From Slowness to Exuberance: It’s All Part of the Picture

From the Networks cyberforum:

“Like the choreography of a beautiful dance, the different ministries of God’s dance partners in the church are working together to bring God’s plan to fruition. God wants to dance with us.” (Brian Johnson – ‘Come Dance with Me’)

During the past 40 years, God’s choreography has shaped me consistently for my involvement in CDFA and ICDF in many ways, to help build the connection between the arts, dance, social justice and mission. My own art form, apart from being a reasonable sketcher of people, is writing and blogging. However, I always wanted to express my passion for the arts, social justice and mission in a far more passionate and `spirit-oiled’ style, which allowed for me to express who the real me is, with all the academic, theological, ideas-innovational parts, the prophetically imaginative, and true human and empathetic side to it being unsealed and un-hid (which is something public service stylized writing represses due to the need to be politically correct, “on policy”, dryly factual, and unbiased etc).

Becoming an ICDF coordinator for social concern and the creative arts, and more recently the discussion board facilitator, as well as my continually prolific blogging on Facebook and websites to do with mission, social justice etc. represent images of that continuing ‘choreography’. This represents both freedom (e.g. of expression) and at times a daunting responsibility. At times I slow dance with it all in challenged discomfort, and overwhelmed-ness, pulsating with angst at times, and at others times in sheer delight and danceful exuberance, knowing that God is there with me, as my faithful dance partner in mission and in life.

Finally, one of my dreams for this network I am involved with is…. Divine choreography coming into fruition for several mid-30’s members with a passion for the arts and social justice to see the value of having this network and stepping, artistically and skilfully into the network coordinating role and taking it further than I can at present. Been caretaking it for so long, and am well past the retirement stage. Time someone else took it on.

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Losing Artistic Edginess? Proving that Wrong!

September 2015’s ICDF News Flash focuses on the ICDF Discussion Board

(to read the full newsletter, CLICK icdfnetworks.files.wordpress.com/…/newsflash-september-2015.pdf)

To some extent, I have heard people who used to be a vibrant part of my local CDF saying around me that ‘the dance fellowship has lost its artistic edginess’.
I want to prove that wrong. ~ Andrew Park

What is the Discussion Forum?

  • a conversation opportunity
  • in community with other artists
  • it’s theological
  • a place for participation, engagement, conversation and creative expression

How does it work?

  • All discussions are open to everyone
  • Go to http://www.icdf.com/en/connect/discussion-forum
  • click on the Discussion Topic that you would like to join or follow
  • Remember to add in your email address for each topic to receive all the posts that are made

What are some topics open for discussion?

  • Fringe Ministries
  • I.C.D.Fellowship – What does the “F-word” actually mean to dancers and movement artists?
  • Christian dancers: all ballet and no brains?
  • Your dance injury
  • What if our men literally danced like David danced in 2 Samuel 6?
  • and more!

We look forward to hearing from you!

Andrew Park – ICDF Discussion Forum Facilitator

I.C.D.`Fellowship’: What does that F-word actually mean to dancers and movement artists?

This is an invitation to dialogue about ‘Fellowship’ for dancers and movers. Please go to the Discussion Board http://www.quicktopic.com/51/H/niAgGg9TWmw2 to participate.

For a ‘taste’ here are Andrew Park’s opening lines. Andrew is the Discussion Board facilitator for ICDF.

The choice of the word “Fellowship”, instead of other options such as “club”, “association” and “group” to name our organisation was a very deliberate choice from its very early beginnings.
So in this discussion board I want to explore that more deeply.
What does being a “fellowship” mean for us dancers and creative movement artists? And more importantly, what does being part of it mean to you personally?

“Ministry” is not divorced from “Mission”

The first word that springs to mind when I think of defining “ministry” is that of service, both of Christ and of others.

Ministry is best seen as service in our freedom having been motivated by our love for and friendship with Christ, and our love of our fellow human neighbours, rather than being derived our from yielding laboriously due to some sort of slavery to a hard taskmaster, ministry is something all Christians are called to become involved in doing, albeit in a potentially great number of diverse ways throughout our lives as Jesus’ disciples.

“Ministry” is not divorced to some sort of religious compartment separate from “mission”, but flows from, grows, and occurs, as a result of our partnership and cooperation with Jesus in fulfilling God’s mission (Missio Dei) to promote and proclaim the in-breaking reign of the Crucified and Risen Christ, which continues brings Gospel new hope, radical and transforming love, healing and justice into the world in our time and the future beyond it.

Our understanding of mission and what it is a defining lens through which we, as a “sent people” gain a clearer perspective upon which to perceive our ministry to the wider creation, as a servant people inspired by good neighbourly love to serve our human peers (both friends and enemies) through varieties of service we commonly call “ministries”.

Foster says: “The purpose of the church [is] the nurturing and forming of men and women to respond in effective faithfulness to the call of God to partnership with God’s work in the world. From this perspective, [it] consists of all the ways a community of faith [such as ICDF], under pastoral leadership, intentionally sponsors the awakening, shaping, rectifying, healing, and ongoing growth in vocation of Christian persons and community, under the pressure and power of the in-breaking kingdom of God” (Fowler, James. (1987). Faith Development And Pastoral Care. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, p.21).

In terms of our involvement in dance and other forms creative movement and related ministries, we do this in a diverse variety of artful and creative ways, drawing upon the inspiration and resources of God as well as those from our peers within the faith, and communicating that relevantly and in Gospel-informed responsiveness to the ever-changing exigencies of the world around us.

Through our art and our expression of good-neighbourly fellowship and community with others, we artfully communicate and prophetically help people reimagine, grasp and appropriate Christ’s alternative vision and hope for their future, counter to the enslaving, disempowering and dehumanising metanarratives of hopelessness that are offered them by a God-denying and violently oppressive world.

We do that artfully though things like dance ministry and inclusive fellowship, and loving service of others.

I intend to attend the Ghana conference to both participate in and benefit from the creative ministries of others, as well as to serve those gathered through artfully sharing with them about the relationship of, and potential of,  the arts, in communicating about, advocating for, and promoting God’s compassion, mercy and justice in their own living situations. Can the arts speak to such issues? Sharing stories about how that has occurred will be a key feature of what I share there as a network coordinator.

Grace and peace

Andrew Park

“Necessary Activism” the Church’s authentic Christian mission

There is a very “necessary activism” that accompanies the church’s outworking of authentic Christian mission in today’s Australian situation.

As Christ’s people we are called to be good neighbours to all, including those who may not be particularly popular to befriend, such as prisoners, boat people, the socially outcast and ostracized, the poor, the unpopular, and otherwise marginalized.

If our governments, or their institutions, through their systems implement unjust policies of ignorance, hate and contempt toward those or similar groups of our neighbours, we cannot in good conscience just acquiesce to that popularist political correctness in neutral appeasement to the very things we know run counter to Christ’s vision for justice and equity for our neighbours in his future plans for his Shalom society.

It’s all very well to cite texts like Romans 13 to defend being voiceless and silent in some sort of misguided loyalty to the principalities and powers we presume that God put in place over us. But Paul never intended his statements there to be misused as control measures to prevent us from speaking out prophetically in Christ’s name against un-neighbourly and unjust systems promoting ideologies and systems which oppress and marginalize people.

To counter that sort of thinking, there are far more biblical texts than that one text taken in isolation illustrating the fact that, when necessary, to be faithful to God’s mission for us as a society, we are actually called to speak out hard truths of correction to political and institutions when they behave unjustly toward the poor, the refugees, sole parents, Centrelink (government assistance) recipients, the disabled, the orphans and similarly marginalized among the people of our nation.

History tells us that Nazi holocausts, murderous crusades “in the name of God”, genocides of First Nations people, slavery and systemic economic and racial violence more easily occur when good people, such as Christians, fail to muster together in solidarity to prayerfully and deliberately resolve to prophetically speak out and demonstrate publicly against it.

When the Church fails to speak out for justice, it fails in its mission calling from God. How can it liberate in Christ’s name (viz. Luke 4) if it remains silently uncritical about systems of political and institutional injustice occurring around it which afflict and oppress its neighbours with hostile and un-neighbourly policies. By remaining passively silent and neutral in its posture while witnessing such unjust things unfolding, the church actually becomes complicit in the injustice being brought to bear against the victims.

~ Andrew Park. Creative Arts & Social Concern Network Coordinator

Trying to plant the “Next Big Thing”: Where Mustard Seeds “Should” Grow

“Maybe, instead of trying to do something really, really big,

God is preparing us for something really, really – small…

of mustard seed size…

In a very quiet conspiracy destined to change our lives and God’s world.

Lord! Your plans, not ours. Your ways, not ours”

~ Andrew Park (inspired by author Tom Sine, 2008)

It seems that with every so-called Christian revival of significance throughout history, it began with something of mustard seed proportions, and then grew by God’s grace, into something very much bigger than itself.

Be it a few humble women whose passionate prayers set off a Welsh revival, or a few hippies of the mid-60’s who discovered the radical faith message of Jesus’ Gospel setting off two decades of Jesus People Revolution, it all began with a few ordinary people having found mustard seed faith, humility and passion to reach out to their own base cultures inspired by Gospel-grassroots ideas, rather than grandiose aims estimated to elevate themselves as religious saviour celebrities to the masses.

There is nothing wrong with being a celebrity. Jesus was a celebrity. A celebrity is simply someone who is well known for some reason. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is a difference between just being well-known, and being the object of “celebrity worship” and being treated as someone “above all the rest in personal importance”, which all too often is attached to being a Christian “celebrity/expert” in our time of pop-star worship leaders, pop-star preachers, pop-star Christian activists, writers and so on.

If you want to find where the biggest culture of elitism is occurring in our Churches today, you don’t need to look much further than our celebrity preachers and artists. And they are not known and celebrated for their countercultural activism or the prophetic utterances and cries toward the church or governments as God’s truth-tellers risking life and limb for speaking “inconvenient truths” and Gospel-based solutions to address those. They are very politically correct, and avoid saying anything which might offend anyone for “ministry reasons”.

I am thoroughly tired of the self-indulgence of many so-called Christian artists who seem far more concerned with hype-drugging their followers into hedonistic spiritual deliria, than challenging them with the radical hard-truths of the Gospel way, and calling them to live those challenges instead of worshiping worship for its own intoxicating pleasure.

If we want a genuine Christian revival to be birthed involving and not excluding artists, then this cancerous culture of celebrity worship directed to pop-star artists and preachers must be rigorously challenged and a stop put to it! It is simply another form of idolatry, and it needs to be recognized and addressed wherever it emerges. In fact, I think it is the Christian artists themselves, who, in their role as contemporary prophetic agents of God, need to be the main spokespeople against it! FULL STOP.

So now that I’ve said this, I hope I have “ruffled a few feathers”, because that is what God has called me to do. Change will not occur unless we are prepared to say uncomfortable things, evoking change for the better. It is the loving thing to do.

Our artists need to “Be” different to the world’s celebrity machine, by exemplifying much higher standards than those proposed by popular culture.

Christian artistic endeavour must not be seduced into the self-deception that only the “big” is good, and the little is not worth considering. Mustard seed faith must displace and replace grandiose delusion. From many accumulated small acts of humble service, “from little things, big things grow”(Paul Kelly, 1991 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Little_Things_Big_Things_Grow).

Leave the big things to God, and let us faithfully and graciously attend to the little things and give thanks to God when they grow.

Being humble, means not blowing our trumpets of self-importance in the market place, and re-interpreting ourselves into servants of the surrounding community who become a mutual blessing to us in their gracious receiving of our humble acts of service. Rejecting all the fanfare, whilst treasuring the wealth found in genuine relationship and fellowship. In the end, we are all equals in the sight of God. Being able to do something for somebody else doesn’t make us better than that person. Maybe they can do some things far better than us?

Andrew Park ~ July 2013

[To read the full article, use this link]

The (Not So) Modern Phenomenon Of Compassion Fatigue

On 8 April 2014 Christianity Today referred to a growing phenomenon of “compassion fatigue” during a later media release on after a series of natural disasters:

“Earthquakes and tsunamis. Hurricanes and tornadoes. War and famine. Disasters like these consistently raise the question: Where is a good God in all of this? Even as Christians wrestle with this question, they continue to send out workers and supplies to bring what relief they can. But logistical challenges, financial problems, and (particularly in recent years) the continual arrival of one disaster after another can all add up to create “compassion fatigue” for both relief workers and the people who support them.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/topics/d/disaster-relief/

So what is this phenomenon? And why is it a serious problem for Christian mission and charity projects?

This is how Wikipedia defines “compassion fatigue”:

“Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as nurses, psychologists, and first responders. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self-doubt.[1]

“Journalism analysts argue that the media has caused widespread compassion fatigue in society by saturating newspapers and news shows with often decontextualized images and stories of tragedy and suffering. This has caused the public to become cynical, or become resistant to helping people who are suffering”[2].

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion_fatigue


I could write a very long list of legendary Christian leaders who, although they `prospered’ in their faith and their relationships with others, and lived blessed lives, were economically poor for most of their lives of ministry and mission.

Most of these legendary figures were faith heroes who lived, worked among and practised God’s mercy, justice and compassion practically among the poor, socially ostracised and disreputable as a main feature and focus of preference when directing their life’s work.

Remember Francis of Assisi, The Twelve Apostles, most of the OT prophets, John the Baptist and finally Jesus himself, all predominantly work among the poor, advocated justice, mercy and compassion for the poor, lived among the poor, were frequently poor economically themselves, and were scandalized by rich elites through false accusations and unjust smears against their reputations for their work among the poor. And we all know that one of the key reasons why some of these including Christ were hated and sometimes murdered by ruling class elites was because their embracing the poor with love, healing, compassion, mercy and inclusion into a radically serving and loving community was both scandalous and seen as revolutionary by ruling status quo’s and their institutional utilities of government.

Nowhere in the Gospel, the prophets or the writing of the Apostles do I witness any of the faithful scapegoat the poor by blaming victims of injustice or disasters out of their own control for being the chief causes of their own victimization.

Nor do I witness these same leaders using the excuse of “compassion fatigue” to abrogate from being compassionate and merciful toward the poor. Although I am fairly sure they did become tired and fatigued, and in need of time and space to just “chill out” from time to time in order to cope and not to burn out.

Andrew Park (April 2014) ICDF Network Coordinator – Creative Arts & Social Concern

[You can read a researched essay on the many facets of “Compassion Fatigue” from Andrew’s perspective]