I realized early on in my ministry that if I was asking people to volunteer and serve the church, than I too needed to practice that by serving some place that wasn’t my work. In Boise I made dinner on Monday nights with the program residents of the Rescue Mission for all the women in the emergency shelter. In Veneta I spent every Friday at the elementary school, tutoring math, helping with art class, and making copies. In Portland I continued that work at the local elementary school, but with our daughter now in middle school it was time to find something new. I loved my art history classes as a study abroad student in Spain and when I saw the Portland Art Museum seeking docents to lead school tours I applied.
Each month I give 3 tours to school groups. Every Monday morning I attend lectures to learn about art and how to help visitors experience the work at the museum. This has been one of the best experiences of my life. I am learning about race, gender, empathy, view point, and the sacredness of place. I am challenged and stretched on a regular basis with art that tells stories that are not mine, I am renewed and healed by art that comforts and brings hope. The greatest joy is sharing this with students.
This past week I gave a tour to a group of middle schools students from a small rural community. We were talking about the stories we find in art and how our own stories interact with the art. At our very last piece, a bust of an African man, we spent a long time looking and circling the piece. I asked students what they noticed. One of the students said he wanted to ask some questions about the piece, but he wasn’t sure how to do it in a way that was respectful of the culture of the artist and the subject. He wasn’t sure of the language to use and he was aware of his dominant cultural privilege in asking about what was outside of his world view. His courage in being vulnerable with this tender subject was breathtaking. The group proceeded to have an amazing discussion about identity, culture, and race which I had the privilege to facilitate.
God is at work in incredible ways outside of the church. At the museum that day we touched on what it means to be human and to respect each other. I have worked with a lot of young people in my ministry. This was one of the most holy and beautiful conversations I have been able to witness. We long to learn about each other and become better than we are, core Christian values in my mind. This was the work of that day and I am so grateful for it.