How to Find Your Spark in the Ashes
Creative Brand Video–Creative Brief, Interviews, and Paper Edits for Spark of Divinity Congregation
Spark of Divinity Congregation
The focus of the Spark of Divinity brand video would be to tell their story to a larger audience within the local community. The goal would be to illicit sympathy and participation. This would all be to bring awareness to the congregation’s mission of promoting “Unity Through Diversity”
Spark of Divinity Congregation has seen a decline in membership and donation revenue since their original church burned down in 2013. They have acquired a larger property after the fire that has brought on more expenses, and they are no longer bringing in enough donation money.
The church has also some issues with the local community. Residents who live around the church think that because they are a congregation of Spiritualist, that the church must be “satanic.” The church has had very little word of mouth locally; so many people who may be interested in visiting the church still do not know it exists. They need to work with the community to raise awareness, educate, and serve.
Those interested in alternative or interfaith religion, whom do not want to follow an organized “main stream” religion: Self-help teachers, motivation speakers, and healers.
Our story has always been one about community. Through workshops, classes, and services—Spark of Divinity Congregation will help support your overall well-being.
An interfaith, non-profit organization that is built on the belief of unity through diversity, one journey–many paths, and that spiritual growth can be obtained through the merging of mind, body, and spirit.
The marketing campaign for Spark of Divinity will consist of a 80-second brand video. The video will be non-fiction and it will be shot using interviews and live footage of the fire that destroyed Spark of Divinity’s original building in 2013. Pastor Meddy Jacques will narrate the video using quotes from interviews as well as specially written copy.
The 80-second video will be featured on the home page of Spark of Divinity’s new website, launching in August of 2015.
Interview Transcript from Interview with Natalie Dessen. Audio Recording
Q: Hi Natalie, for the record, how old are you?
Q: And what is your role in Spark of Divinty
A: I serve on the board as Secretary and I also lead pagan holiday events and give sermons.
Q: And what are your primary religious preferences?
A: I don’t know. Paganism, I guess? I kind of like to just do whatever feels natural. I’ve always felt attracted to nature. Whenever I’m sad, or don’t know the answer to something—like, when life gets to be too complicated, I always go outside and look to nature to comfort me. I also love this idea of a god and a goddess, the idea that there is a duality to everything. But I believe there is more than that. I believe God must be made up of a thousand different souls, or energies that can communicate with one another. That God is a thousand different pieces of an entire world. There can be no human soul without a God and without human souls; there can be no God. I know that sounds weirdly philosophic. Was not planning on preaching in this interview. I guess no one ever has actually asked me what my religious preferences were before, not like that at least.
Q: How did you hear about Spark of Divinity Congregation?
A: A friend of mine told me that a new church had opened up in town, and that it was a pagan church. Or maybe she said it was a spiritualist church. I can’t remember. I just know that she said a church had opened in town and that it was different from most churches. The windows were draped with rainbow colored curtains and there was a lovely display in the window featuring idols from religions around the world; some flowers as well. I had walked by them on Main Street a couple times. One time I was staring at the window for a long time and this very nice guy, who turned out to be Pastor Jeff, came out and said hello to me. I was too shy to ask about the church. I didn’t know if they’d be open to letting me know about it. I used to always have this feeling that people weren’t willing to let me into their groups or clubs. I don’t know why I always felt like that. I just felt like I couldn’t belong.
Q: What made you decide to finally go?
A: I don’t know what it was. One Sunday I woke up and things felt differently. I felt ambitious and eager to try something new. I found Spark of Divinity’s website, the one that they used to have, and learned what time their Sunday service was. So I went.
Q: How did you feel when you first walked through the doors of Spark of Divinity?
A: When I first walked into Spark of Divinity’s store front in Palmyra, it was like I was walking into a sacred temple where everything was exactly as it needed to be and where I was exactly the person I wanted to be. The building just felt right. It was small and dark, but beautiful. I was drawn to the tapestries on the wall, the altar covered with gems, the smell of incense, and all the burning candles. It was like I was coming home. I started attending services every week and workshops whenever they were held. I couldn’t get enough of the place.
I remember, for my first healing session, I worked with Pastor Jeff. He spent a lot of time with me, working through years and years of pent-up insecurities and frustrations that I didn’t know I had. I was only twenty-three at the time. I had graduated college the year before and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was working a retail job, which paid well, but the nature of my work made me feel like a failure. I was also going through relationship problems. Working with Jeff and Meddy helped me to learn to love myself, to feel blessed and grateful for the job I had, and helped me to become honest with myself about where my current relationship was going. I remember leaving their building for the first time and feeling alive again, in a way I had not felt since I first started college.
Q: How long were you with SoD before the fire?
A: I was a member for a year and a half before the fire happened.
Q: How did you feel when you heard the news?
A: I was working on the sales floor and my cell phone rang. I saw that it was another member of Spark of Divinity calling. I knew if they were calling, then something was very wrong. When I answered she told me, “Did you know the church is on fire?”
I checked the news and saw that a whole block of Main Street, Palmyra was in flames. It was arson. Someone in the apartment directly above the church had purposely set fire to the building. It was a suicide attempt.
It was unreal at first. I felt like my world was completely falling a part. I have searched for such a long time to find Spark of Divinity. There aren’t many places like it. There are no places like it in the Rochester area—no place where it’s okay to worship whomever you want whichever way you want within a community of individuals. The congregation at Spark of Divinity is so diverse—we have Christians, Pagans, Cabbalist, Jewish, Buddhist, Spiritualist and atheist. We are all of different races and sexual orientations. There were so many different people coming together every week to hear lessons about how to improve yourself and the world around you. There were so many people coming together to support one another through charity, friendship, and encouragement. If you didn’t have somewhere to be for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, whenever—Spark of Divinity was there for you. They’d have a dinner or a celebration for those without families. It was a surrogate home. The idea of losing something like that was devastating. It was the end of an era.
Q: How did the congregation cope with the loss?
A: Well we found a new meeting place almost immediately. We spent a year meeting at the community center at the apartment complex of one of our members. We struggled a lot that year trying to find a new space. The issue was finances. We aren’t tax exempt yet because we’re not a registered church, just a religious organization, so we rely on donations and without a building, there were no donations. We lost so many members that year in transit. Most of them really. Then we finally were able to sign a lease for The Garlock House.
Q: Tell me about The Garlock House.
A: It’s this historical building in downtown Palmyra that used to be a mansion, and then for the past century it has been converted into a restaurant. It was abandoned five years ago, so when the congregation took over it needed a lot of renovations and repairs. Like I said, Spark of Divinity completely relies on donation so we haven’t had that much money to make improvements on the property and pay rent and utilities.
Q: What was the overall attitude of the congregation towards the move to The Garlock House?
A: They were enthusiastic at first, but then the reality of the amount of work and money the property was costing started to sink in. Suddenly the focus of Spark of Divinity turned towards raising money to help maintain our new property, and there was less focus on service, charity, and the development of the soul.
Q: How do you feel Spark of Divinity will be able to draw in new members?
A: I think we need to stop focusing on fund raising and start focusing again on the original purpose of Spark of Divinity: providing a shelter and a home to the misfits and the lost and healing the mind, the body, and the spirit. I think simply shifting focus will help attract new members to the congregation and make up for the people we lost. We often have new people come in but they do not stay. I don’t think they feel the way I felt when I first walked through those doors. We need members who are dedicated to the family, but also want to be here, not for the betterment of Spark of Divinity, but for the betterment of themselves.
Interview with Pastor Jeffery Jacques and Pastor Meddy Jacques. Conducted on Facebook Messenger.
Q: First Off just tell me the story of why you founded Spark if Divinity? What need did you sense in our community that SoD could serve?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Spark of Divinity started as a group of like-minded people who were not happy with how their current church was being managed. After some drama, a group of us (about 5) decided to start having our own services at the shop that Meddy had in Williamson. We had been meeting for healing and mediumship “practice” already, but felt that the politics and drama was not energy we wanted to promote.
Q: At what point in your journey did the group grow beyond five and begin to resemble a church more than a group?
Meddy Jacques: We met on Sunday evenings, at 6pm, when we started, as well as attended another church in the morning. Then, after we left the other church, several members asked us to be their pastor. We began having church in the park on Sunday mornings.
That winter, we met at Meddy’s Musings, and it continued there for about a year.
Jeffrey E. Jacques: More people started joining us, but then the decision was made to close our shop. While change meant we had to find a new space, some found it challenging, but we then found the place in Palmyra.
Q: Why did you choose to relocate to Palmyra?
Meddy Jacques: We had a regular attendance of about 20 in Williamson. Many of them teens. I was told to close the shop; just after that I had a major “spell” – and needed about 6 weeks to recuperate at that time.
The everyday maintenance and time commitments of the shop were encroaching on my family needs. Many people were upset that I closed it. Some refused to come to Palmyra.
I was told by my guides to build the church in Palmyra.
Q: Did you feel that Palmyra, with its history, has a strong spiritual pull?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Palmyra was where we saw growth and the building of our community.
That pull would prove even more ironic or synergistic than we originally knew.
Palmyra had such a rich spiritual history and a history rich with Spiritualism too.
Meddy Jacques: Yes, and there was also a link to Palmyra, Syria… which kept appearing in my dreams, part of why I went back to school for anthropology and more specifically, historical archaeology.
Q: Can you tell me briefly about that history?
Meddy Jacques: Palmyra, NY was home to many “new” churches. The building we are in now has housed two other upstarts.
Q: I didn’t know that
Meddy Jacques: Cross Creek was one.
Jeffrey E. Jacques: The spiritual tie to Syria has been interesting.
Q: Was that the same guide that warned you about the original Palmyra location?
Meddy Jacques: Yes.
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Especially since Historic Palmyra confirmed that Palmyra was named after the founder had an interest in Palmyra, Syria.
Meddy Jacques: And, this particular guide does not speak often, yet when he speaks, I listen… even if the message is somewhat cryptic or demanding
Q: What was the message about the original Palmyra location? You can paraphrase if you like.
Meddy Jacques: When we were looking for a place, I was actually interested in the place that is closer to where you [the interviewer] live that is now a store with home goods and decor. But I got the “no” on that. When we looked at 236, I was told, “This will do for now.”
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Our personal plans are sometimes quite the joke in the spiritual realms.
Q: Let’s bring it back to talk about the SoD community. What was the communal atmosphere at 236 before the fire?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: We were a collection of like-minded individuals that were beginning to outgrow our ability to serve. Crowding became a concern. Then the message Meddy got.
Meddy Jacques: Although we were full in that space on Sundays, it was often very chaotic and unfortunately, offerings barely paid the bills. Then, as we were outgrowing our space and we were shifting things at home to have a healing a room, I kept getting strong suggestions to “take that home” and to move the showcase back and such…
And the statement was very clear: “You will be out of here in May, 2013.”
Q: What kind of service were you guys giving the community and the congregation at the time? What were you hoping to inspire or develop?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Yes to both – inspire and develop.
Moving to The Garlock House was where we were hoping to be able to serve the community more. At 236 we could not.
Q:But what were you hoping to develop? Was it charity? Spiritual enlightenment? Self love? The idea of an existential family?
Meddy Jacques: What we tried offering was more options for meditation and movie nights. We did a couple of psychic fairs, but even at the Canal town days, people asked what kind of store it was. Because we were in a storefront, many people did not take it as a church.
What I think is important, we still have not achieved: feeding bellies while feeding their hunger for something more
Jeffrey E. Jacques: We were hoping that Garlock would offer us the ability to share all our desires to connect with the community would flourish. The kitchen, space for events, a possible smoothie bar…
Meddy Jacques: And allowing for world offerings – such as Ulla, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Synergy the Skull, Joane Shenendoah
Q: How did you feel the day of the fire?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Helpless. Too far away to do anything.
Meddy Jacques: Yet I think Spirit knew we could not handle being there… that we had to be physically prevented from being there
It was not coincidental timing that we would be a fifteen-hour drive away when the fire happened.
Jeffrey E. Jacques: The helplessness turned to sever concern for some very special things – the people. Then we thought of the artifacts we may have lost.
Meddy Jacques: Nor that the items for the raffle got picked up a day early
Jeffrey E. Jacques: I agree with Meddy. The “coincidence ” of being called away only hours from the fire breaking.
Meddy Jacques: And yet, at the same time, there was an overwhelming sense of peace.
Q: Tell me about the way the congregation reacted to the fire
Jeffrey E. Jacques: The fire hit us all hard, but also solidified out resolve to keep spirit first and persevere.
Meddy Jacques: Having the congregation meet outside [after the fire] and technology allowing us to sing together, to pray together… that was incredible.
Q: So more on an emotional, deep, non-material level–what do you hope SoD members will take away from their experiences with SoD, short term and long term?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Taking with them a sense of our original tagline… Unity in Diversity. The division between the individuals needs to end, and coming together, reconnecting despite our own differences and centering on how our uniqueness can effect our worlds, is what has always been meant to be. Regardless of what faith, political or economic background you have, “Come as you are” and realize that we are all humans looking for enlightenment.
Meddy Jacques:When Jeff and I walked into the Garlock House, the first thing we noticed were the purple walls and the crystal chandeliers. It offered all of the opportunities the church family stated it wanted: the food cupboard, the kitchen, outdoor space… and a sense of history.
Q: I love that you mentioned how you felt when you first walked into The Garlock House. Did it feel like home?
Jeffrey E. Jacques: Yes. Literally.
Like we were also welcomed home.
Ashley Lorelle Rieflin: One last question, what do you hope new people, coming to the Garlock House for the first time, feel when they first walk through the doors?
Jeffrey E. Jacques The same as we had. That they are walking into their new spiritual home.
Q:I kind of want to make sure the video does not focus on what we lack. Instead I want it to focus on our heart and our potential for growth. I feel if we focus on the core thing that attracted all of us, both members and founders, to SoD in the first place, then we can give other people the hope that they will also be coming home to the same place, feel the same things and develop into the people they want to be. I want to attract them with our vision.
Meddy Jacques: What I want is for them to feel intrigued, welcomed. And I want people to feel a sense of belonging, that “this is MY church”. We thought long and hard about the name and its abbreviation.
Q: You’re right, it really just says it all. It’s about finding the Spark of Divinity within all of us, no matter what we believe to be divine–we have it.
Jeffrey E. Jacques We are all the Spark of Divinity. And… SoD is where you plant beauty of the soul.
Meddy Jacques: I really want the House to reflect the pearl that she is… and honestly, if she shines, our Light will reflect that much better to the community
What did I want when we started SoD? To know that people who always felt out of place had a support system.
In-person Interview with Timothy Hildebrand
Q: What is your role in Spark of Divinity?
A: I am the Vice President of the Board.
Q: How did you discover Spark of Divinity?
A: Through a relationship. I started dating a girl who had similar spiritual ideas and desires that I did. She seemed very passionate about this place she was going to, Spark of Divinity, and I decided to join her. I as well fell in love with thep lace.
Q: Could you describe your spiritual preference?
A: I mostly follow a Native American-style of belief. Nothing in particular. Just spiritual.
Q: How did you feel when you first walked through the doors of Spark of Divinity?
A: Relaxed. It was a very welcoming community. They welcomed me with smiles and hugs the moment I walked in. I was instantly accepted for who I was. It was a very laid-back atmosphere, they were all right with letting me wear a hat and jeans with holes in them—causal wear, and I wasn’t looked down on for it. They didn’t focus on such petty things, you know? You could instantly tell that there is a belief that—I don’t know how to explain it—there is a common feeling that God is just not that petty.
Q: Do you remember anything that really stood out to you from your first time there?
A: That was really it. Just the fact that it seemed like it seemed like a church that “I” could get with—if that made sense. That’s saying a lot for someone who grew up hating organized religion.
Q: What was it about organized religion, and religion in general, that had previously made you someone who would not have typically tried a place like this.
A: The idea of assimilation or bust. The idea that…I don’t know. Everything being sold to me [before] was more then I could believe. I couldn’t believe in a God that cared more about what I was wearing on a daily basis and not so much on what was in my heart and my spiritual self. I was being judged so much on how I behaved and what I had on the material level and not on the spiritual level. There was so much hypocrisy. No value was given to whether or not I was living a spiritual life.
Q: How do you define, in a few words, living a spiritual life?
A: It’s more important to be nice than right. Doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Q: How long were you with the congregation before the fire?
A: Only two months. Not very long.
Q: How did you feel when you found out that it had burned down?
A: Mostly confused. It was more of, what do we do now? What happens to the congregation from here? What’s the next step? Is this the end or do we meet somewhere else?
Q: How did the congregation cope with the loss?
A: We made the best of it. We did the best we could. One of our members contacted the place they were living and was able to get us a meeting place every Sunday for several months before we were able to make a new home for ourselves in Palmyra.
Q: What was the overall attitude of the congregation towards The Garlock House?
A: From what I remember, when we first heard about it, there were many of us who were instantly apprehensive about it. We wanted to make sure we weren’t signing the death certificate of Spark of Divinity. We went in, did a tour, and the moment we saw the place the whole congregation became very excited. It gave us so many opportunities—space for a store, for a kitchen, for a worship group. It gave us the space we could never have before. It gave us the opportunity to grow into a real spiritual church.
Q: Now that the space is there, how do you feel Spark of Divinity can attract the members to fill that space?
A: Personally I truly believe in connecting with the spiritualist community as a whole. We need to find a way to reach our fingertips out and find people in the area who were like me, who do not know that this place exists. It’s someplace where someone can just come and get a general message of hope, love, and faith, no matter what their beliefs are. We need to make sure they know we’re there.
In-Person Interview with Brienne Amberle
Q: Hi Amberle! Could we start with the basics? How old are you and how long have you been a member of Spark of Divinity?
A: I’m 32-years-old and I have been a member of Spark of Divinity for three years. I help with the cleaning and stuff.
Q: What were you doing on the day of the fire, on May 3rd, 2013?
A: I was actually on my way to Spark of Divinity to do some cleaning. I was the caretaker in the old building. It was really small, just a shop front, so I could take care of most of it myself.
Q: Can you tell me about it?
A: The fire had just started; they hadn’t even finished closing off the street. I was able to drive almost all the way up to the building. There was smoke billowing from the windows above the church. I thought we were going to be okay, because I didn’t see any smoke coming from our windows. They were intact. I didn’t know what to think when I saw the smoke. At first I thought it might have been us, like, if we had left a candle burning or something. Mark’s Pizzeria was right next-door too, so it could have been them, but only smoke was coming from above. I don’t know, there was a lot of confusion at the time.
Q: What was the first thing you did?
A: I called Pastor Jeff and Pastor Meddy. They were in Maryland visiting Meddy’s family. I knew there wasn’t much they could do, but I was hoping maybe they could point in the direction of who to call. That was a hard phone call to make. Jeff and Meddy founded Spark of Divinity. They were like our parents and we were their children. I didn’t know how to tell them that our home was burning down. They had me call Cheryl, who is our treasurer and a close friend of theirs. Cheryl left work and headed down to Palmyra. Alex and Michelle lived just around the corner, and soon they joined us. I called Natalie and Tim but they couldn’t get away from work. We didn’t know what to do, so while the fire fighters were working we began to sing songs and say prayers. We had Jeff and Meddy on speakerphone and they prayed with us, and somehow we all knew we were going to get through this—together
Q: What was the aftermath like?
A: It was hard to know the state everything would be in. We later learned that a woman who lived above the church started the fire. She was mentally challenged and was trying to commit suicide by setting her apartment on fire. We thought that maybe the church was salvaged but we didn’t understand the amount of water damage that happened, or the fact that the roof fell in.
Q: Were you able to see it?
A: The fire marshal only let Jeff inside, five days after the fire. They were able to salvage only a handful of things out of a lifetime of things that they had collected. There were many artifacts and spiritual tools. I didn’t care about those though, I’m just happy that everyone was all right. We saw pictures. The roof had caved in and everything was severely damaged by smoke and water.
Q: Are you happy with the new home at The Garlock House?
A: Yes! It has so much potential. But there is so much work to be done because The Garlock House was abandoned for so many years before we took it over. It’s going to take an effort of the family volunteering both time and money, but I know we can create a beautiful church together. There is so much potential there.
Video opens with shot of fire trucks outside of the strip of buildings in Palmyra that caught fire in May of 2013, Spark of Divinity Congregation included, parts of the footage below are shown:
Meddy (as narrator) voice over:
On May 3rd, 2013 the neighborhood block that was home to our church, Spark of Divinity, was set ablaze. Our spiritual sanctuary was crushed underneath the weight of water and rubble, and our congregation gathered together to support one another as an iconic chapter of our history came to a close.
Photographs of the fire are shown, as Brianne speaks:
Ashley: Our pastors, Jeff and Meddy, were in Maryland visiting Meddy’s family. That was a hard phone call to make. Jeff and Meddy founded Spark of Divinity. They were like our parents and we were their children. We didn’t know how to tell them our home was burning down. But they prayed with us, and somehow we all knew we were going to get through this—together.
Camera cuts to a shot of Tim walking through the rubble from the fire.
Tim: Spark of Divinity showed me that God is not petty. They accepted me for who I was—for my torn jeans and my dirty hat—they didn’t care. They were above those things. We couldn’t allow a place like that to die. We had to rebuild. We had to find a new home. So, we salvaged what we could find—
Photographs of the damage after the fire, with a shot of what Meddy was able to salvage
Tim: And a year after the fire, we found The Garlock House. It was a building looking for a family, and we were a family looking for a home. Now are mission is on rebuilding and repairing. Together.
Images of The Garlock House, the historical home that is now Spark of Divinity Congregation’s head quarters:
The camera shows a shot of the congregation in front of The Garlock House, working in the gardens, and making repairs. Camera zooms in on Meddy, standing on the porch.
Meddy: The division between the individual needs to end. Coming together, reconnecting despite our differences, and centering on how our uniqueness can impact the world, is what we’re meant to do. Regardless of what faith, political or economic background you have, “come as you are,” and realize that we are all humans looking for enlightenment.
Our home is a symbol of that mission, and now, we are working together to transform our new home into a sanctuary that aligns with our message. But we cannot do it without your help. Join us. Grow with us.
Shot of this image, taken from the rubble of the fire:
Video fades out to reveal The Spark of Divinity logo on a white background with the website and contact information revealed on the bottom of the screen.