6.18.2013

Ten on Tuesday: The Glen Workshop Edition

You should go.

No really, you should go. If you're interested in the intersection between faith and photography, or faith and music, or faith and writing, or faith and [insert whatever creative impulse one might conceivably have], you should go to the Glen Workshop. 

I can't even promise this is a top ten list - there were simply too many encounters with good people and sheer beauty to keep track of them all. Consider this a random sampling of roughly eight hundred and thirty four excellent moments/etc. from the Glen East 2013 workshop in South Hadley, MA.

1. My sermon-writing class with Lauren Winner was teensy tiny, as three of the seven participants had to back out in the last week before the conference. Though I'm sure I would have enjoyed those three people I didn't meet, it was pretty great to have a teensy tiny workshop. It meant we had lots of time to workshop each participant's sermon, and very natural, in-depth conversations about specific exemplary sermons as well as about the art and craft of sermon-writing in general. In the midst of one of the early conversations Lauren said something about preaching that rang so deeply true I immediately scrawled it down in all caps: "PREACHING IS LOVING THE SCRIPTURES IN PUBLIC."

Yes, yes, yes.

2. The evening worship services were a huge highlight for me, all week long. Kim Taylor did the music, and I've liked her ever since I saw her open for Over the Rhine about a decade ago. And to say that I am a fan of Debbie Blue's preaching is an understatement. 


3. I shed tears, unexpectedly, during the rather brief midweek Communion service in the campus chapel. I know exactly why, and it wasn't even a matter of me fangirling over Debbie Blue (though as it is well established, I am also capable of fangirling, too). When I had postpartum anxiety and depression in California, I started walking all over the neighborhood, pushing the stroller and listening to mp3s of Debbie Blue sermons. And there was just something incredibly powerful about hearing that same voice speak the Communion liturgy and call me by name during the distribution of the elements. 

It also didn't hurt that this was the glorious chapel in which the Communion service was held. It was beautiful, and as Image Journal/The Glen Workshop like to say: Beauty will save the world.

4. On our free day, I finished the first draft of my July 7th sermon in time to go on a fun yet rather rainy outing to Northampton with two songwriters and an artist who, incidentally, ended up telling a long and fascinating story about the Creation Museum after I asked him how he happened to be familiar with bougainvillea. (Which, I was tickled to discover, I blogged about exactly seven years ago this week, especially since it contained what is likely the only other reference to disco in all my archives.)

Thanks to juggling my umbrella in the rain, I didn't get a shot of the place where we had great ice cream, but I did take a snapshot of Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, mostly because I love Ben, I love chocolate, and I love emporia. (Bill came with the package.)


5. One of the things that is unique and lovely about the Glen is that even though everyone is off studying different disciplines in the morning, the afternoons and evenings are all about cross-craft exploration. I soaked in everything I went to (and I made a point to go to most), but one of the most engaging presentations was by Sedrick Huckaby. Just image google him and you'll see why. Amazing.

6. I thought one of the most fundamentally Christian things about the whole week was mealtime. Just eating ordinary food together can be such a sacramental, lovely thing. It sounds terrible to say that I had so many good conversations this week I lost track of them all, but I did. I made a point to float a bit, having meals with various and sundry interesting people - including those who were both known and unknown to me - but I also gravitated toward a great cast of characters who, lets face it, always had the most fun, and stuck around the longest after lunch was served. Sadly, I have learned that hoisting an iPad in someone's face and asking them to smile is weird and awkward, so I don't have many pictures of people.

Oh, and also on the mealtime theme: One of my favorite Luci Shaw poems is "Eating the Whole Egg." When we sat next to each other at lunch, I ate a whole egg from the salad bar. It took everything in my power not to make some super lame statement to her about this insanely cool turn of events.

7. Perhaps because there was so much activity, even my extroverted self needed a bit of down time. I spent a lot of time walking around the campus on my own.


8. I signed up for a slot in the first open mic night, and even though I was sorely tempted to read a page from my book, I decided that I was there for sermon-writing and I was going to read a sermon, even if that is ordinarily not the sort of thing one reads into an open mic. Confession time: the piece Weep the Word Beautiful, which I published on A Deeper Family awhile ago, started out its life as a sermon on a passage from James. I figured it had cross-over appeal. The open mic and open slides nights were an abundance of riches - just so much fun to see all the talented people doing what they love. 

9. While waiting for the Over the Rhine concert to start, I was sitting with a Glen friend who is an art critic. There were a number of paintings on display that night, and I volunteered which one I thought was the best. He confirmed that I had a good eye, and then I guess I just thought to myself: when else am I going to have the chance to have a real art critic issue a judgment on the Blue Lady - i.e., the first prize winner of the 1998 Latin Club/ Ohio Junior Classical League painting award for the entire state of Ohio? You know, the enormous painting that my mother framed and hung over the guest room bed, even though it is entirely capable of inspiring heebie-jeebies? I pulled up the painting on my mama's blog and was happy to hear that the all-blue palate and asymmetrical face were interesting and that it probably did deserve to win first place in the Latin Club contest. 

Ah, the joy of faint praise. I think it's best I didn't aim to be a visual artist. 

10. And finally, last but never least: oh, Over the Rhine. I've been loving you for years and years and you're just still exactly the soundtrack to my soul. Because I've missed a tour or two, there were more new songs on the playlist than I've heard since the first concert I went to thirteen years ago. I can't wait until the double album releases this fall. There was a line in a song about the Cuyahoga River that nearly lifted me up out of my seat. 

After the concert, we had a closing worship service, complete with an anointing: May God make you lovely in your life and in your art. Linford accompanied the closing hymn, and I'm quite sure I've never been more swept away by a piano accompaniment before. That man clearly grew up in church. We sang Blest Be the Ties That Bind, of course.

Blest be the tie that binds 
our hearts in Christian love; 
the fellowship of kindred minds 
 is like to that above. 

You can still sign up for the Glen West Workshop. I'm already hatching a plan to return someday with Ben.

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