Earlier this year I had the huge privilege of taking a 3 month sabbatical. My wife and I were able to travel to Russia, where she had worked for a missionary agency for 13 years. Also to Canada, where she had spent an important 2 years of her childhood. The remainder of the time was spent in England, spending quality time with family members.
Recently I was asked by a Clergy Support worker in the diocese : ‘What was the most important benefit of your sabbatical?’ (I should add that all clergy in the Church of England are encouraged to try to take a sabbatical every 10 years or so and that this was my first in 28 years of ordained ministry!) My answer was: ‘Creativity’. When I reached the age of 60 earlier in the year, my wife had clubbed together with other family members to give me a starter kit for oil painting. This was something I had thought would be fun to try some time, maybe in retirement. Of all the therapeutic possibilities that were open to me, this ‘hit the jackpot’. It requires such a keen observation, and deep focus of the mind. Such a stillness, yet experimental risk at the same time.
My efforts are those of a beginner painter. And yet, the ongoing benefits of appreciation of beauty, and the satisfaction gained through artistic expression, remain. In Christian understanding, we have a Creator God who has made us in His image. We are therefore all naturally creative one way or another. Herein lies both an opportunity and a danger. Romans 1:20 – 25 expresses both.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Basically, we can either give glory to our Creator God through the work of our hands, or we can give glory to the work of our hands (i.e. to ourselves, or to some human-made object of our worship).
On Friday October 11th in Stapleton Church Hall, our benefice will again be offering a monthly ‘Messy Church’ for all ages from 4 – 6pm (includes a free cooked meal). Come and join us to be creative! https://www.messychurch.org.uk
Rev Charles Sugden.