Each semester, PLNU’s discipleship ministries puts on Created Space, a large prayer and worship event that provides space for the student body to outwardly express creative means of spiritual growth and formation. More intimate manifestations of the event are monthly workshops that offer a small group of students the opportunity to develop a particular form of personal prayer. For December’s workshop, students gathered a few weeks before Christmas to express personal meanings of Advent through the medium of childhood arts and crafts. We asked Nicole Fountas, discipleship ministries program assistant, to share about the night and the greater meaning of Created Space.
Created Space is a convergence of supplies where students craft offerings of reflection and prayer. At past workshops, we have used pastels to create landscapes that represented our soul in some way, made prayer collages, and art journaled.
A couple of weeks before each Created Space, our team of 10 students gathers to pepper ideas and set an agenda for the night. For this particular evening in December, we decided we would meet in our usual space, Colt Forum, early to prepare and be ready to invite people in the first Tuesday of the month.
The night of the workshop, we knew we would be focusing on expressing feelings of Advent through nostalgic mediums, somehow articulating the childlike wonder of a season that tends to dull as we age. Melanie Wolf, who directs the discipleship ministries program, and I prepared a suggested activity around hope and invited participants in: “Create something that is hopeful to you.”
Chandon Gihring, our student team ringleader, shared her memory of being a kid at Christmastime and the fun and joy she experienced. We continued casual conversations around our excitements for the season and what we were looking forward to. As we sat and reminisced, themes of joy and hopefulness kept naturally arising. That joy and hope were things we wanted to help recreate for the Advent season, so we began to dig into the art supplies from our childhood—pom-poms, sequins, pipe cleaners, felt, and glitter.
As I designed, reflected, and listened, I learned that being hopeful is to expect something with confidence, unlike the feeble and often doubtful way we sometimes wish for things. A good and certain hope gives us permission to believe with confidence and to look ahead with optimism.
As we thought about being hopeful, certain, and confident, we created images of things we believe: the birth of a King, angels and shepherds, promises kept, and, of course, a few Christmas trees. And many of us wrote reminders to ourselves. We used lyrics and Scriptures to capture the promise of Christmas, the hope and the anticipation.
Collectively, we took chalk and pieces of black construction paper and each wrote one word that symbolized the Christmas season. “Joy” was spelled out and decorated quite a bit, as was “love” and other merry words reflecting the holidays. There were also words like “family” and “giving” and “loneliness” and chalk letters remembering Jesus as central to the season.
Some of us sat quietly with our creations. We meditated and we prayed as we made something personal and meaningful. Others
of us exclaimed in joy while sharing memories and hopes. We recreated traditions and learned how others celebrate and usher in the birth of the Savior. We asked our neighbors what the images they made meant to them. We listened to stories about miracles: One student who hadn’t been home in years was going to be with his family that Christmas. Another shared how a Christmas past was when she shared Jesus with her family. We also shared stories of loss, when time with family is also a time of deep pain and grief. We laughed together and we encouraged each other.
Created Space has shown me there is not one right way to worship God and that sometimes we need something other than words to articulate our faith. On these evenings, we gather to offer our time and talents with gratitude, thanking God for moving and working among us. Created Space gives me room to express some of the hopes, joys, fears—the ones that get stuck in my mind and heart—in a different and very tangible way.
By Nicole Fountas