Heartbeats in time: You've Got a friend

Do you sing? Do you like to lip-sync? Can you paint props? Are you a ham-off-Broadway wannabe? Then maybe you’d like to be in the 2022 version of Heart Beats in Time! The event will take place Sunday, March 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. Please contact Connie Pittman directly for this year‘s production called You’ve Got a Friend!

What is Heartbeats in Time?

By Connie Pittman

I have been asked why do Heart Beats in Time? What is it about anyway?! If you missed the 2020 event here’s an explanation!

Twenty-five years ago I was on staff at Opportunity FMC. I had been there for a few months when the Senior Pastor asked me to “fix” Valentines Day.

Hmmm?! Evidently that church, like so many others, focused on Valentines Day for couples only. Emphasis was put on those with sweethearts. Typically it was celebrated with a overpriced banquet, at a local restaurant, that excluded many as it was cost prohibitive. Especially so for younger families with children who couldn’t afford the cost of dinner at a pricey restaurant plus babysitting. So young families opted out. Singles felt ignored and those who had suffered broken marriages felt dismissed.
It was an event for a small select group of couples only. Now of course no one intentionally left out over three quarters of the congregation. They just did. At least once annually on February 14.

The Pastor asked me to do something more open to outsiders and included everyone. (Years later I came to call this a “bringers & includers” activity). He asked me to make Church for “them… not just us”! Sound familiar? We call it Outreach!

So I came up with the idea and it became a “thing” after the first small attempt at offering something for all adults. (We decided early on that this was adults only event … a chance to give everyone over 18 a night out)!

That first year the technology consisted of me taping (as in on a cassette player) the background music for about five acts; where the Beatles, Captain & Tennille, and the Andrew Sisters came out from behind the Kitchen door to suddenly appear in the “living room” where Rev Delos & Wanda Louden sat together “playing” their old records. My good friend Linda tells me that the she still remembers the first year where she just stood there during the full length of “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?” while her husband, Mark sang to her!

The event was well received and we made it an annual thing. Now seriously … how can you not enjoy music in a soft candle lit room with decadent chocolate desserts and warm beverages? Food is a central feature to all Heart Beats in Time! HBiT

Here’s what I hadn’t thought of before it happened back in 1997: we discovered that those “in the show” invited their families and friends who never went to church. People who refused to come to Sunday worship or a Bible study came to HBiT and brought their friends! Over the years many of my own family, friends, and coworkers came … and not just because they were tired of hearing me talk about it.

The idea of the event - lest you forget how it began - was to bring people out for a fun evening with exceptional treats served up with good music and a comedic flare. I won’t perjure myself to say it was always great musical talent that they came to see but come to see they did!

By the time we were on our HBiTv3 we’d moved out of the lobby and into the sanctuary that was turned into a dessert theatre! What started out as, “What is Connie doing now?” turned into “How can I get involved?”The number of acts and (guests)increased each year. (Ohhhhhh and I have pictures to prove it!)

From 1999-2001 we were appointed to First Church. For the life of me, I don’t even recall what we did for Valentines Day back then. Do you?! In February 2001 we were in the process of interviewing at a different church and were invited to meet their board at their Valentines Banquet. It was held at an expensive downtown restaurant. . . .

By the following February a group of fun-loving folks agreed to try out my idea of hosting a more inclusive event. They claimed that I full of surprises so why not see what it was! I met with three of those supreme friends the other day for coffee at Ladder. We laughed for 2 hours about our years doing back up to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart”, and the time following Dorothy & friends into Oz on a yellow brick road. Everyone was surprised to see the quality costumes rented from the Civic Theater!

One rule I established at the genesis of these events: no one gets to see what the other acts are doing. There’s no group dress rehearsal. Just individual practice sessions where I give ideas but don’t want to hear or see what the final wardrobe and hair styles will be. Part of the fun of HBiT is being surprised by the incredible level of talent that come out behind the door! For many these are first-time appearances by those in church who rarely make it up front on a Sunday morning.

Our final performance in February 2007 was a hit … we ended our run at that church with a packed house… crowded with people who bought tickets to see what we could possibly do to surprise them with something fresh & new!

I still stay in contact with these good friends from over 25 years of letting our hearts beat in time together to the music and the joys of life. From 1997 to 2007 I had written, produced, directed and showed my love for a variety of genres of music, light hearted choreography, and festive food and fabulous pastries! Then … a bakers dozen of years went by and my attention shifted to other things. None nearly as fun!

In February 2020 BC (Before Covid) we introduced the idea here at First Church. I called it HBiTv10. For me it was my volume 10 but it was our First Church first! We played songs by Neil Diamond and captioned it as: “Diamonds in the Rough”… (and I mean rough)! I begged, pleaded, and bribed people to take a risk on being it. Some declined to even attend… which was okay! But Debbie & Mike Kreuch stepped up to the plate and knocked a home run before we even got to the 7th Inning Stretch. (Did you catch the Diamond theme)?

We had 7 great live acts… and a couple spontaneous sing-along moments. It was a modest start but the talent came forward (albeit reluctantly) and those involved had fun … and many from last time are back in this years lineup!

As fate would have it, 2021 brought on a full-tilt pandemic with nothing getting around our critical health and safety protocols. So we benched it… and I was very disappointed not to see a reprise of those fabulous 4 elderly Monkees again with their air guitars.

But I didn’t delete the plans. I put the script away.
In a file folder.

…And I waited.

Now we are unsure what the early spring will bring us in the way of Covid and all of its variants. I was hoping that this cold winter would kill the bugs… but it hasn’t yet. We’ve postponed already. But I’m getting pretty good at waiting! We will wait until it’s safe to do this event even if it’s past February and not even remotely focused on Valentine hearts, roses, or chocolate bon-bons.

When it does happen, this year’s focus is on Friendship and a Road Trip to exotic destinations like the Oregon Coast! I find that we value these relaxed times together more than ever in a time when isolation, lock downs, and lack of fellowship has been the hallmark of our past 24 months. We just need to be careful.

Here’s why we do this:
To bring our friends to church in a “non-churchy way” that is a relaxed time out; where friends and family see we can truly be fun people, capable of sharing our joy served up with lots of food, love, and laughter! Since 1997 the point remains the same. To show those who are “outside” what we do “inside”! Say what? Can we do that?! Yes.

Thank you to all those who have already agreed and to some who even asked me if they could sing or help! I appreciate having a real live DJ on the Sound Board this year…and the incredible computer technology to bring real road trip pictures to life. I appreciate the attitude of the Fellowship Team (aka the Fun Committee) members who get what it means to throw a fun party and to reach out at the same time to our neighbors with the heartbeat of Jesus.

If you have more questions or comments or just want to be involved… shoot me an email at conwyn56@gmail.com or text me at 509-309-4486.