Beauty is an act of resistance. Ruth Naomi Floyd

Christen Mattix and Orcas Island Community Church

ArtWay Visual Meditation May 27, 2018

Christen Mattix and Orcas Island Community Church: The Tree with Lights in It

The Chief Artist

by Brian Moss

In this season of Pentecost we remember the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on the people of God. The Holy Spirit is the Chief Artist who empowers us to be a creative people. Two years ago our church commissioned Christen Mattix to help lead us in a collaborative effort that would result in a banner for Pentecost.

We gathered on a Saturday and Christen led a group of us, aspiring creatives both young and old, in prayer and art-making. We painted small shapes that would eventually become leaves on a tree. Some worked on the canvas itself. She took our initial work back to her studio and then finished the piece. Christen was both hospitable and generous in her approach to us.

The title of the work is called “The Tree with Lights in It.” The inspiration for this title comes from Christen’s reading of Annie Dillard. In a Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Dillard wrote, “I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.”

Christen found a connection in Dillard’s storytelling to the account of Moses and the burning bush. Christen responds, “It's a short leap from Annie Dillard's account to Moses and the burning bush. In both stories they have an experience of God in the “wholey” ordinary. It's a warning to me to pay better attention, for it is possible to be so self-absorbed or busy that I miss God's quiet and beautiful invitations in the person, plant or rock right in front of me. And it is there that God reveals God's name, the mysterious ‘I AM’.”

The burning bush and Pentecost are not just historical events worth remembering. The Holy Spirit is active and alive within us today. Christen expresses her thoughts on the subject like this, “God wants to set us ablaze today with love, creativity, joy, energy, and effectiveness so that we can be Jesus' incarnational presence in our particular neighborhood. The Spirit isn't a one size fits all sort of Person.”

Often the things we consume end up consuming us, but that is not how it works with God. It is a holy thing to be set on fire by God and yet not consumed by the flames. 


Brian Moss is Senior Pastor at Orcas Island Community Church in Washington State, USA.  

Christen Mattix works as a painter, illustrator, and social sculptor. She lives in Washington State, USA.  



1. ARTWAY – We posted a new Church of the Month about two mountain chapels by the Swiss architect Mario Botta: those in Mogno and Monte Tamaro. Read more

2. USA - 26 August- 28 August, Mount Tabor Centre, Community of Jesus, Orleans MA: Artists Workshop and Retreat with Makoto Fujimura.

3. BELGIUM - 2 July – 6 July, Antwerp Summer University, Stadscampus, Gratiekapelstraat 10, Antwerpen: Religious Manuscripts, Hand Press Books and Prints (15th-19th Centuries) Summer School. In this summer school expert speakers will explain the traditional techniques of manuscript, book and print production (printing, lay-out, illustration). This year special attention will be devoted to the production and function of ephemera in all its manifestations. Introductory presentations will familiarise the students with the crucial role Antwerp played as a printing center. Most lectures are conceived as workshops and hands-on sessions zooming in on different kinds of text media and the place of ephemera within them. Lecturers will use the holdings of the Ruusbroec Institute Library and select materials that can be handled by the students. In line with this setup, admission to the summer school will be limited to 14 Master students, PhD students and postdocs. The presence of staff and lecturers during the course should stimulate the interaction and spark questions and discussions. Most sessions will take place at the Ruusbroec Institute’s library of the University of Antwerp. Guided tours will take participants to the Plantin-Moretus Museum for a presentation of sixteenth-century printing techniques, to the stylish Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, and to the Special Collections Department of the University Library. An unforgettable experience for every researcher who wants to learn more about manuscripts, hand-press books, and prints, and the role they played in Western European culture.

4. AUSTRIA – 13 April - 26 August 2018, Kunsthaus Graz, Lendkai 1, Graz and KULTUM Graz, Mariahilferplatz 3, Graz: Faith Love Hope - 800 years of the Diocese Graz-Seckau. What value do religion, faith, spirituality and their rituals have in a largely secular society? How much is the present shaped by them? The Kunsthaus Graz and the Cultural Centre of the Minorites explore these questions with more than 50 works of art. The "three theological virtues", once cornerstones of the piety of Christian culture, are today amongst the most popular tattoo motifs such as the cross, heart and anchor. Originally ecclesiastical concepts can be found in popular culture, but even today can be in advertising or TV series. The exhibition Faith Love Hope follows these traces and reflections in contemporary visual art. Over fifty works will focus on abstraction and incarnation, forms of love, miracles, sacrifice and fellowship, pathos and loss, abuse of power, substitution and devotion. This exhibition is curated by Katrin Bucher Trantow, Johannes Rauchberger, Barbara Steiner in cooperation with the Alte Galerie, the Neue Galerie, the Bruseum and the Folklore Museum at the Universalmuseum Joanneum and the Diözesanmuseum Graz.

5. NEW BOOK – Thomas Berenato, Anne Price-Owen, and Kathleen Henderson Staudt, eds. David Jones on Religion, Politics, and Culture: Unpublished Prose. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. With contributions also from Oliver Bevington, Jasmine Hunter Evans, Tom Villis and Rowan Williams. Now available for pre-ordering from Bloomsbury (Modernist Archives Series).

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