Capturing the story of unity, inclusion, justice and creativity through the arts – Insights Magazine
After a year in which, as a church and wider community, we slowly regained momentum and found old rhythms, Uniting Creative came together and collaborated: using the gifts of creativity in our community to express our hope, our passion, our diversity and our heart for justice.
Uniting Creative is preparing for a busy year in 2023, with the release of a full album of original songs for “Courageous, Contemporary and Growing Churches” to be released in September 2023. The Creative Cohort will have the opportunity to write, to record, produce and develop their art as we work together to strengthen our faith and our relationships. Our goal is to cultivate a vibrant community that nurtures spiritual depth and creative excellence.
In preparation, writers, composers, musicians and singers from all of our presbyteries will be invited together on February 25 to collaborate with other artists as we explore emerging themes. Creatives will have the opportunity to spend time with gifted and seasoned writers and composers who can offer advice and guidance on lyrics, arrangements and musicality.
‘We use music to tell the story of God, with art, to inspire the Christian imagination. We use music to help tell, receive and participate in the story of the Trinity” – David Gungor (The Brilliance / Creative Cohort Mentor).
It has been so exciting to see the rich diversity of creatives engaging in this space. When we come together, we glimpse the beauty of our collective church – that we have so much to learn from each other and that music can weave our personal stories together, to tell an even greater story of divine hope. In some ways, the arts can offer a soft focus lens that shifts our gaze from minute details to the Divine. Paradoxically, it can sharpen our focus on what really matters so that God becomes salient in our craft and representation.
According to AJ Hayton who has been involved with Uniting Creative since 2020, “We are a community united by creativity. Music breaks down the barriers of church communities, culture, traditions and beliefs.
Likewise, band member and bassist Samsiu Uhi said, “Being able to meet and connect with other like-minded musicians has inspired me for the journey both musically and spiritually.”
The sound of the mind
Following a series of songwriting gatherings in 2021 and 2022, we explored not just what people see when they watch United Church, but what our churches look like. We wondered if people perceived the passion and spirit of our sound, regardless of genre and style, and if our lyrics and rhythm captured the heart and vision of the Uniting Church.
“As I have assembled musical teams to lead various events, I am always on the lookout for emerging thoughts, themes and stories. I believe this is one of the gifts that our creative leaders offer: positioning themselves to be present; connect to the emotion, heart and passion that dwells in and among the words and expressions we use. Music has the ability to move us spiritually and physically – it can be a wonderful invitation to connection, healing, peace and joy. As we continue to imagine together what our churches might be like in the future, we ask ourselves: are our songs in line with our theology? How do our songs lead us to the church we envision? How to translate what emerges and create a new language that defines us? Perhaps our music can help awaken our spirit on this journey and inspire us to walk “in spirit” with our mind, body and soul.
German author Nina George writes: “Often it is not we who shape the words, but the words we use that shape us.” In our context, it is relevant to consider how the language we have chosen within the Uniting Church can limit or breathe life into our identity, reflecting the depth and spectrum of our theology. Perhaps the arts can expand our often limiting language to capture the tones and nuances of our spiritual complexity across our church.
Gabi Cadenhead is a missionary worker for Christian Students Uniting at the University of Sydney. They spoke about the importance of developing original songs that reflect the heart of the Uniting Church.
“I grew up in the United Church hearing stories about the good old days of NCYC, where so much new music was created, sung and distributed – a body of worship music that was able to evolve with the church and its young people”, they said.
“It is vital that we continue this legacy, to create and fund the creation of worship music as an ongoing expression of our faith. Community-created music is often the most powerful; At Leichhardt Uniting Church, we regularly sing songs by the wonderful Mikali Anagnostis, and because these songs emerge from the community, they speak directly to the experiences and theology of that community, which often resonate far beyond our congregation.
According to American thinker, poet, writer and philosopher Suzy Kassem, “We cannot control how people interpret our ideas or thoughts, but we can control the words and tones we choose to convey them…”. This concept is not new. 20e Poet and literary critic of the last century, TS Elliott wrote: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.
“Spirited Worship” is a pathway for new voices – it’s a new expression that offers linguistic freedom while nurturing sacred and beloved traditions. By shifting the constraints of the term ‘contemporary’, we create space to redefine a genre of music and an approach to training that breaks down the barriers of style, and returns to the heart of worship.
The Reverend Dr. Peter Walker is the director of UTC.
“As the United Theological College (UTC) trains and molds new ministers, it has been exciting to explore how creative training could combine with new programs to support candidates,” he said.
“As students are nurtured and stretched academically, how can we collaborate through the gift of creativity to invigorate body and soul to form adaptive church leaders? »
“Spiritual worship energizes people to become disciples and can be a conversion experience for newcomers,” he said.
“But the most important thing is that spirited worship brings joy to God. UTC is thrilled to be involved in developing programs and experiences focused on preparing and leading animated worship, and we are very fortunate to have the likes of Tash Holmes, Ockert Meyer and Glen Spencer collaborating. to this project.
Creativity in our schools
Music and creativity are a great way for our students to experience the history of UCA. As our new cohort comes together to write and produce new music, we are excited to include our Uniting schools. Our hope is that the new music can fill their chapel services, as well as our churches. As we know, school environments are frenetic, so if we can provide our chaplains with easily accessible resources and music that connects with young people, we can convey the beauty of our faith in meaningful ways that appeal to the next. generation and support this important ministry.
Reverend Viniana Rokomasi Ravetali is the senior chaplain at Burwood’s MLC School.
“Creative music, as put together under the direction of Tash Holmes, has contributed significantly to the devotional and chapel services of the MLC school,” she said.
“Making it easily accessible is a comforting feeling for school chaplains like me, especially during the challenges of the pandemic where no chanting was allowed. The songs are well versed because they nurture young people spiritually – in happy times, sad times, lonely times and all times.
We always look forward to partnering with creatives within our community. For more information about Uniting Creative or to be part of the next cohort in February, contact Tash Holmes at [email protected].
Comments are closed.