Church’s arts ministry dramatizes fantasy, nurtures faith

June 21, 2023 | | GNJ News

“The play’s the thing,” said Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But it’s not the only thing happening at Jackson Arts Ministry (JAM), an adventurous, Christian arts and enrichment ministry of Jackson (UM) Church that serves the Jackson community in central New Jersey. There’s so much more.

But first, about the play…or plays. JAM brought childhood fantasy to life when it performed two plays based on iconic storybook tales using its outdoor stage June 3-4. The younger children (2nd to 4th grades) performed “Alice in Wonderland,” and the older children performed “Beauty and the Beast.”

Young actors attired in colorful costumes energetically moved about the stage’s imaginative sets reciting their dramatic, memorized lines and having serious fun, to the obvious delight of their audiences. View the recording on their YouTube channel.

Friends and family even gave verbal applause on JAM’s Facebook page. “Both shows were amazing!” wrote Amanda Hoepfner Blum. “Thank you for all that you do for these kids. Evidence of God and your love for them shows in everything. What a blessing this has been for my son.”

“What a spectacular program!” wrote Angie Loehwing. “We were so blessed to be a part of this. Thank you to all who put in so much work to make this a success.”

“That’s a wrap on our largest, most magical season yet,” reported the Rev. Denise Tiedemann, Jackson Church pastor. “From Wonderland to the Beast’s castle, we’re so proud of these kids and all their talent and hard work. And we thank all the volunteers and parents who made the weekend possible.”

This past season follows JAM’s performance of “The Jungle Book” and “Elf, Jr.: The Musical” in 2022.

Tiedemann helped start the current ministry in 2016, from its forerunner in 2012, with her husband and former Jackson UMC pastor the Rev. Joseph Tiedemann, along with other local partners. (Read “New Ministry Energizes The Arts in Jackson.”) A local pastor herself since 2016, with a background in theater and music, she was appointed to lead the church in 2022.

“The program has grown to the point that we had to double-cast both of these shows,” said Tiedemann.  “Embedded in all that we do, we look to share Christ with the children—understanding that for some this is ‘church’ for them. We do thematic devotions and pray with them always.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the focus of all that we do.

“And we keep costs for the classes and theater program low so that as many children as possible can participate.  No student is turned away as we have scholarships available for anyone who needs it.”

At the end of each season, JAM puts together a show that includes performances from each performing arts class offered through the program. In the past, these performances have included one-act plays, skits, dances, vocal performances and musicals. And some end-of-season shows have toured and performed at other churches.

Wide variety of arts taught, while emphasizing Christian faith

But there’s much more happening in this ministry for all ages. “We cover a wide variety of the arts with different classes being held every Spring and Fall season,” said Tiedemann. “A significant emphasis on Christian faith is embedded throughout the program in both content and friendships.”

The church’s initial goal was to take an assessment of talents among church members and neighbors, and then offer enrichment classes for children and adults. Now, a variety of weekly classes are taught in artistic pursuits, and many of them quickly fill up.

Previous class offerings have included performing arts, dance, photography, musical instrument lessons, Lego-building, cooking, sewing, hairstyling, vocal performance, woodworking, tie dying, yoga and fitness bootcamp.

The fall 2023 season will bring new theatrical delights with “The Sound of Music” and “A Christmas Carol,” following auditions and rehearsals. The program will also offer more creative arts and enrichment classes.

But first JAM will host Broadway Night at Jackson Church on Friday, June 29, at 7 p.m. The outdoor event under the stars will feature dances, songs, and other acts from talented youth.

“Everyone from 5th through 12th grades is welcome to perform an act of their choosing!” they announce. “Sign up to perform no cost at JAM will provide all of the lights, sound, microphones and staging. You just bring your talent.”

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