This is the story of People Built a Bridge, a powerful, artistic performance that was presented at General Conference 2017.
Darryl Dozlaw – songwriter and mandolin
Samuel Ganton – fiddle
Tamera Goller – artist
Ian Isaak – time-lapse video and sound technician
Tanya Prinsep – translator
Life Plan Study Team
Please watch “People Built a Bridge” before reading further.
The River – A Metaphor for the Current FMCIC
A complete description of how the river metaphor came to be can be found in the Life Plan Report. Here are the basics:
- Since the Fall, the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven have been divided by a metaphysical river. The kingdom of heaven builds bridges from its side of the river to the other so the people of this world could be pointed toward reconciliation with their rightful King and make their home once again in His kingdom. God continues to build bridges through His church.
- Until only a short while ago it was relatively commonplace for Canadians to make regular use of these bridges. If they needed direction, if they struggled with a moral issue or if they were afraid they went looking for one of our bridges in hopes of finding what they needed. And there were always lots of people on the bridge ready to lead them across the river.
- Sometime in the not‐too‐distant‐past, the river began to change its course and soon our bridges were no longer spanning the river. Canadians who, at one time would have sought us out are beginning to look elsewhere. This group of Canadians has grown by nearly 500% in the past 30 years.
- The Free Methodist Church in Canada currently finds itself here: the river in Canada has changed its course and many Free Methodist bridges do not span the river at all. Our best response is to become a movement of bridge builders.
- What do we need to become bridge builders? 1) Surveyors (church planters) who actively look for new landing points in Canadian culture and set out to build new bridges
- there. 2) Freedom for local churches and church plants to build wherever and however makes sense in the context. 3) Engineers who can sift through the pile of interesting ideas and begin to find bridge building principles.
- This won’t happen overnight. It may take years. We’ll have to get real with each other and ourselves about what is and what isn’t working. We’ll need to collectively learn from our failures and our successes. Above all, we’ll need to trust God. The Holy Spirit has led, is leading, and will continue to lead us into the future. This is God’s mission and we are joining in as a partner. We have all we need. We just need to use it.
When the Life Plan Study team began discussing how to present these concepts at General Conference, both Darryl and Tamera had a nudge from the Holy Spirit. They both wanted people to experience bridges and rivers, not just listen to a presentation. A few days later Darryl sent Tamera a rough recording of the song and Tamera sent Darryl some sketches.
Tamera is just getting back into art and she is really hooked on graffiti spray paint art right now. “I knew that a static image wasn’t enough. I knew it had to have motion to it.”
Tamera used a GoPro camera to shoot a timelapse video of her painting this 4×8 foot piece which took a little over two weeks to compete. Tamera didn’t want to fly solo on this project. She collaborated with local artist Sandra Peacock. “I knew I wanted to build a bridge while I was painting the bridge. Art is a « me » thing and when you decided to collaborate it becomes a different thing. You are opening your hand.”
Tamera didn’t care if the painting turned out at all, “The important part was building a bridge. There is so much beauty in collaboration. It is healthy, freeing, connectional and a necessary step for us to enter into.”
Tamera included some beautifully quiet symbolism throughout the painting that largely had to do with the lights.
- When the water is flowing under the bridge all the light standards are lit and it’s very bright. As the river slowly starts to change two of the light standards dim. This represents the people who are almost done with the church.
- As the river starts to disappear and move to a new place, the town grows – doubling in size. Again representing the Dones and Nones.
- The changed river completely isolates the town. When the bridge is built across the new river, two light standards removed from the big bridge are taken to the new little bridge showing that the church has great purpose. We can be bridge-builders. When this happens, the whole town is lit up.
- At first the sky is big and brilliant but as the river changes it grows darker. When the new bridge is built the sky becomes loaded and heavy with possibility.
The Van Gogh Connection
Tamera was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. “ Van Gogh was raised in the church but left after he came up against some discontents. If you look at the town in Starry Night, the church is the only building that is not lit up but the sky is big, bright and wild. Even though the church is dark, Van Gogh was still acknowledging God as big and good.”
“I enjoy working through other people’s art. I’m not a songwriter but I’ve always told God that if you want to use my knowledge of technology for the church – whatever that looks like – sound, lights, production – I’m in.”
Ian Isaak played around with Tamera’s GoPro footage to create a video that matched up with the song Darryl wrote. For Ian this was a unique opportunity to bring people together in a shared vision. “I can’t overstate the need for artists to be part of these committees and teams. It comes with its challenges but translating something like this to an experience and talking about “ah-ha” moments, an artist’s expression and vision are key.”
Darryl Dozlaw is in a songwriting groove at the moment. “With this song, I wanted something that sounded different from what I have been doing so I knew the ukulele was out. And I didn’t want to carry a big instrument to General Conference. So I picked up the mandolin and started jangling around. The hook for the melody came first. The lyrics didn’t come until the end.”
Because there was so much repetition in the song, Darryl was able to include some French lyrics. “I collaborated with Tanya Prinsep to translate some of the lyrics which was awesome.”
Darryl needed a click track to help him keep time when he played the song live with the timelapse video. A friend put together a click track that sounds like crunching metal, and breaking rocks on a construction site. “ It kind of throws you – the whole song throws you. And that’s the idea.”
Listen to Darryl’s lyrics and watch Tamera’s work unfold with new “bridge-building eyes.”
As Canada changes (the river), churches (the bridges) must accept responsibility for our community and develop new ways of engaging with them and leading them into relationship with God (building new bridges).
If you would like a digital copy of the painting please contact the Ministry Centre.