Grace Long Beach, a Grace Brethren church in Long Beach, Calif. (Lou Huesmann, pastor), is full of creative people. One way that they have channeled their creativity is through their biannual Open Mic Night, held at the church’s campus coffee shop, Seka, which means “smile” in Ugandan.
“Our Open Mic Nights grew out of a writer’s workshop, offered on a quarterly basis,” explained Molly Lewis, staff member at Grace Long Beach and creative director of the Open Mic nights. “A group of writers started getting together to critique one another’s work – encouraging one another in their own creative endeavors,” she said. Often the results of the workshop are showcased on Sunday mornings as a part of the message.
“[The members in the workshop] write a lot for the Advent services something to include in the bulletin or responsive readings. It is received really well – we’re accustomed to the service not being rote,” noted Molly. “Most of the time the contribution will be some nonfiction personal narrative or a poem about how God is working in someone’s life.”
Another reason Open Mic Night was started was to use sharing creative work as a door for building relationships with people in the community who wouldn’t otherwise be familiar with a church.
“We try to find ways to reach out to the community in ways that are accessible to them – it’s a lot easier to invite your neighbor to an Open Mic Night to get to know Christians in an unthreatening environment. Right now, there’s a couple involved in the writers workshop who regularly invites a couple to the Open Mic Nights and it is the only exposure they have to a Christian community.”
Grace Long Beach is very intentional to value and showcase the creativity of their members. “When we participate in creativity of any kind, we’re manifesting the image of our Creator, and that glorifies Him,” explained Molly.
“When we write stories, we are like children who play dress up – they understand life better because they are playing it. It’s one of the things that writing and creating music does – it helps up better understand the world God made by participating in his creative work.”