Every January the Faith and Arts summer school is run here in Poatina. For a number of years it was a highlight for me, something I really looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t taken part in one fully for a while now. I loved being part of a group where everyone was free to explore, discover, express and celebrate the gifts we all have.
I am still inspired by the journey we took each year in worship, starting the week with familiar song based worship, everyone nervous, not sure what to expect but as the days progressed, barriers came down and trust built amongst us. By the end of the week, our time together worshiping God was a peaceful, joyous, authentic celebration with movement, paint, music, rhythm, voice, light, liturgy, nature, colour, incense, sculpture, water, candles, images… it was awesome, for me, a little taste of heaven!
This journey with the worship paralleled a similar journey in the electives. Each participant chooses one master class to be part of for the whole week. From dance to clowning, statuing to fine art, photography to glass work; each class was lead by a professional in that field. Anyone was welcome and everyone had a go. It didn’t matter if you were doing your subject for the first time or had been practicing for years; we were here to learn and grow together, to encourage one another and celebrate each one’s creativity. It was a privilege to go on the journey myself from excruciating self consciousness and doubt in my ability, through to being able to bring a gift to the community at the concert at the end of the week. I loved encouraging others on that journey too, seeing their amazement as their gift and contribution was celebrated – not out of fake flattery but genuinely because they had brought something good!
During one of the last summer schools I took part in, we worked on a collaborative piece where all 60 of us together, came up with a concept that we developed into a group performance; every one of us was involved! Producing a collaborative piece has now become an important part of the week’s process.
Each year the facilitators look out for something new to emerge that can be used to enhance our youth and community work and outreach across the globe, be it capacity building team, choreographing a dance or performance, a new creative activity to be a point of contact at a community event.
At the end of the weeklong summer school, we put on a concert to which the Poatina community is invited; everyone looks forward to the evening with great anticipation! The whole school works together to set up the community hall and create a ‘whole’ integrated, interactive experience. Each person’s work is showcased, performed or displayed. Some years we’ll have many things happening simultaneously around the hall with occasional breaks for center stage performance; its felt like La Ramblas in down town Barcelona on a festival day!! One year we had a pathway of sand, three inches deep, snaking around the hall, it had stepping stones of glass, each one with its own design or picture on it – these had been created by those in the glass work elective. The pathway was lined with boards displaying art by the fine art elective. So as each member of the community entered the hall, they walked through a cacophony of art, stepping on glass laid on beach sands!
So, yeah, Faith and the Arts Summer School is one of those things for which I am grateful; grateful for the inspiration it has been to continue on this journey towards wholeness and to encourage others in the same.