An Interview with Stu G
Stu G, well-known Christian artist, Telos alumn, and dear friend, just released another piece in a major series of work inspired in part by his experiences with Telos. The film, A View from the Hill, is part of The Beatitudes Project, which explores the announcements and invitations that Jesus makes during the Sermon on the Mount through the film, an album, book, and upcoming podcast.
We highly recommend that you check out all parts of the Project – you can download the film, access the soundtrack, and order the book on the Beatitudes Project website. Stu also developed resources, including a church series with small group materials, original worship music, video content, and sermon outlines. You can request more information on those resources here.
We had the opportunity to ask Stu a few questions about The Beatitudes Project and his experiences with Telos.
- What was your inspiration for The Beatitudes Project?
- How did your Telos trip inspire you to make The Beatitudes Project real?
- What do you hope people do or how do you hope their worldview changes/deepens as a result of The Beatitudes Project?
- Who were some of the highlights on your Telos trip? How did they challenge/inspire you?
- Rumor has it you’re planning to lead a Beatitudes Project Telos trip. How do I get on that?
- Additional information
What was your inspiration for The Beatitudes Project?
The Beatitudes Project started life as an idea for a Delirious (that’s the band I was a part of) album of songs. We never got around to making it, and when the band finished, I spent time struggling with a strange mix of anti-climax and quite honestly, depression. I didn’t know how to be in that transitional upside-down space.
I read Eugene Peterson’s Message translation of the Beatitudes, and the first one says, “You’re blessed at the end of your rope.” I identified with the “end of rope-ness” but didn’t feel very blessed. I started to learn that the blessing in these announcements is divine presence. In other words, God is on your side when life doesn’t follow your instructions. I learned that The Beatitudes are not only pronouncements of presence but also invitations to live differently in the world. To BE present by showing mercy and becoming peacemakers etc.
In 2009 I sat around a fire pit with some musicians, visual artists, and a Jewish Rabbi and the concept grew from a collection of songs to something more expansive. The Beatitudes Project is a documentary film, a book, art, a soundtrack album, a community group study guide and a podcast (podcast coming late 2019).
The world is so divided and hurting right now. As a Brit, I think about Brexit and the chaos, division, and polarization it’s causing. Having moved to America and living here now, I’m aware of the many issues here too.
Through learning how to listen, to engage the conversations of difference, to want for our neighbor what we want for ourselves, The Beatitudes are Ancient Wisdom that offer us some medicine to heal our time, our communities and our nations.
How did your Telos trip inspire you to make The Beatitudes Project real?
Wow, so many things! Three things come to mind immediately:
Firstly, putting human faces on people within a conflict was an essential lesson for me. It’s easy to have opinions when you’re thousands of miles away and put it down to “them over there.” When you sit across a table from victims and peacemakers and not only listen to their story but know their name and see their faces, it changes everything. This experience influenced the whole project.
Secondly, sitting on the hill overlooking the Galilee where Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount brought the Beatitudes alive in a way that I couldn’t have imagined unless I’d been there.
Thirdly, I had a life-changing experience in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem that I wrote about in the book Words From The Hill. Having time to meditate and pray in the spot where tradition says Jesus was born left me with a sense of receiving an inner peace. Later Daoud Nassar from the Tent of Nations gave me some language for what I’d experienced when he said, “before we can offer peace as a solution to others, we have to receive peace as a gift on the inside…Inner Peace.”
What do you hope people do or how do you hope their worldview changes/deepens as a result of The Beatitudes Project?
The Beatitudes invite us to a world of presence, listening, engagement, creativity, empathy, mercy, peacemaking. These are all hard to find in our world right now. My hope and prayer are that as people watch, listen, read, and collaborate, they hear the invitation to live differently in the world and embody these words and not merely believe them.
Who were some of the highlights on your Telos trip? How did they challenge/inspire you?
These people have become heroes to me:
Todd Deatherage. A co-founder of Telos and Todd has led both trips on which I’ve been. He has such a gift in leading an incredible experience where I felt I fully partook in a Spiritual Pilgrimage and also learned so much about the complexity and history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As someone who worked in the State Department for many years, his knowledge and his words carry weight and legitimacy.
Sami Awad. Listening to Sami’s stories of how his Grandfather was shot and killed in 1948, and then his family becoming refugees have you pinned to your seat hanging on every word. His subsequent and current journey into peacemaking and non-violent activism is so compelling and inspiring. Plus he’s a GREAT hang.
Roni Keidar. Visiting Roni an Israeli, on her family’s farm on the Gaza border brings another aspect to the reality of the situation. Roni teaches how essential it is to put a human face on the suffering of those you see as “the other.”
Daoud Nassar. A Palestinian farmer from Tent of Nations who embodies peace like no one else I’ve met anywhere. In the face of tremendous hardship, he and his family continue to farm and refuse to hate, be a victim, or an enemy.
Robi Damelin. You never forget Robi after meeting her. From her incredibly hard story of losing her son to a Palestinian sniper, to her disdain for violence and revenge, her work with The Parents Circle Family Forum is extraordinary. She’s a firecracker of a woman holding pain, determination, and hope all in one explosive personality.
Rumor has it you’re planning to lead a Beatitudes Project Telos trip. How do I get on that?
It’s a dream of mine to organize a Beatitudes Project Telos Trip in 2020.
My vision for that would be for people to experience what I have experienced alongside one or two folks featured in the project. Perhaps with an artist or two from the project and some music along the way.
In keeping with the Telos ethos, it would be both a pilgrimage and learning experience.
I’d love to know if anyone would be interested in such a trip.
If so, they can reach me at [email protected] or sign up for my email list, or by contacting Telos directly.
Once we have an idea if we can pull this together, we’ll announce on social media and website, etc.
In the meantime to find out more about The Beatitudes Project and resources please visit thebeatitudesproject.com
And keep up with my news on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I’m so grateful for everyone’s interest and support and really value my friendship and partnership with all at Telos.