“Creatures at Play” in Hong Kong

May 06, 2014

It’s a dangerous thing letting artists run wild in a foreign country; even more dangerous to let them talk about such things as art, play and the imagination and how they can integrate with both our faith and workplace! This past March, the Marketplace Institute decided to “unleash the creatives” by asking Dr. Iwan Russell-Jones (Eugene and Jan Peterson Associate Professor of Theology and the Arts and award-winning producer for the BBC), Dr. Phil Long (Professor of Old Testament and Visual Artist) and myself to take part in Hong Kong University’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative.  No doubt a risky move for the MI; but, with mischievous smiles, we creatives accepted the offer and packed our bags for the adventure.

 The weekend started off with Iwan delivering a public lecture at the University titled “The Writing on the Wall: Media, Technology and the Judgement of the Gods.” He explored the question “Does contemporary communications technology stand condemned in the courts of heaven and earth or will it contribute to the deepening of human experience and understanding?”  The event was packed. Iwan, with his quick wit, navigated the Q&A time brilliantly – especially considering that he had just flown in that morning!

On Saturday, we held a retreat on “The Christian Imagination” for the Christian faculty at the University. Phil started the day with a session on “Why Art Matters:  How art contributes to human flourishing and biblical understanding.” He looked at questions such as “What does the Bible and Biblical narrative have to do with art?” In his second session, he explored “Art and Meaning in the stories of Saul and David.” Both sessions were well received.

In Iwan’s afternoon lecture, Creatures at Play: Art, Imagination and the Nature of Creaturely Existence,” he looked at the theological importance of play and the way it is rooted in a biblical understanding of human creatureliness.  This session sparked quite an interesting conversation and there were a myriad of questions and comments at the end.

I held two sessions that involved engaging our Christian Imaginations in contemplative Ignation prayer exercises. The first session was an encouraging time of re-centering our focus on Christ. The second session looked at how to be most effective in cultivating Kingdom Culture through prayer. We explored how crucial it is to begin with a posture of listening to the Spirit, in order to discern and then respond (with our choices and actions) to what we have seen and heard with our mind’s eye.

 We came away feeling privileged to have been a part of HKU’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative. For me, it was a reminder of what the heart of Regent is truly about, and re-kindled my own flame for our purpose and mission.  It was quite extraordinary to witness a group of dedicated professors meeting with Christ, and desiring to integrate their faith (and their creative imaginations) into their workplace. You walk on the wild side when you open that box! 

By Ali Cumming, Arts Administrator & Lookout Gallery Curator at Regent College  

Putting his money where his mouth was, Phil did an early morning quick watercolour sketch of Hong Kong Bay (a portion of which is pictured above).