Life one year after a clergy renewal grant

Posted Sep 04, 2015 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

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The invitation to consider “What will make your heart sing?” lingers.

In the summer of 2014, the First Baptist Church of Indianapolis and I, as pastor, enjoyed a Sabbath time focused on spirituality, art, photography and family connections. I indulged a passion for art and the early Impressionist painters traveling with my wife through the French countryside creating photographs. One beautiful evening, I stood overlooking the quaint village of St. Remy where Vincent Van Gogh painted his “Starry Night.” I was moved to create a number of photos. The lens of the camera became a sort of portal or threshold where I was able to get in touch with a deeper and fuller world. And my heart sang.

It was a year later, after the Sabbath time had ended and all the reporting back to the congregation had concluded when church members began to express an interest in claiming photography as a spiritual practice. Could they too create photographs as a way to embrace their own spirituality? 

And so, in early June 2015, First Baptist Church of Indianapolis hosted “Create” as an intergenerational opportunity for the church to create art and photographs together. With the help of Brad Berglund, a gifted photographer, our church members were instructed in how to allow the camera lens to become a threshold or thin place where the outer and inner world could meet. We headed off to a lush city park and then to downtown to make photographs. We focused on scenes in nature, urban architecture and human interaction. The next day, the very same photographs were used in the church worship service as a means of expressing God’s gift of creativity. And our hearts sang.

The gift of a clergy renewal grant can keep on enriching pastors and congregations. The question, “What makes my heart sing?” can linger and enrich everyone.

Dr. Fred Lewis is senior minister at First Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and pursued this “Sabbath time” as part of that congregation’s Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs grant.

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