Many of you know the amazing work of Connie Denninger and her vision for “Visual Faith.” Recently I had a chance to ask her about the story behind her work. Here’s what she had to say:
I have been a visual kinesthetic learner since my earliest memories. SHOW me and let me DO IT. Then it connects. I have been teaching Visual Faith practices for over twenty years with Keep the Faith projects that connect my personal faith story and His faithfulness, After meeting Sybil MacBeth at a Praying in Color event we hosted, I have been teaching Visual prayer practices for ten years. I jumped into the Bible Journaling communities when it first started. I think I was #43 in the Illustrated Faith Community that now has 42, 900 members. One of the early fascinations was the incredible need for community in the Bible Journaling world.
Often members could not find anyone else that was “processing” life and Word this way. It was both permission-giving and affirming. The Holy Spirit used both of those in such a way that people were not able to “be silent” about what they were seeing and learning. They HAD to tell others.
I had finished reading Lisa Hickman’s Writing in the Margins about 6 months before I stumbled onto Bible Journaling online. When I found out that Shanna Noel and Lisa didn’t know about each other and how the Lord was working in their own lives, it was time to bring them together. So Illustrated Faith- Virginia happened in Nov 2015, in Northern Virginia and I saw what it could possibly mean to raise up teachers and coaches to bring these visual faith practices to our families, churches and neighborhoods. Now that has evolved into the launch of Visual Faith Ministry- a website and ministry that brings together resources and a coaching and encouragement team that seeks to raise up the gifts of the laity in the Kingdom in a collaborative learning community. The Lord has been faithful. My role in all of this has been to be a “condoit” of grace that connects the gifts of His people.
I don’t consider myself an artist in that I can draw “images”, but delight in using creative approaches for making a section of Scripture highlighted in a way that makes it easier for me to see and remember. These tools have been very helpful in dealing with my diagnosis of “spiritual amnesia” and the challenge to remember God’s faithfulness to me on a daily basis. Many of my additions in the margins center around events and celebrations and worship services. That connects to may support role to my husband who serves as a Bishop of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod in the Southeastern District. Often the entries are just the lectionary connections to the readings for a worship service. We refer to this as the simple practice of “worship into the week”. How does a worship service experience become the center of my meditation in His Word for the rest of the week? This has brought me much Joy- to simply spend more time in God’s Word.
Most of my margin work is simply rewriting a small section of a Scripture reading that “stands out” in my reading. I often use an ancient practice called Lectio Divina that moves me to read a portion of Scripture a number of times and seek the words the Holy Spirit needs ME to SEE. One of the things I teach people is to turn their own handwriting into a font. So the words often are simply my own handwriting, with a “wild outline” that creates a space for adding colored pencil. I have not done well with looking at a font and “recreating” the letters. This has been my simple adjustment to allow my own writing to be the center of my marginal interactions. So a margin might start out with a rapid writing in the margin during a worship service and then the rest is finished during the week. It became an amazing blessing to realize that those scribbles, when pinned on Pinterest or shared in an online community becomes a witness of blessing to hundreds and thousands of people. My go to supplies are regular colored pencils, alpha stickers, a Micron or non-bleeding fine-point Sharpie and washi tape. However, anything is game to be in the margins- from magazine photos, to worship service images, or a pretty napkin.
I love hosting open studio events called Creative Haven that invite a host of people to stop by, pick up a new visual prayer handout, try a new product or assemble a Make and Take project.
In November 2016, I got an email from Joanne Fink asking if I would help to take an editing look at her book- The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling. She found me on Instagram. She saw that my work is to teach others to teach others about visual faith engagement practices. What a fun experience and the forging of a wonderful relationship with Joanne. Our team now seeks to design ways to use her product line for Michael’s Stores in our Visual Faith communities. It has been a blessed connection to share in the 14 Facebook Visual Faith Communities in the United States and one in Israel outside of Jerusalem.
One of my greatest joys is that Visual Faith connections have blessed the lives of my three daughters as they personally use these tools of engagement and bring the practices to others. It is truly a gift that blesses from one generation to another as we gather around tables in our homes and worship centers.
Connie Denninger—November 2017