Hello friends far and near!
2021 marks my twentieth year in vocational worship/arts ministry (how can that be?!). The majority of that time has been at our beloved Hope Chapel, the church we helped to plant in 2008 in Greensboro. Hannah and I began our call to Hope as (relatively) newlyweds, added three children to our family along the way, journeyed with Watts through leukemia treatment, and grew in wisdom and understanding as we walked with the Lord through both beautiful and pastorally challenging seasons in our community. Additionally, over the past few years Hannah began work with Barnabas Counseling Center and has received significant training in trauma-focused therapy. All that is to say, we have been busy and engaged in the work that we believe God has called us into.
I don’t know if it’s that I’m approaching 40 or the notion that I am nearing the second half of my working life, but over the past couple of years, I have sensed a stirring in my heart as I’ve considered my future in ministry. I spent significant time in the past year discerning if, and why, I am still called to ministry, and if so, what that work might look like sustained over another several decades. In this process a few things began to come into focus for me:
- I believe that the world needs people who have come alive (thanks to Howard Thurman for this beautiful phrasing) and I want to pursue that in both my personal and work life.
- Looking back over the past 20 years, the work that I have perhaps loved most (i.e. what has made me come alive) is my work with artists and creative people.
These foundational ideas helped me realize that yes, I do still feel a call to vocational ministry, and also clarified a direction in God’s unique calling on my life. The very short version is this: I believe that some significant portion of my vocational calling is to work in the “borderlands” between the church and the artist. These two entities have enormous power to benefit one another, but also a history and relationship fraught with disconnection, skepticism and wounds. I’m interested in the peacemaking work needed in that space.
These realizations unearthed a new question for me: how might I be well equipped to do this sort of work? Experience is certainly part of it, and I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to explore this over the years through relationships, collaborative projects, book studies, artist groups, and more. These experiences have been like trail markings, leading me into places of passion and calling. They’ve also awakened in me a desire to learn and grow in emotional, theological, and practical depth. I began researching graduate schools/seminaries that focused on this sort of training and eventually one program became a clear front runner. The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology offers an MA in Theology & Culture (with a specialization in ‘Imagination, Theology & the Arts’). The academic scope is excellent and engages much of what I have described above. But what sets this program apart from others is their emphasis on the spiritual, psychological and emotional health of each student (they are taking seriously the idea that the world needs people who have come alive!). The first year in particular includes significant group counseling type work with high focus on personal formation. Other courses include things like ‘Spirituality and the Arts”, “Care of the Soul”, “Beauty, Brokenness and the Cross”, and other theology and art classes. It’s capped off with a year-long “integrative project”, where a student explores a particular area of interest in both theory and artistic practice.
When Hannah and I began looking at the details of this 2-year program, we both had a deep sense that this was exactly what I’d been looking for. Additionally, because of COVID, for the first time they have begun to offer the program online (with two weekends of in-person learning each academic year) . I applied at the beginning of the year, was offered a spot in the upcoming cohort, and am now enrolled to begin in fall 2021. The leadership at Hope Chapel has been overwhelmingly supportive of this endeavor and they are helping me streamline some of my work to create space for school.
Hopefully that gives you a sense of context for how we came to this decision! As we think about moving into this season, we would like to humbly ask you to consider participating with us through prayer and financial support. The tuition and fees for this degree total approximately $38,000 and there will be additional costs for travel . Honestly, it’s a bit of an overwhelming amount, but I believe that God’s economy is one of abundance and not scarcity, so I am reaching out in faith with this need. Hope Chapel has generously committed to funding $19,000 (half of the tuition/fees) and also agreed to receive contributions toward my tuition so that they can be tax-deductible. Would you consider joining me and investing in this work? Also, if you know of others who might have particular interest in the type of work I am pursuing, would you consider connecting me with them? I greatly appreciate any and all of your support!