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The Maker Church

Student Members of the da Vinci Lab at St. Stephen's, Houston

In 2006, a conference called Maker Faire was launched, hosting creative types from all over the world to gather and share their innovations. At St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and School in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, youth minister Ryan Hawthorne leads the da Vinci Lab for Creative Arts & Sciences, an after-school makerspace community for students in 5th through 9th grades. Their goal is to provide a space for students from a variety of schools, learning backgrounds and abilities to come together, share ideas and create individual and collective works of art. Through conversation and hands-on lessons with local artists, students of the da Vinci Lab make connections between spiritual practice and the creative process.

As we learn more about maker communities, it is clear to me that a strong desire to build and make things is part of who God designed us to be. The future church will embrace this maker movement, putting creativity into practice as we take Godly risks to create new communities and networks. We are built to create and innovate, a reality that is seen clearly in the maker movement.

Communities that form as a result of the Episcopal Church’s participation in the maker movement will be open to everyone. Jesus opened the Kingdom of God to all, and we must practice the same habit of open and equal invitation. The God that we choose to follow is a God who is out and among the people. A Church that follows in the footsteps of Jesus will also be out and among the people, making room for creativity and innovation. A creative church allows people to come forward and find God in their own way, whether it is through traditional church doors or by sitting and listening to somebody out in the world. We must take a step back, leaving room for people to make the future Church.

A maker theology challenges church going people; it is more than people coming from inside going outside. A full embrace of a maker theology means that we leave our buildings to go out into the world to discover where God in Christ Jesus is making community with others. Further, a maker theology means allowing space for new makers in our existing communities to make our inherited church life.

I believe in a church that is alive and flourishing in the world; a church that embraces old and new practices and that ultimately provides a space for all people and joins with people in their spaces. This is a vibrant church in all of its complexities and paradoxical mannerisms and different forms. It is a church that will develop and grow in a new missionary age.

Many of us find ourselves looking for a Church because we want to experience God and his forgiving love. We often stay in the church because we have come to understand it as a place where we can belong. We are drawn back, week after week, by the people we have met, the conversations we have had and the connections we have made. This sort of belonging makes a difference in our lives as it challenges us to be better people. However, God did not intend us to live as followers Jesus inside the church. Babel and Pentecost tell us that story.

God’s message of grace should be shared with all people and hidden from no one as we make the future Church together. This is not always easy work. We will meet people along the way who have strayed from the church, or have been wounded from the church and who are suspicious. We must take care to treat all people with grace as we live out God’s message of love and forgiveness.

In all that we say, think and do, we must always ask the question: what sort of church are we making through our creative witness in the world? Above all, as we ponder this question in community, we hold fast to the promise of the Risen Christ, reflected in the book of Revelation, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). God is making our church new and is making new Christian communities. God is out in the world making.

Adapted from Ch. 1 of A Generous Community by C. Andrew Doyle

To find out more about the da Vinci Lab at St. Stephen's, click here.

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