During her hospital chaplaincy, Helena Human, now a campus minister at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., would often color or doodle while in emergency room or intensive care waiting rooms. One time during a crisis, children were in the waiting room, and Human began to color with them. “I realized how much art calmed the people in the room,” Human said. “Not just the kids but the adults who were in the room. This sparked an interest in how art could be used in crisis to help families in the moment.”
The spark made way for a thesis project where Human explored how visual art could be used to enhance pastoral care in congregations and community. Human created a six-week course that connected Scripture and art practice to different aspects of depression. Each session had a theme, worship time, and Bible passages that explored the theme directly and diametrically (opposite). For example, for the theme of uncertainty, Human chose the story of Jesus walking on water, and asked questions related to feeling uncertain. The opposite theme was clarity, and Human used the story of Jesus healing a blind man. The corresponding art practice was mosaic art, “where it looks confusing, but if you look closer you can see images or a story with the pictures,” Human explained.
This was all about a decade ago. Then, in 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns kept many people at home, Human noticed people turning to creative pursuits. Her thesis came back to her. She said being on a secular campus she is “mindful of the need to provide ministry programs that are both rooted in faith and the Bible, while also being inclusive and attractive to the college.” Art seemed a good fit.
With support from an innovation grant from Resonate Global Mission, the Christian Reformed Church’s mission agency and a partner of Fanshawe Campus Ministry, Human launched “Art at Home” kits. Preparing art materials, Scripture readings, and reflective questions on themes such as anxiety, emptiness, and depression, Human has delivered 85 kits to 15 different participating students since October 2021. Students don’t have to see themselves as artists, Human said. “The process is intended to help both process their experience and discover how God is present in their own messiness of life, and how our daily lives can connect with Scripture passages.”
Human invited students to a virtual meeting at the end of each month to debrief. She found that the art allowed students to experience the Bible in new ways. “They’re able to discover how experiences they’re living with are also ones biblical characters lived with, that we don’t always explore.” What’s more, students who grew up with a faith connection can look at the biblical stories from a different lens. “I’m not focusing on Moses’ greatness (for example) but rather the uncertainty he would have lived with when God was calling him to do hard things. It’s making the Bible more personal, I think, for a lot of students.”
This spring, the project continues, with kits available more often and a debrief meeting offered every two weeks. Human hopes to adapt the project for use within congregations as well.