Visual Faith at a Theological Symposium

The 30th Annual Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis took place September 17-18 under the theme Devoted: (Re)Forming the Devotional Life.

This relevant theme allowed participants and speakers to “explore the topic of devotion in all its complexity, (re)forming our devotional lives into lives of devotion. Attendees will walk away refreshed and equipped to encounter the challenges of our contemporary culture with the depths of God’s Word and the breadth of His work.”

The Symposium was created for the benefit of Continuing Education for Ordained Ministers, Deaconesses, Professional Church Workers, and laity.

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

Valerie Matyas, Educational Development Consultant for Visual Faith Ministries, shares about her experience teaching visual faith at the symposium here:

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

I had the opportunity and honor of leading a break out session. Visual Faith lends itself beautifully to the devotional life. As a Visual Faith Coach, I am able to engage, equip, and encourage people of all ages and professions in taking a creative, visual approach to the devotional life.

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

We discussed the struggles and obstacles of engaging in prayer and scripture in our devotional life. It is important to learn how to pause and focus. Visual Faith allows us to slow down and pay attention. It is both a practice and a product. It gives us a visual reminder for our remembrance and to equip us in reaching out to others. 

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

[Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

We used the tool of Visual Prayer with the application of “Secret Code Prayer” to force ourselves to slow our pace and deepen our connection in conversation with our Heavenly Father. It is the difference between speeding down a highway and walking down a highway. We see more, notice more, are aware of more, because the pace forces us to be readily observant.

Dr. Beth Hoeltke, director of the Graduate School at Concordia Seminary, is caught enjoying a moment of light-heartedness. [Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

Dr. Beth Hoeltke, director of the Graduate School at Concordia Seminary, is caught enjoying a moment of light-heartedness. [Photo credit: Concordia Seminary]

I enjoy using humor in my presentations to lighten the mood on what is a common struggle for so many followers of Christ: How to remain engaged in prayer and scripture when our lives are full of distraction, disenchantment, and disillusionment?

  Our lives are sometimes messy, our prayer and devotional lives often disorganized and disarrayed. Having spiritual tools for our spiritual toolbox can help to make sense of the mess. It allows us a wider lens into how God is working in our lives and the lives of His people.

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

The room is always completely silent when participants are visually praying or reflecting creatively to scripture. Sometimes we need to carve time out of our day for such a practice. The creative, visual, tangible approach creates a hook that draws us back again and again. Allowing participants an opportunity to apply the techniques and experience the practice offers a better understanding for the potential impact on the personal devotional life. I tell people, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We cannot create time, lose time, or gain time. How we prioritize our time is up to us. It often takes discipline. Enjoying our time spent in prayer and in the Word helps us to want to prioritize that time.” We leverage the visual, linguistic, and kinesthetic practice of drawing, doodling, and creating to keep us accountable and engaged.

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

[Photo credit: Valerie Matyas]

My Visual Faith presentations are often for lay women. Sometimes I have the opportunity to present Professional Development for the spiritual formation of Lutheran and Catholic School Teachers and Administrators. Every once in awhile I get to go into classrooms of Lutheran day schools and speak directly to students. It was a rare and special occasion to be able to speak to Ordained Ministers of the Word and church workers affiliated with the Seminary. It is the desire of Visual Faith Ministry for these tools to be used to further equip the people of God’s Kingdom. May it be to His Glory.

[Photo credit: Kyle Fittje]

[Photo credit: Kyle Fittje]

I wanted to thank Rev. Dr. David Schmitt, the Gregg H. Benidt Chair in Homiletics and Literature, for inviting me to speak. His involvement in this year’s Symposium and his passion for seeing the devotional life for more than just reading and meditating silently in isolation, opened the door for great conversations and insight regarding the multifaceted opportunities for devotional life.

[Image credit: Marsha Baker]

[Image credit: Marsha Baker]

I was abundantly blessed to have the founder of BlessInks and fellow Visual Faith Coach Marsha Baker attend my sectional. She beautifully and creatively captured my presentation using her unique style of sketch notes. Sketch notes are another example of Visual Faith, a practice that I enjoy using during Sunday Sermons.

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Valerie Matyas is a Visual Faith Classroom Coach joining a love for all things Visual Faith with the heart passion of an educator to forge new pathways into schools and congregational life. She is a graduate student at Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI. pursuing a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Valerie is passionate about Parochial Education as well as supporting and encouraging professional church workers and laity in their personal devotional and prayer lives. She seeks to encourage God's people, of all ages, to literally draw closer to Him through creative reflection and loves to develop tools to open these faith-sharing doors for her family and others.