Art Ministry

Using 3d prayer cards to help patients heal

Meet Rev. Jenifer Ingerman Miller

Jen Miller.jpgArt Ministry is a unique way to empower people to heal themselves through drawing, painting, writing and other creative endeavors. "For me, art is prayer," says ChI clergy Jenifer, who brings interfaith art to people as a healing modality. Art alone can comfort and inspire, evoke emotion, and help in recovery, Jenifer says. "Art alone can comfort and inspire, evoke emotion, and help in recovery," Jenifer says. "Art, accompanied by a calming, grounded presence carries a great deal of potential as a tool for chaplains, that can be used to encourage people to open up about their fears and anxieties, work towards recovery, accept a new diagnosis, or make peace with their own (or a loved one’s) mortality."

Jenifer first began her art ministry as the author and illustrator of  Drawing Into Prayer: Reaching God Through Art When the Words Aren’t There, a book that is half autobiographical and half a series of simple exercises that both artists and non-artists alike, may use to draw themselves into prayer. "That was the first step in moving towards a meaningful, intentional path which integrated my desire to empower people to heal themselves with the artwork that flowed through me," Jenifer says.

Then as an Interfaith Studies Certificate Program student, Jenifer was assigned several projects in which she art angel.jpgapproached a particular faith through an artistic avenue. "The pieces I created during this program have become my collection of faith-specific and interfaith prayer cards."

Now as an ordained interfaith minister and a chaplain intern, Jenifer is bringing her art as an aid in healing to a wide variety of hospital patients through 3-D prayer angels and pop-up prayer cards. She recently launched a website where she offers The AltarNative Comfort Angel, "a small paper angel that has been extremely well received by patients and family alike, in the hospital, Jenifer says. "The comfort and joy these whimsical creations promote is priceless.  



Art Curating for Spiritual Formation

Meet Rev. Dr. Sheldon Hurst

Sheldon Hurst.jpegRev. Dr. Sheldon Hurst, a ChI cross-ordained minister, found his spiritual  path becoming more expansive through his studies at ChI. His background as an art historian and interfaith clergy has evolved into a ministry which offers possibilities for collective spiritual formation. "The world of art has always been a spiritual way of presence in the world, with artists in the role of prophet." Sheldon says. "I've been blessed with an integrative mind and I take very seriously the role of artists in the world." 

Sheldon's current project is "Cambodian Resiliency," his first exhibit for ArtReach Gallery at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, a church that has been showing art since 1875.  

On a trip to Cambodia Sheldon saw images by Vann Nath, an artist who portrayed his experience of prison suffering and murders that led to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh under the Pol Pot regime.  So taken was he with this artist that he bought a folio of his paintings with the idea of curating an exhibit in Portland. The project grew to include photos by Vann Nath's son, Vann Channarong, reflecting modern day Cambodia; Sandra Banister's images of Angkor Wat; Anders Jirás’ photos of students learning ancient Cambodian dance; films, as well as educational activities and intercultural conversation, all of which will  be blessed by the monks from Watt Dhammarangsi, the Portland Cambodian Buddhist temple.  The exhibit will be held during February and March of 2017. 

"I hope the larger community will awaken to an understanding that people live with very different memories as immigrants," Sheldon says. "Here is a whole people, living with a knowledge that some, perhaps many, members of their families were murdered by a genocidal Khmer Rouge 1975-79.  These are refugees who left their home and had to rebuild their own lives. I think there is something deeply spiritual that nudges everyone when you learn that."

Sheldon credits his experiences at ChI, in the Interfaith Spiritual Direction program and the Interfaith Studies program, for opening up his curiosity and capacity to reach out to other cultures and traditions. He sees art exhibits as a way to initiate genuine dialogue and interaction between cultures and traditions within the local community.   His hope is that this exhibit will expand people's understanding of the history that the entire Cambodian people carry,  the grief and the trauma, but also the joy and rich culture as seen in the images of Angkor Wat and children learning their traditional dances. Sheldon's own joy and excitement at the path this project has taken is apparent when speaking to him.  He is already visioning his next project of Curating Art as Community Spiritual Formation by examining the rich Calligraphic tradition of the Muslim community.    


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