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Hello everyone!

My name is Kelby MacNayr.

I am delighted to be working with James Bay United Church to expand and explore what is possible through the lens of the Arts Ministry.

As I gather my thoughts I recall a saying that goes a little something like this: “without the arts, can we ever truly know ourselves?” While I can't find the source of the quote, it certainly rings true for me.

The arts, in the broad sense of the word, are part of the art of living, of which we are all perennial students. I first heard this many years ago, as a student of anthropology at the University of Toronto. I was attending a lecture by Canadian author, parliamentarian and academic Michael Ignatieff.  The lecture was entitled Ethnic Strife in the 21st-Century and I was surprised by one of the key elements of the lecture being Michael’s assertion that "imagination is key to empathy in the 21st-century." 

If the arts are integral to us knowing ourselves, then cultivation and willingness to spend time in the world of imagination and creativity may offer us the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes, imagine the validity of another truth, and empathize. If the arts can do these two lofty things, one personal and the other interpersonal, they can surely do all sorts of other amazing things that we sometimes take for granted but are perhaps no less important in the fabric of our lives. 

At a time when medical journals are reporting vast increases in the use of antidepressants and many people are feeling an increased sense of separateness, loneliness or futility when faced with challenges such as homelessness, a global pandemic and climate change, the arts offer us shared time together, time for reflection, an opportunity to build community, and inspire one another. The arts can also offer us simple but powerful benefits in something so simple as having a positive social or community opportunity that we can put on our calendar, every week.  

The arts can offer us the opportunity to connect in community without the pressure of one-on-one conversation but allow us to have a shared communal experience with friends or people we’ve never met before. The arts can simply get us out of the house. Over the pandemic I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the importance for artists of having something to work towards. A goal to wish to apply themselves, a reason to put on your best shirt and focus your energy on a purpose. For the artist/ practitioner at any level, the arts offer a vessel into which to pour oneself. And artistic practice offers a discipline, an opportunity to refine oneself, to focus, to reflect and spend time cultivating awareness, and awareness of others. 

The opportunity to engage multiple communities through the arts offers us an unparalleled opportunity to engage varying cultural groups, celebrating those distinctive heritages while honouring their traditions. The arts ministry also offers us a wonderful new opportunity to engage with the work of the social justice ministry, exploring possibilities for artistic expression and collaboration from those in the unhoused community. The arts can offer important opportunities for intergenerational connection, such as the planned ‘Swing and Tea’ event with the Victoria Swing Dance Association later this season. 

The arts can incorporate all the common disciplines of music, dance, poetry, writing, film, painting, sculpting but can also include language arts, culinary arts, physical practice and meditation arts, all of which can offer deeply beneficial time for the practitioner and the community at large. 

In a world that seems to be changing quicker than ever, the arts give us a space and a place to create shared understanding and create culture and community in real time. Like the old saying ‘if you give someone a fish you feed them for a day, if you teach them to fish, you feed them for life’, the arts can give us tools that we may learn under the roof of James Bay United Church, but that we take with us to our homes, communities and share with future generations.  

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to sitting down and sharing ideas and time together exploring all that is possible through the Arts Ministry at James Bay United Church.