by Amy Galliford
Throughout 2022, a handful of creatives from churches of Christ gathered to dream and asked the question: What would it look like for the creative arts to flourish throughout our network?
Recognising the need for a space to allow Christians with creative gifts to flourish, Josh Gibbon, Laura Payne and Rohan Geddes developed an idea called A Time To Plant. Through prayer, they identified individuals from our network and invited them to be part of a year-long explorative journey to catalyse spaces to foster the creative arts and a heart of worship within churches.
Throughout the year, the group of 11 gathered on three retreats to build deep relationships, encourage each other’s art and worship God. The Network Grants Program helped to fund these retreats, where members could pursue spiritual formation within a community of like minds. As Josh sees it, the result of this affirmation for each member was a new freedom and confidence in the value of their giftings.
Sharing their individual stories at the start was crucial to this process. One member, Kristin Dalbrun, recalls the sense of belonging fostered by this.
“We came honestly with our doubts and fears,” she says. “There was a common feeling that this was something so needed, that this is something God created us to be.”
The group forged deep connections and fruitful collaborations on this foundation of vulnerability and belonging. They practised spiritual disciplines such as silence and solitude, tried challenges to push themselves creatively in their art forms, and shared their work in its unfinished, unpolished state to practise being comfortable in imperfection. Amidst this freely creative space, several members spontaneously wrote a song and went on to record it following the retreat.
From the perspective of one member, Bruce Tindale, the spirit of play in the gatherings enabled these moments of organic creation. While creativity is often easily stifled by comparison, the retreats enabled collaboration in which the unique significance of each contribution was recognised.
For Bruce, whose creativity has always expressed itself through the medium of chalk, the community of A Time To Plant encouraged and challenged him to push the boundaries of his art.
“I was the chalk guy … and I was delightfully and forcefully broken to embrace other mediums,” he says.
The group experimented with throwing, dragging and mixing paint with a focus on the process, or childlike exploration, rather than a perfect final product.
From this season of planting, seeds are already sprouting, with several group members now beginning initiatives of their own to include more creatives from the network in similar spaces. With a particular heart to serve those Christians who feel wearied by expectations and burnt out on religion, Kristin is in the early stages of establishing Oasis, a spiritual retreat designed for rest and restoration. Through a combination of contemplative and creative practices, Oasis will create space for individuals to explore God and their giftings without pressure or expectation.
Bruce is also planning to establish a creative collective that will gather, affirm and encourage people in their creativity, with the aim of releasing them back into their communities for the benefit of the broader church. While he is still in the dreaming stages of this vision, he encourages churches to identify individuals who might benefit from the initiative and expect further information soon.
While 2022 was a time to plant, there is an undeniable sense of expectation for the seasons to come from this group – for times to grow and times to harvest a culture of creative worship across our network.
Read more stories from churches of Christ in NSW & ACT HERE