Minister of Arts

by Rev. Donna Belt

April 2008

Rev. Donna Belt

Although I came to CHI with the intention of becoming a hospice chaplain, I have gradually come to see myself more as a Minister of Arts.

My talents are those of a creative pole jumper. I teach others to leap far higher than they ever suspected their wings could carry them, over the bar of their doubts and limitations. Through the unmediated sensing of their own internal power, they come to feel that they are spiritual beings who need not be subject to the laws of “ego-gravity”.

The art form that I have developed is the art of listening on paper. By letting the pen float across the surface, feeling every line and shape, truth emerges. This can also be done with words, which can come together in equally improbable ways.

Artwork by Rev. Donna Belt

The painting here captures an example of just such discovery. As is my practice, I drew without looking at the paper before coloring in areas with watercolor pencil. I was amazed, when I added water, by the deep indigo that filled her hand and ear. She seemed to be holding a foreign object — perhaps a seashell. What ancient rhythms did she hear echoed in the surf of her own pulse? What messages from the universe came to her in the guise of her own heartbeat?

These are questions that move me. I want to teach people methods of blindfolding their left brains, so they remember what they knew when they were born.

I recently opened an art and writing studio, SpiritWorks, where I work with both individuals and groups who seek Self-awareness and healing. I haven’t known other chaplains who have taken up a painting smock, but I know this to be a perfect expression of my interfaith ministry.

During my time as a seminary student at The Chaplaincy Institute, I crossed a bridge—from interior journey to my present footing in creative interfaith ministry. Each module proffered a steppingstone as I found my way. From the Hebrew Modeh Ani—the practice of offering gratitude at the moment of awakening—I learned to root my beginnings in clear intention. Through earth-based spirituality, I stepped into the luminous energy of sacredly-held space. The beloved Sufi poet Rumi gave me words to leap from the realm of belief to the groundless place of intuitive knowing. Through spiritual care classes, I learned to offer shelter under an overhang of blessings. Through dream work, I came to know that every person I minister to is an aspect of myself.

Hildegard of Bingen, the twelfth century German mystic cites the Creator as declaring, “I have exalted humankind with the vocation of creation” (Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen). I hear you, ever-evolving Spirit, and I go forward to co-create your world… one stroke of paint at a time.