Pastor Blends Arts and Ministry

Wesley seminary article:

The Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty, pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., is passionate about using her artistic abilities to co-create with God. That’s what art symbolizes for her – a weaving of creativity and theology. And that is what ultimately led her to Wesley and its Doctor of Ministry in Arts and Theology degree program.

“Part of the way we are made in the image of God is to be creative,” Totty said. “In a society that calls us to be passive observers of life, there is something radical about creating something or engaging with people face to face.”

For Totty, a love of art and literature was honed during her undergraduate years spent studying English literature and religious studies. After pursuing a call to ordained ministry, art became mostly a hobby for her. Then she heard about Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program and the Arts and Theology track.
On a whim in late 2011, Totty applied for the program and began her studies in January 2012. She heard about the Arts and Theology track from a friend and knew the program would be a great fit to combine her two passions.

“The Doctor of Ministry track was what I had been looking for,” Totty said. “The timing was good; the location was good. I always wanted a way to combine my love of literature and art with theology. The D.Min. program allowed me to do that.”

The Arts and Theology track gave Totty the freedom to design a final project that spoke to her creativity, unique ministry setting and her passion as an artist. Totty’s project focused on the “Four Quartets,” a series of four poems written by T.S. Eliot in the 1940s, and related the poems to events in the world and church today. The final project involved original worship liturgy, small group study guides, sermon aides and a dissertation-style paper.

Since graduating in 2015, Totty has integrated the arts more fully into her ministry at Dumbarton UMC, particularly in worship on Sunday mornings. The church recently completed a sermon series focused on a selection of poems by British poet Denise Levertov. Members of the congregation also created banners to illustrate four of the poems, which now adorn the sanctuary.  
“It’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to claim ‘artist’ as part of my identity,” Totty said. “The D.Min. program at Wesley helped me claim that.”
With unique doctoral programs that cater to students’ unique calls, the Doctor of Ministry program at Wesley gives students the opportunity to explore their ministry passions. Several tracks are now accepting applications, including the Arts and Theology track; Church Leadership Excellence; the new Holiness, Effective Ministry, and Engagement with the World track, which will take place on the campus of the University of Cambridge; and Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains and Clinicians.

The Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty, pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., is passionate about using her artistic abilities to co-create with God. That’s what art symbolizes for her – a weaving of creativity and theology. And that is what ultimately led her to Wesley and its Doctor of Ministry in Arts and Theology degree program.

“Part of the way we are made in the image of God is to be creative,” Totty said. “In a society that calls us to be passive observers of life, there is something radical about creating something or engaging with people face to face.”

For Totty, a love of art and literature was honed during her undergraduate years spent studying English literature and religious studies. After pursuing a call to ordained ministry, art became mostly a hobby for her. Then she heard about Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program and the Arts and Theology track.
On a whim in late 2011, Totty applied for the program and began her studies in January 2012. She heard about the Arts and Theology track from a friend and knew the program would be a great fit to combine her two passions.

“The Doctor of Ministry track was what I had been looking for,” Totty said. “The timing was good; the location was good. I always wanted a way to combine my love of literature and art with theology. The D.Min. program allowed me to do that.”

The Arts and Theology track gave Totty the freedom to design a final project that spoke to her creativity, unique ministry setting and her passion as an artist. Totty’s project focused on the “Four Quartets,” a series of four poems written by T.S. Eliot in the 1940s, and related the poems to events in the world and church today. The final project involved original worship liturgy, small group study guides, sermon aides and a dissertation-style paper.

Since graduating in 2015, Totty has integrated the arts more fully into her ministry at Dumbarton UMC, particularly in worship on Sunday mornings. The church recently completed a sermon series focused on a selection of poems by British poet Denise Levertov. Members of the congregation also created banners to illustrate four of the poems, which now adorn the sanctuary.  
“It’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to claim ‘artist’ as part of my identity,” Totty said. “The D.Min. program at Wesley helped me claim that.”
With unique doctoral programs that cater to students’ unique calls, the Doctor of Ministry program at Wesley gives students the opportunity to explore their ministry passions. Several tracks are now accepting applications, including the Arts and Theology track; Church Leadership Excellence; the new Holiness, Effective Ministry, and Engagement with the World track, which will take place on the campus of the University of Cambridge; and Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains and Clinicians.