Moments to “Tie Up With a Ribbon and Save” – A reflection on hosting the Diocesan Arts Ministry production of Oliver! at St. Helen’s, West Point Grey
Imagine walking into your home parish twice a week and hearing choruses of song, greeting friends from around your diocese, dodging children and teens all bustling with energy and witnessing an artistic endeavour develop. From January 2015, until the end of May this was my joy as my home parish of St. Helen’s, Point Grey hosted the Diocesan Arts Ministry production of Oliver! Our family has participated in past productions (Joseph and The Selfish Giant) so we were quite excited when it was our parish’s turn to host.
I’m not sure that others in our parish initially understood what this was all about. There were many who assumed it was a ‘children’s’ thing’ or that it was just another separate group using our space. In fact, while there are many youth involved in the Arts Ministry group, it is inter-generational and needs active involvement from the hosting parish to ensure success.
A small group of us at St Helen’s decided to take advantage of this opportunity. We ‘performed’ entertaining promotional announcements at the Sunday services. We organized a ‘Dickens Night’ fundraiser, a very successful and fun evening of song, reading, dance, food and lecture, all about Dickens and the story of Oliver. We sold tickets to almost every parishioner, and during performance evenings we ran a concession to fundraise for parish and diocesan children’s and youth ministries.
Were there inconveniences? Yes. The church space was well used and required more cleaning. Meetings and study groups had to relocate to allow for cast and costume spaces. Careful communication with user groups from outside the parish was required. The sanctuary space changed for a few weeks to accommodate sets, props and staging. London backdrops were hung and the pulpit was even relocated for a short time. Parish volunteers helped welcome audiences and dealt with the unexpected (such as flooding toilets).
Was it worth it? Oh yes, there are so many blessings. Rarely are so many youth and adults gathered to work cooperatively. Our church youth now have friends at different parishes and are connected with different clergy and youth leaders. My oldest child attended the May youth weekend at Sorrento along with several of his Oliver friends, and he even brought along another teen from our parish. I’m hoping as a parish we can build on these youth connections. Many in our parish feel better connected to the Diocese. The ministry welcomes many who are not church members and who have now had positive experiences in the St. Helen’s building. The wider neighbourhood also witnessed our church full of life and song, many even popped in curious to know what was happening.
There were so many moments that, just like Oliver, I want to ‘tie up with a ribbon and save’. Parents telling me of the confidence their children gained, people in tears before the last show (how could it be over so soon?), the joy and laughter, the time the teens hung out at the adjacent park in-between shows still in costume and make-up singing “that’s your funeral”2 at full volume, watching performers blossom at just the right moment and the sense of belonging to a wonderful, supportive community. “I’m so high, I swear I could fly, me oh my, I don’t want to lose it” . There is a way to pass this feeling along.
“Consider yourself” welcoming this amazing ministry group at your own parish and welcome the opportunities it brings. We look forward to meeting you.
By Patricia Mortensen, St. Helen’s, West Point Grey
Photos by Sheep and Goats