April 2019 - Kellay Chapman

1. What is the injustice you experience (specifically related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month)?

On a personal level I experience the injustice of being a woman in our culture, at best weathering sexualized comments about my appearance and further down the spectrum having to engage unwanted sexual solicitations. And, this occurs in everyday situations and places- at a restaurant or in line at the grocery store. These experiences are so common for women we tend to not recognize them as injustice, however if we are going to spend a month working to grow in our awareness around sexual assault it is important to remember experiences of sexual harm and violence happen on a spectrum. Anyone who uses sexual undertones that make someone uncomfortable has perpetrated a kind of assault. On a vocational level I experience a myriad of injustices as I engage the stories of individuals through sexual abuse recovery groups. The injustice of parents who failed to protect their children, who set their children up for abuse intentionally or unintentionally. The injustice of abusers' ability to foster a sense of complicity in their victims. The injustice of the abuse itself, namely the experiences of powerlessness, betrayal, and ambivalence we all suffer in the wake of harm suffered in relationship. 

2. What is your role or experience?

I facilitate sexual abuse recovery groups using material by Dan Allender and The Allender Center of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. I have been walking through stories of harm with folks since 2013 when I was first trained through The Allender Center. I have now led around fifteen thirteen week recovery groups locally and I also work as an apprentice with The Allender Center facilitating at some of their workshops from time to time. I am also a survivor of a complex family of origin system, which had significant failures to protect and nurture in the realm of sexuality.

3. How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?

I often use poetry to process the stories I am privileged to engage. This allows me to ponder stories in a way that is not voyeuristic. Also, at the end of my recovery groups we share a celebration meal together to mark the work we have done and the journey we have been on together. At these meals each person in the group brings a gift for all of the other members. These gifts are always creative. Gifts include paintings, poems, blessings, plants or flowers, reminders of our beauty. When one is able to cultivate beauty in the wake of abuse one is defiantly standing against evil. In essence it is a re writing of the story, a taking back of power, an ownership of voice.

4. What is one practical way you want to see people get involved?

Engage your own stories of harm. You cannot be a good listener to the stories of others if you have not listened well to your own story. Begin therapy, engage the work of Brené Brown, take the Story Sage or Wounded Heart online courses through The Allender Center, join a recovery group if that's an option where you live. We all live in a broken world therefore we have all experienced some level of trauma, which needs to be integrated in order for us to live as whole and alive people. Secondly, begin to disrupt the cultural myth that abuse is an experience of the other. Sexual abuse occurs in all communities, including faith communities. Whether you know their stories or not you know many survivors of sexual abuse, be mindful of this in your interactions with others. And, most of all, remember one survivor you know may be yourself. Offer yourself relentless kindness as you begin your own journey of healing. If you would like help locating resources in your area as you begin to engage your own stories of harm, or are looking for resources, on behalf of others, please feel free to get in touch with me. 

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As a victim of sexual assault myself, I have experienced (and still experience 10+ years later) the slow and difficult work of restoring a healthy sexuality. I am deeply grateful to know Kellay and her heart for this work. She is the real deal! If you need help, reach out. You can take back your power. Don’t be silent.

Below you will see the art piece I created to represent Kellay’s blog and my own story. I wanted to depict how recovery from sexual assault takes mental strength and a gentle reintroduction to the physical body. It is personal work that takes time.

This print is for sale in our “SHOP” tab. Any profit will be shared with Kellay and her organization/cause of choice. Thanks Kellay!

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March 2019 - Erin S. Lane

1. What is the injustice you experience (specifically related to Women’s History Month)?

A tiresome and lazy under-representation of women’s theological voices in sermons, songs, and footnotes.

2. What is your role or experience?

Hey-o, I’m a theologian! And I have been since the age of four when I ran up and down the driveway doing windmills with my arm and shouting hallelujahs with my  mouth.

But it wasn’t until I went to Divinity School in my late twenties that I realized how deeply problematic the “cannon” is for women’s theological voices. Cannon here simply means the writings a religious community discerns as foundational and formational to the faith. The only trouble, of course, is that for thousands of years now the writings in the Christian tradition that have been found up to snuff (or found at all) are the stuff of men. So, the injustice is perpetuated when we are told that before we can grow in our faith we have to know the basics—or what my training called the “core curriculum.” Learning from the ways of women? Elective.

Even now when pastors and professors and parishioners regularly quote sources other than the Bible, there is often a cultural cannon they’re pulling from: men like C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell, and Eugene Peterson are popular choices in my progressive circles. And so the cycle continues whereby we support the writings of men with our time, tongues, and tokens, and slowly they become “essential” reading for not just the friend we’re gushing to over coffee but the future generations formed after us.

3. How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?

Well, I am literally trying to “write” this wrong!

My first published book was an anthology I co-edited called Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith (White Cloud Press, 2013). It was comprised of 40 essays from women under 40 unearthing the taboos that have stifled us, divided us, and prevented us from feeling at home in our Christian communities. Perhaps the coolest part of the book— the whole series, really—is that you get to hear women speak for themselves. This takes the pressure off having to agree with them or even “tolerate” them, and instead you get to bear witness to the people who are living in your neighborhoods, communities, churches, and home. 

For my second book, Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe (InterVarsity Press, 2015), I wanted to explore the alienation of being a modern women in an ancient church. It’s about my search for a church home as a Catholic feminist in the American south. It’s about becoming a pastor’s wife before I became myself. So, too, is it a story about enduring community when it’s awkward, and small talk suffocates and the preacher gives bad sermons and the suffering of strangers feels intrusive. Still, we offer our pained lives to one another like bread and say, “Take. Eat. I belong to you.”

4. What is one practical way you want to see people get involved?

“You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it,” the poet Adrienne Rich said, and I would add to it, “—and quote, as if your life depended on it.”

Don’t just read books by women this month—and all year long—but quote wise women in meetings and conversations and presentations and Instagram posts. If you’re giving a sermon or writing a story, count how many sources you cite and challenge yourself to have at least half from women. (I did this for Lessons in Belonging and it was hard and humbling work.) If you can’t get a least half, tell us why, raise a flag, find others forging a solution. If you’re a woman, quote yourself more! And if you’re a man, quote a woman more! Better yet, step aside more often than you’d like, so women can speak for ourselves and tell you about the cannon—Rabia and Julian of Norwich, Mary Oliver and Alice Walker, bell hooks and Clarissa Pinkola Estes—that is shaping our stories.  

Most importantly, slow down. I like to tell people that the most feminist thing I do is move at the speed of my soul—which is to say that I must first tend to all that is tiresome and lazy within me in order to tend to the slow work of justice.

Erin S. Lane is an author, editor, and retreat facilitator who lives in Raleigh, NC with her improbable kin. To get word when she’s written a fresh one, subscribe to her “Good for You” newsletter by visiting www.erinslane.com.

Seriously, go sign up. Its full of divine mischief that will open your eyes to the goodness in your everyday life.

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February 2019 - Josiah Sims

Happy Black History Month, friends. May you and I have the courage and strength to stand up for and alongside our black brothers and sisters. This month, yes. But always.

This month, I had the honor of partnering with my friend from college, Josiah Sims. Josiah is a black artist living is San Diego, CA. Please check out (and BUY!) his art here. He is all those things and much more. He loves God and others, has eyes to see systemic and generational injustice, a passion to educate white and brown folks and has such creativity.

Below you will read his voice, unedited. The bold numbered questions are the actual questions I sent. And the quoted text is Josiah. We spent some time on the phone unpacking question 2.

1. What is the injustice you experience (specifically related to Black History Month)?

The miseducation of African Americans based off my personal experience, more specifically black males.

2. What is your role or experience?

I'm gonna have to call you or FaceTime to explain number one from my personal experiences past present an future lol

On the phone, Josiah shared more details about the false narrative and miseducation surrounding black men and women. He spoke of the general acceptance of police brutality, stereotyping of black single mothers and his own experiences. Two of his thoughts have stuck with me since our phone call.

The first thought came up as Josiah addressed the stereotype of black single mothers. He gently brought up slavery (which I would never feel comfortable or confident doing) and the treatment and expectations of black slave women. Often, black women were torn from their families to be sold as slaves, raped by their owners and expected single-handedly raise the children. He asked the question that I hadn’t even thought to think. Do we think 400 years of learned patterns won’t play out in the black community?

The second was in regard to losing his hard-earned identity. Josiah was an athlete all of his life. When we met, he was a sprinter for the track team at Washington State University. After graduated, he left Pullman and his athletic identity to pursue other dreams. Now in San Diego, he is no longer known as the “well-mannered athlete”. He is given the miseducated identity of a black male, and has the false narratives of what that mean forced on him.

3. How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?

Art is my favorite outlet! within my art I can say everything without having to say anything my suppressed emotions my hopes my dreams & desires my heart for others an those around me what God is teaching me or what I'm learning in tha moment it's all there an more recently my history an my cultures history has begun to show its face within my works but the most beautiful part about art is the dialogue the conversations that follow afterwards i have friends of all races yet my white friends I've been able to have great conversations around my pieces talking about black history an how it's American history yet not treated that way I live for conversations that bring restoration!!! It's so necessary I'd like for people to sit with people around food an share stories about personal experiences to help give uninformed or misinformed things that have already taken place in individuals lives to help all us understand better I believe if we fought for understanding as much as we do

Being right we would be in much better shape as society yet above all that if we do anything an have not love what's the point?!? In my art the unconditional love I've been shown by God is the primary driving force to express who He's created me to be an it's the reason I wanna see reconciliation I know it's only possible with Him but that doesn't mean just pray an sit on our butts it's gettin over ourselves an outta our comfort zones to attack those things keeping us as people divided

4. What is one practical way you want to see people get involved?

I'd like to see people have more meals together with those that font look like them and have a real story swap experience swap conversation around food I believe that'll change perspectives 

It was an honor to hear Josiah’s story and share it with the world. Below you will see the art piece I created as representation of Josiah’s story. This print is for sale in our “SHOP” tab. Any profit will be shared with Josiah and HEAVY Artistry.

Voices of the People: Introduction

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Hi friends. It feels good to be writing on the RECONFIGURE blog. So far, I haven’t utilized this space to its potential. I feel too busy (I probably am!) and don’t want to start something I can’t do well. So in light of that, I am collaborating with others so we can do something well together!

This idea has been deeply shaped by my experience at the #EvolvingFaith Conference in Montreat, NC. During a Q&A, the new (s)heroes of mine, challenged us in spaces of privilege to give our platform (#sharethemic) to those who have been ignored or kept quiet. Not just speak on their behalf.

So here I am taking the challenge. I am hosting a 12-month collaborative blog series to elevate voices of people experiencing injustice.

Each blog post will focus on a different topic based (loosely) off of the “Awareness” calendar. I will ask each guest blogger the same 3 questions, listed below. I will post their answers on my blog and create a piece of art to represent their answers. See questions below.

  1. What is the injustice here?

  2. What is your role or experience?

  3. How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?

  4. What is one practical way you want to see people get involved? 

The purpose of this blog series is to bring awareness and action to different social justice issues using words and art. And by action, I mean action with your body and resources.

My hope is to quiet my voice (at least once a month) to listen. I also hope that you listen and buy art to support this work. Your contribution will go toward the cause of the month and your art will stand as a reminder for action.

The art I created for this introduction is a symbol of what it could look like for a white woman to share the platform. I imagine when this happens, other colors will come to light. There will be deep blues of sorrow, fiery reds of anger, bright yellows of joy, and purple hues of transcendent love. I also believe that it can be hard for those of us in privileged places to share. It can feel like we step into unknown shadowy areas, unsure of our roles or own experiences. But when we come together, we see how our shadows and colors dance. We see how we belong together for a gorgeous bigger picture. Please join in the artistry.

Here is the line-up for 2019. If you have friends that are effected by or passionate about changing any of these areas of justice, please let me know! Also, if you know the month for a cause you care about, comment below so I can add it to the list.

  • February: Black History Month

  • March: Women’s History Month

  • April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • May: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Month

  • June: LGBT, World Refugee Day

  • July: National Black Family Month, Minority Mental Health Awareness

  • August: Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Overdose Awareness Day

  • September: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Suicide Prevention Month

  • October: Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month,  Prison’s Week

  •  November: Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month/Week

  • December: Spiritual Literacy Month, AIDS Awareness Month

  • January: Human Trafficking Prevention Month

My first collaboration will drop this week for Black History Month. Keep your eyes and heart open, friends.

Introducing RECONFIGURE

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Hello there! You found us, or maybe we found you. Whatever the case, we are here, together. Do you love being creative? Do you love people? Maybe you love both, hey, us too!

You see, ReconFigure is about way more than creating fun, expressive art. Let us explain.

We exist to do the harder, and more creative work of building authentic relationships with mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters experiencing isolation from community through the selling and giving of art and kindness.

We are about more than the artist and more than the art. Art is a beautiful platform, but that’s just it. It is the platform. For us, art is a platform for reconciliation. We created ReconFigure with the hope to reconfigure the world through art. We sell art and at the same time give away art with guidance on how to engage people in your city experiencing isolation from community.

Our vision is big and we are in the process of taking practical steps to get there. We are excited for the possibilities. One person taking a piece of art to a nursing home, could turn into one beautiful conversation, which could lead to another beautiful conversation, which could lead to a beautiful relationship and friendship, essentially ending the loneliness for that one person.

We are excited you stopped by to be a part of reconfiguring it out. (You like that?!)