Monday, February 06, 2006

doing collages..instead of preaching a sermon??

I love one of Kevin Foster's mottos for his new congregation: "Dream really, really, really big." He honors me (his elder) by hardly ever calling me "Dave"; never "Reverend" (thank God and Kevin!), but by the only title on my business card: "chief dreamer."

The journey towards realizing how damn dammed-up the dreams of most Christians.. and congregations.. are, was firstcatalyzed in me by a study we did in a previous church; a "Fifty Day Spiritual Adventure" called, daringly, "Daring to Dream Again (available here). I heard things like "I have totally buried my dream of becoming a ______!" to "I am daring to dream again!"

And more recently, as I have had the privilege of meeting with those with those sensing a call to ministry or church planting, one of the crucial questions we often ask is not "How qualified do you really think you are?", or "How educated are you?"...but a straight-faced "How can we make your dreams come true?" Faces light up, and folks look instantly younger upon just hearing that question.

One of the value statements (phrases that snapshot our culture and DNA) of Third Day is "developing dreamers." As I have begun (mas o menos) speaking on each value statement in turn, I am wanting to be prayerful and careful that such is not just a lecture series, not just "speaching," but participatory, collaborative and engaging. And how about fun? (Or isn't that a Kingdom virtue anymore?) Instead of "preaching" at all about "Developing Dreamers," we just did it.

One of my seminary professors, the right-brain and right-on Chuck Killian, in a "Storytelling and Preaching" class, had us make collages...ripping out any pictures or text that got our attention from magaizines, and assembling collages. Of course, it was hilarious to see all the distinguihed graduate theological students walking the halls of academia with..not a two-ton stack of theological texts..but collages (I think we even had homework involving crayons once!): "Oh, you're in Killian's class, I see!," the smirking passersby would goodnaturedly tease. But what other seminary assignment do all of us still remember vividly..and what other assignments from seminary were "off the wall" enough to still be literally somewhere on our walsl these years later? It was a creative way to get in touch with ourselves, our spiritual life, our darkest demons, wildest hopes...and our dreams.

I have not heard if any of Dr. Killian's students through the years have ever re-enacted this project in the church (I wouldn't be surprised..only disappointed... if I were only one)...but I had only done it in small groups over the years, never until now as part of the (gasp)Sunday morning....(gasp!!)"sermon." No, as the
sermon. ATS alumni, please post here if you have gone and done likewise; you are someone we need to know!

Anyway, my stealth-photographer dad snapped sone great photos of the coalescing of the "collaging." It was a wonderfully chaotic and a holy mess as we created and crafted. And many are counting it a landmark moment for their daring to dream again. Church/religion/pastors tend to crush dreams! Yet we dared to kickstart them.

We processed some of the collages in the gathering. We would simply wander around the impromptu art studio and ask a brother or sister, "Tell me about your collage." And we listend, and learned. It was sacred. Each collage was like an X-ray of the person's soul; fears; dreams.
Some interesting questions were: Why is every white space on your backdrop covered, while your husband's collage had tons of white space/room between pictures? Does this picture you chose remind you of someone you know? Some intriguing observations: a variety of styles (meticulously angled pictures vs. random). And some artistic choices were fairly obvious to unpack. For example, It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or trained pyschoanlayst to discern that peole often placed images/text relating to their central heart-commitments (Christ, family) in the center of their collage.

I have not been able to google the source on this next part of the "collage interpretation," (or hardly anything on this type of collage, period..except for maybe this),
so maybe it was Chuck Killian's own. But he suggsted that we might uncousciously divide our collage into four quadrants, with
quadrant possibly representing images/impressions from different seasons of one's life. He suggested that the lower left may be where people place images reminding them of their
past; the upper right, their presnt; lower right, near future; and upper left, far future. Now this is not to be an infallible Freudian grid, or some kind of holy Rorshach test, but I have always founded that this grid has validity in many cases, and in a few cases radically connects dots...even changed lives as tears and memories flowed. Again, not that this overlay is perfectly prophetic, but it is worth putting into the mix.

Some serendipities this time: I purposely gave a minimum of instructions, I gave no guidelines about the backdrop posterboards, for example. Everyone thus just kept the standard rectangular posterboard as it was...except one soul, who shall remain nameless (Jeromy!) , who creatively cut it to inpcoporate its shape into his collaged message...Sometimes medium is message, and canvass is art! Especially rewarding was watching folks walk around the room to say to someone they knew: "Hey, here' s a pictuer of Bono (for us middlin' age men ) or Toby Mac (for several of our kids). "I know you like him, do you want this picture for your collage?" As it should be in the Body: we get to share in, sew into, and contribute to each other's "sermons," lives, dreams and visioning. Open-source Wiki-church, just as I Corinthians 12 prophesied over us !

One of the treasures of making what we used to call "pastoral calls" (I now call it, in deep theological terms, uh, "Just hanging out with some of my friends from church") in people's homes is having people "show you their stuff." Whether it's childern letting you see ..or even hold..their favorite toy or precious animal; or the elderly woman gently handing you a framed photograph of her deceased huband, there is no higher honor then "handling holy things." To taste this exeoperince en masse.. was off the charts for me. I was humbled and honored to be so quickly offered entree into the souls of Third Day bodies present.

Perhaps some of the saints that were there that day will post comemnts below, or even digital photos of their soul...uh, I mean, collage.

And just maybe Professor Killian is online today, and will post below some of the incredible stories he must have of master's students in theology ripping pages out of magazines with childlike abandon..and watching in the untold joy and awe that only loving and sagatious teachers know, as God snuck up on us. I see he is "emeritus" now (and even got his hair cut!) ; that doesn't necessarily mean he's old, but that he's got some time on his hands to post here and help us regular folk to dare to dream again.

Picture that!

More photos of "Collage Day" here!

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