Desiring to enhance a sense of community and offer our hospitality, Bally Mennonite Church planned and hosted a free event, Celebrating the Creative Spirit, on May 5 & 6, 2017. The event featured 40 artists and artisans from the Bally area including professionals such as potter Roy Yoder, photographer Gordon Groff, weaver Tonya Jones, and artist/author Julie Longacre as they displayed a variety of paintings, pastels, pottery, photographs, weaving, wood work, quilts, fly-tying, needlework, fabric art, and the artwork of children. It was a Friday evening and five hours on Saturday full of visual arts, music and food.
Beginning as an idea in the Outreach Committee, the five members helped bring their idea to life. The congregation was invited to a meeting to assess the interest; only two people showed up, but they were very enthusiastic. As the idea was discussed, enthusiasm grew, as did the creative ideas. What began as a simple idea for a simple art show turned into an event chock-full of musical performances and a variety of subjective art including landscapes, portraits, handcrafts, and much more.
The event was a resounding success, to which we credit: 1) Having a church structure and a church council that encourages committees to “do their own thing” as long as council feels that it fits in with the church vision and values. 2) A few people willing to risk stepping out of their own comfort zones, and encourage others to use their own creativity. 3) The donation of committed individuals to cover direct expenses, and the church providing space, a few supplies, cleaning services, and the electricity. 4) Martha Kratz drafting her friends to help her create Cafe Fleur in the fellowship hall, and Tim Longacre creating a wonderful entrance, using his gift of set design. 5) Most importantly, the blessing of the Holy Spirit, which has been present to empower, encourage, and guide the planning. We’re counting on the Holy Spirit to continue that work and help us establish and set an example of a Christian community family.
Some people were hesitant to come to a Mennonite church; they didn’t know what to expect. We were not surprised to hear one person say, as some have also said at our pancake breakfasts, “There is a good spirit here.” Many offered to donate money before they left. Some said this was the most fun they had in a year. The children loved doing crafts. People who had not seen one another in a long time renewed acquaintances, and in one instance, healing began in a difficult relationship. One artist from Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Bally invited a guest to her home to teach her how to do one of her art projects. We are convinced that God was at work in the synergy that was created and will continue to use this experience to help us make more new friends.
Those who led the event had no idea how much work it was going to be or what the costs might be; they stepped out in faith that God would provide, even though there were only three months to plan it. Some assumed that this would be a one-time event. However, so many guests asked if we were going to do this again next year that we might do it again and extend it into Sunday morning. Some of the stretching of our skills was not easy, but it will be easier if we decide to do it again. We are hoping that some of our new friends will help too, because working together is so much fun.
We are grateful for the members of Bally Mennonite Church who submitted work, and the local artists,and family and friends whose hobbies and creative interests reflect their God-given talents. Without the creativity and network of Julie Longacre and the network and outreach of Gene Galligan, we would not have had as many local artist who shared their art and performed music. We are thankful for those who assisted in supplying and serving free refreshments and lunch and the many additional people who contributed to the success of the event, including The Church of the Good Shepherd in Boyertown for the use of the art racks to display the paintings.
May we continue to recognize the Creative Spirit within us and may the Holy Spirit continue to work and help us establish and set an example of a Christian community family.
Diane Bleam, Event Coordinator
Julie Longacre, Art Coordinator