In this month’s interview, we hear from Sojourn Creative Arts Team leader Candace Stough about the team’s development and mission, creative worship, and sharing the Gospel through the arts. To learn more, please visit http://sojournhsv.org or contact Candace directly by E-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Tell us about the Sojourn Creative Team-- what does your group do? How did it get started?
Sojourn is a church plant that currently meets at the Olde Towne Brewing Company in Huntsville, AL. Starting out as a plant means that every Sunday is a challenge and requires creative thinking; you typically have limited resources and usually only a handful of people to “pull off” a Sunday morning service. The idea of gathering a few people together to discuss the creative elements, to equip and train, and plan for these elements was the genesis of the creative team.
A group of us took a trip to a worship arts conference in Louisville, KY where we were able to hear author Dr. Harold Best speak on creative worship and where we were surrounded by people from all over the nation who were in love with God and were engaging art for His sake. We were able to witness men and women who have a desire for God, a desire to grow and learn from one another, and a passion for art to be used in ways that can serve to help communicate a gospel-centered message through language, imagery, and relevant design. With a church slogan like 'Rethink Church, Rethink Life', I was challenged to “rethink” what it means to have a creative arts team serving in the church. I began processing and reflecting on my own personal journey which triggered within me a desire to witness the freedom of individuals to worship in both heart and skill, to walk-out life with individuals as they deepen their understanding of the Gospel, redefine their identity, overcome unbelief, and experience new levels of freedom, all the while developing and refining their God given gifts for the purpose of worship and living out their full potential through the power of Jesus Christ who lives in them; giving all Glory to God. This is when the desire for the team became more than just a “planning team” for the Sunday morning service.
The Sojourn Creative Arts Team is about helping to provide a safe place where we as artists can gather together to collaborate, challenge, inspire, and educate one another, and express our creativity and freedom in our worship as individuals and in the community while gaining a better understanding of the Gospel and enjoyment of the arts. It is not about the production of the art itself – artists make artwork, communities make artists. We believe that a community of artists is not the same thing as a lone artist developing his or her skill in isolation. A community of artists relies on one another for creative energy, skill development, and, most importantly, relational support. In order to develop these connections among existing artist communities, we get involved by also being with The Arts Council in Huntsville and artists at Lowe Mill. The Sojourn Creative Team frequently gathers together during both our “Creative Focus” groups and “Creative Blur” events to build community and familiarity with one another, talk through various discussion topics, spend some time celebrating together what God has been doing in our lives, as well as engaging in times of confession and prayer. Past Creative Focus conversations have included... “When Art Becomes Idolatry”, “Artist Intention and Motive”, “Inside Out and Outside In Worship”, etc., and our last Creative Blur event was a camp-out at Lake Guntersville. Our pastor and his wife came out to spend time with the team and took them tubing and cliff diving. A great bonding experience.... just saying!
The team has a passion to share the Gospel. We try to identify and plan creative projects that not only serve Sojourn, but also flow beyond the structural walls of our home church and into the diverse aspects of our city. You see, the Gospel never changes, but our methods do. It is our desire to find ways that our team can be creative in our communication of the Gospel and speak the language of the culture so that others may hear and understand what Christ has done for them.
Most of all, it is our passion to journey and grow with one another in what it means to make art for God's sake, and to learn what it means to bring Him glory in response to all that He is as we worship creatively, while living out life together, serving our church, and serving our community with our God-given gifts.
2. What do you enjoy most about making art? What inspires you and your team?
The worship. Worship involves two vital elements; revelation and response. First, revelation is the way in which God reveals Himself to man through His works in creation, supremely through Jesus Christ, through His people, and through the presence and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in believers. Secondly, there is the awe-stricken expression that flows out in response to all that He is and is doing in our lives through the redemption of Christ and the atonement paid at the cross.
Individuals on the team may find inspiration in different ways, but as a team, one of the ways we find inspiration is in the belief that art can also be a witness and that even those who are not Christ’s followers can witness and see evidences of God's grace in our response. We believe that creative worship is both monastic and missionary; it is offered to an audience of one, but declared loudly for all to hear.
However, it is important to understand that there's no power in the art itself to minister. Instead, the power is in the Lord who does the ministering as we make our art. If we understand this, then we can allow our art to reach the full potential of what it was originally inspired to be, rather than shaping it according to what we think will minister.
3. How can artists and other community members become involved with the Sojourn Creative Team?
We are always looking for ways to volunteer and take part in existing opportunities throughout the city, serve alongside other artists and community members, and we are always looking for ways to invite other artists and community members into what we do as well. We will be moving into our new studio space on the first floor of Lowe Mill by the end of the year, and our door will always be open... you could also come hang out with us at Sojourn one Sunday!
4. Has art had an influence on your understanding of God?
Absolutely! God, the ultimate creator, created us in His image to worship Him, and He invites us to interact with Him in every area of our life. When I engage in responsive worship through art/music, He reveals Himself to me, and the more I see of God, the more I press deeper into Him, and the more my worship of Him increases.
5. What is your favorite verse or inspirational quote? Why?
“To know God is to worship Him.” -Martin Luther
“And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Acts 13:22
David is a fantastic example of a worshiper and artist; we look to the Psalms to see what God is like because it came from the overflow of David wanting to know God and be known by Him.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24
Part of what it means to worship in “spirit and truth” is being able recognize and discern the Holy Spirit and desire His will over your life because you know God in whom you worship. Worship is about totally being filled with the Spirit and totally being grounded in the Word of Truth; which is Jesus. The thing is, after the fall, man was no longer in the direct intimate presence of God and worship became a concept that we will never truly understand, nor be able to define fully, until we kneel down before the throne of God. However, Christ, both God and imago Dei (the image of God), not only came to take sin away, but He also came to show us how to worship. He shows us how we are to eventually worship when we join Him in His Glory, as well as now on Earth. We are broken and are in need of a Redeemer, and authentic worship can only be found in Christ. Graciously, God gave us the absolute gift of all; Christ-in-us-in-Christ.
6. Do you have any other words of encouragement or advice for other Ascribing Artists?
I would invite us all to remember that God is the only One who deserves the title Creator. We are merely creative. God's love and His love for the creation brought Him to create man in His own image. Whatever characteristics and attributes God possess and pours out, we were created to show and pour after His manner. We can look at art, we can learn from it, but we cannot covet it. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ; the supreme Gift and Gift-giver. The outpouring of Christ, through His blood, came at great cost. Therefore, our work is to be costly. This doesn't mean striving to “pour better perfume” than others or striving to be the best there is. Instead, it is an upward sojourn of becoming better today than we were yesterday. It is not about pressing in with a “works based” mentality to impress Him, but it means pressing in because we are to be like Him.
The term “outpouring” implies lavishness and openhandedness. When you pour something, you give it up and you let it go; it flows naturally and organically. There is no measuring or filling quotas, and it doesn't even matter if it spills over. I would encourage all of us to be continuous out-pourers toward God; continually drawing from the only true sustainable source. He is the One who first pours out of unceasing abundance and then we, the imago Dei, who pours out of responding worship.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31
*Core fundamentals for encouragement and advice were acquired from Dr. Harold Best, author of Unceasing Worship and Music Through The Eyes Of Faith
[If you have an inspirational project or story that you would talk about in an interview for the Ascribing Artists Blog, please contact Christina by E-mailing ChristinaBWegman@aol.com.]