As an independent artist, art educator, and member of All Souls Cathedral in Asheville, NC, Ginger Huebner finds much of her artistic inspiration sitting in the pews, drawing and creating while reflecting on the music, worship, and homily. With the sudden transition from in-person to virtual services, along with the stress of the pandemic, Huebner felt a loss of this practice. Ultimately, it was her passion for connecting with others through creativity that brought her back to her own.
“I realized that I need this process and needed to find a way to make it happen.” Huebner said. “So I reached out to a couple of friends and together we did what I call a Create + Connect Circle. First, we each listened to a sermon and took notes, if desired. Then we met virtually with a composition book/journal, colored pencils and collage materials to create as inspired by the sermon and lectionary readings. These visual translations have become powerful reminders of what we listened to and read each week."
This original Create + Connect Circle planted a seed for what would ultimately grow into the larger framework of Create + Connect Circles™. These creative gatherings have the flexibility to happen anywhere with any age, and encourage the rediscovery of the power of simple creative materials, and a nourishing connection with self and community.
Led by her passion for teaching and inspiring connection through creativity with others, Huebner developed Create + Connect Circles Facilitator Training Curriculum options with four main target groups in mind: families, entrepreneurs, organizations, and faith communities. The curriculum focuses on leading participants through the use of the Create + Connect process to inspire creativity within their own community through Create + Connect Circles.
“I have a desire to empower other people to embrace their creative voice in a way we often don’t give ourselves time for,” Huebner said. “By empowering others, I don’t need to be the one doing the connecting. I can, however, facilitate the connection by teaching others to use my process through the curriculum I’ve developed called the Curriculum of Connection.”
This past spring, Huebner received the opportunity to facilitate a Lenten Create + Connect Circle with community members at Grace Episcopal Church in Asheville. It was a unique chance to introduce Create + Connect Circles to faith communities and get real-world input from parishioners. For Milly Morrow, rector at Grace, Lent felt like the perfect time to share this process with the community.
“Lent is an invitation first and foremost to self-reflection and to the deep-dive or introspection that leads to mutual transformation,” Morrow said. “Resurrection is transformation from one state to another and so art is obviously a great choice for intersection. The piece that I think is most generative out of this work is the connect part, we’re connecting with scripture and we’re connecting with each other through the process of creation, which is how God connects with us.”
Facilitated virtually, the Create + Connect Circle met weekly for an hour of reflection and creation. Prior to meeting, participants were asked to listen to any sermon of their choosing from that week, and if they wanted, take notes on parts that stood out to them. Once gathered on Monday evenings, the group read the Sunday Lectionary text for the week. They then spent 30 minutes silently creating art in their composition books using collage and colored pencils. Finally, participants would gather once again to share their creations, if they wished, and reflect on anything from that week’s readings that stood out to them.
For Katie Warren, a community member at Grace Episcopal and long-time friend of Huebner, the experience was not only one of deep connection with community, but also connection with God. As a spiritual director trained in Soul Collage facilitation, Warren is no stranger to using art as an approach to spiritual connection, and describes the Create + Connect process as deeply reflective, truly revealing the beauty in diversity of thought and expression within her faith community.
“It was amazing how varied the responses were to the same material, written and spoken,” Warren said. “It was more about the process and not the product and about how each individual connected more fully with the scripture, with the homily, with God, with themselves, and the group by creating together.”
For Morrow as rector, seeing the creativity and reflection that Create + Connect Circles inspired in the Grace community was a vulnerable experience, and yet reminded her of the true mission of the church. Knowing that many participants in the group were reflecting on her homilies served as a reminder that worship is about mutual reflection and engagement, a relationship between rector and parishioner.
“Church is supposed to be engaging and not passive,” Morrow said. “Sometimes we come to church as consumers, ‘I’m going to consume this sermon and this communion and then I’m going to leave, ’but really the goal of church is to be engaged and transformed mutually from this engagement with God and with scripture. So, this was a way to invite people to be engaged with God and with the homily in a way that gives them agency and responsibility in it, so they’re not just consumers they are actively seeking their own transformation.”
Inspired by the reflective and engaging nature of the Create + Connect Circles program, Morrow is eager to implement more opportunities for artistic reflection in worship as the community begins to gather in person once again. Moving forward, she is hoping to place Create + Connect journals in the pews for parishioners to use during the worship service as a form of spiritual expression, be it creating art or writing a reflection, either signed or anonymously. She hopes this will provide those worshipping with a unique form of spiritual expression and make them feel like an engaged and active part of the service.
For Huebner, creating connection with community through art is an overarching goal of her work, especially as we navigate life after a challenging year. Looking towards she future, she is eager to help train facilitators of Create + Connect Circles for parishes throughout the diocese and help share the beauty of spiritual reflection through art. Her hope is that those who participate in Create + Connect Circles will not only enjoy a time spent in community together, but also feel that they have a new and unique way of connecting with God.
"I believe we all need creativity in our lives,” Huebner said. “Especially after this year, it is a language that can unlock so much. Create + Connect Circles offer an accessible way to discover creativity as a language that not only impacts us as individuals but has the ability to offer deep connection with those in our own community.”
To learn more about Create and Connect circles, please visit www.createandconnectcircles.com
Those interested in scheduling a facilitator training session can contact Ginger Huebner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828)545-4827