Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Birth of the Church of Craft

Boise, Idaho's Church of Craft logo

I felt the call to ministry relatively early in my life, although I didn't call it "ministry" until I was in my early 20's. It began in high school, when someone pointed out to me that I knew and was friends with almost every single clique in school. I could hold my own with the boys in Auto Shop (and yes, they were all boys), keep up smart and biting commentary with the Honor Students, and get crazy with the Drama Kids. I even had a special connection with some of the kids in Special Education. I think this was true, in part, because I was such a good listener. Being the child of two dreamworking,
counseling, ministering parents, I was raised in a home of deep listening and feeling—two key pieces to being a minister.

I also had a deep love of creating and making art. Again, just as I had never called myself a "minister," I also never called myself an "artist." It turns out that I was both! In college, everyone I ever lived with was an artist. I myself made collages and drawings regularly in my journals and notebooks. Yet because I was surrounded by artists who were being formally trained, and I was studying anthropology, I saw myself more as an outsider, watching and learning from my artist friends but not actually one myself.

After college, I moved to San Francisco and connected with a wild bunch of artists who loosely collected themselves in an Art Movement called "The Cubby". There was a rock show, a zine, and even a cable access television show. I began gathering and collaborating with this wonderful group of artists. We would have regular meetings at various people's houses, and make things together.

A cover I drew for the Cubby Missallete, a zine put out by The Cubby

In the meantime, I noticed that many of my friends who made things often created alone. When we created as a group, we had a wonderful time and connected deeply with each other. I started hosting monthly Craft Ons at various people's houses and before rock shows. At these same rock shows I was asked to introduce many of the bands performing. I soon developed this "preacher" character I called The Rev. Miss Myrtle Motivation. Whenever I took on her persona, I would preach to the jaded indie rock kids to create every day and “craft” their own lives.

In October 2000, I was visiting some good friends in New York and I shared my creative, ministerial experiences. They insisted I re-connect with an old friend from Santa Cruz, CA, Callie Janoff, who had ordained herself over the Internet (through the Universal Life Church) and was officiating weddings for many of her friends. When I met with Callie, I shared the experience of my "Craft On" gatherings, which she really resonated with.

On that day, the Church of Craft was born. It's been six years now and the Church has gone through many transformations. We are now an international organization, with churches in different parts of the country and the world.

Callie Janoff, Co-Founder of the Church of Craft

The Church of Craft San Francisco has met in cafes, art studios, public parks, bars, art galleries, bedrooms, and during rock shows. We currently have found a home at the most delightful Rock, Paper, Scissors Collective. It's a wonderful place in Oakland, CA that encourages everyone to make
things themselves. They have a cute store of handmade goods, sold on consignment, as well as a fantastic art gallery. We have finally found our home, after much wandering!

In the past, we have crafted as a group for others, including having knit-ins for peace during war protests, making scarves for the homeless, and making dolls for children in Oakland's Children Hospital. I enjoyed those projects immensely, but they took a lot of time, energy and money. Currently the Church is in a much more freestyle form. We meet once a month and everyone brings their own project to work on. We share food, craft supplies, inspiration and ideas with each other.

The act of making something is so powerful. When we make something, we are far less likely to throw it away when it no longer serves its purpose. Instead, we give it away or recycle it into something else. If we had a culture that made the majority of the things we needed, imagine how the
landfills would shrink and disappear!

There is also a deep sense of accomplishment when we make something ourselves. When we take the time to learn a craft, do and undo until we get it right and finally finish it, it is an amazing feeling!

Our first Church of Craft baby is about to be born (in March 2007). We truly are a church community that supports and cares for each other. It feels wonderful!

Iris Pearl Fisher-Kirwan, the first Church of Craft baby born!

The Church of Craft San Francisco's denomination is quite diverse, with a range of age, gender and ethnicity. Every now and then I sit back and am in awe of this amazing group of people. It really hits home for me, the power of combing faith and action, which Jim Wallis speaks about in his book, Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher. Wallis says:
When put into action, faith has the capacity to bring people together, to motivate, and to inspire, even across former dividing lines. We demonstrate our faith by putting it into practice. Conversely, if we don't keep the power of faith in the actions we undertake, our efforts can easily lead to burnout, bitterness, and despair. The call to action can preserve the authenticity of faith, while the power of faith can save the integrity of our actions. As the biblical apostle James put it, 'Faith without works is dead.
Callie and I had a vision and we had something we believed in. Our faith was that we knew making art could be a spiritual practice and could create community when done together. We acted on this faith, and the Church of Craft was born.

Through this journey with the formation, growth and transformation of The Church of Craft, I more deeply understand that spirit can be found anywhere and with anybody. I am honored to provide a place for those who want to gather and make to come together and find fellowship and community through the act of creation.

I hope my story will inspire you to create something out of your faith and belief. What is lacking in your life and in the world? What can you create to fill that void?


Born to Serve: The Evolution of the Soul Through Service by Susan S. Trout, Ph.D. with a forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Three Roses Press, 1997.

The Impossible will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. Basic Books, 2004.

Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher by Jim Wallis. Pagemill, 2002.

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