A year ago, there were no gathered groups of Anglimergent folks in Western Michigan. A few of us showed up virtually at this site, but barely knew each other.
Fast forward to this past spring, when the first Anglimergent activity started taking place: the diocesan Adult Formation Commission created a panel for our diocesan convention to educate folks about the emergent church conversation. The three of us who were on the panel (Chad Allen, Nate Dawson, Nurya Love Parish) carpooled. On the way down we talked about the fact that we weren't sure how we would be received. On the way back we talked about how WARMLY we were received. And we decided maybe we should actually DO something... which led to a lunch meeting a few weeks later with a couple more folks (Lori Wilson and Val Ambrose) and another lunch meeting a few weeks after that where we were joined by Polly Hewitt.
It just so happened that the morning of our second lunch, I had attended an informational meeting that morning on ArtPrize (www.artprize.org), a new, major event for our city whereby 1200+ artists are creating entries for a prize contest which will be determined solely by public voting via the internet. ArtPrize was so cutting-edge in its use of technology, and so radically open to its understanding of art, that I came to the lunch and said, "This is a radical idea, it is totally impractical, and you should tell me "no" because this is crazy, but... we should do something for ArtPrize"
Around the table, to my dismay, everyone said "Yes!"
We discussed the fact that it was insane to make such a big commitment when we barely knew each other, and ended up meeting again for a potluck dinner a few weeks later... at which point we informally secured a venue (the critical factor in having an artprize entry) and realized we were off and away.
As it turns out, the venue was perfect: Heartside Ministry, our city's downtown mission of hospitality to the poor, incorporating a free public art studio along with TB testing, needle exchange and the other accoutrements of engaged ministry. It just so happened that a beloved friend of mine who died last year was the former Executive Director of Heartside. We decided we would donate any money we won to Heartside, and turned our attention to creating the interactive installation that would eventually bear the name GODISNOWHERE.
As I write this, we are a week and a half away from installation. People have come together in amazing ways. To the original group we have added Michael Merren and Mary Reusch, Jan Gockerman, Deb Grow, Charlotte Ellison, Kurt Wilson, Randy Buist, and a multitude of artists from the Heartside community who are working with us. It is impossible to describe the art experience the public will engage when they come to the exhibit, but I am already looking forward to what is being created. Just to spark your imagination, so far work has involved the creation of a gallery wall, the design of a place of prayer, the building of a coffin, and the collection of images of hope and despair. Participants will be able not only to see the art but to weave their own lives and reflections into the finished piece. I am excited.
Below I include the press release...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 10, 2009
God is nowhere. God is now here. According to the twelve people in The Ordinary Collective,
“We live in the tension between these two possibilities.” The group has been meeting informally
for several months, discussing ways to “reboot” the conversation between faith and today’s
culture. Their ArtPrize entry – an experiential journey that moves between brokenness and
wholeness – arose out of these conversations. The interactive installation will challenge
preconceptions of the divine, asking participants what must die for society to move forward.
Participants will not only view but also co-create the work.
Heartside Ministry, the venue for The Ordinary Collective’s installation, will be the sole
beneficiary of any winnings from ArtPrize. “It’s important to us to create a partnership that
expresses faith through action,” says Nate Dawson. “We are honored to be able to partner with
Heartside on this project.” Heartside artists will be involved in creating portions of the
installation. Participants also will be able to purchase art from one of the largest, most thriving art
colonies in Grand Rapids: the Heartside Gallery.
Although the Ordinary Collective considers itself “post-denominational,” it includes active
Episcopalians from several local churches. Members came together organically, through
friendship and a mutual interest in exploring questions about God’s presence in the world. “We
spend a lot more time asking questions than finding answers,” says Nurya Love Parish, one of the
original participants. “We have no doctrinal positions to espouse or defend; we want people to
think for themselves, based on their own experiences.”
Chad Allen, another participant, adds, “ArtPrize is a wonderful opportunity for our group,
because it represents innovation within a community that sometimes has difficulty questioning
established norms. We want to shake things up – like Rick DeVos is.”
Members of The Ordinary Collective include: Chad Allen, Rev. Valerie Ambrose, Randy Buist,
Nate Dawson, Rev. Charlotte Ellison, Jan Gockerman, Polly Hewitt, Michael Merren,
Nurya Love Parish, Kurt Wilson, and Lori Wilson.