by Barbara Glasson.
My spirituality and my creativity are closely linked. I have known this for a long time yet I have always foolishly thought that my spirituality was the serious business of prayer and worship whereas my creativity was a light hearted playfulness for spare moments. I can see that I have got that wrong.
Creativity is a drive, a primal and essential force, something quintessentially human, that means there is a desire and longing and impulse to create a thing, an object , a substance. For me, creativity is not an optional extra, it is of the core of my humanity. Because I am created, because I am a creature, then I also need to create. I am invited into a conversation between my imagination and the Unknown.
Creativity is not about craft, about a skill like knitting or throwing a pot, although it might need a skill to achieve it. It is more about an impulse, a longing, a deep desire or irresistible curiosity to explore an object or colour or concept. Creativity comes from a force beyond ourselves. It is a primal imperative. And this imperative emerges from the imagination or subconscious or, I would want to say, the Divine Creator. It is not an act of will alone, it is the result of a connection of ideas. Creativity is a spark. The sculptor Anish Kapoor talks of creativity as an invitation, a process in which we are invited to participate. Ultimately it is a question about meaning, meaning being revealed to us through mystery.
So, if this mysterious world of the imagination brings a spark of otherness, of beauty of hints of a world beyond this one, why is it that Church can be such an uncreative place? With the possible exception of a splash of PVA glue and blunt scissors at Messy Church, or our attempts to decorate chapel interiors with flowers or banners, on the whole our experience of church is often more of a spectator sport than an engagement with the Unknown.
At this point I sense a certain toe-curling angst and flashbacks to school art lessons which puts the fear of God into many a good Methodist. We can feel more pragmatists than Pollocks. We can be intoxicated by a sober cocktail of justification by works and the Protestant work ethic. Our churches can be cluttered up with ‘stuff’ rather than places of space, beauty, texture and imagination. Although chapels may be more like store cupboards than treasure troves I’m not advocating we give up sermons in favour of oil paints. What I am suggesting is that we give space to those creatives amongst us and help them to stop sitting on their hands. Release the right brains!
This is not necessarily a call for us to access our inner Rembrandt but rather a prompt to widen our conversation. Whilst creativity can be the prerogative of the lone explorer, like most spiritual exercises it can also be the soil in which communities grow together. Shared creativity gives the possibility of meeting in spaces that don’t rely on a contract of shared belief. It is within this shared process there is the possibility of surprise.
Banksy demostrates that creativity can be subversive. Certainly art is often prophetic, enabling us to see the world differently. Craftivism is a new movement that harnesses creativity in a search for justice.[i] Creativity is a truth-teller.
‘Art is not a private nightmare, not even a private dream, it is a shared human connection that traces the possibilities of past and future in the whorl of now.’[ii]
Creativity opens up dimensions of the spirit that are often submerged by the routines of everyday life. Creativity gives time and attention both to the detail of the material world but also to the mystery beyond it. Creativity is the birthright that Yawheh gives to humankind when breathing life into us. In creating the creator is created, and creation is re-created by the Creator.
‘Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, describe what is going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or , if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.’[iii]
[i] Corbett 2, Craftivism Collective 2009.
[ii] Winterston J, Art Objects, (Vintage, 1996), p. 117.
[iii] Dillard A, ‘Heaven and Earth in Jest’ in Creators on Creating, (Penguin, 1997), p.84.