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The art of ministry

By Brian Hollingsworth

brianhAs a kid, art was my first love. There was a certain freedom I found in painting, drawing, and creating that I didn’t experience anywhere else. Summer painting classes eventually led into theatre classes, and ultimately music once I reached middle school. It seemed each art form offered a different means of self-expression where I could let my imagination run free. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be an artist.

Somewhere along the way, my interest in art began to fade, or so it seemed. When I got to college, I immersed myself in campus ministry, and began to sense God’s call. I remember thinking that nothing else mattered except serving God. Looking back, I see that my ideas of what this meant were fairly narrow – it meant working in a church, or a theological setting, and sharing the gospel with the world. And while I certainly found creative ways of serving God through my time in campus ministry, and through my subsequent work as the director of a Christian camp following graduation, it wouldn’t be until I returned to divinity school that my love for the arts and my desire to serve God and others began to merge.

At Wake Forest School of Divinity, each student’s field experience and vocational discernment is structured around the Art of Ministry program, a 3-year curriculum that encourages students to reflect on their life and calling, and put it into practice in ministry settings of their choosing. Through class time, meetings with peer groups and mentors, and through internship work, we explore the ways God is calling us to grow and bring our full selves into our ministerial work. It has been through the help of this program that my artistic and ministerial interests have finally had an opportunity to weave together.

Now in my final year of divinity school, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as an intern at Sawtooth School of Visual Art in Winston-Salem, where I am working with their Healing & Wellness Through the Arts grant. This grant works primarily with cancer patients, survivors, and their families to offer opportunities for healing through artistic expression. Many of the patients and family members are quick to say “I’m not an artist!” only to be amazed a few minutes later when they have produced their first piece of art. “I can’t believe I created that!” they say. And even more commonly, we hear what a joy it is to get lost in the act of creating something, enjoying a momentary distraction from difficult times, and being reminded that there is more to life than illness. This is but a glimpse of the healing and renewing power of art.

My time in divinity school has brought me to believe that there is an inner artist in all of us – it just comes out in different ways. For some it is through visual art, for others it is singing or dancing or writing or theatre. And for many more, the ways we create are as unique as each individual person. We create space to share, we create time to be together, we create memories. Is not each act of creation a work of art?

As a Christian, I believe the creative spirit within us is God’s spirit, the same spirit that first created the cosmos and is at working creating in us and through us still, renewing and transforming our world.

How is God calling you to unleash your inner artist?

Brian Hollingsworth is in his final year at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, where he is pursuing his M.Div.. Among his many interests are the arts as ministry, the intersection of food & faith, and pastoral care. He is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

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