Urban Impact

By Samson Samuel, MTS Student at CTS and Studio Ninety-Six Team Member

I felt as if I was at Times Square in Manhattan or was back in the city of Delhi, India as I entered the chapel this Wednesday. It was the city noise, the noise of the traffic, people, motor vehicles, police, ambulance, etc being heard. The chapel looked like a city, with the noise and pictures of city and its life, on the sanctuary and at different places of the pews. These were the pictures of the homeless, hopeless and the destitute lying on the footpaths, pictures of the busy working class, the marginalized and the daily wage workers, the ignorant, the harassed, depressed, and so on, clicked by Ellen M. Corcella an MTS student at CTS. There were also placards with words like Violence, Ignored, Devalued, Prejudice, Failings, and also Reconcile, Hope, Peace, Forgive, Light, Trust and Love, telling us the life of the city and the need of the city life as well.

Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana the President of Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) was the preacher for the day. It was a call from the Kingdom to partner with the Christ of the city, ministering to these hopeless, lonely, marginalized and also to all those in the city who do not know the True Love. The ambience created the presence and moved the hearts to receive this powerful invitation for urban ministries.

Creating an ambience definitely makes a difference. It just requires a little effort in gathering the appropriate materials related to the preaching and displaying it so well that it catches the eye and heart of the congregant. In such an ambience the Word becomes more meaningful and even more powerful. I appreciate the chapel committee for putting the efforts to gather the pictures and display it so well with the candles, placards with the city noise as the background music. Blessings!!!


Spiritual Courtesy

By Samson Samuel, MTS Student at CTS and Studio Ninety-Six Team Member

Worship in Sweeney Chapel included a powerful, emotionally moving, and spiritually nourishing moment as we remembered in prayer the spiritual leaders who have left a legacy – an example of Christian living for us. Yes, I am talking about the All Saints Day and the prayer we did in remembrance.

As Rev. Brenda Freije, the Director of Networking and Recruitment General Counsel at the Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), led a special prayer on the occasion, she paused and invited all of us to take a moment to remember the men and women of God who have impacted our lives personally. The prayer become more meaningful as the congregants started saying names of their spiritual parents randomly. Some said it with a soft voice and some aloud. There was no tune or rhythm neither did it sound like a chant. But in the acoustic of the chapel, it sounded so pleasing, and gave a feeling of the presence of the saints right in our midst. It turned out to be a beautiful time of showing one’s spiritual courtesy.

The theology of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. It maintains that all of God’s people, in heaven and earth, are spiritually connected and united. It is also an invitation to all the people of God to lead a life of example and worth as did the Saints. The message became even stronger as Tina Guynn, an M.Div. final year at CTS delivered the sermon titled ‘True Greatness’ from the passage Mark 9:30-37. She encouraged all the CTS community to live a life of true greatness following the model of Christ. CTS surely is a community that aims to equip exemplary theological and mission leaders, leading and serving the world.

I am greatly humbled and blessed to be a part of CTS. Blessings!

Reels, Jigs and a Choral Psalm

By Samson Samuel, MTS Student at CTS and Studio Ninety-Six Team Member

From Celtic music to the reading of ancient scriptures, the old sounded wonderfully new in chapel last week at Christian Theological Seminary. Worship began with White River Celtica, the violin and piano duo of CTS alum, Wyatt Watkins, and his friend (also a pastor) TH Gillespie. The lively yet delicate opening melodies drew us into worship and felt like invitations into an intimate relationship with Christ and one another.

Following the opening music came a surprise choral reading. The surprise happened when readers emerged from the pews repeating phrases of Psalm 106 as they made their way to the front of the sanctuary. Most of us in the congregation had never experienced this type of reading, and it opened us up to hearing the ancient text afresh.

The choral psalm reading sounded complex but was actually very simple. Each of the four readers followed a script and read assigned portions of the text, sometimes alone, sometimes joining with one other voice, and sometimes blending with all voices at once. The multiple voices reminded me about the universality of our scriptures. All are welcome to share and give voice to the Word. This happened during the choral reading. Without prompting, the entire congregation joined in at the end of the reading and recited “Praise the Lord, O give thanks to the Lord” along with the readers. It was spontaneous and beautiful.

I am sure that when I go back to my church in India this is a creative element that I will want to incorporate into worship. You can too. All it takes is a little effort to gather a few people who read well, have some performance ability and are willing to practice enough so that the reading feels natural, almost as if a single person is telling a story. This form of choral psalm reading is a great way to engage more people in worship leadership. If done well, this creative element – though not flashy – will bring a sense of wonder and newness to your church service. Blessings!

For a copy of the choral psalm reading, go to the Thoughts & Ideas page at www.studioninetysix.org.

Resonating and Relating

akedahCallie J. Smith
Preaching Artist in Residence

Studio Ninety-Six

Stories have a way of coming alive. They gather us together. They offer us deeper glimpses of each other. They show us things we care about in a new light. In fact, I would call storytelling and story-listening a form not only of creativity but of spirituality, as well. The creative and the spiritual can involve us in passionate, whole-person experiences that draw us closer to our fellows and deepen our connections with this world.

Earlier this year, I began a journey with a cohort of twelve other artists in the “Religion, Spirituality and the Arts” (RSA) symposium, a multi-faith, multi-disciplinary partnership between Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary (CTS). The goal was to study the “Akedah,” or the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22 in the Christian Bible), a story that all three Abrahamic traditions share even as we interpret it very differently.

As a Christian clergyperson, I was drawn to the idea of genres and venues that are not circumscribed by a single faith tradition or set apart from the more public settings where artistic and spiritual expression also change lives. I believe, in fact, that artistic voices steeped in faith commitment ought not to be limited to faith community or religious setting, at all. Artistic expression can resonate in multi-faith settings, secular environments, and the many other venues that lay claim on our contemporary lives.

As a writer and “spoken word artist,” I was drawn to the RSA project as an opportunity for developing relationships. More and more, it’s been a deepening priority of mine to find a broad base of creatively-focused relationships. Part of my rationale for founding the Studio Ninety-Six community at CTS, and continuing on now as an artist-in-residence there, has been to nurture space where artists, theologians and other creative types could interact, challenge each other, and cooperate in ways that benefited the work of all involved. The collaborative, interdisciplinary learning impulse of this RSA symposium resonated irresistibly.

I look forward to seeing what artistic work emerges for the RSA’s April 30th exhibit opening at CTS. I think it’s already safe to say that, across the spectrum of artistic disciplines represented, stories will be coming alive that night.

Entering “the HIVE”

CTSCommunityLifeI can’t overrate the role of people and place in the creative process.

That’s part of my excitement to find Studio Ninety-Six gearing up for springtime 2014. This year, spring will be a little different, and in a really good way. The Studio is joining with Christian Theological Seminary in a pilot project called ‘the HIVE’ (Hub for Innovation, Vision, and Entrepreneurship). According to Brenda Freije, Director of Networking and Recruitment at CTS as well as Director of Studio Ninety-Six, “The vision is to attract, over time, a network of ministry innovators and social entrepreneurs who are doing interesting things nearby, and who crave co-working space and community that our campus could provide.”

Part of this inaugural team of non-profits, artists, and social entrepreneurs whose work is shaped by commitment to God and neighbor, Studio Ninety-Six will be involved pilot stages of this project in the weeks and months ahead. The HIVE will use space in the CTS main building not far from the vibrant new Café. It will provide a venue for networking and imagining. It will promote initiatives that apply creative thinking and tactics to solving local community and world challenges. It will offer a place of spiritual care and encouragement for those whose efforts are critical to the life, health and beauty of our communities.

As a writer and a “spoken word artist,” I appreciate that. As much as I need the quiet time and solitude to focus on certain kinds of work, I also appreciate the dialogue and the questions, the surprises and explanations, the curious kinds of interactions and insights that come from sharing space with others. Acknowledging how strongly our day-to-day relationships and interactions spur the creative process, I’m excited on behalf of the Studio team to see what these next weeks and months hold at CTS.

Keep an eye on the Studio Ninety-Six website to see what does, indeed, pop up for our Studio artists and thinkers this spring . . .

Risk of Faith Exhibit Now Open



This past Friday evening (May 31), Studio Ninety-Six and Christian Theological Seminary celebrated the opening of the “Risk of Faith” exhibit in the seminary’s Town Square area.

We enjoyed live performances by local musicians Brenda Freije, Christian Kemp, Joe Paulson and Terry Waggoner. Also, “best of category” awards were announced for the following artists from local congregations:

Photographic/Video Expression – Stephanie Binney (North United Methodist Church), “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

Visual Art Expression – Linda Witte Henke (Bethlehem Lutheran Church), “Tabula Rasa”

Musical Expression – Frank Bradford (Zionsville United Methodist Church), “Don’t Cry for Tomorrow”

The “Risk of Faith” exhibit will be up in the Christian Theological Seminary Town Square through Noon this Friday, June 7th and is free and open to the public. We hope you’ll have a chance to visit. Exhibit Opening

Studio Ninety-Six collaborates with the Spirit & Place Festival

INDIANAPOLIS – The annual Spirit & Place Festival begins its 18th year with “Living Into the Edge,” the start of a new, year-round Signature Series of events, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9 at the Christian Theological Seminary Shelton Auditorium, 1000 W. 42nd Street. The event will feature international writer, theologian, and liturgical artist Peter Rollins alongside singer-songwriter Liz Janes and local social entrepreneurs Laura Henderson of Growing Places Indy and Derrick Braziel of Dreamapolis.

The inaugural event of an ongoing sequence of Signature Series programs exploring the 2013 festival theme “risk” through improvisation, graffiti, entrepreneurship and more, “Living Into the Edge” will feature a vibrant conversation and performance, followed by a question-and-answer session with the eclectic mix of innovators. The event will be moderated by Christian Theological Seminary President Matthew Myer Boulton.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.cts.edu or at the door. Refreshments will be available in the café beginning at 6 p.m. For more information, call 317.931.4225.

“Living Into the Edge” is presented by the Spirit & Place Festival and Christian Theological Seminary, with additional support from Studio Ninety Six, Grace Unlimited and Community of the Living Spirit. A portion of this program is made possible through a Worship Renewal Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., with funds provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc.

“Music, theology, business, food… every area of life has the opportunity walk up to or run from the edges of our comfort zone,” says Spirit & Place Festival Director Pamela Blevins-Hinkle. “We are excited to be working with these community partners to launch this new series that explores the Spirit & Place 2013 theme of RISK.”


About the Spirit & Place Festival

The Spirit & Place Festival catalyzes civic engagement and enduring change through creative collaborations among the arts, religion, and humanities. Spirit & Place is a collaborative community project managed by The Polis Center, part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Major financial contributors include Lilly Endowment Inc.; Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc.; The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of CICF; IUPUI/IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; the University of Indianapolis; as well as more than 200 other community partners and donors.  For more information, call The Polis Center at (317) 274-2455 or visit www.spiritandplace.org. This year’s festival takes place Nov. 1-10, 2013.

About Christian Theological Seminary

Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) is a fully accredited ecumenical seminary and is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It offers eight graduate-level degree programs, including theology, ministry and counseling, with specializations in ministries that emphasize the arts and programs for life-long learning. More than 30 denominations are represented among its faculty and students.

About Studio Ninety-Six

Studio Ninety-Six is a community of theologians, worship designers, artists, and thoughtful folks interested in deeply engaging the mystery of God, working through a lens of faith to expand our understanding of this world we inhabit, and living fully by loving the things of God more intently, particularly our neighbors in whatever form we encounter them. Our mission is to share intellectually honest, thoughtfully crafted, culturally savvy and theologically rich art and resources for the journey of life.