If an individual follower of Jesus might have—in addition to their general calling to imitate their Lord at all times—a more specific calling (or at least a more specific outworking of that general calling) that leads them to particular labors, specific good works, and the focus on meeting needs within or serving some segment of culture, then might specific communities of believers also have distinct callings? If so, how is such a calling discerned, and how do distinct individuals with varying personalities and skill-sets find their places within that larger community calling?
On Hutchmoot Sunday two years ago, Lise (my wife—and no, it’s not misspelled) and I were having lunch with Bailey McGee and her husband Wes. Bailey began describing the strong parallels between her vocation as a labor & delivery nurse and the roles she plays in her husband’s highly creative work as a luthier. As I listened, I immediately thought, “Oh, that’s a cool Hutchmoot session topic, this idea of midwifing creativity, of what the larger role of community might be in the creation process.”
As Bailey continued to expound on the topic though, I soon realized what she was talking about was actually an essential element of this even larger and more fundamental discussion: a discussion of what it might mean to cultivate a collective vision of ourselves as functioning parts of the body of Christ, mutually nurturing, encouraging, serving and equipping one another unto the end that—as a community—we might multiply the creation and reach of those redemptive works to which we are called.
After all, in the kingdom of God, the work of one person is never the work of one person.Doug McKelvey
The first step in realizing such a vision is perhaps to learn to recognize how much we truly do need one another, how interdependent the Body of Christ actually is, first on our Lord (whose position as the head of we, the body, should not be under-considered), but also in daily ways on one another. And if scripture is to be believed, that includes all of us. Even those of us who sometimes struggle to see ourselves as anything but weird, awkward, and untalented. Only as we begin to grasp this truth can we rightly begin to see ourselves together offering good service and redemptive gifts to the church, the culture, the world.
After all, in the kingdom of God, the work of one person is never the work of one person.
When Bailey and I some months later decided to explore these topics in a Hutchmoot session, I offered the title “Midwife Crisis” as a lame pun and it unfortunately stuck. But I think a better title might have been “This Is How the Work Gets Done” so I’m opting for that as a title here. (Any early Charlie Peacock fans out there will get the reference…) More about that in a later post. In this quick intro I’m just trying to lay the groundwork for discussion of the larger ideas we’ll be exploring, which might include:
What does it mean to be the Body of Christ?
Are communities of believers sometimes called and equipped for specific collective works?
What is the role of the individual in the calling of community?
What is the role of a “non-artist” in a creative community and why are non-artists essential to the health and functioning of creative community?
And what are we, who gather under this curious moniker of The Rabbit Room, particularly about in our shared journey? In addition to each of our personal callings, and the callings of the local churches we are members of, do we as a group also have our own collective calling?
And if so, how do we discern, name and cultivate that call together, artists and accountants alike?
How do we best use the various resources we have to further the work that we might already be collectively engaged in?
Or to pare that tangle of questions into a slightly more manageable tangle:
Who are we? What is our collective vision? How do we spur one another on to love and good deeds? How do we function as a community confirming our calling, together enabling and multiplying the work and the reach of it?
I don’t envision that Bailey and I will get around to exploring each of those questions in exhaustive detail in these posts. Our intent is more about stirring the beginnings of a conversation here, knowing that others will need to take up those threads if the conversation is to go anywhere productive and have any significance to the Rabbit Room moving forward. Hopefully this will be a good beginning though.
And in the final post of the series (if I can wait that long) I plan to unveil what I hope will be exciting news for this community and folks beyond it as well, about a new work we hope to launch in 2020 that some of you will almost certainly have opportunity to be involved in over the years to come.
I’m now “passing the mic” to one Bailey Berry McGee, whose presence in the Rabbit Room these past couple of years has been nothing short of a gift.
Doug participated in the early work of Charlie Peacock’s Art House Foundation, an organization dedicated to a shared exploration of faith and the arts. In the decades since, he has worked as an author, song lyricist, scriptwriter, and video director. He has penned more than 350 lyrics recorded by a variety of artists including Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, Sanctus Real, and Jason Gray. His newest book is Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press). His other works include The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog (illustrated by Zach Franzen), The Wishes of the Fish King (illustrated by Jamin Still), Subjects with Objects (with Jonathan Richter), and Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (with Jamin Still).
Wonderful post, Doug, and not just because of the delightful Charlie Peacock reference (I thought I was the only one who remembered that song, but I’ve been using that phrase for work-related posts for years!). I’ve been thinking along similar lines to your “Creative Midwifery” for some time — my husband is not at all Rabbity (he doesn’t even enjoy reading – it’s too much like work for him) but he has always been supportive of my writing in every way, patiently listening to my authorial neuroses and offering practical suggestions when he can, and never belittling or discouraging me from taking the time I need to write even when there are a host of other things going on. My oldest brother was also tremendously supportive and encouraging when I was still trying to get published, and he’s continued to read and comment positively on nearly everything I’ve written — even fanfiction! — ever since. No artist is an island, and it isn’t just fellow artists who sustain us when times are creatively tough. I look forward to reading the rest of this series!
That was one of my favorite Hutchmoot sessions last year, and I am so looking forward to watching this series develop!
Doug, the reach of your words continues to widen and I am so very grateful for that. Our pastor (my brother) gave away several copies of “Every Moment Holy” to family members and we have been enriched greatly this year. My niece is reading your liturgies 3 times a day–morning, midday and evening–online via Facebook during this time and they have been a lifeline to many.
Thank you for your gifts.
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