Exploring the Intersection of Art, Faith and the Human experience

ALIVE! Mural Project: Transforming environments into places of joy, healing and hope

 “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  – Frederick Buechner

I found my calling and great joy as a school social worker, but when worsening illness required me to step back from that work, I felt adrift. What I’ve come to realize is that my calling and giftings have not changed; it’s the format of the expression that needs to shift. One of my gifts is facilitating connections.

 “For many years I’ve felt that art is a way to transform environments into places of healing, because some environments can also be harmful when we make them too utilitarian – the person can end up feeling out of place- who wants to live in a utility room? Being able to do this in a place like ALIVE is really great.” -Matthew Kiehl

Because of this, a couple of years ago, I was inspired to deepen the connection between Convergence and ALIVE! (ALexandrians InVolved Ecumenically), a local nonprofit that acts as a “safety net for the needy in the city of Alexandria, addressing short-term to long-term needs for those less fortunate in the community.” I began a monthly food collection at our church. Then, last summer, I prepared a short presentation about the various ministries of ALIVE! and shared this with our congregation. Rodney Blake took up the mantle as congregational representative, and as Convergence has been more involved with ALIVE!, we’ve learned more about how we can apply our giftings through partnership with other local non-profits to benefit the community. For me, helping to link Convergence with ALIVE! has been part of the new expression of God’s gifts in my life, and I’ve been gratified to see this alliance blossom and take unique shape.

“As a painter, it brought me joy to have an opportunity to do what I love, but even more, to do so in collaboration with others, as a contribution to the ALIVE! community.” – Jordan Ingram

With Convergence’s focus on the arts, painting a mural in the playroom at the ALIVE! House, a shelter for women and children in Alexandria, was a perfect way to use the giftings of Convergence’s many talented artists to bring joy to children in need. Accomplished painter, Lynne Heiser Blake, with help from her step-daughter, Delaney, designed the whimsical mural and then involved other artists from the Convergence community. Kate Ingram, Jordan Ingram, Gwyneth Kiehl, Matthew Kiehl, Diana Pregenzer, her daughter Chloe, Rodney Blake and Jay Smith all assisted in completing the mural.

“People need love, fun and beauty in their lives not just food and shelter. We hope the children see the mural as a gift and that it can help show them that they too are a gift, cherished and valuable, in case there is any doubt.” -Matthew and Gwyneth Kiehl

The Convergence artists not only enjoyed the process of painting the mural, we hope that adding this element of beauty to the ALIVE! House will nurture the spirits of all who inhabit the space. I am personally thankful to have had the opportunity, along with the Convergence community, to use my gifts to serve the women and children of the ALIVE! House in a unique way.

Stephanie Mass


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