Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry: Ribbons ’n’ Roses
The sun would just be coming through the early morning clouds as I drove through the quiet, on my way to the Flower Mart in downtown Los Angeles. It was part of the ritual, the dance, of doing this work that I loved. I only did it part time and I only did it for seven years, but I loved it.
It began with our eldest daughter’s wedding. We were on a budget, I enjoyed working with flowers, and I saw an opportunity inviting me to leap. So I jumped in with both feet. I applied for a resale number from the state of California, hired a friend to design a logo and business cards, and “Ribbons ‘n’ Roses” was born.
I worked with a good friend to produce beautiful floral décor for about two weddings or parties every month. I loved the creativity, the people, and the beauty of each arrangement, but I suppose my favorite part of all was that early morning drive to the Flower Mart, a place packed with rich delights and unholy confusion. Most of the mart is contained in one enormous, two-story warehouse with scores of individual flower vendors and one large supply center. Driving into the garage while it is nearly dark and then emerging into this brightly lit, bustling activity center is an exercise in delightful cognitive dissonance.
Carts and trucks are loaded, advice is given, cash is handed over, packages are wrapped—all of it infused with the sweet scent of flowers. With the car loaded and my bills paid, I would usually end the morning with breakfast at the adjacent Chinese diner. I would listen to conversations between buyers and sellers as they ate their char siu pork, rice, and eggs, absorbing as much information as I could.
I had no training, you see. I learned as I went. I watched others do this work, marveling at the tricks and secrets they revealed. Experimenting in my garage, I learned the importance of hardening off: cutting freshly-bought flowers and putting them immediately into buckets of cool, nutrient-enriched water for several hours before arranging. I learned how to make small things, like boutonnieres, and large arrangements that stood four to five feet tall, securing them with floral tape and clay.
The more I learned, the more I began to see how this form of visual art added beauty that went beyond the senses. Seeing the lilies and roses, the bouvardia and star aster add color and fragrance to those ceremonies and gatherings, I began to think of my work as an offering of sorts. A gift to the couples, to friends, to family. A ministry.
My seven-year stint as a part-time florist deepened and encouraged my love of ceremony and ritual and offered opportunity to support and encourage people during critical times in their lives. During the last fours years of my work in floral design, I was also studying systematic theology and church history as a seminary student; soon after closing down my small business, I answered God’s call to pastoral ministry. And as I entered those ministry years, I took with me a powerful truth, honed and heightened while doing floral work: an appreciation for beauty is a defining characteristic of a fully lived human life.
Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry
This article is part of The High Calling series, Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry. At The High Calling, we believe that art creates a space where people may encounter God, opening a door for transformation. Have you felt it? It’s the way the light ripples across water; it’s the way a good story names something within you; it’s the music you dream in the middle of the night that haunts you in the day. God uses beauty to touch us in the deepest places. As image-bearers of the one true God, we are also co-creators with him, made to impact our culture and each other through the art we bring to life. Does this resonate with you? If so, consider sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or through your other social media and friendship networks.
Image by Nathan Gibbs. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.