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Art offers chance for religious expression

March 19, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

The story is told of a statue of Jesus in a church in Soweto, South Africa, that has no hands - they were broken in an attack by police.

The statue wasn't mended because church members said they were the hands of Christ in the world.

Being the hands of Christ goes past teaching and preaching, however; being the hands of Christ can start with the creation of art work in response to reality.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
Before Wednesday’s Lenten service organized by Interfaith Forum in the Celebration Center of Friendship Haven, there was time for talking to friends and looking at the artwork brought by the speaker, the Rev. Barbara Huisman, former interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge. From left are the Rev. Matthew Martens, of Grace Lutheran Church; Fred Larson talking to Floyd Herum, both of Fort Dodge; Kris Olson, just coming through the door; and Marge Dannenbring and Doris Porter, looking over the art that Huisman brought to illustrate her talk.

The Rev. Barbara Huisman, who used artwork in the journey of death with her father, spoke on this "Genesis" during Wednesday's Lenten service sponsored by the Interfaith Forum in the Celebration Center at Friendship Haven.

"Art became not only an expression of beauty, but a form of prayer," she said. "A response to God's grace."

Huisman, former interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge, used her experiences as a reawakening of sorts.

Fact Box

Community Lenten services are Wednesdays at Friendship Haven

Community Lenten Services sponsored by Interfaith Forum continue for four more Wednesdays, with services from 12:05 to 12:30 p.m. in the Celebration Center of Friendship Haven. Lunch fellowship will follow.

This year's theme is "Body of Christ," featuring a different part of the body each week.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Anita Johnson will lead worship, and the Rev. Paul Stone of the Church of the Damascus Road will focus on "Feet of Christ."

The Rev. Matthew Martens is worship leader March 30, and Cindy Shuman, who does dog therapy, will speak on "Ears of Christ."

April 6 will feature "Mouth of Christ," with the Rev. Karen Berg leading worship and Armona Redenius of the Sonshine Singers speaking.

On April 13, the Rev. Carroll Lang leads worship on "Heart of Christ," while Cindy Youngquist of Stephen Ministries is presenter.

Area congregations will furnish a lunch after each service, and a freewill offering will be accepted. The service is open to the public.

"I didn't know how to feel," she said. "To me, art is prayer. Art reigns over unbridled thoughts."

And through art, she said, "God graciously allows insights. Art as prayer offers tools for healing and reconciliation. It's also a tool for the task at hand. I had to journey inward to journey outward."

Huisman told the almost 50 people gathered for the first of five Lenten services that unrelenting prayer gives voice to those who have been silenced, then admitted her questions of her own thoughts about her father.

"How can I give voice to what he's going through?" she wondered.

The use of art took her into a different relationship with her father, she said. "I asked God to grant healing and grace, and he answered with an anguished knowing in my being. My quest for that understanding kept getting deeper and deeper, and it was a dark time."

Pain and suffering, she said, are constant companions. Anchors.

"God has helped me create out of the chaos," she said. "It's an affirmation of life, a rebuttal of death. The work became prayers of the community. They're used in service to others. They offer the ability to hear a new voice where there once was none. A voice of hope. Art became the way - empowered by the grace of God through the spirit. In answer to my prayers, others get to join in the chorus."

So, she said, a refrain of one lives on.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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