Fuel your God-given creativity and tell your story
Why making beautiful things matters
Amanda Viviers seems to have lived ten lifetimes in one, encouraging people to share stories and listen with empathy. Eternity sat with Amanda to learn about her story and dig into her advice for those who want to fuel their God-given creativity.
Viviers is the Creative Director at Compassion Australia and spends her days helping to tell stories of impact and transformation. She has also published 14 books, trained and worked in musical theatre and previously served for almost two decades as a Creative Minister for a large church in Western Australia. She is also a speaker, radio presenter and gatherer of kindred spirits.
Viviers grew up in a large Catholic family who were well-connected and altruistic, serving local communities in their coastal town of Rockingham, 47km south of Perth in Western Australia.
“Our family is passionate about deepening people’s understanding of the power of liturgy, social justice and local communities.”
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“Our family is passionate about deepening people’s understanding of the power of liturgy, social justice and local communities,” says Viviers.
Her father was a local counsellor in Rockingham and her uncle was the mayor. Her mother was devoted to her faith and helping the homeless, starting a not-for-profit that created homes for homeless young mothers. Both her uncle and my mother were honoured with Orders of Australia for their work in the community, providing food security, housing and creating vital social networks for displaced people.
Though deeply influenced by her family’s altruism, Viviers initially pursued study and a career in professional musical theatre. Her trajectory changed, however, when she had an encounter with the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Youth movement in the late-90s.
A call to creative ministry
“I had put all my heart, effort and time into that career, but I gave it all up overnight to go to Bible college because I had this intense call to ministry,” says Viviers. During her time at Bible college, she was offered a creative ministry role at Riverview Church in Perth. “In the late-90s there weren’t a lot of churches who had art teams or theatre teams or dance teams,” Viviers reflects.
She was able to bring her creative arts training and experience in the Catholic church to this pioneering role at a time when most churches limited creative expression to a worship team. She brought innovative creative expression to worship, services and events. “We did a massive four-by-six-metre live painting of Jesus on a stage. We ran a creative arts festival for about four years. On Sunday nights after church, we would have a battle of the bands.”
Viviers was invited to help produce experiences at Parachute Festival and Easter Fest. “Innovation became a fire that started to light up and bring new expressions,” she says. Her church also initiated an event called ‘Church Together’. For ten years, many churches across Perth, of around 18,000 people, would gather to worship together for one night.
“Creativity is not just a performance but an encounter with Jesus,” Viviers emphasises. She reflects that this was an exciting time as a young adult to see the church moving and changing, the old meeting the new in a kind of reformation.
A call to write
In the midst of all of this, Viviers felt a deep call to write. “I remembered that when I was 15 years old, although my dreams were around musical theatre, I’d had a desire to write.” She found herself one New Year’s Eve, single. in her late 20s and having a kind of young adult midlife crisis.
“I set myself a New Year’s goal of writing a book to see what could happen.” That January, she wrote a chapter every day. “I moved everything away. I wasn’t married, no children. I just had that abandonment to the ridiculous,” she says. After 31 days, she had a manuscript and by the end of the year, her first book was published. It became popular in the young adult creative space and was sold in secular and Christian bookstores.
“I came from this place of being focused on creative arts and then leaned into writing and the power of stories and helping people to use creativity as a vehicle to learn from their story and see the meta-narrative of what God is doing in their lives,” she explains.
Creativity and the presence of God
For Viviers, creativity is powerful because God, the ultimate creator, made us in his likeness.
“As we pursue creativity, the intimacy that we desire with God is deepened.” In her estimation, creativity can help us to be more honest and authentic and sharpen our sense of God’s presence.
She suggests creativity is the antidote to performance-driven perfectionism.
Viviers encourages people to find ways to allow creativity to be a part of their everyday rhythm with God. She suggests this is the antidote to performance-driven perfectionism that many creatives struggle with. “It’s not about what we produce, but it’s about how we create a rhythm in the everyday of how we express who we are,” says Viviers.
“I think the modern church may have lost the power of pilgrimage and story. The need for testimony to bring back humanity and vulnerability in the church.” For her, stories are transformational to communities.
Storytelling at work
Viviers considers the Bible the greatest example of storytelling and legacy at work through the ages.
“I’ve been thinking about the people who wrote the New Testament letters to instruct, remind and encourage believers. And I’ve been thinking about who is writing the ‘letters’ to the church today, what stories will inform and support the church in coming decades,” she says.
“Beauty creates connection and that matters because God desires relationship.”
She encourages anyone who wants to share their story to consider “how we share the plumb line of grace that encourages and builds others.”
(In the Bible, the plumb line is the image of God’s righteous and holy standard that Israel failed to embody in their lives.)
For those who wonder if making beautiful things or sharing beautiful stories matters, Viviers declares, “Beauty creates connection and that matters because God desires relationship. Beauty creates intimacy, longing, attention and focus.”
“We can make creativity about producing and performing, but it’s about encountering the presence of God. That’s the intersection of faith and beauty together.”
Disconnecting to be present
With the pervasive distraction of digital technology always at hand, Viviers encourages us to carve out creative space by switching off. “I’m mindful of creating rhythms of disconnecting from technology. I’m intentional about what I give my time to and how I can be more present for my family, for my faith and for my work,” says Viviers.
She emphasises the importance of checking our technology use and whether we feel present. “For me, it’s also about finding rhythms around writing and really acknowledging my emotions, using journaling as a tool to tell the truth to myself before I can even tell the truth to others,” she shares.
Gathering in local communities around tables and being a part of a local church are also important to her. “We need the accountability of being in front of a person and being honest and real.”
Transition and transformation
Viviers would love to be known as someone who sits with people in moments of transition. “We want to move on really quickly when change happens; we want to know what the next thing is. But the in-between is a really telling place. It’s an opportunity for us not to do what we’ve always done and to see transformation there,” she says.
She acknowledges that it’s hard to see transformation when you’re in the middle of it. “But these can be the greatest times of learning in your life,” she says. “We need to hold space for reflection, ask questions, and learn from those experiences. Popularity does not equal success. Our vulnerability and authenticity are better measures of success.”
“Our vulnerability and authenticity are better measures of success.”
Over decades of writing and helping others express themselves, Viviers has concluded that every person’s story matters. “Somebody needs your story. The success of a story is not the number of people who’ve heard it or read it. Popularity does not equal success. Our vulnerability and authenticity is a better measure of success,” she says.
Maybe it’s our neighbour who needs our story, or our local community, or our family. Or maybe it has a larger impact, where many people resonate. “That’s God’s part, not ours. Bring it back to what God is saying to you and how you can find a way to encourage others.”