In Her Own Words:
I’m honored to say that I’ve just been named the new director of Christian formation and arts ministry at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York. Heavenly Rest is the only church on NYC’s Museum Mile, an incredible section of 5th Avenue that has nine world-class museums. Here we have a congregation of artists: painters, actors, poets, authors, musicians, dancers. My task is to help connect members of our congregation and the community at large with opportunities to experience God’s work in our world through this wonderful variety of practices and endeavors. To my knowledge this is a unique position, not only in overseeing Christian formation for people in all ages and stages of life, but in being a named arts director for an Episcopal parish. It’s really exciting!
I graduated from YDS and the ISM in 2013, and started at Heavenly Rest later that summer as the director of children and family ministries. For the past two years I have had the privilege of working with children ages 0 to 18 and their families, overseeing our growing Sunday school program, re-launching our Confirmation program and youth group, starting a series of parents’ forums, and leading beloved community events like the blessing of the backpacks, Shrove Tuesday, and the Easter egg hunt. It was the perfect place to start after leaving the ISM - I work with a terrific team of program directors and clergy, and have learned a lot about a life in ministry.
When I think over the last two years there are two things in particular of which I am most proud. The first is our re-launched confirmation program, now in its second class. We are just about to confirm 10 students in 8th and 9th grade into our church. I love teaching the classes and getting to know the kids, and connecting each student with a caring adult mentor. I am also very proud of our night prayer service. Our music director Mollie Nichols and I combined elements of Evensong and Compline to create a meditative and beautiful office of prayer in song. Both of these projects have drawn on different gifts and skills, which is part of what makes my job so interesting and fun.
The interdisciplinary ethos of the ISM definitely prepared me well to step into this new role. The ISM gave me access to worlds I never knew existed, and opened me up to possibilities and combinations I wouldn’t have thought of before. Between Wednesday afternoon Colloquium, the special guests and speakers, concerts, events, art exhibits, and of course the wonderful travel opportunities, I was exposed to new ways of looking, hearing, and sensing the world. Because of what I learned from both Professor Marinis and from Professor Troeger I was able preach about the baptistery from Dura Europos for the feast of the Baptism of Jesus; when my confirmation class discusses the origins of the faith in England, I imagine myself standing in Durham Cathedral near the shrine of St. Cuthbert, thanks to Professors Leaver and Spinks. Most importantly, though, the ISM connected me with incredible professors, colleagues, and a wonderful staff. The people that I met while I was there are the most important part of my ISM experience. Being able to share these once-in-a-lifetime experiences with such a special group of people is the greatest treasure from my time at the ISM. I will never forget being in Greece, watching George Kordis write a new icon with a room of forty people, all holding their breath in awe of every stroke of his brush. I also loved working on my Colloquium presentation with my partner, Simon Jacobs. It was thrilling to combine multiple disciplines - music, history, and theology - to come to a deeper understanding of a moment in time. Our final presentation was well worth the stress of creating it!
Every day I find some reason to be grateful for all that the ISM has done for me. My hope is that I can share those gifts with the communities I live in and serve. Thank you, ISM!
Photos (c) 2015 Kara Flannery