It’s not for everyone. It’s not a Bible Study. It’s not a small group. It’s not a passive endeavor. It’s not cookie cutter spirituality. But it is spiritual and connects with our Conference mission statement of making disciples by taking risks and changing lives.
In our day and age of sensitivity and inclusivity, it’s risky to make a statement that Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly designed for everyone but there will be those to whom this curriculum will not appeal. They will decide that they are not artistic, or perhaps they don’t value creative expression enough to participate. I once asked during a sermon for those who considered themselves artists to raise their hands and only two hands went up. Since our society operates with such a narrow definition of artists and artisans, many will decide without exploration to exclude themselves.
Others may pick up the text at a local book store and quickly see that it’s unlike any Bible study they have ever attended and immediately have discomfort about trying something that is so out of the box. It will appear too risky and counter-productive. There are those within the Church who struggle with studies created from the Bible instead of studying the Bible itself. Just imagine what they will think when they see only indirect or big picture tie-ins to the Bible and spirituality. They will find this too disconcerting and out of the norm for them, and the thought of signing up will be shelved along with the book.
For the brave at heart who not only check out the book but take it to the checkout, then show up for the first class or group meeting, it may be a surprise to learn they are not in a class or a group but a cluster...a cluster led by all its members, but which does have a designated facilitator. Perhaps "cluster" denotes that while you are sharing the journey of acknowledging and unlocking creative potential, each journey is different and those who are in the room or place are diverse. In fact, you may find that while people within your congregation are reluctant to experience it, others within your community are excited about it. The word cluster illustrates the diversity of people that may come together for this journey and learn—or unlearn—from one another. These cluster meetings can open the door for you and your church to make friends with those outside your normal circles.
Those looking to be spoon fed will not enjoy this process of unlocking creative potential and aptitude. Cameron’s book lays out the individual and collective process as follows:
At the cluster gatherings, participants share their experiences of the past week, hold each other accountable for the self-made covenant to do the work, and share experiences and epiphanies with the cluster. Weekly cluster time is affirming; no one is trying to fix or correct another person in the group. It also opens you up to the creative potential of those in the room and helps you become more in tune with your own creative spark or drive.
The first thing we are told about God in Genesis is that God created. A few verses later we are told that God created us in God's own image. Spirituality and creativity are linked from Genesis to Revelation and can be seen as inseparable. The answer to the question, “Are you an artist?” is “How can I not be if I am made in the image of a creating God?”
Participating in an Artist Way Cluster isn’t for everyone. It is for those who desire to be creative in how they express their spirituality and discipleship. Is that you? Are you an artist?
Rev. Dean Bowers
St. Luke UMC, Decatur