Updated: Jan 27, 2019
Our story is going to be broken up into a few different sections just so it doesn’t get overwhelming. I’m going to try and keep it in 3 sections that correspond with the 3 years that we attended our yearly training conference. As I mentioned in our previous post, we started Hope at a Creative Ministry Solutions training weekend. That is where we (Lisa, Vickie and Hillary) bought our first puppets and a few script books.
At the next business meeting at the church, a few weeks later, we brought our ministry to the congregation to vote on. They approved our ministry and gave us a yearly budget to operate on. Our first performance was “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and was our debut to the church. (that video can be seen here -> https://www.facebook.com/320567278035591/videos/935644639861182/) Up to this point, we didn’t have any issues. Our one deacon, “Bob”, had made a stage for us out of PVC pipe and some black pieces of fabric the church had. The gesture was very nice and we very much appreciated it, but that stage was anything but practical. It took 5 grown women over an hour to put the frame up and an additional 30+ minutes to safety pin the “curtains” up. We knew then that we needed to invest in a proper stage.
Fast forward a few months - we are practicing a new routine for an upcoming park outreach that we are doing as a church. As it gets closer to the event we are wanting to practice with the stage. Here are where the problems start to trickle in… the stage was stored in the storage unites on the property - that’s fine. Only 3 people in the church have a key to said unit - PROBLEM. There was only 1 person on our practice days that had a key and he was leaving as we were wanting to set up. So we could get our stage out, but couldn’t get it back in. As we were needing the stage more frequently, it was getting increasingly difficult to find ALL the parts to the stage - a pipe would be moved or a curtain is missing, etc. This is when we started discussing among ourselves about getting a “real” puppet stage, some fundraising ideas, etc.
Moving on, we table the stage idea until our first outreach. Lo and behold, HALF of our “curtains” are see through!! You could see the puppeteer with their hand up the puppet making it move! How embarrassing! Not to mention the ONLY way we could move the stage was with a truck (once again having to rely on someone else) and it didn’t even fit in the truck. It literally went through the back window - touching the windshield and was hanging off the back of the tailgate.
After we found out the curtains were see through (both indoors and outdoors) we spoke to the 2 pastors and Bob. We had a proposal. Pastor Don had a budget for a yearly event that had since been retired, so we proposed that we use all of OUR budget and borrow the remaining from Don’s budget to purchase a much more versatile and professional stage. All people in that conversation were in agreement, but we had to present it to the congregation since it was a purchase of such a high value. Lisa presented it the next day in church so it could be voted on in the next meeting - 2 weeks from then.
The following Sunday, Bob approached me about this stage we were looking at. He basically wanted a schematic drawing of it. The specs and photos provided on the website weren’t enough, and I was even told to shop around to see if I could find a better deal. Now I don’t know about you, but they don’t sell puppet stages where I live, to where we could walk in, touch and see the product. The source I was looking at buying the stage from was the same company who put on the weekend of training - the big thing was we knew we could trust them. I spent that whole week researching stages and I kept coming back to the same one.
The week had come for the church meeting; Hillary had to work, so she wasn’t there to experience this firsthand. During the meeting, Bob’s wife, Lorna, asked very pointedly, “Who owns the puppets?!” Lisa stood up and said, “We do! The ones Vickie has, she paid for so they’re hers. Hillary paid for hers and I’ve paid for mine.” Butch - Hillary’s husband - chimed in and asked them, “What does it matter who’s they are? This ministry hasn’t cost you a cent and it never will!” At some point during this lovely exchange, Bob chimed in and made it very clear that the church is not a bank and they won’t lend money out for the stage. So based on that reaction, we just assumed that the vote didn’t pass for us to purchase the stage.
After the meeting, Lisa, Vickie and Butch were texting Hillary at the same time telling her everything that happened in the meeting, even to the point of saying that they all felt attached or threatened by the way the questions were asked. Based on their accounts, Hillary made a few executive decisions.
1) We will NOT turn in any receipts for materials they could confiscate (puppets, costumes, music, skits/scripts, and even a stage)
2) Hillary would buy the stage for Hope with her own money
3) Hope would not store anything of ours at the church for fear that it would get stolen, vandalized, misused/damaged and we wouldn’t know until the day before a performance.
Sadly, ALL of us could envision those things happening after what and how that meeting went down.
I believe it was at this point in our journey that we started talking about breaking away from the church. So we could operate the way we needed to as a creative group but also to take their control away. Less than 3 months in and they wanted to tell us when and where we could or could not perform and we eventually moved our practice space (we will talk about that later). It was almost like they saw us as their meal ticket to help THAT church grow, when really all our - Hope’s - mission was, and still is, to grow THE church, the body of Christ and to reach nonbelievers in a fun and different way. We believed very strongly that the ONLY person that will “control” us is God. We go and do the things He leads us to do.
This wasn't quite a full year’s worth of experiences, but I feel this is enough for now. Our story will continue and we will have more unpleasant things to go over, but I absolutely promise you that it gets better. I hope that if you are going through something similar that you find solace in knowing it isn’t just happening to you. Stay strong and faithful. Until next time friends!