Patrisha Gill (front row, third from right) is working towards her Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in liturgical studies, focusing on worship in the arts. For her Field Education placement, Patrisha serves as Artist in Residence at City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland.
Through my Field Education work, I’m exploring how the arts—video, visual arts, dance, photography, spoken word, and music—enhance the worship experience. As worship leaders, how can we provide ways to make sure the artist’s expressions have meaning for all? My goal is to create a space where participants see God, meet God, talk to God; pray, smile, laugh; be one with one another, the earth and the divine. This experience has transformed me.
I love the quote, “Imagination is evidence of the divine.” I would venture to say that creativity is also evidence of the divine. I don’t know if spirituality enhances creativity or vice versa, but I believe we’ve all been given gifts, and those gifts can be used to transform lives.
At PSR, I’m learning to create sacred space; Professor Sharon Fennema has been an amazing mentor and teacher in that area. Watching her has helped me see things differently and trust myself in this area, and I would love to teach other worship leaders new ways of creating sacred space. Our worship needs not only to create a space of comfort, but discomfort: to think and pray on things that make us uncomfortable, to jar us a little bit, to move us into action.
I’ve been involved in music all my life, but I’ve always had to fall back on my accounting skills to support myself. The exactness of numbers, reconciling down to the penny, appeals to the right side of my brain. And while it’s very separate from my music and other creative pursuits, accounting is essential in church administration. When you are a director of a department, and not just a worship leader, you need both the creative side and the administrative side. It’s great when you can utilize both sides of your brain in ministry.
I find it so honoring that the members of City of Refuge are investing in me.
I was their minister of music years ago—they’re still willing to invest in this new part of me, to come along with me on this journey. I’m profoundly grateful to have the chance to express everything inside of me in this way, and to the people who have made it happen, Mz. Ann (Pastor Ann Jefferson), Bishop Yvette Flunder, and my partner, Rev. Janice Steele.
I want to take the things that I learn here, add my imagination, and ask God to blow on that creation and bless it, so it lives and breathes to bless others.