Friday, July 31, 2015

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Our beautiful building!

My time is quickly ticking by, closer and closer each day to the final day I move back to the States. There are so many “feels” I am experiencing, that I am shocking even myself at times with how I am reacting to it. I have laughed, I have denied it, I have wished it would happen sooner to get it over with, I have over thought it, and I have had many panic attacks! I have never been good with change (says the girl living in a foreign country), and even worse with goodbyes. So it is safe to say that August 5th scares the living daylight out of me.

How in the world do you say goodbye to a home you can’t imagine not living in and are not sure you when you’ll come back? How do you leave a job you love with mentors who have become more like pseudo parents? …Well honestly, I still don’t know! But here I am, taking it hour by hour, one “last” at a time.
In the quiet times I find amongst this craziness that is packing up my life and moving to a different country, I keep reflecting back on why I love JMC so stikin’ much! So I thought, “why not procrastinate some more and write a blog!”

Let's have a look at a standard Sunday Morning at JMC…

A drawing by our token young person, of the worship team.
Do we start on time? Ha! 
But really, we have to keep it interesting. 
And, saying that now, I do believe we have started on time the last few weeks, 
so maybe we are turning that around :).

We begin with a block of songs to get our hearts and minds in worship. 
Some weeks, this goes flawlessly and some weeks there are a few hiccups; 
but that is a good reminder, every so often, that we don't have to be perfect.

Next comes Family News when a weird American (can’t imagine who that is…) stands at the front and talks about the events and news for the following weeks in the community. 
This is normally a time for me to just ramble at the front and no body understands me 
because of my accent....and I might speak too quickly as well 
(note to self- work on slowing down when I speak).

Then the scripture is read out. This is a good way of discovering different members in the congregation who aren’t always at the front, but are on the rota for the reading that week 
(because, like all good Methodists, we run on rotas!).

Of course, we then have the Sermon. 
In the Methodist tradition, we have a different local preacher come to us each week, which keeps everyone on our toes and the older members awake...most of the time ;).

If we have communion, that means it’s the 3rd Sunday of the month 
(or the closest Sunday to when Rev Rob is here to do it).

And then, after a final song to wrap things up, we end with the Grace. 
The Grace is one of my favorites parts of the service.
It is a great way of forcing Brits to make personal eye contact while blessing one another 
(all the while they secretly hope to miss everyone else's contact 
and hiding their frustration when they unluckily catch another’s eye).

Now that the service is all through, the most important part of the day begins with tea and coffee. 
It is the time when we catch up with one another and share, not just in worship, 
but in life…plus JMC has the reputation for having the “best” coffee in the circuit, so there is that!

I promise we really do love eachother!
I know this has been a bit of a cheeky evaluation of a Sunday service, but these little quirks and random bits we don't always focus on, are the reasons why I love JMC so much! These are the bits that I might just miss the most!

So what is really so precious about JMC?
It is a family. A place, safe enough for our imperfection, yet challenging enough to push us past them and through them. I often use the word “quirky” because there is honestly nothing like it, almost the opposite of “cookie cutter.” Because of our varied congregation, we pull from a wide range/mix of worship styles. Combine that with the Methodist local preacher circuit, bringing us a different preacher nearly every Sunday, and it is tough to see the same service twice. One week we might resemble a traditional service with old hymns and service readings straight from the lectionary service book; and the very next week we might just be playing Pictionary or being asked to nap in a sleeping bag as a visual aid to the sermon. We are constantly moving forward, while still cherishing tradition.
A few of my students before they set off for summer.
And, of course, all the love and laughter!
Laughter is a staple member of our community and cuddles are an expected norm upon entering the foyer!  But above all, for those who walk in the doors, whether for the very first time or as a “grandparent” to the family, we are a warm and welcoming space to be with God.

Our moto is to “Bring the Heart of God into the Heart of Jesmond.” But I feel more like the Heart of JMC is spreading wide and far across the world in the hearts of those who have been blessed enough to visit on a Sunday morning or even two years worth of Sunday mornings. 

So today my message for Jesmond Methodist Church is Philippians 1: 3-6…

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with Joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

JMC - Jesmond Methodist Church – Work – Quirky - Strength - Love - My Family

Cheers for now

Fish n' Chips on the beach with some of the Fam!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Flashback Friday Fringe

  As it seems this whole "flashback friday" craze is here to stay in the social media world, I am going to take advantage of it today to update you on my biggest project I have done here with JMC, the Jesmond Fringe Festival.

   Every year in late May, the Jesmond Community Festival is put on by the community for the community for two weeks. Last year, I organized the Taste of Nations as a free international food tasting: showcasing dishes from around the world, made by the various international members of our JMC church family.  It went so well that we decided to include it in the Festival schedule again this year.  But Rob and I decided, we wanted to host another free event during the festival to really put JMC's print on Jesmond.
   He gave me the freedom to be creative and plan any event I could think up to bless the community around JMC. So with a blank slate in front of me and just over 5 months to plan, my mind ran wild! I thought of things as simple as "blessing bags" for the local businesses to hosting a One Direction concert at the church...ok maybe I didn't get that crazy, but what I did come up with quickly became "my baby" and a large focus for the first part of 2015.

   Inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (a month long festival across the whole city of Edinburgh, with hundreds of acts, concerts, and street performers; attracting thousands of spectators from all over the UK), I decided to bring the Fringe feel to Jesmond for one night! I called it Jesmond Fringe Festival.

   When I got together with the Methodist NCL Chaplin to get some help with the branding, he made the brilliant connection that Fringe has a double meaning we could play off in our marketing scheme: Fringe- as in the festival- and Fringe- as in the hair style (for all my American readers out there, fringe is the British term for "bangs").
   So with the excitement of this quirky new angle (and the multitude of puns that inevitably accompanied it), we ran head on into creating an amazing event!

   After running around Newcastle tapping into various networks, I was able to pull together 8 local acts for the night- 3 talented musical acts, and 4 stand up comedians and an improve group from the University Comedy Club.
   So with a great line up and an interactive TED Talk for the upper studio, all I needed to sort out was the location, as our sanctuary was out of commission due to some unforeseen building works.
But when the new owners of the Cafe took over in February and heard about my project, they jumped right in to offer Cafe 1901 as the location. It all came together in perfect time!

   The night of was far beyond what I ever even imagined: with a red carpet entrance, a good turn out, great coffee and cakes by the cafe, people upstairs scribbling their life's desire all over the walls, and incredible acts downstairs playing music and splitting our sides with laughter. It was a night that has shot straight to the top of my best memories here in Newcastle.

   I couldn't have done it without all the help of Stephen Richardson, various JMC members, Madeep and Debbie (the owners of the Cafe), and all the talented folk that contributed to the evening! Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!!

Here is the link to the TED Talk we used for the upper studio if you are interested...

And of course some photos from the night...