2021 Review Fresh Expressions


Quartz is a partnership between Wordsmithcrafts and St John’s church. What is Wordsmithcrafts though, and why would it form a partnership with a church?

The tagline of Wordsmithcrafts is that it helps people learn about their past, so that they can understand their present, and create better futures. Over the years it has become a name that has developed various projects from “The Viking in the Basement” (of an art gallery) in Southampton to educational tours of schools in the Shetland islands.

The significance is not just what tasks are carried out by Wordsmithcrafts though. The ethos, manner, in which, these tasks are carried out is of equal importance. Wordsmithcrafts uses craft activities, storytelling, and the arts like many community centres. These activities are planned to help people imaginatively explore #sensingmeaningfullness, #SensingValues, and #SensingSpirituality as well though, to the extent they feel comfortable with.

The Wordsmithcrafts workshop, or studio, is a centre which resources community building. It is a place where people can come with ideas and leave having refined them and then drawn them out into new possibilities.

For this to work there needs to be a mutually agreed fair exchange. Like going into a shop and buying a tent. “The Arts”, and Heritage settings are particularly suitable for Wordsmithcrafts to work in, and the reason that is that this is an environment where the value of things beyond their material components or functional purpose is often explored. People come expecting to find something beautiful, creative, and that they can get involved in. Of course, it is also vitally important not to demand too much, or hide things in the small print when agreeing an exchange.

After a helping at a recent workshop, a long standing Wordsmithcrafts participant described it as Wordsmithcrafts is a practical application of “Love thy Neighbour”. This was very reassuring!

Even the Viking era activities which get the most press coverage are run in a way which provides people with a way to encounter the popularisation of Vikings and reflect more deeply on it. Hyped up screen adaptations of Viking Sagas rarely take the time to explore the nuances of the diverse cultures which sailed the seas at that time. The Wordsmithcrafts approach provides participants with opportunities to reflect on the contribution made by a wide range of cultures from this time to form the Scotland we now live in. Or, if nothing else, at least leave with a renewed understanding of the value of clean drinking water piped into your home.

There is a Fresh Expressions term “Kingdom Orientated Social Enterprise”. This can describe activities where the Gospel is embedded in the world of work, with the intention of developing a Christlike community. Whilst the term is recent the idea would be familiar to the Cistercians developing farming, watermills and textiles industries to make the wilderness habitable for humans. Perhaps it continues some of the traditions of St Ninian and St Martin in founding colonies of heaven where the arts and beauty could be accessed.

In that case Wordsmithcrafts is a continuation of Jesus sending out the disciples into towns and villages to find people of peace, meeting them where they are and accepting what is given. Providing what they need, and revealing the good news hidden like yeast in bread, or salt in food, or the ability to shape metal using wind, fire and hammers. From this community is developed in many different ways.

#SensingValues and exploring identity through designing a coat of arms

Quartz might look like the “God” bit of Wordsmithcrafts activity, or activities to interpret church life to those outside of it or on the fringe. However, on reflection, it is more the case that Quartz was formed to make the possibilities discovered through activities like Wordsmithcrafts visible and recognisable to those who find difficulty experiencing relating to God outside of their church tradition.

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