Restoring Life Through Creativity

Westview ARTS Academy was founded in 2016 with the help of a CBWC Opportunity Grant. One year later, founder and Director Elaine Hileman wrote this article to share the story of how the ARTS Academy ministry has been going.


Susan arrived in Calgary a few years ago with her two children after fleeing a harrowing case of domestic violence. Alone, broken, and tired, she wondered how to even begin to rebuild their shattered lives. With no biological family to turn to, she turned to her newly found spiritual family, the Christian church, for hope and comfort.

Initially, the church was supportive, but before long they judged the challenges of single-parenting and the trauma her children were experiencing from domestic violence. Some church members, misguided but well-intentioned, suggested that Susan give up her oldest child for adoption. They knew of a couple in the church who were eager for another child, and whom the church members felt would be more capable parents than Susan.

This unexpected betrayal from the very people she looked to for guidance, support and encouragement left Susan reeling. Disillusioned, angry and confused, she quietly shut herself and her children away for nearly six months. She was lonely, discouraged and distrustful of the church.

After some gentle nudging from a friend, she decided to give God’s family another try. When she hesitantly walked through the doors of Westview Baptist Church, she had no idea how God was planning to creatively put her life back together.

Part of a mosaic-mural being pieced together by families of victims of drug related killings in the Philippines. Photo by Vincent Go

 

Around the same time, God was working in my life by nudging me to start an arts academy at Westview Baptist Church. Inspired by years of working in ministry, education and the arts, I proposed starting a professional, affordable and Christ-centred arts academy at Westview. Church leadership immediately supported my vision and encouraged me to apply for an opportunity grant from CBWC. I did, and after receiving a generous start-up grant, founded the Westview ARTS Academy.

Last fall, our professional instructors began teaching art, dance, drama, and music classes to over one hundred students, from 3-year olds to adults. The Academy runs classes in painting, sculpture, ballet, choreography, banjo, guitar, voice, theatre and more.

People are generally excited by the ARTS Academy, but I think some are confused at why it’s a ministry of our church. I however, often wonder why arts academies aren’t a natural part of every church. Being created in the image of God is a mysterious thing, and one thing it means is that we can’t help but be creative. It is part of our nature. And creativity isn’t just exercised in traditional arts, but in all aspects of life. Our goal with the ARTS Academy is to give people permission to explore and grow their God-given nature. As Eric Liddell famously said in Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” I echo it by saying, “When I paint, I feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Susan heard our vision for the ARTS Academy at a Sunday service and introduced herself to me, offering to volunteer.

“I was drawn to the ARTS Academy because I think that there’s truth in the statement, ‘Once an artist, always an artist.’ However, it was a part of my past that remained buried underneath some unpleasant memories,” she said.

“I was resistant initially, despite feeling drawn. But once I met Elaine and she shared her vision for the academy, I felt compelled to be a part of it. I knew that this was a step on the path of healing and restoration the Lord was walking me through.”

When I first met Susan I didn’t know she was a single mom, let alone one who had been through so much trauma. I also didn’t know how much talent accompanied her offer to volunteer. Later, I learned that the very hand she painted so beautifully with had once been broken by her ex-husband in a fit of jealousy and in an attempt to keep her from ever creating again. I felt such awe at God’s work in restoring that part of Susan’s life as well as everything else He was doing to bring her physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

“In my life, before Christ began to set me free, the heaviness I was carrying didn’t allow room for creativity. When you are in survival mode, some things just go. They are not essential,” Susan said. “In my marriage, I felt that life was draining from me. Creativity, random emotions, fun, humour, the ability to laugh… all these things fell to the wayside. It wasn’t a fast thing, or all at once, but as the years passed away, so did ‘life’. So did hope. At times, there seemed to barely be enough room for breathing, let alone creating! It sounds dramatic, but this is the truth. I did not begin to re-surface from the depths of this until I made a confession of faith in Christ. Overnight, even though nothing in my outward life had changed, the breath of life came to me and hope was born in me. I struggled against this foreign feeling of hope, but ultimately, it remains, and, as we remain in Him, our life is slowly restored. Creativity is Him. He is the Creator. His creative expression brought this earth to life and all that is in it. It went from darkness and chaos to beauty and life—and life in abundance! ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water… and so it goes. God speaks and it happens. God forms, and it becomes. God breathes, and human life becomes. We are made in His image, in His likeness, and so we too, can create, form, mold, shape, become… and we can use these gifts to bring light, beauty and truth to the world around us, and bring glory to Him, pointing to Him, the One who created all things.”

Trinity Dancers from Light of the World, an original Christmas production by Westview ARTS Academy students and instructors.

 

Beyond restoring our individual creativity, I believe God also wants to restore the church’s united creativity for His glory and to be a light to a lost world. Currently, the church only embraces a fraction of the arts, and funds even less.

The goal of Westview ARTS Academy is not to create “Christian art,” but to create artists who communicate God’s truth, beauty and love. Christian art is often segregated art. It is art for Christians; art meant to entertain believers, or art that is considered safe. Art created by Spirit-filled believers will challenge unbiblical worldviews and make people reflect on life, rather than giving them clichés.

This is a long-term investment in Christian discipleship and artistic training and it requires engaging professional artists who will impart their Christian worldview and technical skills to our students, but it is an investment we are excited to be making.


Elaine Hileman is the Director of Westview ARTS Academy. To find out more about Westview ARTS, visit their website: www.westviewartsacademy.ca

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Opportunity Grants Awarded

The CBWC has awarded $55,000 in Opportunity Grants in 2017. Opportunity Grants fund innovative ministries that churches and partner ministries would otherwise be unable to afford. The following grants were awarded:

Centre for Healthy Aging Transitions, Vancouver, BC — $10,000 for Re-Engaging Retired Pastors, phase 2. Many pastors have experienced loss of connection from the churches and organizations that they served faithfully for many years, some with poor salaries and minimal retirement packages. These retired pastors have a wealth of experience in spiritual care and counseling, and have stories that can enrich the lives of others. There is little clergy care offered to retired pastors, but they could be mobilized to help one another: older adults helping their peers live well. CHAT is developing an online network to facilitate this connection, provide training, and gather at symposiums.

Hillside Church, North Vancouver, BC — $13,200 for North Shore School of Mission. Hillside Church is establishing a ministry internship program for their 20-somethings. The program includes church-based service, college-credit theological education, and short term missions. With Columbia Bible College as a partner, students will be able to earn undergraduate credits during the 12-month intensive. The CBWC grant will be used to renovate a classroom space. Operating budget funding has been provided by Hillside Church, other supporting organizations, subsidized tuition from Columbia Bible College, and tuition paid by participants. Stay in touch with the school or find out more details here: https://www.schoolofmission.org/

Gull Lake Baptist Camp, Lacombe, AB — $25,800 for a new multipurpose recreational space. A new flat surface space with surrounding boards, bleachers and a storage shack will expand the activities possible at the Gull Lake Centre. The camp has many fun activities, but almost all of them require trained staff (climbing, boating, canoeing, archery, etc.) A playing surface can be used as a skating rink in the winter, and infinite possibilities in the summer. Construction is starting this fall to be ready for winter rentals.

Broadway First Baptist, Winnipeg, MB — $6,000 for Tapestry: Healing Retreat for African Immigrants. Broadway First Baptist is providing a free weekend retreat each fall for women who are recent immigrants to Winnipeg, especially those connected to the Shalom Church in Winnipeg, while building relationships with the women of Broadway-First. Because there are tribal struggles that come from African into Canada, time spent getting to know each other and learning to tell one’s story is so vital. The first retreat was held in 2016. This opportunity grant will fund 2017 and 2018 retreats.

Since Opportunity Grants began in the early 1990’s, more than $4 million has been provided to support the ministries of CBWC churches and their partner ministries.

In this round of funding, Opportunity Grants received four requests for a total of $121,200. All requests were granted, but one was for a lesser amount than requested. Opportunity Grants are awarded annually; the next deadline for applications is April 30, 2018. To get an application form, visit the grants and loans section on the church life resources page: http://cbwc.ca/resources/church-health/

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Banff Pastors Conference is coming up!

Our annual pastors’ and spouses retreat is coming up again. Held in beautiful Banff, the conference is a time for pastors and their spouses to rest and charge up. The theme is life on the vine. Our time together will be restorative and focused on reconnecting with Christ, our source of resurrection and joy. Guest speakers and worship leaders will bring encouragement and inspiration, and the splendid Rocky Mountains will ensconce us in the presence of God.

The conference begins with dinner on Monday night and finishes on Thursday, November 9th. Stay a couple of extra days, and you’ll still have plenty of time to be home for Sunday! Early bird registration is open until September 10. Last chance to register is October 22. Visit our website to register and find more details: http://cbwc.ca/events/. Download the registration brochure here: http://cbwc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Brochure_Banff2017_web.pdf

David Fitch will be leading us in a reflection on faithful presence. David is a strategist for missional church and the planting of missional churches in Western culture. David Fitch teaches evangelical theology and directs the Theology and Mission Masters & Doctoral programs at Northern Seminary in Chicago. He is an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and currently co-pastors with three other pastors in Westmont, Illinois. He writes regularly on culture, politics, political theory, ethics, ecclesiology and mission.


Rob Parker will lead us in practices of life on the vine through Bible studies and prayer times. Rob is the founding director of the National House of Prayer based in Ottawa. NHOP was established in 2005 with the mandate originating from 1Timothy 2: 1-3. Rob’s desire is to mobilize informed, focused and sustained prayer for Canada and its leaders. Rob is gifted in preaching and teaching, and has a pastor’s heart for God’s people.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.

– 1 Timothy 2:1-3

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Update from a Century II Donor recipient

 

Century II is a fundraising program for church capital projects. It was started in 1980 by a men’s group, and has been raising money for much needed upgrades ever since. Four times a year, a particular CBWC church is chosen and a fundraising campaign is distributed to donors who have pledged regular support to Century II initiatives. This summer a camp was selected for the first time. Gull Lake Centre in Lacombe, Alberta is in need of upgrades, and received some of what they need through generous donations of Century II supporters.

Earlier this year, First Baptist Church in Ponoka, Alberta made an appeal to expand their sanctuary. The existing sanctuary seats about 260 people, but it’s too small to house their church family. While they offer audio and video links in the gym, it is not a long-term solution. “We miss being with each other. Our desire is to have all worshiping together.”

 

CBWC donors responded, and the crew has been busily working all summer. We received a progress report from someone on the construction team recently, with photos and thank you’s. Have a look at where they’re at! (Note the prayers included in the construction materials.)

The new multi-purpose sanctuary will seat up to 450 people, allowing the congregation to worship together. It will also provide additional ministry space throughout the week. The first service in the new sanctuary will be held September 10th. Visit and celebrate with them if you’re nearby!

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here