Pastor's Corner

The Artist’s Way: Part 2

In the last post, The Artist’s Way, I proposed that the “artistic temperament” (as it’s defined by the Enneagram) was the dominant corporate personality of Vineyard Central. Having had a few weeks to reflect more on that thesis, I’m as convinced as ever that it’s true.

Here’s a very brief summary of what I said. As a church we’ve collected creatives, dreamers, non-traditionalists, and (most significantly) individualists. Artistic types, before they mature, have a deep need to stand out, to be seen as special, as unique, as not like others. To join in with others is to forfeit the uniqueness they privately desire.

Here’s a case in point. In the first years of VC’s planting, I vigorously encouraged our artists to write worship songs, and I made ample (and almost exclusive) room for them to be played in our public worship. Although so many deeply worshipful songs came from that time, I realize now that my desire to see our songs played had a shadow side to it that was driven, at least in part, by fear. I wanted so much to avoid what I considered the “Wall Mart” songs of the Vineyard that were regularly released by Vineyard Music Group in southern California. I mean, if we played and sang what all the other Vineyards were using, then how in the world were we different? And if we weren’t different, then how could we be special? Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with writing our own music — to the contrary, it should be encouraged! — but the invitation to offer creative gifts should issue from a positive stance rather than a fear of being “just like everyone else.”  Likewise, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with being different … unless it stems from the very groundless reason of being different only for the sake of being different.

I also mentioned in the last post that, as a group, artists are mostly introverted (they need time alone to do creative work), weak in organization (they think in broad strokes, not fine detail), weaker in follow-through (they get bored quickly and want to move on), and suspicious of growth / success (a sure sign that you’ve sold out). There are exceptions to these generalizations, of course, but the overall pattern holds.

So my question was this: How does a larger group whose persona is unorthodox, individualistic, introverted, unorganized and afraid of success move toward God’s vision of creating communities and growing communities? I suggested some ways forward, but I certainly don’t have the final word on the matter, nor am I meant to. The answers lie in the community, and if we’re to overcome the liabilities of the Artist’s Way, then the community needs to contribute to the discussion. At the same time, we need to act, not get mired down in some protracted discussion. One way you can help is to email constructive thoughts you have to pastor@vineyardcentral.com. I’ll forward these to the pastoral council and they’ll become a part of our discussions for 2011. In suggesting ways we can move forward as a community, please also state how you’d like to contribute to that.

Here are some of the things I’ll be working to complete — by myself and with others — by the end of the first quarter of 2011:

• establishing a clear orientation process for newcomers
• launching an ongoing orientation group
• stating clearly what it means to be a member / stakeholder within our community
• having a weekly “bird’s eye” communication of the “good things God is doing among us”
• launching 2 more house churches
• conducting monthly encouragement and coaching times for our house church leaders
• concluding the work of the St. E’s Exploration Team (S.E.E.)
• presenting S.E.E.’s work to the community

Thanks to those who gave public and private feedback to my last post. Your comments were helpful, eye-opening, challenging and needed. I appreciate the time you gave to read it and write back. Keep it coming. Simply be loving, take responsibility for what you can, and think how you can join into the redemptive work that God hold out to us in 2011.

Peace to you,
Dave

6 thoughts on “The Artist’s Way: Part 2

  1. First off….. “Pastor Intro…”

    I find lots of valuable wisdom in your reflections. Asking the right questions and leaving room for growth and balance to come not from just the existing community members but from new ones who see the need to balance the abundance of artistic individualism with a new kind of complementary organizational set of new resiliencies.

    I see the tasks as living into the various seasons of our lives. It is great to be all indie and out of the box and top of charts, and seeking to fall in love and have all the necessary romantic requirements in one season… but that expectation can quickly become self absorbed and novelty driven when the next season emerges. Put your bathing suit away and take out your sweater, the season has changed stuff.

    So I think that we might take note that our social redemption probably will not come from creating more of the same, those that are like us, the description Dave put out there. We most likely need others who are not like us, and in fact those that we think are “less valuable” in the creative culture mix of values. All of the stages of life from birth to death have different questions, different capacities, and different opportunities for us to become more ourselves, and the individual authentic ourselves as a collective of aspiring individuals does not a communitas make.

    We must engage each and together engage each of the new seasons we find ourselves in and be authentic in context… I believe that more “newcomers” will come that will bring the balancing gifts that we need as a community to become more balance and whole.

    One critical question for me is that there is a sense that “WE” (the existing communicants of VCC) might not know the best way to establish a clear orientation process for newcomers. I think the path forward for discernment has to be also from newcomers that will likely bring the balance and wisdom we need. Perhaps that will not readily be understood and accepted by the tradition that has already been formed at VCC.

    I think the self understanding of the community will come from accepting the patterns involved and limitations of leadership, like confusing a nice idea with making the concept a reality. There is a pattern of birthing new ways of doing things or doing more of the same things the same way (like house churches?) without questioning the limits of our capacity as house churches to achieve our larger mission.

    In other words, I think we have to say something like a confession, “we desperately need other people, NOT LIKE US” that we have not valued before… because of a confusion of Indy artistic cultural character constructs with the critical need for new gifts and capacities that require new forms of inclusion and difference in our lives.

    I am open to being wrong and missing the point.

    Blessings

  2. Great post, Dave. I wish I could contribute something. But this is not the time and place right now. My prayers are with you though.
    And make sure you get enough rest! 🙂

    May god grow vision, community and leadership at VC.

    Much love,

    Matthias

  3. Dave. I am honored that you posted my rants. I thought when I spun that stuff off that it was a personal note to you and it was intended as a thread of ideas that you might glean a brief comment from to share. I would like to submit another reflection/ essay of sorts with the request that you share it as you think might best stimulate reflection and further sharing from others.

    You used the example of the collective identity of VCC members, and you chose the Artist’s Way and some psychological models on personality type to develop a shared corporate identity model. I think that model is helpful. It is a good start for seeing what the “original” recipe was for cooking up VCC in the 1980’s. It looks backward as if the movement and community is assigned to the past to understand itself and it’s future. In theology, that approach would be looking back at the early church fathers or the 7 major councils to continue to understand its essential idea of what it should continue to be. Let’s call that approach “ancient-ism”….

    My response to the ancient-ism approach is that it is largely not a core defining characteristic of “what the founding Vineyard movement” was, and so if you identify with that “tribe” as I hear some comments making from the Norwood tribe, there is a pretty radical disconnect being introduced at the foundational level of your exploration of “group identity.” The Vineyard Church as a “denomination” (there was a time when it claimed to not be a denomination, but instead a movement of spirit and such) , but it clearly is a Christian “brand” at this point and that brand that has been collectively developed over the past 3-4 decades is the larger identity that you have chosen to continue to connect with. The reason I have made the historical note is that I was at Fuller Seminary when the Vineyard Church movement started and I am not as old as Benedict or Thomas yet.

    The VC movement is more characterized by contemporary expressions (the CMA pop songs that are played on Christian Radio…) and the pop books that are sold at the local CBA bookstores). VC is a movement that from a music and book culture perspective is focused on personal experiences (stories of shared conversion) and practical strategies (American pragmatism and market share growth). That is at the core of its stories and history. it is a mainstream movement, it is broad market commercial art and Muzak from a historic church perspective. In contrast to that market identity the VCC culture has gone very broad in its collective music and art expressions. One example of this great contrast in books and wisdom resources (speaking from my trade and calling as a bookseller)… If you look at the books posted on the website for coursework and reflection on the spiritual direction and contemplative tradition of Sustainable Faith, probably 90% of those books are from a broad ecumenical readership and 90% of those titles would not be readily available in any of the VC world’s bookstore collections.

    It has also gone very deep in some of its spirituality practices. One major example is the “daily office” and classic catholic retreat practices. These practices are certainly NOT any part of the founding expression of the VC tribe. But I do think that these spiritual expressions are one way that the VCC community can continue to “contrast” its radical identity from that of its mainstream tribe. It might be said, then you have one monk and one monastery within a tribe… you can define the entire monastic and religious identity for the larger tribe. You Dave and VCC founding leadership (Kevin etal) become a central figure that defines the “ancient ways and practices” while at the same time because VCC is embedded in hip contemporary cultural expressions (intentional community, neo-monasticism, ecological gaia centric Wendellism and such).

    One way of summarizing what I might be trying to say is that when charismatic leadership (Dave and Kevin specifically) capture the vision for the community by using both “Ancient and Future” wisdom and innovation (lectio-noveltia) that becomes a new sub-brand for the local tribe within the larger VC culture. My last point is that so long as the sub-brand (VCC) largely focuses on providing “Ancient-Future” identity and practices for the major brand (VC) there exists a radically distinct identity for the Norwoodian artists and contemplatives.

    However, I question whether there is much direct identity to anything “original” to the VC brand of VCC. When you sing the songs of ancient voices and contemplate the words of ancient liturgies and you do the holy pilgrimages to Celtic and French lands and places… and you draw monastic themes to inform (FORMED) points of practice you have strayed very far from biblical preaching models, charismatic worship with the happy clappy tunes, evangelism that is in your face and discipleship as taught by the founding VC fathers… it makes sense to me that you would be required in the name of accurate ecumenical disclosure to state the sources and practices that have defined you and your tribe to look at changing your tribal disclosures to read… something hip like
    post-Vineyard, Ecu-VC, Neo-cV (small c catholic Vineyard), etc.

  4. I am learning this online publish stuff as I go along. I thought Dave or someone was moderating these comments… but when I clicked send it immediately posted. Perhaps I should have embedded the text with some nasty words here and there to force its moderation. Isn’t that what is meant by “all things in moderation” the via media, via sprucis… The last one is my version of “spiffing stuff up, finding novelties with good reputations and re-launching them… i.e. by way of sprucing things up a bit. Neo-xxxxx and Post-xxxxx concepts for example.

  5. Just thinking. I believe WE (VCC and its federation of seeking souls) need to continue to expand our conversations about these kinds of questions with others who are perhaps “stuck in other ways” than we are. Big E
    ‘s and Big I’s sharing a beer or coffee. Culture creatives and make it happen strategic planners making music together etc. I make this offer because I have a new “corporate job” this year. I am still an artist when you consider I am struggling and almost still losing money. I am getting back into photography to hold some artist ground etc.

    For those who might be interested. I have a half-time consulting GIG with the Diocese of S. Ohio to do what Anglicans have called “Fresh Expressions” and some call emergent, missional,neo-posto.. This creative spirituality bandwagon and host of conversations includes people like McLaren and Tickle, Richard Rohr etal to which most VCC and Ecumenical culture class renegades are familiar with.

    My task is to be a “catalyst and connector” around this movement and the Episcopal Diocese of S. Ohio. I would like for others to listen in and join in or at least be aware of this new conversation. I would like to link what VCC is doing to a much larger Christian community of gifts and capacities. I believe this is certainly one way of creating a common ground for future sustainability and enrichment.

    In a VCC world of artists and online graphics developers I submit to you my humble practical effort to begin some new conversations that are more inclusive and more diverse with future talent and generations of perspectives…

    freshexpressions.ning.com

    Larry Bourgeois

    you can communicate with me at larry@pilgrimplaces.org or call me at 513 604 1542 cell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *