This past month, Bishop Andrew visited the Spirit Wind Center for Creativity and Healing in Connecticut. The studio is run by two lay pastors, James and Lisa Leach. It is an outreach to those in the surrounding community who are seeking spirituality out in the world, but who are given the chance to find healing prayer and creative expression done in the name of Jesus. The following was written by Jim and Lisa Leach on the mission and vision of Spirit Wind.
“This is such a safe place,” one of our partners said recently in our studio. We hear plenty about safety these days—safe zones, safe cities, safety measures—but what is safe? Is it to be cordoned off, never challenged, and always buffered?
We don’t think so.
At Spirit Wind Center, we’re constantly taking risks and living dangerously. The very start-up of this ministry required a leap: We (Jim & Lisa Leach) started over from scratch in our fifties, moving on a shoestring to Stonington, CT, where we didn’t know anyone yet. Seven years later, we continue to reinvent ourselves often and encourage others to do the same.
What inspired the leap?
A simple question: We asked ourselves what we’d do if there were no obstacles—if money were no object; if space, time and credentials weren’t an issue. Without the yah-buts, what was our dream? We both dreamed of a place where people could experience healing as well as engage in all sorts of creative work. Having ministered in a church setting for years, we wanted to branch out and bridge the gap between church culture and those who’d not normally gravitate to a church. What better place to do such a thing than a co-op art studio in an old factory building full of other artists and entrepreneurs, in a lovely village with a spunky heritage?
We thought so!
Spirit Wind Center is not a church, though we do have a chapel. And it’s not limited to local regulars, though we do love our precious fishing village friends and artsy colleagues in the area. Spirit Wind’s mission is part of a larger reinventive move of God—a way for the Church to turn itself inside out and interact dynamically with a wider community. It’s also part of a larger arts move, for the arts reach the heart in a way that mere information cannot.
PREPARING A PLACE
While the online world of virtual connections does have a wide reach, we believe that place is important, as is face-to-face time. We’ve aimed to create an environment conducive to healing, so for someone just walking into our space, God’s presence can be palpable and that person can sense all the invitation and promise of wholeness that His presence carries. What is neat to see is how people can sense the healing atmosphere and receive from God without knowing Him yet or hearing any persuasion from us. It’s not about us being super-healing celebrities or making people dependent on us; it’s all about coming into Him!
Beyond that ministry of place, we do nurture people personally. We may mentor through spiritual direction, healing appointments or classes, our mid-week services, prophetic training and street ministry—or we may meet for art coaching, creative groups, art parties or workshops and retreats. Whether in person or online, we like to grow organically—that is, through deep relationships. We’re not necessarily a huge organization, but being intimate, we can go deep and make a huge impact. Just as the boats built in Stonington years ago reached new lands across the globe, so this village has in its DNA the capacity for wide outreach from a small town portal. The saying is true: It takes a village.
WIDER INFLUENCE & REPRODUCTION
Through our books, art, articles and our bi-monthly newsletter, we’ve found our connections expanding beyond the region while retaining the personal feel of the place. Some have contacted us out of the blue, wanting to start up something similar to what we’re doing here. They’ve become partners and have Spirit Wind’s family traits, but with their own unique flavor. One couple in Idaho started up a café with a chapel, bookstore and after- school art program. Another in Michigan wants to start up a spiritual knitting & healing center. A pastor friend in California keeps us connected with others across the U.S. & internationally via monthly arts ministry Zoom sessions. Each one is stepping out of the comfort zone in different ways.
So what makes it safe here?
Just as commercial fishing is considered one of the most dangerous professions, so the life of a creative person is not exactly what we’d call risk-free, for different reasons. Artistic people need to be open (and vulnerable) enough to receive revelation, then stick their necks out and share their hearts in their work, often in a form that may challenge the current culture. It requires enough bravery to weather rejection on a routine basis.
To live in true safety is to be so secure in our identity in Christ that we are free to put ourselves out there and interact with anyone without being thrown off- course. Safety is actually established through risk; it’s having sea legs, hind’s feet, core strength—all born of experience with rough terrain. At Spirit Wind Center we help cultivate that core strength by offering a lively community within the community. Not cloistered and bubble-wrapped, but daring and dynamic. We won’t coddle or control you, but we’ll cheer you on as you try new things, and we’ll love you through the practice launches and bumpy landings. We’ll bless your spirit to grow strong and resilient, and we’ll even bless you on your way if you want to go beyond us.
Following the prompts of the Holy Spirit can be a wild ride at times, and we’ve found it’s a hallmark of this place named after the wind of the Spirit. But the alternative is mere existence. For a truly abundant life, can we really afford to risk never taking a risk?
Better yet, come visit Stonington in person, and we’ll be happy to show you around!
Check out some of the Spirit Wind Offerings At-a-Glance (PDF)