The JAC Story

 

Three Years, Two Weeks &
One Really Good Cup of Coffee

As the sun fought to catch a glimpse of the landscape through the clouds, it was quite the opposite for the 14 artists around me. Our souls took a collective breath as we surveyed the olive groves and vineyards of the Tuscan hills, rich with the colors of fall.

 
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As the sun fought to catch a glimpse of the landscape through the clouds, it was quite the opposite for the 14 artists around me. Our souls took a collective breath as we surveyed the olive groves and vineyards of the Tuscan hills, rich with the colors of fall.
 
We had reached the end of a two-week pilgrimage through Europe and were sharing stories of how our hearts had been shaped by the experience. I had curated this journey for my fellow artists to see them awakened to something bigger than themselves—to release their lives and art further than they could imagine. Little did I know when I began the planning how much I would need this experience too.
 
Almost five years ago my family began a new chapter in Nashville so I could work at Journey Church as the worship arts pastor. It didn’t take more than a week before I started seeing how different Nashville was compared to the city I moved from. As a pastor in Perth, Australia, most people wanted to talk to me about being on the ‘worship team’. In Nashville, most people wanted to talk to me about making it as an artist and the challenges this road entails. It was largely these discussions that ultimately led me to establish the Journey Arts Collective (JAC).
 
When we began the collective our focus was on getting acquainted, with a year of open door community-building experiences. In the second year, we decided to lead month-long training events, supporting those in different facets of industry life in Nashville: entrepreneurs, visual artists, musicians, film-makers and more. Our third year became challenging when we lost access to our meeting space. As a result, we shifted our focus to smaller gatherings and experiences including a poets and writers group, a songwriters group, art and story nights and a spiritual pilgrimage through Europe.
 
On a personal note, it was in this third year that I knew my time as worship arts pastor had come to an end. After a lot of prayer and discussion with the leadership at Journey, I stepped down from this role to focus on JAC. Interestingly, this part of the story was met with lots of questions? Each time I thought I had a clear vision for the next chapter of JAC, one of my trusted mentors helped me see that more clarity was needed. My frustration and questions grew as I wrestled with the future of the collective. Just before leaving for Europe in the fall of 2016, a friend said, “Brett, you keep describing a vision that is your own version of Starbucks, but you need to first ask yourself what a really good coffee looks like.” As I boarded the plane, my prayer was: “Lord, if I’m meant to keep doing this, show me what a really good 'cup of coffee' looks like for us in the arts collective.” And He would.
 
As we engaged in the art, cathedrals, history and culture of Europe, we were called to places of mysterious wonder. We were welcomed into artists’ homes to hear their stories and we emerged inspired, challenged and encouraged. While deeply profound, these experiences alone didn’t carry the weight of influence to cause change in our lives. The reshaping of our hearts was ultimately found in the day-to-day interactions with our fellow travelers. As we were increasingly vulnerable about our own stories and served one another, our collective European experiences were given personal context and traction. I watched unfold what I knew was next for JAC.
 
Upon returning to Nashville, I gathered a small group of artists and started our time by asking them for words to describe a treasured vacation or trip they’d had with friends or family. Words like peace, fun, known, safe, joyful, refreshed, laughter, adventure and growth emerged. I then asked what it required for this beauty to happen in their lives and they said cost, time, commitment, tension and vulnerability, to name a few. I posed the idea that if we would embrace the sacrifice required, we could be using the same words to describe our experience of the JAC.
 
So as we began our fourth year of operation in January 2017, this small group (or village) committed to meet together twice a month for six months. Our focus was not on a big event. Not on guest artists or speakers. It was just us. Committed to know and become known. Creating space to hear from God. To steward our talents in the sharing of art and story. And serve one another. Small. Simple. Like a great ‘cup of coffee’.

Today the members of this initial village are joining me in inviting others. One village has become five and we welcome other artists to join us. We continue to dream big with plans to also undertake different events, training programs, a collaborative studio space, art projects, retreats, local mission, and more, yet the small group remains the central experience of our collective. Here we are refined in community and awakened to our God-designed life.

 
Brett Mabury