Art as worship

by Jeanne Dittmann

Hallways transformed
Art hanging, illuminating
Spaces filled
Offerings given

For seven years, St. Matthew Lutheran Church has hosted Art as Worship: A Gallery Exhibition and Benefit, fulfilling our Fine Arts Ministry’s mission to worship our Creator God and foster creativity in our community.  We hope that you will join us this year in this artistic ministry event.

Each year, the committee selects a theme and invites artists – young and old, near and far, professionals and hobbyists – to respond to the theme through art.  This year’s theme is MYSTERY,  past themes have included RENEWAL, LIGHT, and REFLECTION.  The theme is posted along with application information on our blog early each year to give artists several months to consider the theme and make plans to create their response.  As the deadline approaches each fall, the committee eagerly anticipates the next stage in the annual event.

The bare walls of our church’s hallways go largely unnoticed through the year, as the unobtrusive gallery hanging system hides in plain sight when not in use.  The art curators – Jeanne Dittmann and DeAnna Toten Beard – gather the submitted pieces, admire the artistry in each, and set to work.  We plan out how to highlight each piece of art within the context of the larger exhibit. Then we hang, straighten, and illuminate each piece.  Artist statements and gallery information are posted alongside each work.  The food is set out and the lounge space is assembled.  The musicians arrive and prepare their own creative contribution.  And then we wait.

We wait for the doors to open and for our guests to enter into this transformed space.  Although the artwork will hang for several weeks, there is nothing like seeing it all together for the first time on that special gallery evening.  Our hallways fill with expectant congregants and friends and family and artists and worshippers.  People nibble on their hors d’oeuvres, sip their wine, and chat about the images and the meaning of what they are seeing.  Oftentimes there are new artists who have never before displayed their work in an exhibit.  We love to see their eager faces as they approach their own art in this setting, a moment when their personal sense of their own creativity is expanded.  And then they begin to look carefully at the other art, and other patrons take their places in front of that first piece of art.  And this process of viewing art, reading the artist’s words, examining the details, and moving to the next piece quickly fills the evening.

And while the artistic community is coming together around the art and enjoying the live music, we also ask that same community to reach beyond themselves.  We invite our visitors to bring canned goods or make a monetary donation to the Caritas Food for Families drive that brings the larger Waco community together each November.  In this way, art brings people together in a creative worshipful environment, and in response to that environment, we reach out to others in a gesture of love.

If you are interested in participating in this year’s Art as Worship exhibit, please visit our blog to fill out an application.  The exhibit is open to artists working in all media. Entries must be original artwork and must be consistent with the show theme. Each applicant may submit up to two works. Artwork must be framed with sturdy wire across the back for hanging. The St. Matthew Fine Arts Ministry reserves the right to reject work that is deemed inappropriate or which differs from the submitted image.  Works do not need to be explicitly Christian in nature.

There is no entry fee. Each artist may submit up to 2 works. 3D works are allowed with up to two images per entry (no more than 4 images total). All images must accompany the completed application information. The submission deadline is October 16, 2017.

The opening gala will be held on Saturday, November 4 from 6:30 – 9:00pm at St. Matthew Lutheran Church at 800 North New Road in Waco, Texas.  Please plan to join us for art, music, hors d’oeuvres, and fellowship.  The artwork will hang throughout the Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas seasons.  If you cannot attend the opening gala, the exhibit will be open on Sunday mornings and during the week if someone is in the office.  Please call the church office (254-772-9349) if you wish to come during the week.

Jeanne Dittmann is a calligrapher and graphic designer who has worked as a freelance artist in Waco for over 14 years.  She serves currently as President of the Waco Calligraphy Guild, and she teaches calligraphy through Baylor University Continuing Education.  Her day job is the Box Office and Marketing Manager for the Baylor University Theatre Jeanne and her family attend St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where she and DeAnna Toten Beard started the Fine Arts Ministry 8 years ago.  For more information, please contact her at

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

Saving money on our electric bills can help us reach our goal of a more prosperous Waco

By John Kinnaird

Since the inception of the Prosper Waco initiative, there have been three main areas of focus in working towards improved outcomes for all of those in our community: Health, Education, and Financial Security.  As a community volunteer on several local boards, I’ve had the privilege of being closely involved with the Financial Security aspect of their initiative, which has also proven to be the most nebulous and difficult to define of the three focus areas.  The overarching goal of improving the general wealth of our citizens is noble, but also difficult to quantify and track, and the path to that goal more winding than one would think.

Specific programs identified and supported to this point have mainly focused on the economic development and income-oriented aspects of wealth creation; i.e. how do we help people get jobs, and once they have them, how do we help keep them in that job and continue working towards even better-paying opportunities down the road? Also contained in this line of thought is financial literacy, which aims to assist folks in making better decisions with the money they have, and education on how to budget expenses and learn to live within one’s means.

Well, I feel there is also great opportunity to help find ways to address the expense side of the equation, and work to devise ways of lowering the everyday costs that go along with daily life.  One of these that affects everyone, homeowners and renters alike, is the electric bill.

Texas has a deregulated electricity market, which means consumers get to pick which company provides them with their electricity.  The idea behind deregulation is that an open market promotes competition, which in turn lowers costs and benefits the consumer.  Unfortunately, picking an electric provider and the right plan can be a difficult and confusing maze to navigate, often resulting in sub-optimal outcomes and worse and more expensive plans being chosen than what someone could potentially obtain if they were able to understand all the nuances of the options available.

Enter a new initiative to address this problem, Waco Power Switch.  Provided by a company called iChoosr who is partnering with Prosper Waco, this company aims to use the power of group bargaining to get a straightforward, cheaper price than what most consumers would be able to get on their own, while serving as an advocate for the consumer in negotiating and dealing with the electric company.

The process is simple: if someone is interested, they go to and register to be part of Waco Power Switch by providing some basic information.  Then, iChoosr will take everyone that signs up and hold a reverse auction where electric companies will bid to be the electric provider to this group of consumers.  The low bidder wins, and then everyone that signed up has the option, but NO obligation, to accept the contract.  If the consumer doesn’t like the price obtained, they don’t have to take it.  There’s no risk in signing up, and no obligation if someone ends up not wanting to switch.

There is a caveat, though.  The electric company still retains the right to perform its due diligence, meaning credit checks, on the prospective customers who have signed up through Waco Power Switch.  That means if someone has a poor payment history, or other credit problems, the electric company still has the right to request a deposit or some other type of extra step before accepting someone as a customer.

That said, other benefits do accrue to people who elect to receive their electric provider through this program.  IChoosr will continue, through the life of the contract, to serve as a go-between for the consumer and the electric company.  So, should there be a billing problem or some other issue, iChoosr will help resolve it and serve as a consumer advocate on behalf of the customer, which can be very helpful when dealing with a utility company.

This program has been very successful in England, with the average consumer saving around $250 per year.  While on the surface that may not sound like a lot, if only ten percent of Waco households signed up and recognized this average savings, it would amount to around $1 million that would be in our citizens’ pockets instead of going to the utility company.  This is an easy win for our citizens, and for the community.

This program is one step towards making life simpler for our community, and helping people save money on a recurring expense that has ample opportunity for greater efficiencies and savings.  I’d encourage anyone who is interested to at least sign up and try it out.  There’s no obligation, and you might just be able to save some money and find dealing with the electric company a little easier.  It’s a good start towards helping people save and grow their overall wealth, and that can only be a good thing.

John Kinnaird came to Waco in 1998 to attend Baylor University. After graduation, John was hired at Community Bank & Trust as a Credit Analyst. In his 15 years at Community he has risen to the position of Vice President and Trust Officer. John was elected to Waco City Council in May 2012.  In addition to civic-related duties, John finds times to volunteer and take advantage of the disc golf courses and other activities that Cameron Park has to offer.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.



Recent Storms can leave survivors feeling guilty

By Angela Collier

In a recent blog post, Sara Beth Stoltzfus discussed the need for support groups for those who are direct caregivers.  Care givers lead stressful lives taking care of themselves and taking care of another person and sometimes multiple people. Over the last couple weeks, more of us have stepped into a care giver role due to weather catastrophes.  We all know someone affected directly by the floods in Houston, Louisiana and other parts of the south.  We watch the devastation on the television and our hearts go out to all those involved.  Everyone in our area is looking to help those affected directly in some way or another.  Taking care of others takes a toll on us mentally and physically.  While we are looking to help others, we may tend to neglect ourselves and our own needs.  Even though we may not have been affected directly by the floods, our hearts have gone out to those who have and we begin to experience emotions of guilt and deep sadness for what has been happening to others.  Our compassion leads us to become overwhelmed with feelings of depression, hopelessness and fatigue.

Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.   In the past, you may have heard this stated as survivor’s guiltA search of the internet found the definition of survivor’s guilt as a particular type of guilt that may develop in people who have survived a life-threatening situation. Individuals who believe it is unfair that they survived when others died and/or believe they did not do enough to save the lives of others, or help after words to give enough help may come to experience survivor guilt after trauma or a catastrophic event.

There are many factors involved and we all experience life differently.  Some of the symptoms of survivor guilt can include but not limited to:

  1. Nervousness/sadness/nervousness/anxiety
  2. Sleep Disturbances (not being able to sleep, sleeping too much, nightmares)
  3. Memory disturbances (not being able to remember things, not able to learn new things)
  4. Gastric disturbances (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss/gain)
  5. Headaches, body aches and pains

Although feelings of guilt associated with surviving a life-threatening event or having feelings of not helping enough can be painful and difficult to overcome, it is possible to address and cope with such feelings. It may be helpful to first acknowledge those feelings and recognize that both are common emotions and a natural part of the process of healing from grief.  Accept what you are feeling and know you are not alone.  Others may be struggling just as you are.  Remember your relief and appreciation for your survival can co-exist with your grief.  Do not focus on the “whys” of the event and focus on what you can do now.

Also, remember to take care of yourself.  A self-care routine is considered to be an important part of emotional healing and to stay healthy. Self-care typically involves regular physical movement (walking, exercise), soothing or relaxing activities (reading, writing, meditating), a nutritious diet, and plenty of rest. Support is also a crucial component of coping with survivor guilt. Speaking with others who shared the experience; attending a support group; or seeking help from a trusted mentor, adviser, or spiritual counselor can help an individual feel understood. Some may also find it helpful to find a way to memorialize or honor the losses of property and life.  Acknowledge and accept the emotions that you are experiencing as they represent part of the healing process.

Should you continue to feel overwhelmed, seek out the help of a professional such as a counselor or therapist.  A counselor can help you to manage and process emotions and challenge the thought patterns that may be contributing to the strong emotions that are causing the discomfort.   Most of all remember you are not alone; there are others that are working through their emotions too.  You can live the best life that you can to help honor those we have lost.

Angela Collier is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Waco who is trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for helping individuals with trauma.  Angela was born and raised in the Waco area.  Angela enjoys spending time with her husband of 36 years, Travis, and their son and Daughter in law Travis and Virginia Collier and their three grandchildren Lillian, Matthew, and Mary.  When not with family, Angela enjoys traveling worldwide to experience new places and people.  Angela has been involved with several local agencies helping support local families in times of need.



What the hurricane taught me

By Louise Henderson

In the wake of a hurricane affecting South Texas and Louisiana I am resolved that we as a community can do many great things when we work together. We can have an impact on our community when we  get our resources, manpower, and knowledge together. For five days I waited like other families for my relatives in the hurricane affected areas to respond, but as time passed I realized I could do more. So instead of worrying, I gathered what I had and asked other friends and neighbors to do the same. Within a few hours Trail Riders, Motorcycle Clubs, Social Clubs, and churches were able to load several trucks and send them not only to Houston but to other parts of South Texas.

So why can’t we have that same impact in our communities where we live?  We can as groups start to come to together to combine all our talents to do health fairs, to share information about resources, to help those that are elderly and low incomes.

I am seeing a shift in attitude from “ I am only going to help if it benefits me” to “ I need to start doing more and working with others to make a change in my neighborhood.” Groups are working systemically with each other to impact small areas of Waco. For instance, there are four different groups that have decided they can reach more children and families by collaborating their efforts and supporting each other in the Estelle Maxey apartments. Trail Riders and Motorcycle Clubs are starting to work to host back-to-school events that reach larger quantities of families. These are the types of changes we are seeing from groups working together.

I work with Kindergarten children and there is a story that most early childhood teachers read to their children it’s called “Stone Soup.” It’s about a group that is hungry and so they convince the people in the  town to start bringing the little bits of food they are keeping to themselves to contribute to one big pot of soup that everyone can enjoy.  Sometimes we have to realize that even with the little you have you can feed a lot of people.

There are so many great groups and orgazianations we don’t know about but are doing duplicate things. My hope is that we will see that if we stop waiting on outside help to come and start working together as a community we can rebuild our city.  With so many changes taking place we have forgotten that your neighbor is not just the person who lives next door, they are also the ones that we see on the streets of downtown and everywhere. We can achieve a level of self-sufficiency if we would take the time to realize that when we work as one unit, and not against each other, we can not only reach the stars, we can go the Milky Way! Age, gender, and social status are no longer excuses for us not to actively take part in what is happening in our community. What happens in East Waco will and can affect what is happening in China Spring and Woodway.  We can do this. We can make this Happen. If we come together and make this Happen.

Louise Henderson has four daughters — one at Texas A&M (Elizabeth), two at University High School (Rachel and Naomi) and one at Cesar Chavez Middle School (Rebecca) — and puppy named Rico. She and her family have lived in Waco for six years and are very active in our community. She is a member of the Junior League of Waco, NAACP of Waco, and Waco Knight Riders.  She graduated from McLennan Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Child Development and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family studies at Tarleton State University.  She loves Taco Tuesday at Rosas Café and volunteering in Waco.  She is the founder of the Central Texas Divas, a social club for women and young girls to empower and educate about them about self-improvement and our community.