The 'Art' of Presence

Practicing the ministry of presence is all about simply being present with someone; not "doing" anything; not talking or even listening but being present to show love and care and kindness and compassion. The "art" of presence adds the element of (mixed media) art during the time of being present. It provides a neutral something-to-do and opens the possibility for interactive conversation, including deep sharing and deep listening. This concept has been particularly helpful for ministry with teens in a shelter for teens-at-risk. The art activity seems similar to the concept of the quilting bees of old; hands are busy while conversation flows. I took some of the teens and adults from my congregation to do the "Dump Sheet Self-Portrait" project at the shelter during spring break. I encouraged the participants to "dump" out their feelings related to whatever topic they chose. Some opted for silly; others used the exercise to vent their hurts and emotions. Some wrote heart-breaking feelings during the dumping. The participating adults used the time when the teens were doing the mixed media layers of art that followed to encourage and uplift the teens while the teens engaged among themselves with lively conversation. The "art" of presence is a wonderful combination of art, self-expression, conversation, compassion, and friendship.