The “Bi-vocational” Robin McGauley
At this point in her vocations, I think it is fair to describe Robin McGauley as “bi-vocational”. As an ordained minister, Robin has served in rural ministry, at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre, and as staff in the General Council office. She stepped away from the General Council work in September 2019 to focus on art fulltime.
Robin is a gifted silversmith. Her latest collections of jewelry “Spiral Reflection” and “Cosmic Connection” feature beautiful ammonite spirals; from which she is donating 15% of sales to the Centre for Christian Studies. (We are so grateful for her gift to us!)
In Robin’s description of the meaning to be found in ammonite, she writes the spiral: “represents the reality that our connection with the divine as spiritual beings spirals inward to the space that touches the soul and outward to create change in the world from that space of divine awareness. The spiral is never stagnant. It requires constant motion that expands, evolves and grows”.
In my recent conversation with her, this same inward, soul-oriented and outward transformation-change motion is apparent in her own life and work. As well as silversmithing, Robin offers spiritual direction and anti-racist coaching. She describes this work as “different doors into the same room”, naming that a goal of deepened spirituality confronts us with the legacies and current structures of colonialism and racism; and the harms done by these systems – historically, currently, collectively and individually.
Robin’s work in art, spiritual leadership and anti-racism is counter-cultural in its defiance of the pressure (rooted in capitalism) that people will engage in one kind of work, and excel at one thing only. In building her jewelry business, she has learned this assumption is even baked into web design, a manifestation of the idea that people now should have ‘personal brands’. A bi-vocational (or multi-vocational) life spirals out beyond marketing ourselves as one thing, spirals out beyond categorizing everyone around us as belonging in one box. The momentum of spiraling outward breaks Robin out beyond the modern cloistered and comfortable conversation enjoyed by clergy colleagues, a conversation incomprehensible to anyone outside our circles. By taking symbols seriously and working in a medium that is incomprehensible without embodiment, Robin’s art spirals and spills well beyond churched communities.
Jewelry is adornment we wear on our bodies. Is it frivolous? I don’t think so. The feedback and stories Robin hears from people who wear her pieces tell of embodied ways of knowing, being and praying. Much of Robin’s work draws from nature: leaves, spirals, coffee beans, cedar sprigs. She combines these with fragments of spiritual direction: “be still”, “delight”, “sprout”. Gifting or wearing one of these pieces affords the opportunity of a moment of reflection, of care for oneself or others. Such moments can be rare to find in busy lives.
Wearing jewelry (or clothing) with meaning can become a spiritual practice of honouring our bodies, or preparing ourselves for the day or affirming our connections with the environment, other people or the Creator. Jewelry can be an embodied practice, of carrying meaning with us, wearing it as a visible sign and invitation to conversation. In the same way that a diaconal pin might invite a meaningful conversation, so might a silver cedar leaf or an ammonite spiral.
The spiral invites us to move outward in creative active expression, and Robin’s jewelry work is a gorgeous example of that kind of integration and expansion.