By Ashley Grant and Videography by Jim Altieri
Part One of a Three Part Series of Videos for exploring the Potter and the Clay as a Metaphor for Faith Formation, for shaping faith, for developing leaders and for discerning call. Running Time: 10:47
Trevor Youngberg, a woodfire potter in Woodridge, CT and ceramics teacher, reflects on the inspiring individuals and path that have led to his vocation.
Clay, the raw material for pottery, comes from all over the world; varieties and combinations of clay bodies are vast. Similarly, faith formation materials and opportunities are many and varied and accessible. In both cases for these raw materials, one needs to know what he is looking for, needs knowledge of the functionality of the piece to be created or the task to be accomplished. So we find importance in years of experimenting and throwing in the pottery and years of field experience of faith formation practitioners who can curate and cull through materials.
Trevor starts a new piece with reflection. He works in series, creating several of the style in one sitting to gain insights on the creation. Faith Formation practitioners gain insights through experience whether in teaching confirmation, leading Bible studies, creating programs that meet the needs of the congregation. Through the experience, these leaders, like the potter learn about the raw materials and the created piece and considers the one or group who will use the piece.
“I always work in series,” Trevor explains, “because you gain a familiarity with the particular sequence to the making of that piece. You gain a fluidity through that familiarity...sometimes a couple of them may take a step beyond the preconception and that’s where you develop the form or discover new things about it that you may not have preconceived. That’s where the excitement comes in.”
When it comes to throwing, technique and skill take over. That is what years of practice and training provide. In the process, the potter learns to adjust and respond to the piece in mid-creation. Through development of skills, each can gain a sense assessing need and responding accordingly, being flexible to the process and factors that arise.
Trevor can articulate the sensation of pulling a piece to the brink of collapse, knowing when to apply pressure and when to stretch. He also believes faith formers can assist others in developing their faith, keeping the idea of “unconditional love in mind” so that individuals can grow in faith. Trevor recalls the influence of his mom in his own faith formation and the way that she listened and was present in listening. Whether in offering critique or praise, unconditional love keeps the line of communication open for continued faith development. This is important to remember in professional relationships as well, whether mentored relationships or engagement with peers.
You aren’t done yet. Faith formation doesn’t stop with Confirmation. After the shape of the vessel is right, there process is far from over.
Are you encouraging life-long faith formation among adults in our church communities? [Growing Together] What are next steps for formation that you can suggest to our churches? Do you feel that your church concentrates on interior formation?
Trevor describes how he throws a bowl and using his hands shows the importance of creating the interior of the bowl, fluid from base to walls. He adds, “if you focus on the interior, functional space of the bowl, then the profile, the look of the piece, reflects that and is pleasing to the eye.” But the piece isn’t ready until you carve the foot, give it a foundation that can support it.
How do you make a piece truly functional? Drying, glazing and firing all bring the clay to life!
What is your refiner’s fire?
The refiner’s fire continues a process that will carry the piece beyond the potter’s hands and into service. Whether considering the durability for the uses of daily life or sacramental life in the church or considering the aesthetic of the glazes that happen within the fire, the outcomes far exceed anything that we could possibly imagine. The finished vessels remind us of God’s creative power. “Every firing is a lesson in humility.”
Video 2. -The Potter and the Clay: discerning your call (6:09)
Video 3. -The Potter and the Clay: Faith Formation (8:14)
Additional Resources for Study and Engagement.
A beautiful example of Trevor's work, reminder of the basin and the towel.