Monday, 10 February 2014

Pictures of love in public display part 3 (guest blog)

Touching moments at the “pictures of love exhibition” in Whitley Bay

Initially I was nervous about jointly heading up the mission week team in the Cullercoats and Whitley Bay Circuit. It was going to be a busy week with lots of activities and I wondered if we were planning to do too much and whether the team would gel together. We’d met only once previously and there were several strong characters among the eleven of us. But my fears were unfounded, and from day one we all got on well, building on each others strengths, giving praise and support as it was needed.

For me one of the best activities that week was working in the shop in the Whitley bay shopping arcade that had been given us for free by the local council. The three Methodist churches involved in the mission had decided to put up a display of photos in the shop on the theme of love, inviting passers by to come and view the display. Along side this there were various art and craft activities for adults and children to get involved with, things like painting your own picture of love, creating the face of someone you loved on a paper plate, making a love bracelet from beads and ribbons, etc.

I was on the door on day two inviting people to come in, telling them stories about the pictures of love and why they were worth seeing. Sometimes it was hard work, people were in a rush or too busy, but other times it was so rewarding. One lady told me it would be hard for her to look at love pictures because her husband’s funeral had happened only two weeks before in the church over the road. But we walked round together and she cried and laughed at different photos and at the end we had a prayer, even though she “didn’t normally do that sort of thing”. Later in the week she came again, bringing her daughter to see the pictures, and after they were going home to find their own love photos to look at.

Another day I spoke to a man about the love photos. Love he said was a dirty word since his partner of eight years had walked out just two weeks before. He walked off, but ten minutes later came back to ask what it was all about. I sent him to view the photos at his own pace. He was moved by what he saw so as he left I asked if he’d rung his partner. No, cause she was the one who left. But if you don’t tell her you’re missing her, she’ll never know, will she? He again walked off, but two days later came back. He’d rung her and they were going out for a meal he said.

Those photos touched people’s hearts and lives. They made people laugh and cry, and share their deepest thoughts and feelings with us, complete strangers. It was in the ‘reaching out’ to them that we met people at a ‘touching’ moment. Lives may not have been changed but that exhibition made a difference to many that week.

(The photos can be seen again at St John's Methodist Church Whitley Bay during February 2014) 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Pictures of love in public display part 2

Nearly 350 people distracted from their shopping expedition and attracted into an exhibition called ‘Pictures of Love’!

The reason for this phenomena? – A normally empty shop that for one week was transformed into an oasis; a haven; a tranquil corner of grace, peace and love. The format was simple – written words, photographs, art and craft activities all focussed on the theme of love: the opportunity for shoppers to drop in, browse, chat, enjoy a cuppa (free), to paint and display their very own ‘picture of love’ or simply to take time out.

What a remarkable week it was.  Sitting near a window, doodling with some woodwork, it was possible for me, out the corner of my eye, to see people in the mall as they stopped, looked at the posters, peered through the windows, paused and considered, then took the plunge and came in.
It was remarkable how the exhibition triggered the desire for so many people to enter into conversation about a particular craft activity, and then ask questions about faith.  What a privilege it is to be allowed into their lives, to share in their story and in some instances, to listen as they acknowledge that their lives are diminished by lack of personal faith. 

In these changing times, when churches seem preoccupied with statistics about dwindling congregations, it came as a stark reminder that people who do not attend church can still be hungry for a personal experience of God’s unconditional love.  My/our challenge is to find new ways to stand alongside and engage with them, wherever they are on their journey of life to enthuse and encourage each other in the good news of God’s love.          

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Pictures of love in public display part 1

Hi folks, over the next couple of weeks I  will be posting a blog about how we have used 'pictures of love' since we gathered the photos together. It has been on display for a few weeks in one of our local churches and its had a good response from those who have looked at the photos. recognising people who they know and also asking questions about it purpose and 'what is it all about'? 

Since then we have used the exhibition in a local shopping centre as part of a week long mission to the local community in several churches... below describes the concept and what happened during the week... Enjoy!
 As part of the Together Mission, the Circuit took over an empty shop in the Park View Shopping Centre in Whitley Bay. We mounted the exhibition Pictures of Love – photographs of people’s personal responses to the question, ‘What does love mean to you?’ But we also filled the shop with paints, craft materials and volunteers. Passers-by were invited in to see the exhibition and create their own images of love. Children, parents, grandparents, teenagers answered that challenge, adding their own pictures to make a wall of colourful faces, places and patterns.

In the window each day a volunteer made wooden crosses; during the week others knitted, painted, wrote poetry, made friendship bracelets. Each person encouraged visitors to join in, reflect and talk. It was a lively, unthreatening space and all who took part found it a positive and moving experience. Visitors shared their stories and volunteers got to know people from across the Circuit.

There was also a quiet corner where visitors could simply sit and rest. Each day there were volunteers who offered prayer for those who wished. And there were refreshments too.

On the last day a visitor asked what we were doing for Christmas. Another said, ‘Why don’t you do this more often?’ Over 340 people came into this pop-up creative space during the five days we were open. The church invited them in, provided hospitality, respect, rest and the opportunity to create something unique. Perhaps the question, ‘Why don’t we do this more often?’ is one we need to explore with more confidence, imagination and joy.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Pictures of Love intro...

Pictures of love was born in valentines week 2012  and i originally wrote about my own lack of being romantic and how i feel about valentines day. 

Since coming up with the Christmas Present project see here that ran through Advent, I thought it would be good to have a go at something that could get a few more folk involved and would also last a little longer and could generate some interest in our local community and maybe even further afield! As a result of this pondering I came up with the idea of ‘Pictures of love’.

The word love is often thrown around and I wonder if we really understand what it is and its implications. This project asks us to think about what we understand by that word... now you could choose to be as profound as you like around this whole area, in essence it doesn't matter!

Pictures of love was a year-long photo project that anyone could have a go at... all you had to do is think about something you love... this could be absolutely anything... a person, pet, piece of countryside, faith... anything... then take a photo of it and send me a copy... we are currently running a photo exhibition of the photos that have been sent in.

As well as this I asked a few people I know to send me a photo of something they love and I asked them to write a paragraph or two about it, these are seen on the other posts on this blog.

I hope you enjoy! 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Pictures of Love blog 11 'Freddie'

Our final guest blog for 'pictures of love' comes from Jon Curtis who is a VentureFX pioneer in Exeter, to take a look at what he is up to check out his website 

This is a picture of my little boy, Freddie. He's about 9 months old in this photo, enjoying his first ride in a trolley round Sainsburys. I've always existed as a busy person, maybe even super busy! I run from thing to thing always worried that I'm missing out on something else which I might not want to miss. Of course, the irony is, almost always, it would be perfectly fine to miss it. I thought that having children would be fine, but I hoped that things in my life wouldn't have to stop, because I couldn't bear to miss out on something potentially life changing.

When Freddie came along, suddenly, there was nowhere else that I would rather be. Not in a slushy kind of way, just that i realised that my most preferred place was wherever he was. Love is a funny thing, maybe the Greeks have got it right with four different words for love, but we just have one. So, I love Exeter City FC. I love the sunshine. I love getting a takeaway. And so to apply that word to Freddie seems far too belittling of the thing that I just cannot describe. But in the absence of Greek GCSE, we'll just have to stick with a real life-changer - love, for how I describe the feelings that I have for my son.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Picture of love blog 10 'Fabric'

Our final guest blog for pictures of love before we come to Valentines week 2013 comes from one of the Venture FX Pioneers Lou Davis. She is based in Edinburgh and you can read about what she is doing here.

There’s something about fabric that sets my heart alight. Rolls and rolls of colour and pattern, texture and drape. I have to touch them, to feel the weight of the material, to begin the process of imagining. 

My favourite places are where the rolls are piled high, and I need to rummage to find jeweled treasures buried deep beneath the strata of linen and silk.

And when my eyes see something that resonates deep within, and the touch of the fabric is just right, I’ll take down the roll from the shelf and let out a metre or so. I’ll move it gently so it catches the light, to see how the fabric drapes.

And in my mind, I’m not holding a bolt of fabric in a store, I’m on a beach in a flowing skirt, with sand in my toes and the sun in my hair, or I’m celebrating with friends as their new baby wears one of my dresses, or I’m sending a friend off for a special night out, looking fabulous in a cocktail frock, or I’m watching a glowing bride take careful steps down the aisle into a new life.

I love the possibilities that exist in those rolls of fabric.

I wonder for a minute about the love and care that has already gone into creating these beautiful threads. They are the product of growers and spinners, weavers and dyers, and I don’t know their names or which dusty factories they serve. I can only hope that in the lifetime of these fabrics there was as much hope and love and beauty as I see in them now.

Before these fabrics can fulfill any of their potential, I need to buy them, take them home and cut into them. I must do violence to their patterns, cut across their warp and weft, I need to weaken them so that they may be re-shaped, to fit.

That is always the hardest part.

Before I cut I need to be sure of my pattern. I check and double check, measure and remeasure. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and cut.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pictures of love blog 9 'The Angel of The North'

Decembers guest blog for 'Pictures of Love' is by Rev. Elaine Lindridge, she is the District Evangelism Enabler for the Newcastle Upon Tyne Methodist District, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog or any of the other blogs in the series. We would also wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas. 

I just love this view from my house – and as I look out on a morning I see Britain’s largest sculpture. I remember watching on the day this giant angelic work of art was hoisted up & then dropped into the ground – that was February 1998. How amazing, not just because it’s a work of art, but because it’s an angel! And for me it reminds me of where I belong. And when I’m driving up or down the A1, I see this magnificant angel, Jumbo Jet wing arms outstretched, kind of welcoming me home.

The Angel of The North has been described as a symbol of renewal or regeneration, which is really appropriate to this region as we’ve undergone massive social and economic change. It’s also significant because the Angel has changed this unused ground, this ‘no space’ into ‘significant space’…some might even dare to call it, ‘holy space’.

The artist who created this angelic sculpture, Antony Gormley, has said of the Angel
‘I want to make something we can live with and that becomes a reservoir for feelings – feelings that perhaps we hadn’t known about until this thing was there, or feelings that couldn’t arise until it was’.

Throughout time there have been reports of encounters with angels, and they’re not just confined to the times when the Bible was written. I’ve always thought it must be pretty terrifying to see an angel - not some cute kid dressed up in a nativity play, but a real one, a messenger of God. I wonder, ‘what’s the message that we need to hear today?’

I think most of us have feelings that go deaper than perhaps we admit even to ourselves, but betray our need for more than a mortal life offers. There’s something within every human spirit that always seeks to reach out for more, for something higher. To reach beyond our ordinariness to something remarkable & special. In a spiritual sense, as you lift your head to look up at the Angel, you look away from self and from earth to what some would call the heavens. Maybe this Angel of The North is indeed a messenger too. It’s message serving as a reminder to look up from what sometimes seems the trivia of our day to day living and consider what might be of eternal significance.