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  • kristaheide

Academic Paper: The Role of Creativity in Christian Formation- A Call Toward Whole-Brain, Full-Embodied, Trauma-Informed Worship

Updated: Apr 16

Written as a Mini-Thesis for my Masters of Ministry Degree in June 2023.

Introduction / Excerpt:

"Having been a creative person throughout my life, I have been privileged with first-hand knowledge of the power of creativity to unlock and expand the body, mind and soul, and provide a place of spiritual encounter. For many years I sought out hidden piano rooms at churches and universities where I could instrumentally express my deeper emotions as musical prayers. As my children arrived on the scene with their continual chatter, colicky wails, and excited screams, I felt disoriented - music was no longer a way of escape, but rather had turned into another overwhelming noise. Thankfully, it was not long before I found art. Once the kids were in bed, I would take refuge in the expansive silence of a sleeping home, and I would pick up my paint brush and let my inner colours and reflections pour out onto the canvas. I began to realize that there was something in the creative practice that brought me to a place of worship, prayer and spiritual formation.

Adding to that, some recent experiences through personal, familial and church trauma threw me into the world of trauma-informed care where I grew amazed by the usage of creative and right-brain practices to bring about potential healing. It felt like I was discovering some kind of gold in the overlap of creativity, spiritual formation and trauma-informed care to provide a place where spiritual connection, formation and transformative healing could occur.

When I began to try and share some of my art in various church settings I noticed a struggle, or perhaps even a suspicion of how to engage with art in Christian worship settings. While music and preaching have often been placed as central elements of our gatherings, other modes of creativity are viewed as optional (or perhaps dangerous) embellishments. 3 I knew there was more than this. Over the past decade I have embarked on a journey of learning how to translate the deep encounters of my right hemisphere into left-brain language.

This paper will explore how creativity and right-brain practices have the potential to expand our theological understanding of Christian worship and deepen our experience of spiritual formation. We will survey Scripture and church history to demonstrate a lengthy use and value of the arts, and will then explore how studies in neuroscience are able to broaden our understanding of whole-brained worship. From there we will consider how the creative process provides opportunity for spiritual formation, ending with a reflection on why an embrace of creative practices is particularly important in our current cultural climate of heightened trauma and polarization..."

Full Paper available to view here.

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