Faith in Action

Faith in Action

As members of the United Church of Canada (UCC), Crescent Fort Rouge is part of a long tradition of social justice work and remains committed to those efforts. 

“We believe that we strengthen one another to work, through God’s grace, for a better world. To this end, we cooperate with other churches, faith traditions, and people of goodwill to eliminate poverty and injustice, identify its root causes, and protect those who are most vulnerable. Throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as in our own country, the United Church works with churches and organizations we call partners by supporting work they see as vital to their well-being. This enables us to go far beyond our normal reach in responding to injustice.”

The United Church of Canada – Social Justice
https://www.united-church.ca/community-faith/welcome-united-church-canada/what-we-believe/social-justicee.”

CFRUC makes a faithful commitment annually for donations to the national UCC Mission and Service Fund. Within Winnipeg, we support the work of St. Matthew’s Maryland Community Ministry as well as the work of One Just City with food and financial donations. Together with other Nassau St churches, we have sponsored refugees, and for 18 months beginning in 2006 we offered sanctuary to the Raza family while they fought a deportation order to Pakistan. In 2017, we signed Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord and support and explore reconciliation in our work and worship.

For more than 130 years, CFRUC has reached out to serve our community and increasingly the community is looking to us for support. We recognize struggles of poverty and isolation/loneliness in our neighborhood of Fort Rouge and have consistently found ways to support families and seniors. In addition, we have been staunch supporters of many arts and choral groups over the years, providing affordable space for musical, theatrical and visuals artists of all ages and stages. The heart of our outreach revolves around art because we believe in the power of art to connect, uplift, heal and inspire.  Our mandates reflect this: 1. to be a Home for the Arts; 2. Outreach to Seniors, and Children Youth and Families. 

We are situated in a neighborhood with high numbers of seniors, often single females living alone, who would welcome greater interaction with others and meaningful engagement with the community. In response we have developed a twice monthly program of workshops on topics of interest to that age group.  

We have also reached out to the families who use the daycare in our building, and offered free art and music making classes to those children after school. Enrichment opportunities such as these have a positive effect on the learning and self-confidence of these children, and would otherwise not be affordable financially by their families.  

The link between engagement in the arts, especially music, for brain health for seniors and the development of children is compelling as an added reason to pursue this course of action. Art making has long been used as programming within medical and mental health facilities as a mechanism for wellness.  It is also seen as a key aspect of spirituality both for observers/listeners as well as for the art makers/musicians. Our annual Artfest is a mechanism for direct community engagement and individual spiritual enlivenment.  This social interaction and connectivity supports individual and community health.

In these Covid-19 times, disadvantage is heightened and new layers of struggle have emerged for families, seniors and those in the arts.  Support to seniors to reduce isolation and mental health issues has become even more important and our programs are shifting online.  For children we are re-implementing music and art programs as soon as possible in a socially distanced manner and beginning to offer yoga as a means of anxiety reduction. We are supporting artists and arts organizations who have seen their performance opportunities disappear by reducing fees, offering assistance with social distancing planning, increasing sanitation so they are safer, developing plans to increase their live streaming advantages. 

Why is Art so central at CFRUC?

Those of us who make art, lead others to make art or who consume it hungrily in any or all of its forms look at you quizzically when you ask that question.  To us it is so obvious and the answer is a wonderful reason to carry on, to share, to learn…

At the same time, putting the reason into words has proven so challenging that those trying to influence government policies and funding struggle to capture what it is and why it is important.  Well the answer to that is simple!  …and the answer is that it is not simple…and thus the riddle continues…

How does art connect to spirituality?  CFRUC has expressed it in this way so far:

  1. Art can express a personal spirituality i.e., a concept (thoughts, feelings, experience)
  2. Art can be a spiritual process unto itself for the artist (an act of spirituality or a joining with the spiritual to produce art)
  3. Art can result in spirituality or a spiritual experience a. for the art maker  b. for the viewer/audience.
  4. Art can express a collective spirituality such as what was paid for in Italy (and many other countries) in the past and current collective church thinking
  5. Art is a way for us to be hospitable, to be in relationship and to connect.
  6. Art can help us to heal.
  7. Art can help us to see in new ways.

This gives us the idea that the first thing we need to know about why art is who is making or offering the art and what are they doing?  Is it for/by the individual or the collective such as community?  Is it from the perspective of the maker of the art or the audience?  Is it someone in production mode for sales, someone who is trying to express their emotions simply for that purpose, someone representing a collective ideal or thought?  Then there is consideration of the resulting impact or effect, intended or unintended.  Each of these perspectives yields a different take on the question Why Art?

What does the church see for the use of art in these days?  From the book entitled Inviting Wonder by (Rev.) barb janes, http://invitingwonder.ca/, page 3:

 “…..Piazza theology invites us to open our sacred spaces for the use of wider community, an opening that challenges us to the spiritual discipline of generous giving. Hospitality and piazza each address the church’s relationship with the wider world, and apply to the church’s relationship with the arts.” ….. (this) is for church folks who want their faith community to embrace the arts with their promise of new ways of seeing.”

Inviting Wonder by (Rev.) barb janes, http://invitingwonder.ca/

So art serves to help us to be radically hospitable and to welcome diversity of all kinds.  It helps us to connect to others and can actually be seen as a mechanism or tool to interact with people in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

“Art is an expression of our humanity. It helps us to protect, honour, nurture, comfort and reach others. Art expresses our strength, dignity, beauty and generosity.”

Kevin Lamoureux, Education Lead, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It connects generations, cultures, those who have gone before, spirits, ideas, emotions, nature, residents within communities and communities to other communities.

Christine Valpers Paintner is much more pointed about individual connections to the spiritual through art.  She says in The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining By Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D. says: [ http://spirituality.ucla.edu/docs/newsletters/3/Paintner_Jan07.pdf]

“The regular practice of art-making is a path of discovery and can help us to cultivate creative ways of being in the world. Ultimately, our greatest creative act is the living of our daily lives. Creativity is about making space and listening deeply to our lives and the world around us; seeing beneath the surface of things to the depth dimension of the world; opening ourselves to the newness that stirs there; developing a relationship to mystery; cultivating a sense of spontaneity and playfulness; and giving form in a loving and intentional way to our commitments. All of these processes contribute in significant ways to the creation of meaning in our lives. “

The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining By Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D

Christine (along with husband John) is the online abbess at Abbey of the Arts (transformative living through contemplative and expressive arts).  http://abbeyofthearts.com/about/about-the-abbey/

“The Abbey is a virtual global online monastery offering pilgrimages, online classes & retreats, reflections, and resources which integrate contemplative spiritual practice and creative expression with monastic spirituality. We support you in becoming a monk in the world and an artist in everyday life. We believe in nourishing an earth-cherishing consciousness. We are an open and affirming community and strive to be radically inclusive.  Poetry is our nourishment.  Art inspires our souls.  We dance for the joy of it.”

The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining By Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D

Being radically hospitable, connecting with and welcoming diversity, and spiritual nourishment and growth capture the reasons for including art in many contexts. 

When an institution such as a church includes art deliberately in its mission, it is in an area of practice which is regarded in the art world as Community Artmaking.  This is a discipline unto itself and much can be said about its benefits and methods.

As part of CFRUC’s presence in this community we wish to support artmaking for all the reasons stated above.  We see our role to support artist and arts organizations but also to offer the richness off what art can offer to every one of us by throwing open our doors to those around us.

“Many Canadians feel deprived of full cultural citizenship due to race, ethnicity, religion, social class, ability, or sexual orientation. Countless families can’t afford extra-curricular arts activities and arts education is not always available in schools or communities. Some community organizations that want to provide programs cannot find the artists. In many communities, arts and culture are traditionally part of everyday life and this is not adequately reflected in our current landscape. Physical accessibility to arts, cultural venues and programs is an issue for people with disabilities.”

Community Arts Cultural Policy Paper. Leveraging the transformative power of the arts to benefit all Manitobans. Carol Finlay, Creative Manitoba 7/7/2017