by Audrey Kanagy
I danced all the way to the car after Elizabeth Soto Albright invited me to create artwork with women who would be attending Mennonite World Conference. After months of preparation, I headed to convention loaded down with supplies, bubbling with nervous anticipation. Along with my supplies were three example pieces of art created by the women of Living Light Mennonite Church. Although their own original purpose was to serve as a model, God had something more in mind.
Each afternoon women from various continents gathered in the Delaware room above the Main Hall to encourage women engaged in theological work and explore ways to connect across cultures. My role was to create a space where women could engage creatively, working with their hands even as they engaged their minds and hearts in the discussions. Using a method of art called decoupage, we brushed pieces of magazines onto canvases with glue, forming five images combined to create a whole picture. This project would include a compilation of women in conversation from every continent, symbols of communion, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.
Due to my meager linguistic skills and location at the periphery of the action, I found myself listening to the movement and the motion of the groups more than the words. As I think over the variety of women who sat around the tables, together taking from the bits and pieces of paper to construct a whole image, words come to mind:
The act of creating became an expression of images being created, of interdependent communion. In listening to each other, we learned, and in doing, we experienced that which we learned.
Friday afternoon brought women from five continents together for a collaborative discussion. The African women present brought greetings from their sisters in the Congo, along with their feelings of isolation, having lost the opportunity to come to MWC, on top of all their other suffering. A woman from Brazil hurried over to me with the suggestion of sending our art project to the women of the Congo, as a symbol of our love and solidarity. A quick conference resulted in the example pieces being repurposed for a new mission. The three canvases were passed around the room as names and messages began gracing the back of each one before being placed in the care of the women from Zimbabwe, who plan to hand deliver them to our Congolese sisters, an extension of sisterhood in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s presence was tangible as tears flowed freely, mingled with smiles.
“God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us. Give him glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. Give him glory through all time and for ever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIrV