Creative Ministry in Tragic Times

We’ve just experienced a national tragedy in Orlando, the worst of its kind to date; another confirmation that violence and terrorism seem to be on the rise worldwide. For most of us this is at least mildly distressing, even though we may be thousands of miles away. How should a creative Christian respond?

I work with artists and churches to share God’s love through creativity and the arts, so I’ve been thinking about this question the last couple of days.

Jesus knew these kinds of events would happen:  “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Take heart. He overcame darkness, death and evil with a supreme act of love. Now the power that enabled Him to overcome shines in and through us as his followers. He has called us the light of the world.

We aspire to fill up with the Word and Spirit of life to daily shine that warming light in our circumstances. But what can we do to bring light in specific tragic times like this?

Of course, no matter the setting, political or social issues around any specific event, our response must always be compassion, help and hope. That’s how we roll. Creative Christians can convey this by offering ways to help people process grief, gain perspective and connect with God. Could you contribute your skills to a project that personifies compassion to your community?

saced space
Sacred Space at Puyallup Nazarene Church

One such collaborative project is a Pop-Up Sacred Space Experience; a specially designed place to pray and meditate that can also offer opportunities for self expression (like music, writing, drawing, painting and collage). This is generally not a church sanctuary, but a small dedicated space with a calming atmosphere, devotional and art materials, and comfortable seating. This can be set up anywhere and can make the experience of meeting with God available to someone who might not go to a church. Creative Church Handbook devotes a chapter to Sacred Space Experiences. Here is an excerpt:

Mark Pierson (in The Art of Curating Worship) suggests that Christians set up “pop-up” sacred spaces during times of tragedy, such as a national or world crisis. We might reach out to our community by setting up a spot “on a riverbank, a public park, a parking lot, a front yard, or anywhere else people will gather as they deal with the crisis at hand”.  Just some seating, a tray of candles, devotional material and peaceful music could be a wonderful, loving gesture. Similarly, you could also create a pop-up sacred space somewhere in your church building at such a time and make it accessible to the surrounding community.


You might spend some time praying and thinking about how you and your church could model God’s love to your community through your own unique pop-up sacred space ideas.

If you’re a musician, you might consider gently playing your instrument as people meditate in the Sacred Space. A visual artist might think about creating work live, or providing prompts for people to express themselves with art materials. A poet might contribute work that visitors can contemplate.

A community center or local YMCA could be another good place to set something like this up. You might be surprised at the  responses you’ll get when you propose such a positive, proactive idea.

This is just one of an unlimited number of creative ideas we might use to be a light in our communities. As we seek God for more, he will give them to us. He loves to collaborate creatively with us to bring hope to broken situations.

In fact, let me float an idea for Christians to confront times of tragedy in a more effect way. What if more faith communities and churches pre-planned to meet these times with creative responses? Jesus said the trials and sorrows that the world serves up are inevitable. What if we had creative disaster preparedness plans in place that could spring into action and offer hope to our communities when tragedy strikes? A protocol that is automatically activated in disastrous times. Elements could be in place (like a pop-up sacred space) for delivering the soothing balm of Christ’s compassion to our community.

That would be something.

Lets brainstorm on this. Would you share your ideas and experiences of creative ministry in tragic times?

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