On the Vocation of Motherhood & Artmaking

Phaedra Taylor, "The Book of Games: Oranges & Lemons" (2018)

I've been wanting to pull together a retreat like this since the spring of 1996. At the time I was attending an Anglican church in Vancouver, British Columbia.

While drinking a coffee in the fellowship hall, a young woman approached me and introduced herself. She said she'd heard I was interested in the arts. A first-year student at Regent College, I had recently offered to help lead the musical worship at the evening liturgy, which was being aimed at folks on the margins of faith and the church.

She told me she was a modern dancer. She told me that she'd recently given birth to her first child and that was she struggling with postpartum depression. Her body had become foreign to her. It was not the body that she recognized from all her years of training and performing as a dancer. She wondered if I had any good news to tell her.

I didn't. I felt utterly helpless. At 24 years old, I had nothing to offer her except sympathy and words of encouragement, as useless as those felt at the time.

Eventually we became friends, shared a small group with other artists, and partnered on liturgical art projects here and there. She bore a second child and experienced an even worse bout of depression. She couldn't figure out where God was in the middle of it all.

I'll never forget that exchange, twenty-three years ago now. It haunted me throughout my years as a pastor in Austin, Texas. It informed every conversation I had with mom-artists in our congregation at Hope Chapel. And it niggled away at my subconscious brain. One day, somehow, I thought to myself, I wanted to do something to help that young mother and other mothers like her.

After dreaming about such a retreat with my artist-wife, Phaedra, the mother of our children, and with Steven Purcell, the director at the Laity Lodge, it's finally happening: on July 25-28, 2019. Here's how we have described the retreat, "On the Vocation of Motherhood & Artmaking":

"This retreat is an invitation to explore the opportunities and challenges that are involved in the twin calling to motherhood and artmaking. It is open to mothers in all stations and circumstances of life, whether at the beginning of motherhood or in the fullest years of grandmothering, and to artists of all media, disciplines and contexts."

It'll include contributions from Jan Peterson (Eugene's wife), Andi Ashworth, Sandra McCracken and my wife Phaedra; possibly others too.

If you're an artist and a mother at any stage in the life and calling of a mother, we welcome you to join us this summer. You'll probably want to sign up soon because places will fill it up fast. We're excited to see what God will do in such a gathering of remarkable mom-artists.

Phaedra Taylor, "With Gladness & Singleness of Heart" (Watercolor, Pencil, Paint Pen | 6 x 20 | 2009)


Sarah McCormick said…
Pleased Laity Lodge is hosting this. I suggested to Don Murdoch 20 years ago that the needs of mothers could be an important ministry point. I certainly would have benefitted and loved this type of retreat in the stage of raising young one’s and trying to find my voice and the Spirit’s voice amidst the chatter.
Sarah, a sincere apology for the tardiness of my reply to your comment, but wanted to thank you for it all the same.
Unknown said…
Hello David, I'm curious if this kind of retreat will happen again. It's a prickled "ah! shoot!" I feel about missing such an opportunity. I am a mother to twin toddlers and am desperately seeking what Sarah spoke of: to find my voice as an artist and the Spirit's voice amidst the chatter. The midnight hours are the only hours that are mine in my little cluttered studio. Unfortunately, I share those hours with clamouring doubt about whether I am, or will ever truly be, an artist. I've appreciated your work and your peers, namely Josh Banner and Susanna. I've always lingered at the margins of CIVA not knowing where to start or how to get involved. Bruce Benedict now is spear heading a flourishing ministry at Hope College alongside some of my pals at Western Theological Seminary and Pillar Church. Is that name-dropping? It's not intended to be so. I suppose I have felt to be swimming along the perimeter of these wonderful dialogues and projects but never in them. I don't know the "where" or "how" and now with kids, that feeling is tenfold.

All that to say: Please, do this again. I, and I'm sure many others. would benefit greatly from it.
So sorry I'm late to comment on your post. God-willing, we'll do the retreat again next summer, so please stay tuned!

Snickel said…
Hi David! I just wanted to let you know this post, and the links to the retreat audio files have blessed me so much today! God in His loving kindness, led me to this site on a day when I felt very discouraged as a mother/artist. The tension felt between these two worlds has been enormous for me for years, and I really appreciate the encouragement provided, so thank you!
Just wanted to say a belated thanks for your comment here. I'm so glad you felt encouraged!

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