by Caroline Coolidge Brown
So Kevin’s not the only one in this family talking about evangelism in church.
It’s a running joke among my family and friends that if two or more are gathered in Christ’s name, Caroline will bring an art project. One friend was kind enough to name me The Art Evangelist, spreading the Gospel of Christ one paintbrush and glue stick at a time. Art is my language of joy and praise and prayer, and nothing makes me happier than sharing that language with others.
I firmly believe that creativity lives in all of us; we are made in our Creator’s image, after all. Some of us can cook or garden or sew or write or sing or host terrific parties; I make art, and I have an evangelist’s enthusiasm for sharing that gift of art-making with the world.
Too many adults have lost their artistic spark on the road to becoming a grown-up. Some fell prey to unkind criticism or were told that they needed to do something more practical. Many believe that only a select few geniuses can be born with talent. Others simply got too busy with working life to find time to play.
But open up a big box of art supplies in a group, and suddenly we all feel like a child with a new box of crayons! Art gives people the chance to experiment, make a mess, and think creatively. Art encourages intuitive thinking and sensory exploration. Combine art with meaningful dialogue and lessons, and you introduce a deep connection with the Holy Spirit.
In February, I was pleased to return to New York City and The General Theological Seminary, where Kevin studied and our family lived for three years. I taught a weekend intensive course called Art Evangelism: using art projects to illustrate scripture and build community. Some of my students were seminarians seeking holy orders, some were lay people looking for ways to invigorate their parishes, some were studying for certification in spiritual direction, and another was a non-denominational pastor with a large New York congregation. All of them were eager to incorporate more collaborative visual arts programs into their ministry.
I have led many retreats for church groups of all kinds and have seen the impact a good group art project can have. I believe a successful project can
• encourage collaboration, conversation, and creativity;
• allow new insights by using new and unfamiliar materials;
• be adapted for different groups, regardless of age or experience;
• foster a fuller understanding of abstract theological ideas by working through new parables and metaphors;
• get participants out of their heads and into their hands and bodies with a tactile experience;
• lead to a deep connection with God’s Holy Spirit;
• initiate new prayer practices• complement liturgical environments and practices;
• inspire pride in creative accomplishments; and
• be a fun way to spend an afternoon!
We are not alone in yearning for creative wisdom. From the beginning of time, people throughout the world have responded to the glory of creation through art. A handprint on a cave wall is as evocative an acknowledgement of our place in God’s world as is DaVinci’s Annunciation or a child’s drawing of her family. It’s not about drawing — it’s about making. It’s about participating in this amazing creation and incarnation that we have been given.
Now pass me that glue stick.
Caroline Coolidge Brown is the wife of Bishop Brown and has an art studio in Wilmington. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org