From October 2016-May 2017, Woody Nook Christian Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alta., engaged in a huge arts project made possible when the church received a Vital Worship Grant of $15,000 from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. The project, called Living Between the Trees: Awakening Our Creativity, sought to foster artistic expression and enhance worship at Woody Nook. Approximately two-thirds of the church’s 800 members participated in some part of the overall project.
At the outset, pastors Dayna Vreeken and Neil de Koning set the context for the project with a sermon series referencing the tree at the centre of Genesis 2 (Garden of Eden) and the tree of Revelation 22 (the New Jerusalem). Together the congregation reflected on questions including the following: What does it mean to live between the trees? What does it mean to be an imagebearer of a creative God? How does the world reveal God? How does the creative process create community?
Artist and high school teacher Karen Tamminga-Paton offered workshops in the creative process and how to overcome an “I am not creative” mindset. An Advent service incorporated member-created sculptures reflecting “postures of waiting.” Members of the congregation also shared their artistic skills in photography, textiles, crafting with willow branches, woodturning, and writing.
The congregation then embarked on the big project—an 18 x 9 feet (nearly 5.5 by 2.7 m) installation of trees painted by Tamminga-Paton. Members of the congregation were asked to create a leaf reflecting their faith story, passion, gift, or how they saw their life lived out in this “in-between” time. Three-hundred-and-forty leaves of many colors and mediums were submitted and attached. Some leaves represented families. Angie Salomons, a member of Woody Nook for 40 years, said if she could choose one word to describe the art project, it would be community. “For me the tree resonates life, diversity. It’s rich in history. It’s generational. It’s welcoming. I love the smattering of Scripture, song. The stories. God’s presence inside his people.”
The completed installation now hangs above the entrance to the sanctuary of Woody Nook CRC. “It is a testament,” said Klaaske de Groot-de Koning, who was very involved in the project, “to how we all as God’s people make him visible by the individual and communal connecting of our life stories. The project also confirmed for us that we are all creative because we are made in the image of an awesomely creative God who speaks through visual images as well as words.”