When I was discerning what to do after seminary, the verse that recurred to me was “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.” I could not have received a more powerful word for what would come. As I interned and interviewed in different churches, sometimes I encountered ignorance and racism. In other churches, although the job was publicly advertised, I was politely told that only male applicants would be considered. In another church I was informed that I would fulfill the job expectations of a pastor, but would not be ordained and thus would not receive the same rate of pay, benefits, and sabbatical that the other ordained pastors enjoy. While not the most decisive factor, this was certainly discouraging.
Throughout my search, I maintained a studio practice where I would pray, paint, reflect, study, draw, and carve printing blocks. While I waited for an opportunity to preach, I painted as if my paintings were the only way I could communicate theology. I painted prayers for the healing of others and for myself. In my painting I began to work out a theophany. I no longer needed a church job to justify my theological studies. While I wanted to be responsible for the training I had received, if the door was not open yet, I could wait. I was not owed a church job because I had studied theology. Rather, the chance to study theology was simply God’s gift to me and I had accepted it.
Eventually, God provided an invitation to preach and teach in the church. I no longer need to be teaching in the church to justify my training, or to assert a woman’s place. Instead, the act of preparing a sermon and preaching is a chance to explore God’s love more and to encourage other believers towards God’s love.
A few years ago, I took a position as a creative arts psychotherapist. My work helps people reflect on why they react the way they do, and how they might change patterns of behaviors to achieve healthier and happier relationships and experiences. I also help children know that they are seen and understood, and then I help their adults understand and be more compassionate. In this season, I minister beyond the church walls. I see the faithful love of God for his creation, and how he ceaselessly extends his love in the form of mercies: abusers are stopped and rehabilitated, people gain healing and restoration from brokenness and dysfunctional habits of thinking. I see the grace of God in the way this work holds back the erosion of God’s image in people. “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”
~ Deborah Fung
Deborah’s dream is to work in the formation of the Christian imagination, where art and theology coincide. She works as a children’s art psychotherapist where she helps families heal from traumas, and coaches parents and teachers to be more empathic and understanding of young children. She moonlights as an artist and her paintings (like the banner at the top of this page) can be viewed at www.Deborahfung.com. Deborah has worked with churches to develop youth ministries, art ministries, and worship ministries. Deborah holds an M.Div from Regent College, an M.A. in Art therapy from GWU, and a B.A. in Art and Biblical studies from Wheaton College.