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)