2019 Workshops and Breakout Sessions

Vermont Conference on Christianity and the Arts: 2019 Breakout Descriptions

The following breakout sessions (workshops) are planned for the 2019 conference. Some workshops are still subject to change, and others may be added, as sessions develop.


Intersecting Faith and Story Craft (Eric Taylor)

As writers of faith, we sometimes have something we want to say – a moral, perhaps. Yet we also have the demands of story and of craft, and these resist moralizing. The session looks at the intersection of these two sides, and it also looks at some of the big picture elements that come up in the course of editing our work from a big picture perspective.

Nature and Narrative Non-Fiction: Writing into the Unwritable (Matthew Dickerson)

In his essay “A Native Hill,” Wendell Berry writes, “It is the privilege and the labor of the apprentice of creation to come with his imagination into the unimaginable, and with his speech into the unspeakable.” In this workshop, Matthew Dickerson discusses why this is such an important and worthwhile task for writers—especially writers of Christian faith—and how it can be done well.  

Crafting Short Creative Non-fiction (Eric Taylor)

Creative non-fiction involves writing about real events (for example, stories from our own lives) using techniques of creative writing to also have powerful writing and good story. We’ll talk about elements of focus and craft and style that strength creative non-fiction, elements that help us move hearts while telling a good story and avoiding being preachy. The principles apply to longer writing as well, but in this session, we’ll focus on very short non-fiction (flash non-fiction). Exercises will guide you through a few different types of writing. Then you’ll be able to either continue the exercises or use the techniques to shape a story from an event you want to write about.

What Fiction Writers Can Learn from Narrative Songs (Matthew Dickerson)

Narrative songwriters have to tell a story in very few words . . . and many of them do it quite well. Matthew Dickerson will lead a discussion of a few narrative songs by some wonderful song-smiths including Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, and Julie Miller. We will explore how these narrative craftspersons carefully choose and describe just a few scenes that imply much of the untold story while developing empathy with their characters, and ask how fiction writers can learn from that to improve our own craft.

The Vermont Conference on Christianity and the Arts, 2008. General sessions were held in the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church, Middlebury.


Writing Poems of Gratitude (Abigail Carroll)

“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast. In this workshop, we will read poems of gratefulness, explore poetry-writing as a lens through which to see the world as gift, and put pen to paper in search of our own practice of gratitude through verse. All levels of writing experience welcome.

Word and World: Sound as Incarnational Technique (Benjamin Myers)

We will explore how poetic devices such as alliteration and assonance can bridge the divide between word and thing and how choices in diction can contribute to a poetics that honors our creator God.

The Redeeming Image: Poetic Concreteness as the Antidote to Gnosticism (Benjamin Myers)

This workshop will help participants focus their poems on concrete images to better connect their words to embodied experience. Participants will generate a memory-based poem in the course of the workshop.

Visual Arts

Learning to Listen as an Artist & Responding in Your Art (Kevin Moffatt)

In this workshop, we’ll begin with historical methods of spiritual attention to the voice of God: Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading” of Scripture), contemplative prayer, etc. We’ll take time to meditate on a Scripture passage and focus on what stands out. Then we’ll consider what sorts of images that “hearing” suggests and how we can respond artistically. We’ll conclude by discussing what we “heard” and our various responses in our different artistic mediums and approaches.  

Photographing Stick Season: Discovering Vermont’s Sense of Place in Late Autumn (Paul Rogers)

While Vermont is legendary for its handsome seasons, its in-between seasons––especially late autumn––are times when one can explore its unadorned landscape and culture to find a sense of place. Vermont photographer Paul Rogers shares images and insights from his decade-long documentary project called Stick Season.

Keeping It Re(a)levant: Authentic Art, Cultural Relevancy and Growing God’s Kingdom (Sarah McNulty)

Together we’ll explore what it means to be culturally relevant, why it’s an important aspect of our Faith and how our art, (whatever form it may take), fits in to the picture.

Film and Originality (Cameron Bushey)

In a world glutted with countless films and videos, it can feel like every chair at the table is taken, like fresh and original creations are impossible.  How does one find a style and a voice that’s uniquely one’s own? Is original even possible?  Cameron will walk participants through a process, not of searching for more options, but of carefully choosing limitations. When we creatively explore within chosen boundaries, our own style and voice will emerge, and we will find ourselves being original. 

Block Printing with Linoleum (Kristine Fradenburg)

In 1905, a German artist began using linoleum, a common flooring material, to create a new form of block relief printing. In this workshop, we’ll learn how to use this art form, carving images into linoleum blocks, rolling ink onto the surface, and make prints from that. No experience is necessary, and all materials will be provided. (Small materials fee may be required.) If you wish, bring a simple sketch to work from.

Watercolor (Linda Turner)

Sifting through what truly moves and shifts our creativity into an authentic thriving state is key to living a full, adventurous life.  By cleaning out the old and clarifying what gives us joy is a part of maximizing how God made you unique. To miss the connection of God’s design through your pleasure is to live and create only halfway.  We will be doing some very simple hands-on “coloring” with the attendee’s choice of various art supplies, and learning to live free.

Theater in the Church (Patty Orgain Wood)

Church dramas have been presented for centuries. Before the faithful could read, these were an effective means of teaching scripture and inspiring faith. Today, many churches integrate dramatic presentations in their services – short humorous skits, serious monologues, long re-enactments with sets and full-scale production. This workshop sets the stage with basic considerations for developing a short skit. We’ll supply basic props and costumes, offer concepts, coach and encourage you to be creative and play with ideas. This workshop is for everyone interested in drama–newbies and old hands alike. We’ll open hearts and minds to Inspiration, learn from each other, and hopefully have some fun!


Songwriting Workshop (Kenny Hutson & Katy Bowser Hutson )

Katy and Kenny Hutson will join forces and discuss, display and consider how they write songs. (Sometimes this requires boxing gloves and marriage counseling, and sometimes it is marriage counseling.) This could possibly cover form, melody, lyrics, harmony, combining styles and taking risks.  The second half will be time to dig into songwriting with session participants. Bring any material in progress, or show up not knowing a thing and curious to learn about something new. This will be safe and fun!

The Kingdom of God and Belly Buttons ( Katy Bowser Hutson )

Katy Bowser Hutson makes music for children and families, previously with Coal Train Railroad (jazz) and now primarily with Rain for Roots, giving God’s big story to little ones. She’ll consider how we love and serve children with music, and what children teach us about the nature of the kingdom of God.

The Arts in Service to Others

Art and Therapy (Christine Wilkins)

Christine will present information regarding the documented benefits and uses of expressive and creative art.  She will also look at some of the uses of expressive and creative arts in both psychotherapy and Christian faith practices.  Participants will be guided in an expressive/creative art practice and then we will debrief this as a group. Participants will also be given some ideas on how to incorporate some expressive/ creative art practices to support emotional and spiritual wellness. Topics included will be using art to relax, to express joy, bereavement and deep and/or difficult thoughts and emotions. This workshop is not intended to diagnose or provide participants with treatment for any diagnosed mental health concern or condition. This workshop is for emotional and spiritual wellness purposes only.