In this final reflection on their TheoArtistry partnership, Marjorie and Mariah explain how friendship, poetry, sketching, and potatoes deepened their theological exploration of home and belonging.
Both Marjorie and I have thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to discuss theology and the arts with each other and the TheoArtistry team. After several conversations over coffee and ice cream, we have established a friendship that will go beyond the scope of this particular project. In fact, our “research” was very much inspired from this friendship as we simply listened to each other’s stories and experiences of “home.” I could not agree more with Marjorie’s summary of these conversations: “It was a great joy to find a kindred spirit who shared my poetic outlook on the world as well as rural roots and a heritage of potatoes!” We discussed where we have been, where we are now, and where we hope to go for the future in light of the grace and hospitality that Christ and beloved family and friends continually show us regardless of life’s circumstances.
Marjorie further explains her perspective of these conversations: “Our discussions covered many aspects of belonging and rootedness as well as the freedom that these things bring. We talked about refugees and how their uprootedness removes a fundamental sense of belonging which is hard to re-establish in an alien context, and we considered what this means for Christians reaching out to support strangers in our land. A PhD is a very lonely task at times but these conversations have reminded me of the necessity of dialogue to test ideas and expand our thinking.”
Thus, this reflection was the primary source of inspiration for any artwork produced throughout the project. Regardless of how we labeled ourselves “artist” or “theologian” by trade, our artistic expression gave us the freedom to explore different mediums and further contemplate the theological concepts at hand, thus further propelling our understanding of “home,” belonging, and our desire to genuinely live each. Marjorie explains, “[Even though I am the ‘lesser’ artist by trade,] I was encouraged to see that even my little attempts at capturing the beauty of creation and emotional responses to life through sketching, poetry and photography are worthwhile efforts.”
Marjorie also shares how the TheoArtistry project even impacted her current PhD thesis and international work: “I was a diarist for many years and have been encouraged to start again to journal more creatively and this in turn has contributed to my PhD thesis… The thoughts sparked in these sessions followed me to the “deep rurals” of South Sudan where I recently was for fieldwork. I saw that rural people can find immediate connection with each other (even without language) by their shared understanding of toil and soil and season. I also observed that global urbanization has deep and painful consequences for all societies but in particular for those uprooted and scattered by war to unfamiliar places where the basic joy of growing up in one place, knowing it intimately, working the earth and providing directly for one’s family is denied.
“I am now occupied in another kind of field work—roguing tatties (which is the slow labour of walking fields of potatoes and digging out certain plants with a fork in one hand and a hessian sack in the other). The slow pace, the near silent tractor men who are my colleagues, and the latest generation of oyster catchers nesting in fields of my youth give time and space to remember who I am and where I’m from and what it means to be a Christian in unsettling times.”
Above all else, Marjorie and I hope our project can stir our hearts to action, something of a twofold pursuit: 1) That we can receive Christ’s intentional love within ourselves, and 2) that we continue to serve and bless our neighbors with and because of this selfless, honest, faithful, and unconditional kind of love.