A Mennonite artist in collaborations with other faith groups
I grew up in the Mennonite Brethren church, reaching adulthood with an innocent knowledge that I was a member of the “correct” church – the one that was closest to perfection in faith and doctrine.
Little did I know that by age 60, my eyes would have been opened to a world of new ideas, new theologies, different types of faith, and a new love for art and poetry.
It began with a job change. After my first husband died, I left my job as an administrative assistant at an MB church to work in the office of singer/songwriter Steve Bell. Steve is well known for his inherited faith in a Baptist background. Producing concerts for him, I began meeting his friends and fans – people who were Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and more.
I discovered that people of different faiths believed the same things I did, with of course differences in presentation.
Steve returns the love to people from different faith backgrounds and easily adapts his concerts to any setting. His basic philosophy is to present his faith through his music and stories in a “non-threatening” manner, where he can comfortably invite others to “come on in” and join him in the waters where he is swimming.
And he took me deeper.
Steve and Anglican chaplain/poet/author Malcolm Guite met at a C.S. Lewis Institute Retreat in 2011, and immediately were drawn to each other’s work. Malcolm began to contribute his poetry as lyrics for Steve’s songs and even joined him in a concert series, “Songs & Sonnets.”
Steve Bell’s music and photography had inspired me to take up my paintbrush and start painting portraits of people he met on his journeys to Ethiopia and Bangladesh with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The portraits morphed into colourful abstracts, and I went on a five-year painting frenzy.
When I saw Lancia E. Smith’s unique photos of Malcolm, I started doing portraits of him, and abstracts inspired by his words.
Malcolm Guite enjoyed the work I did and asked me to collaborate on a project with him: to illustrate each line of his poetic sequence “Seven Whole Days,” telling the creation story from Genesis.
That year, as I painted and a friend interceded as my prayer warrior, everything fell into place. Castle Quay Books published the volume and the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg accepted my application to show the 63 paintings. I am thankful to God for leading through all of these circumstances.
It has indeed been an educational and inspiring way to follow God’s will in my life. My eyes have been opened to so many denominations, people, and ideas. I may not agree with everything others believe and adopt, but I can certainly love others.
My own faith has grown deeper and stronger.
God is good, and his mercies endure forever (Psalm 136).
[Faye Hall is a member of North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church, Winnipeg.