In the Living
Room: 7 Weeks
By: Diane Cooke
Recently, my husband and I participated in a seven-week artist intensive experience at the Center for Faith and Work called In the Living Room. These sessions are designed to provide working artists of all disciplines (writing, visual arts, movement, performing arts, music, etc.) with a supportive and scripturally-based exploration of their art in light of the gospel and God’s intention for imparting these gifts to humanity. Often churches do not know what to do with a motley and colorful group such as ours, comprised of singer-songwriters, playwrights, filmmakers, poets, painters, sculptors, actors, street artists, architects, art teachers. These types have a very different way of viewing the world and of expressing themselves. Churches often try to push artist types into very extroverted forms of sharing their faith instead of embracing the art itself as a highly valid manner of sharing faith in and of itself. These sessions however, proved that Redeemer Presbyterian Church regards art and artists very differently.
Across the seven weeks, we explored the artist as servant, creator, cultivator, disciple and theologian. The speakers from Redeemer, such as Abe Cho, Omari Hill, Tom Jennings, David Kim and David Bisgrove who came in to lead these explorations showed us that these gifts are not peripheral quirks of our personality, but intentionally given to us by God to be used for the good of the culture and not just our personal expression or enjoyment. During these weeks, each of us was given an opportunity to share our work with the group and talk one-on-one with each other. Just chatting to other artists and listening to their struggles provided opportunities for each of us normally shy, introverts to minister to each other in a natural, unforced way. Many of us prayed for each other outside of the sessions.
The level of talent in the group was astonishing, although not entirely surprising given that we reside in and around New York City, an important hub of cultural activity. The truly unique voices of all who shared in our group reflected a God who chooses to place just a tiny, distinct morsel of His personality into each of us, and never repeats Himself. The uniqueness of our individual personalities should be embraced, celebrated and shared and not crow-barred into a type of conformity within the Church. Because we all acknowledged that the Lord is the source of our gifts, no one puffed themselves up as work was shared. Each shared their craft, faith and approach to their creativity with honesty, openness and humility. On the last week, the group was commissioned to go out and serve the Lord using our creative gifts, which I thought was the most appropriate end to these weeks.
In the weeks since In the Living Room ended, members of our group of 20+ have formed a LinkedIn group to stay in touch, keep each other informed of work we are involved in, share opportunities for creative work others might be able to participate in, and generally keep the lines open for further continuing this special community. My husband (who works in comics) and I (who have worked in a variety of arts) continue to discuss themes this group explored, look at the work of others through those lenses, and seek the Lord’s guidance in further cultivating our gifts.