Musings on Pondering the Sonoran Stations of the Cross
Poetry by Cynthia Langston Kirk,
Artwork by Amy Barron-Gafford
I had the privilege of contemplating this collaborative exhibit of poetry and art at the Soul Fiesta conference in Phoenix in February ’08. It was a profoundly moving experience for me. I was immediately struck by the beauty and power of words juxtaposed with art that was all the more suggestive for avoiding literal depictions of the stations of the cross.
Cynthia’s poetry is simultaneously spacious and intense. Intuiting the power of words to evoke arresting images, and drawing familiar scriptures into fresh settings, she communicates gripping juxtapositions. Reading her poetry is like tasting new wine bursting out of old wineskins.
These poems are particularly striking in tandem with Amy’s delicate yet profound artwork. Amy’s images are taken from the natural world – weeds, flowers, pods – and are more intriguingly evocative for the lack of direct human images.
Word and art drew from each other richer meanings and deeper feelings. Together they led me naturally into prayer. If you can see this exhibit, or better yet, invite it to come to your church, you will find your soul stretched and filled.
Ordained Presbyterian minister
Director of Pathways for Congregational Spirituality
Chief architect for Companions in Christ and author of Soul Feast
Heart-opening calls to worship, prayers of compassion and healing, inspiring liturgy and beautiful and sensitive environments all mark the qualities of what the Rev. Cynthia Langston Kirk brings to the worship experience. Too often these days worship has become a mechanism of entertainment: a popular exploitation of people’s emotions. What we have forgotten is that true worship invokes spirit and truth. Cynthia reminds us of this.
Through the spiritual direction of creative expression (liturgy, paraments, settings, drama and movement) Cynthia brings me, and my congregation, to an experiential awakening of the Holy Spirit in our midst. And is that not the ultimate intent of worship? Perhaps the finest expression of Immanuel, God with us, comes through our own creative expression. Cynthia inspires such creativity in me. I would suggest that she will do the same with you and your congregation.
Rev. David Wilkinson
St. Francis United Methodist Church, Tucson
At a weekend retreat for a United Methodist Church entitled Praying for Justice and Peace, I used the Poverty and Wealth Great Thanksgiving from Extend the Table for the closing communion. As a UCC minister with little knowledge of the United Methodist liturgy I needed help in planning that final service. This particular thanksgiving, offered at the end of an intense weekend, guided the participants into a profound experience of communion. I am grateful for the inspired creativity of Cynthia Langston Kirk.
Author of Embracing the World: Praying for Justice, Praying with Body and Soul, and more
UCC minister, faculty at Iliff School of Theology
I’ve always loved the beauty and depth of Cynthia’s words, both spoken and written. They capture so completely the essence, complexity and interweaving of faith in all of the moments of our lives. One thing I’ve struggled with throughout my life is keeping my faith present in ALL that I see and do, in all the hours of the day, and when I’ve read something Cynthia has written I really do find a “spillover” into the days that follow. I don’t just see the beauty of a flower or smell it’s perfume, but I feel the presence of its Creator. I don’t just hear the wind or the thunder or the song of a bird–I feel the presence of their Creator. Her words paint beautiful “word pictures” which imprint themselves into the mind’s eye and leave a lasting impression of that interweaving of faith into the fabric of our lives.
Member of Christ Church, Tucson
Cynthia Langston Kirk is an artist with important gifts to share. She has the ability to communicate the Gospel with rich textures and varied media. Her liturgy has the effect of inviting individual spirits to rise and commingle with the Spirit. Her meditations speak to the deep places in the heart enabling hearers to drink deep from the wells that quench a thirsty soul.
I suppose that what I would like for you to know most about Cynthia and her work is that she brings a deep spirituality without being pretentious. Through all of the outlets of her Piecing Stories ministry she can help to lead you and/or your congregation down the Spirit’s path without being intimidating, vague, or judgmental.
Rev. Dan Hurlbert
Desert Skies United Methodist Church Tucson, AZ
Cynthia’s gift of listening is woven into liturgies that free people to release thought into space and time within the ritual . . . a weaving of leader and led. Without guile or artifice, Cynthia surmounts rote and contemporary commonplace with frank, candid, and undisguised styles of expression in speech and art. Her published Prayers of Great Thanksgiving, Extend the Table, continue to find a place in my worship planning.
United Methodist Deacon, Music
Academy for Spiritual Formation Worship Leader
Rev. Cynthia Langston Kirk led our one day Women’s Retreat in May 2008 with grace, insightfulness and creativity. As our design team worked with her to plan the retreat, she truly listened to our ideas and was quickly able to see the direction God was leading for this event. We found her to be enthusiastic, flexible, perceptive, accommodating, well prepared and grace-filled. Working with her was as spiritually refreshing as the actual retreat. Cynthia’s prayerful preparation resulted in a wonderful, creative retreat that was relevant to all the participants. She was particularly attentive to making the participants feel safe by creating sacred space in our meeting area. As a speaker, she engaged all of our senses and gave each of us opportunity to participate in meaningful ways. Feedback from attendees was very positive. I highly recommend Cynthia as a speaker/retreat leader and look forward to additional events with her in the future. She is blessed to be a blessing.
Paradise Valley United Methodist Church
Our minister, Don, patiently and lovingly led us through the Living the Questions (LTQ) curriculum. Throughout the studies, we found Cynthia’s writings beautiful, inspiring, and meaningful. One of our group members wrote a poem that we wanted to share with Cynthia. I looked Cynthia up on-line and discovered through piecingstories.com that her many talents include creating clergy stoles. My husband and I wanted to thank Don for exposing us to this faith strengthening LTQ material, so I e-mailed Cynthia with an enquiry about creating a clergy stole for Don based on LTQ. She responded almost immediately and with great enthusiasm. She asked me what I had in mind, and I told her I wanted her to use her creativity and left the designing of the stole up to her. In addition to her knowledge of the LTQ series, she wanted to know what was important to Don in his ministry and I shared our church’s website with her so she could read some of his thoughts. Keeping LTQ and her insight into Don in mind, Cynthia decided that the stole would consist of three sections focusing on weaving community/loving our neighbor, reconciliation and healing, and mystery. She added a labyrinth and dove design to each end as well. Not only did she create a perfectly unique stole for Don, she prayed for him and our group as she worked. When I received the stole, I was amazed to find that she had crafted prayers to represent each section, which she printed on the back of the stole. This creation is not just a clergy stole, it is a wearable piece of art made of cloth, prayers and blessings. Don was absolutely overwhelmed with his gift. Not only does he love the design, it means so much to him knowing that Cynthia created it for him. I cannot stress enough what a wonderful experience and pleasure it has been going through this process with Cynthia. She is a lady of many talents and she truly uses them to glorify God.