colour prayer 2

Sarah SSM has asked for further thoughts on colour prayer for a weekend retreat (‘praying with art supplies’). Since her comment was on a post that’s slipped off the main page, I thought I’d start the discussion up here again.

Some random thoughts below…

The form of colour prayer I described before uses colour and pattern as an alternate linguistic form. It’s a way of externalizing thoughts & feelings so that we can see where we are, and where God is at any given moment. I suspect that on the ‘praying with art supplies’ scale, it is one of the more analytical methods, and one that is likely to be accessible even to the art skeptics. To that end, if I were doing a weekend retreat, I would probably introduce some of the ideas behind colour prayer fairly early on: getting people to build associations between particular colours and mental/ emotional states, helping them realise that this comes fairly instinctively and is not related to artistic skill, making sure everyone realised that colour associations were subjective, and therefore we cannot safely read/ interpret someone else’s colour prayer unless they provide the key (so anonymity is safe). But having done that, I think I’d want to abandon it for a while.

If you have a whole weekend to play with, I suspect there is far more room to focus on prayer as process — effectively engaging with ‘art supplies’ in the same way you would engage with your surroundings in a senses walk. So, plenty of time to play with cool slick finger paints, pastels on rough paper, heavy clay, soft and sweet smelling Play Dough (and it has to be the real thing, in little yellow tubs from the shop if you want the smell). And I suspect I would focus this around feeling questions first, and then move on to more theological questions.

So for example, I’ve had ideas for an ‘adult play day’ (which spun off the Kid’s Days we did in Pollokshields) that would look something like this (if extended to a weekend):

Session 1:

  1. ice breakers — basic colour associations
    • quick game of 10 second drawings: draw anger, hope, frustration, joy, etc.
    • show and tell (voluntary) — to see how different people’s perceptions are, how we can’t assume we know what someone else’s picture means.
    • longer project — fill a page with colour/ pattern (paints). I was once asked to do this with the warning that others would be using the page latter — all the pages became the raw materials for collage. The range of colours/ textures/ emotional tones for the collage was fabulous.

    the idea here is that none of the projects demand any real skill, and none are representational (less fear, less room to show off).

  2. multi-media stations
    • big tables with things to play with: collage (paper, textured yarns, shiny stuff, etc), paints (including finger paints), clay and/or play-dough, maybe even papier mache.
    • a fixed amount of time to play with (probably 30-40 min).
    • suggestions around the wall, which people are free to ignore: what does salvation look like? Draw hope. ‘Remember when you were six? what did God look like?/ what does God look like now?’ etc.

Session 2:

shift into more focused prayer/ art — using all of the afternoon to reflect and respond to a biblical passage or theological concept.

This might include:

  1. time of meditative prayer using colour visualization as a stilling technique (or indeed, ‘resting in a colour’ as a way of prayer)
  2. a modified form of Lectio where a bible passage is read slowly and meditatively, stopping to draw/ paint/ colour/ model in clay whatever leaps out.
  3. a led reflection/ sermonette/ story that people were asked to respond to visually

Session 3: Group project

something big that everyone can work together on. Things that come to mind:

  1. a huge collage (‘Redemption’, ‘Discipleship’, ‘Forgiveness’, etc)
  2. stained glass windows — telling the story of the group, or gathering the story of the individuals, or setting out a vision for the church. We did this once at St Ninian’s with the kids — using perspex squares (3in sq) that we decorated with metallic pens, tissue paper, glitter, etc. and then hung in rows from a bit of bamboo with fishing line (imagine lots of squares dangling and twirling in the breeze). Laminated tissue paper also works wonderfully (you create a tissue paper collage on the sticky side of the laminate, then seal it.)
  3. If you have someone with the relevant skills and equipment, you could follow Carol Marples and do a community tapestry. (And thinking of Carol, if you want to find lots of ideas and a flexible worship space and wealth of talent to be jealous of, check out the photo collection from St James’ Leith.)

Then, after all that, I’d start scaling down to things people could do at home. So the last session/ sessions would take us back to colour squares, prayer beads (done either as a rosary, as rainbow beads in a straight row to a cross, or as a prayer bracelet), or play dough.

And because I realise that I’ve done my usual, and put things in a given order for idiosyncratic reasons, a quick summary of my thinking: session 1 — gets people to relax and connect with their own expressive potential. session 2 — deepens that more overtly in relation to prayer scripture. session 3– takes us out of our own little worlds and makes us dependent on each other. session 4 — gives us something sustainable to go home with.

Sarah — this is a ridiculously long response to your question, which might better have been offered in e-mail. But I put it here in case anyone finds it helpful, and so that others can offer you better ideas. Let us know what you come up with. (and now that your paper is done, do you want to do a guest blog on nunning?)

3 thoughts on “colour prayer 2”

  1. This is wonderful!! Will return when I have more time to read through your ideas slowly. Thanks for posting.

  2. This is great! No, it’s not at all ridiculously long. I love your session 1 ideas. I had thought about collage and some shorter things at the beginning, but not necessarily in those forms. I have already included lectio divina and response as part of my second session, as it is something I do regularly, but I’d like to stretch the scripture part into two sessions, I think.

    I think I’d want to do the group session with a parish retreat, and I hope I’ll get to at some point. I may have to rethink that conclusion, though. This weekend (should it happen at some point, which I am inclined to think it will) will include silence at least on Saturday and, weather permitting, afternoon time outdoors with notebook and supplies (but I’ll make an alternate rain plan). Maybe we could do something in a group the last thing Sunday.

    One thing I want to do is supply everyone with a small notebook with blank pages for the weekend. I find with my 8-day retreats that I can come back to my prayer with scripture much more quickly later on (and find it in my journal) if my response includes a page of drawing or other art. It becomes almost like an icon, leading me back to that place where I met God before (though CS Lewis points out that you never go the same way twice).

    I also want to work in something that helps me when I am too tired to focus (yes, even more than usual!) – taking a sheet of paper with a bit of scripture in the center and doodling around it, drawing what comes, highlighting words, and eventually turning it all into a whole. Keeps me there. Also, I find that some things only come out through non-verbal expression, especially when I’m tired, so the results usually surprise me. This works nicely when someone has given me a copy of a lesson I’ll be reading at a big service. For the retreat, I thought I’d choose a variety of texts, copy them, and set them out. Do you think that could best be done as a follow-up to an earlier time with scripture response, or as an introduction to it? That is, session 2 or 3, if I do two with scripture?

    Thank you so much! This is great.

  3. Just wanted to thank you again – I’ve had a marvelous day writing up my retreat plans (so far), and I’ve used some of your suggestions.

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