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Running Head: FAITH INTEGRATION PAPER

Faith Integration Paper


Caitlin Leffingwell
Eastern University

Faith Integration Paper

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Chosen Profession

Although I thoroughly enjoyed growing up playing the violin, the heavy emphasis that
my instructors placed on using your gifts to serve others ultimately won out in the angst-filled
battle between college majors. When seemingly forced to decide my future at the ripe age of
nineteen, I opted for a social work tract that seemed likely to limit any significant musical
pursuits for the indefinite future. However, before even graduating with my undergraduate
degree in Urban and Community Studies, I found myself invited to teach violin at an after-school
program in one of the roughest areas of Hartford, Connecticuta position that wove these two
passions together with such marvelous detail that I can only offer credit to a loving and
omnipotent God. Now just four years later, I still cannot say for certain where this path is
leading, and even attempting to explain the journey feels laborious at best. But I have somehow
ended up in a profession that centers on using the artsspecifically music, in my caseto help
revitalize struggling communities.
This profession in many ways aligns with what Cleveland (2011) called Arts-Based
Community Development or what Corbitt and Nix-Early (2003) deemed Arts in Redemptive
Transformation, and it comes with a number of major goals, objectives, and values. One of the
key values is that of redemption, or of something being bought back for its original purpose.
As I see it, this profession stems from the belief that this world and everything in it has inherent
value and purpose that are bestowed upon creation by a loving and perfect Creator. Yet it also
rests on the belief that such value and purpose have been broken, enslaved, and overcome by
rebellionsold to what the Bible refers to as sin and its deadly effects. Wink (1999) explained
this in terms of the angel or spiritual element at the core of all beings, such that if the demonic
arises when an angel deviates from its calling, then social change does not depend on casting out

Faith Integration Paper

the demon, but recalling its angel to its divine task (p.7). Such is the work of arts in redemptive
transformation. We use the artsa tool uniquely equipped to reveal and heal that which lies
deepest in our identityto help restore meaning to the broken and freedom to the enslaved.
As Corbett and Fikkert (2009) explained even further, such rebellion has left this world
plagued by broken relationships between each other, ourselves, our environment, and our
Creator, such that only through the restoration of these relationships can we find life as it truly
ought to be. As such, another important value in this field is that of relationships. In order to
pursue redemption, community artists again use their unique arts-based tools to equip both
individuals and communities for the healthy relationships that will lead to more fulfilling and
enriched livesthe lives that in many ways God intends for us. From my own perspective, the
deepest form of this fulfillment comes when we recognize our need forand access toa
worshipful relationship with God, such that my own work in this profession seeks to clear the
barriers that may prevent those who hurt the most from experiencing His presence. Operating
with these values leads to a related emphasis on justice, empowerment, community, hope, and
faithall of which contribute to the foundation of arts-based community development.
From these values stem several goals and objectives that hold relatively universal sway
within the profession. These include teaching both artistic skill and invaluable life skills (often
simultaneously), building healthy relationships within and between communities (often involving
intense diversity), and seeking to increase social justice by increasing and tailoring access to the
arts specifically for the most disempowered groups. Those pursuing this profession emphasize
artistic excellence beyond just art as a tool for general development, in that The most successful
programs have been developed by artists making art, not artists doing something else. These
artists have created art programs, not therapeutic or remedial programs that use art as a vehicle

Faith Integration Paper

(Cleveland, 2011, p.7). By maintaining artistic excellence as a primary goal, these programs
inherently capitalize on the various other holistic benefits that accompany such pursuit.
Similarly, this goal naturally coincides with the aim to develop better people and therefore a
better world through the life skills, character, self-worth, and deeper connections that accompany
artistic expression. In fact, Small (1999) even argued that musicking, or to take part in a musical
performance[,] is to take part in a ritual whose relationships mirror, and allow us to explore,
affirm and celebrate, the relationships of our world as we imagine they are and ought to be
(p.18). Through these intertwined values and objectives, the field of arts-based community
development or arts in redemptive transformation seeks to enrich lives one small step at a time.
Biblical Insights
Although this profession, like virtually any other, could be pursued with little deference
to a higher being, it could also, like literally all others, revolve entirely around the insights
offered by Scripture. As such, wrapping my mind around Gods best for this work is still very
much a work in progress. Yet I know without any doubt that the Bible first and foremost affects
my profession by providing a balanced, realistic perspective on both the darkness and light in
this worldrevealing not only the devastating depths of our sinful nature, but also the glorious
hope offered through Jesus Christ. According to Colossians 1:13-14, God has rescued us from
the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have
redemption, the forgiveness of sins (New International Version). Only in comparison to a
perfect God can we truly grasp the destructive consequences of our sin, and only in light of His
unconditional loveexpressed through the undeserved sacrifice of His perfect Soncan we see
the even greater hope offered to this world. This is redemption at its finest, and an active desire
to embrace and model it should underlie every aspect of arts-based community development.

Faith Integration Paper

Moreover, not only should those in this profession seek to help restore the value and
purpose that individuals and communities were intended to have, but we should also remain
grounded in an understanding of our own redemption as individuals and as part of the body of
Christ. Because of the Gospel, I see myself as both desperately broken and entirely loved, and
this helps me to see those around me in the same way. It helps me to focus on strengths and
assets. It helps me to see hope for those who seem most hopeless. And perhaps most importantly,
it helps me to stay both confident and humble. As Colossians 1:19-20 continues, For God in all
his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christs blood on the cross
(NIV). Scripture like this affirms that our hope for redemptionboth our own and for the world
around usultimately rests in Jesus Christ. He is our source of hope and salvation, as well as the
one who holds everything in this world together (including fragile community artists). Many of
the pitfalls in this work stem from the temptation to try saving ourselves by saving the people
around us either physically or spiritually. Yet the Gospel constantly reminds us that it is by
grace you have been saved, through faithand this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). Furthermore, no physical
redemption can come apart from Christ either, such that any successful transformation stems not
from our own prowess, but solely from the fact that we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ
Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
Challenges and Solutions
After only four years in this profession, I have come to believe that one of its greatest
challenges is discouragement. I often feel overwhelmed by the complexity and darkness in this
world, and I have seen many fellow community artists understandably opt for professions that

Faith Integration Paper

involve less stress, less heartbreak, less difficulties, and less uncertainty. Fighting so constantly
against the odds takes its toll in countless ways, and I do not blame those who seek other
avenues of making a difference. Moreover, as mentioned previously, an equally prevalentand
dangerouschallenge is the tendency to take both failure and success very personally. In other
words, this profession can overwhelm one with feelings of discouraging inadequacy, prideful
triumph, or somehow both simultaneously. After all, if my salvation and the salvation of those
around me depend solely on me, then my success or failure dictates my self-worth. Additionally,
if my achievements and self-worth are so inexorably entangled, then I also increase my chances
of having neutral, nonexistent, or even negative effects on those with whom I serve. Great harm
can come through (and to) community artists who seekeither intentionally or inadvertentlyto
serve themselves rather than those around them, and this is perhaps the greatest risk of this work.
In light of the Gospel, each of these challenges thankfully can be met with a variety of
faith-based solutions. Knowing that Jesus has healed the greatest form of brokennessour
relationship with Godprovides great hope for all other forms of discouraging brokenness
encountered in this profession. If he can restore our spiritual state to its intended form, then he
canand willrestore our broken world to the kingdom he desires. Even while he was on earth,
Jesus spent much of his energy addressing the physical needs of those around him, such that we
can trust him to do the same in regards to our own needs and the needs of those around us. Even
more importantly though, we must imitate the way that Paul recognized God saying My grace
is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the
more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9,
NIV). Whether in perceived failure or success, trial or triumph, and weakness or strength, we can
rest in the knowledge that God is at work in us, through us, and around us. Such faith, or active

Faith Integration Paper

trust, in the loving and active involvement of a merciful, powerful, and just God is truly the
solution to all of the challenges inherent to arts-based community development.
Personal Action Plan
In order to help these solutions become more concrete and effective in my own life, the
following action plan aims to help me become a true change agent in my given profession.
First, I need to gain deeper understanding of God through Scripture. I need to dive deeply into
learning not only more about God, but also gaining more intimacy with Him. This can be
achieved particularly by spending more time digging into the Bible and actively applying its
truth to my life. Second, I need to seek out closer community with fellow believers and choose to
live as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for,
who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved (Nouwen, 1989, p.61). I
cannot do this work on my own; nor can others in the body be as effective without me. We need
each other, and I need to embrace both sides of that by pursuing supportive and supporting
relationships with fellow believers. Similarly, the third part of this action plan is to engage in
more confident, yet humble interactions with members of my community. I want to make it clear
to myself and those around methat I am part of a team effort, and that I am choosing to
journey with others as we learn more about our great need for God and His perfect provision for
that need. Although this arts in redemptive transformation profession may involve unique values,
goals, insights, challenges, and solutions, it is still just one way of walking a journey that we all
travel together, and I hope to implement these strategies in a way that helps me bring glory to my
heavenly Father by using the arts to restore value and meaning to as many people as possible.

Faith Integration Paper

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References

Cleveland, W. (2011). Mapping the field: arts-based community development. Community arts
network. 1-16. Retrieved from
http://communityinnovation.berkeley.edu/presentations/William-Cleveland.pdf
Corbett, S., & Fikkert, B. (2009). When helping hurts: Alleviating poverty without hurting the
poor...and yourself. Moody Publishers. Chicago.
Corbitt, J. N., & Nix-Early, V. (2003). Taking it to the streets: using the arts to transform your
community. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Nouwen, H. (1989). In the name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian leadership. The Crossroad
Publishing Company. United States.
Small, C. (1999). Musickingthe meanings of performing and listening. A lecture. Music
Education Research, 1(1). Barcelona Spain.
Wink, W. (1999). The powers that be: Theology for a new millennium. Random House, Inc. New
York.