We had a fan-ta-stic time out at the Laity Lodge retreat. For three full days we shared space--a beautiful, quiet, restorative space--with men and women from around the country: 6 New Yorkers, 6 Georgians, 6 Coloradians (Colorados?), 5 Washingtonians, two Canadians, plus folks from North and South Carolina, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and a scad from around Texas, all of whom feel called in one form or another to shepherd artists.
Phaedra and I drove home on Thursday with great joy. We were ready to open a commune so we could hang with these dear people forever.
It was great to hang out with Mako, sweet, gentle-souled Mako. Mako and Matson Duncan went fishing. Kenyon Adams, who heads up music and theater activities (under Luann Jennings' fearless leadership) at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, went swimming. Shannon Newby, an Atlantian with a mean handling of encaustic painting and a heart for missions (along with her husband Erik) in Germany, made art down in the studios. Lance Mancefield, a producer along with Michael Card with the By/For project, strategized with impunity. I went for a walk with young monsignor of emergent village, Troy Bronsink. Others napped, rested, slept, hung in hammocks, chatted, and napped again, climbed bluffs, fed raccoons, read, or did nothing.
We worshiped, being lovingly led by Brian Moss. We heard me speak. And Mako too. And Steven Purcell three. We put on a 5 Minutes Max. We prayed together. We watched Stephanie Moss dance. She rocked. We laughed. And some wept from being overly exhausted and crushed under the weight of the unreasonable expectations placed on those in full-time ministry.
But mostly, I think, we had a blast. And we ate like olympian gods.
I feel very, very encouraged about the church's work with artists; and by church I don't mean simply a local church, I mean the church universal, the church in the thick of things. God is faithfully raising up a generation of pastors and ministers to artists. As our children and our children's children continue to pour into art programs in greater numbers, God is preparing a tribe of men and women who will care for their spiritual, relational and artistic well-being. It is a good thing. It is beautiful in my eyes.
Here are a few pictures from the retreat. (I wish I had more but I didn't have a chance to take as many as I usually am able.) I'm now praying that God will allow us to do it again next year. I'll take every excuse to retreat with these dear people, and to invite all those who couldn't make it this time around. Next year, my friends.
(Troy Bronsink, Jeffrey Guy [amazing painter guy], and Todd Damotte.)
(A panel of six practitioners: Geinene Carson with Operation Mobilisation's Arts Link, Roz Dimon, the most spunky, funny person on site, who serves as Director of Communications at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in NYC, Luann Jennings of Redeemer Pres in NYC (with whom I had the most lovely connection), Dal Schindell, director of Publications at Regent College and dry, dry humorous guy, and Lance Mansfield.)
(Steven and Amy Purcell, Mako, Phaedra and myself.)
(Mako and Brian Moss thinking deep thoughts.)
(Matt and Geinene Carson and us.)
(And last but not least in the photo reel: Michael Jordan himself. Michael serves as Pastor of Music and Creative Arts at Greenwood Community Church in Castle Rock, CO. I asked if he would be willing to pray for folks on our last morning. He kindly said yes. Then over lunch, along with a few of our new BFF's, he prayed a sweet prayer over me and Phaedra and the work God has for us. I can always tell my children: "Kids, Michael Jordan prayed for me and it was a good prayer.")
Here is an excerpt from my first talk at the retreat, "The Preparation of the Pastor to Artists":
As you and I learn to become at home with our brokenness and to see it as the arena for God’s work in and through us, as St. Paul believed, we will be able to help artists face their own brokenness and to invite God into it and to see God saving them in and through and out of their brokenness so that they too can give hope to a world that is afraid.
We can remind artists that some of the greatest work produced in history has come out of a context of woundedness: Beethoven deaf when he wrote the 9th symphony, John Milton blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, Van Gogh mentally broken down at the end of his life, dying at only 37 years of age, Byron with a clubfoot, Demosthenes a terrible stutterer. As Madeleine L’Engle reminds us: “The great artists have gained their wholeness through their wounds, their epilepsies, tuberculoses, periods of madness.”
(PHOTO AT TOP: this is a picture I took while driving 89 mph in the hill country of Texas of a truck carrying three intimately related instruments: a four-wheeler, a helicopter, and, in the back of the pickup truck, shotguns. These guys are what you might call serious hunters.)