Hospitality for the Artist: An Interview with Christina Jelinek

Christina Jelinek’s ministry to artists revolves around hospitality: gathering together to enjoy meals, contemplate God’s story, and share their works.  It’s something our world needs more of, so UA online leader Catherine Miller asked Christina for some tips on starting:

CM: Imagine you’re talking to people who are wanting to start something, but not sure how. What advice would you give them? How would you talk to them about the importance of hospitality?
CJ: I think a great place to start would be to read The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield.  She gives us our first step: Start anywhere!  She says:

The Christian home is the place where we bring the church to the people as we seek to lock arms together…Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living. Start anywhere. But do start.

Another tremendous resource is Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.  He tells us to start, and never stop:

This is why the Enemy wants you to think you have no song to write, no story to tell, no painting to paint. He wants to quiet you. So sing. Let the Word by which the Creator made you fill your imagination, guide your pen, lead you from note to note until a melody is strung together like a glimmering constellation in the clear sky. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor, too, by making worlds and works of beauty that blanket the earth like flowers. Let your homesickness keep you always from spiritual slumber. Remember that it is in the fellowship of saints, of friends and family, that your gift will grow best, and will find its best expression. And until the Kingdom comes in its fullness, bend your will to the joyful, tearful telling of its coming. Write about that. Write about that, and never stop.

CM: How do you talk to artists about gospel identity?
CJ: We are first and foremost called to worship Christ. Everything leads from that place. One of the reasons that the Leaven + Liturgies community utilizes the liturgical calendar is because it is such an anchoring story for our souls. The world is telling us another story. Maybe that story is one of perfectionism, materialism, or self-fulfillment. The liturgical calendar invites us into a new narrative. It tells us GOD’S STORY and knits our hearts together with the saints who have come before us.

I have been deeply impacted by Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. She writes this:

The journey homewards. Coming home. That’s what it’s all about. The journey to the coming of the Kingdom. That’s probably the chief difference between the Christian and the secular artist–the purpose of the work, be it story or music or painting, is to further the coming of the kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.

The first thing I want a co-creator with Christ to know is that they are loved and seen by God. I would start with the gospel message and remind them that they have been made new. I would also try and to work to identify doubt, shame, or fear associated with creating or exposing themselves as artists and invite them into the community to become all that God has called them to be.

CM: Do you work on creating art together at your gatherings?  Are they like UA’s retreats?
CJ: The time together at the Leaven + Liturgies table is more centered around table fellowship than “retreats” – although I hope to be able to partner with UA in the future to host a time like this. We meet at the change of the Liturgical calendar and break bread together. We form our hearts through shared liturgy and then the table guide moves us through a few questions about how we can respond as co-creators w/Christ in the current season we find ourselves. I have called the time we have together with our local artists a “ministry of margin.” The night is slow, we savor the meals, we move through to transition our hearts into where we find ourselves in the liturgical year, as well as spend the last half of the time together hearing from artists who share what they have been working on whether that’s songs, poetry, paintings, photographs… I think it creates a place of honor for the artist to be seen and known and formed to be a kingdom creative called to co-create with Jesus.

CM: Food and fellowship are a core part of your ministry. How are you adapting to social distancing?
CJ: COVID season has of course posed challenges but it has also been able to be an intentional season of rest for me personally as I wrap up the production of “Eight” Volume 1. Volume 2 is set to be released 11.29.20 and will tell the story of Advent through the text of Romans 8. It is at this time I am hopeful to have completed the Seats + Seasons Guide that would help anyone interested in showing hospitality to local artists (or anyone who would be blessed to take part in something like this) have a how-to and some ideas for what hosting could look like in their context. It would be a privilege to have the opportunity to stay connected to new Leaven + Liturgies table hosts and disciple and encourage their ministry. The natural rhythm of the Leaven + Liturgies table would be to meet for each of the liturgical seasons and to work towards a “release” date in the summer time after Pentecost. I have found this also aligns well with family life as kids are out of school and families are traveling. To have a goal to work towards – perhaps even a theme (for me it was Romans 8) and the opportunity to host a gallery of sorts would be an ideal. We are not yet what we hope to become but I am so thankful for the Lord giving me encouragement, direction and clarity along the way as he shows me more of himself as I walk more boldly in who he has wired me to be. After the Epiphany dinner this year I felt the Lord asking me to focus on building out the resources that would help me share the table with others and help launch Leaven + Liturgies (which is what I hope the music project Eight is, an opportunity to share what it looks like to create within community and have something to show for our time together).

I am hopeful to gather again come Advent and find myself stirred and continuously inspired as an artist through the ministry of UA. It was at a UA retreat that I first even mentioned this project and was encouraged to pursue it!

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