Diversity: art and illusion

This past Sunday, my church unveiled three new works of art by Toni Ruppert, a series based on three words: Faith, Family, and Worship.

The dedication ceremony was simple—lasting no more than 10 minutes between our morning services. But it was packed with meaning, and I’m only now beginning to unpack it.

My church, Living Springs, is a diverse collection of people. We represent a broad spectrum of ages, cultures, abilities, income levels, religious backgrounds, spiritual gifts, and family situations. This diversity is the fruit of a long-time commitment to being “intentionally inclusive” (one of our core values). Last Sunday, being so close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, gave us opportunity to celebrate our cultural diversity in particular, and the unveiling of Toni’s paintings was a special part of that celebration. You can see Toni’s work in the video below:

But the art of diversity is not just a one-day celebration at Living Springs. It’s a journey, an adventure, a fragile, hope-filled, daily decision. For example, this Saturday, January 23, Living Springs will offer itself as a safe place to explore the topic of racism. Blacks, whites, Latinos, and other ethnicities from Glenwood, Homewood, Lansing, South Holland, Chicago Heights, and surrounding communities will gather to view the first installment of “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” a powerful video series produced by California Newsreel.

This is not the first time Living Springs has shown this video series and invited different cultures to dialogue about it together. Two years ago approximately 40 people came out on three Monday nights to view and discuss it. More recently, last November, Living Springs hosted a day-long “Joining the Multi-Cultural Journey” workshop, at which clips from “Race” were shown. In one case, a white man felt the need to ask forgiveness; in the other, a white man walked out, offended.

What will happen this Saturday, I’m not sure. I hold no illusions about the art of diversity! But I’m glad to be part of a church that is willing to keep learning and keep inviting others to share life’s colorful, complicated journey.

If you are familiar with Toni Ruppert’s art, I’d love it if you would post a comment below about what her three new Living Springs pieces say to you.

And if you attend the video/discussion event this Saturday, I’d love it if you would come back to this blog and post your opinion about the interactions. Is Living Springs really a safe place to talk honestly about race? Or are we promoting an illusion?

8 thoughts on “Diversity: art and illusion”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this on your blog. I feel like the video and your post captured the event quite nicely. Know that it was my pleasure to be at Living Springs on Sunday. It made me feel good that others were encouraged and inspired by my work.

    May God continue to bless the ministry of Living Springs, especially as it seeks to be “intentionally inclusive.” To have a creative part in that mission is an honor.

    • Toni, at Living Springs we try to use a lot of different methods to help break down walls between people — because we know that different methods will speak to different people. Your artwork is beautiful and authentic, and it will reach people on an emotional and spiritual level. We are so pleased to work shoulder-to-shoulder with you, using our diversity of gifts to demonstrate God’s love to our community and beyond.

      If you are able to participate in the video/discussion tomorrow (January 23), we would love to have you!

  2. Thanks for your great coverage of our art “unveiling”. One of the comments heard after the unveiling was that “this is the best church in the universe”! Not sure how to verify that, but I agree with the comment. Keep up the good work.

  3. I love the painting of the woman with her arms stretched up to Heaven and the expression of utter joy on her face. It speaks to me of what our worship will be like when we see God face to face. It is a blessing for me to be able to see the painting every time I enter my church!

  4. UPDATE: I just returned from viewing and discussing Episode 1 of “Race: The Power of an Illusion” with a group of about 40 people who gathered at Living Springs. Here are a couple of observations about the event:

    1. Many people in this group were already familiar with the idea that “race” is not biological, so I hope they didn’t feel this teaching was too elementary.

    2. It’s different watching a video like this in a mixed group than watching it on your own.

    3. There is so much emotion and personal history wrapped up in black-white relations, that I wonder sometimes if people of other cultural backgrounds feel left out.

    4. There was not much representation at this event from other churches in Glenwood, South Holland, Lansing, and other diverse communities. Is it wrong for me to feel disappointed by that? Is there anything constructive I can “do” with my disappointment?

    I’m grateful for thoughtful people from a variety of backgrounds who can help me process ideas and grow in understanding. I’m looking forward to Episode 2 (February 27)!

  5. Mel,is it possible that an all white or all black church may not be interested in the art of diversity?If this is true I believe this weakens the body of Crist which is all of us together(see1Corinthians 12:27).Do you think that targeting known multi-cultural church`s with information about this series would bring in more people ?I only know of the Spirit of God Fellowship in So.Holland personally.
    As in my ministry the video was informative ,but after the video is where the feelings are. I saw you and Jamie do a good job using questions,based on the video, to involve each table in disscussions.You both did well not letting one person dominate the disscussion as often happens.I`ts a fine line when there are emotions.I was comfortable, and learned some things that were important to me.Happy Birthday!

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Dave. I think Jamie and I did “ok” as moderators, but I sensed that there were people who wanted to express things and didn’t get a chance. Better moderation might have made room for more voices in the large-group discussion. But we’re learning, and we appreciate people’s patience with us!

      We did invite a number of local churches who had specifically told us they would be interested in this series. None of them came. But you’re right, their own racial make-up might be a factor in what priority they give an event like this. It would be interesting to look at our list of invitees in light of their congregational demographics.

      I’m hoping in Session 2 we will be able to allow more time for discussion, even if we have to shorten the video somewhat. Which do you think is more helpful for people—the small-group or the large-group discussion?

  6. I felt the same as you about there being more people wanting to express things.I felt more time was needed because It`s the people -feeling part I really get into.
    I believe in the large group because a table needs a good leader.I`ve seen like minds somehow find each other for 0 growth,and learning.I know with a large group it can be hard if one emotional person tries to dominate a discussion but it is critical this is not allowed. Maybe make a short statement about having respect for others opinions and the short amount of time allowed for discussion.You and Jamie did better than OK.I really liked the questions each table were given to start discussions.I think they worked perfectly and were a very good way to keep discussions moving without offending anyone.

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