The Artist formerly known as Priest

A friend wrote a text note in which she referred to me as "the artist formerly known as priest."

I was delighted, of course.

I have indeed been known as "priest" for a long time now, and glad of it. I have been sure of the call, the vocation, from ordination onward. Mostly that vocation disguised itself as a "job." It continues

Vocation is not, however, a job. A calling is just that. Jobs are jobs, but a calling is a trajectory in life. A good friend, Bob Hauert phoned this last week and reminded me of how much vocation plays in both our thinking. Now as we live in to the end times of our lives both of us have been struck by how our vocation is not limited to or defined by the institutional instruments which are the churches. They may give outward and visible sign of vocation, but the calling itself is an inward and spiritual grace. Sometimes that grace is carried easily and lightly, at other times that grace requires heavy lifting. We worked out our callings in very different ways, yet now looking back on these years, we realize how much our callings have driven us to parallel play.

At the same time that I celebrate the vocation as priest, I more and more I find expression in various artistic efforts (which may be poor or otherwise), which are themselves a new vocation, sometimes disguised as a "hobby."  Or perhaps they are the same vocation, differently expressed.

Hence, "the artist formerly known as priest."

Now from the standpoint of vocation, the difference between these two is not that one was a career-job and the other a retirement-hobby (those distinctions being about money and where it comes from, and not about the validity of either vocation). The difference is that the priest vocation is within a defined context: I am a priest in the church of God, licensed in The Episcopal Church, a priest in the Anglican tradition, etc.   I cannot by myself declare myself a priest and my accountability is to both institution and  to God, the Source of all being and call.  

The artist vocation is less clearly defined by formal context. I am an artist because I see myself as an artist. The judgement about my being good or bad, with or without invitation to show here or there, is less clear, but none the less real. But the artistic vocation is bound only by being able to express what it is I want to witness or affirm in the visual, plastic and audial arts. Institutions are not of much value here. And the Source of Call is less easily identified with the God who calls. The God who calls seems often otherwise engaged and probably not particularly interested in our puny efforts at creation. It is the creation itself, the product of the God who calls, that urges us on. Which is why artists are more spiritual than religious, seeing in creation works of art, treasured for their own artistic merit, rather than objects proving the existence of the creator or something about the creator's character.

So here I am at seventy-six, making art, and slowly becoming indeed "the artist formerly known as priest." This blog being mostly about things Episcopal and Anglican will be less and less the venue for my writing. But I will continue to write occasionally, since things Anglican and Episcopal still draw my attention. Right now, my newly acquired Reliance Proof Press pictured below, a 2200 lb hand press, draws me into another world.


Here are relief prints done most recently in response to these hard days:

The Unexpected Visitor, 2016, 10X12 in
Marianne, France 2016, woodblock, 8X10 in

Liberty, weeping.  2016, acrylic relief print, 18x26

1 comment:

  1. The artist and priest are both vocations and it does a disservice to both to separate them. They are sacred callings. The poet, musician, painter, print-maker, priest, and theologian all "walk through the valley of the shadow of death" grappling with the meaning of life. Vocations are powerful and frought with risk in the midst of uncertain reality, yet filled with hope and the blessing of God. A vocation, whether priest or artist, is for life.


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