. Its potential is immense. Still, art opportunities arouse mixed responses, possibly because art disrupts our thought habits. It challenges our understanding. Art is mind-opening and empowering. Making art helps us build an authentic faithful voice. Our artworks, particularly our most humble efforts, create bridges of possibility between what is and what might be, what we do, and what we might do. As Presbyterian pastor Theresa Cho writes, “Art is a powerful tool to open up the minds of people to the impossible possibilities that God has in store for our faith community, our world, and us."
Art enriches worship when it inspires faithful community. The worship space at Menucha will have a waterfall of interwoven fabrics by artist Nan Helsabeck of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Eugene, Oregon. Nan works in many media, and specializes in wearable and worship-space liturgical art. This art piece will represent the complex currents of humanity and spirit that flow through our relationships with water. Symbolic art may not change the world, but it can change us and empower us to faithful change. Participants will have opportunities to give and take blessings from the waterfall, as we do from the water that flows through our lives.
We’re planning plenty of creative responses during worship time and free time. These will inspire you to reflect, take action, think creatively. Use them to enrich your own experience—to play and build community, to be quiet and open to the still, small voice of God. Experiment with ideas to share with others.
Theresa Cho writes that art is a communal process that invites all to add their fingerprints and self-expression to mark a specific moment and context in time. If you haven’t registered for Blessing the Waters of Life, do it now presbyearthcare.org/events. Come add your faithful voice and give and receive the blessing of water.
Karen Keady is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Eugene, Oregon. She is ordained as a deacon and a ruling elder, serves as an occasional fill-in worship leader in local congregations, works with Christian education programs and liturgical season contemplative activities and with Westminster’s Creation Care group. She is currently researching and writing about arts ministry.
In addition to opportunities for artmaking, time at the conference at Menucha will also offer places to contemplate the beauty of nature.