Written by Terry S. Lu – (photos taken by Thomas Wray)
The event was simple and joyful. There were smiles on faces as children rode ponies for the first time, while others wandered over to the petting zoo (have you ever pet a duck before?). In another area, children were piling in and out of a bouncy house. Elsewhere, people were enthralled by carnival games and the opportunity to win prizes. There was face painting, a photo booth, live music, raffle tickets, fresh popcorn, cotton candy, pulled-pork sandwiches, apple cider, pumpkin donuts….
How much for a pony ride? It’s free.
And the face painting? Also free.
And the popcorn? Everything’s free.
Welcome to the Uptown Church Fall Festival!
October 14, 2018, was a date we had all circled on the calendar. After a year of prayer meetings, launch team development, once-a-month preview services, community picnics, and a soft opening to mark the transition to weekly worship, Uptown Church was finally ready for its grand opening celebration. The day began with a special grand opening service, complete with a ribbon cutting and baby dedication ceremony. Immediately following the service, we rushed across the street to open the gates for our Fall Festival. This was our way of announcing to the neighborhood that we were officially open as a church and committed to bringing the hope of Christ to the Uptown neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Uptown is a challenging neighborhood to live in. There is chronic homelessness, mental illness, gang violence, and drugs. There are well-to-do individuals moving in while small apartments are being swallowed up by larger condos. While some are finding new homes for themselves and their families, others are being displaced as rent creeps ever higher. Uptown is also very diverse, and this diversity of race, culture, language, resources, and experience creates a million points of tension between people who live close together, but feel they have nothing in common.
We weren’t sure who would come, but we were certain we wanted to invite everyone. So we did. An invitation was mailed to each address within the Uptown zip code. Teams of volunteers would walk through the neighborhood and surrounding areas handing out invites. Invitations were posted online on our church website and distributed via social media. Posters were placed in storefronts and on street corners. There was a sense that God wanted to bless people through this event, so our greatest responsibility was to be invitational and welcoming. How can people attend an event if they don’t know about it? And how will they know about it unless we tell them? And how can we tell them unless we go to where they can be found? Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
During the festival, a longtime resident told us that he had been to many events in Uptown, but our Fall Festival was easily one of the most diverse, joyous, and peaceful gatherings the neighborhood had ever seen. For four hours on a bright Sunday afternoon, people from all walks of life came together. Children were allowed to be children. There was laughter, conversation, and some much-needed rest. And a small church, just recently planted, had the opportunity to bless a neighborhood as a reflection of the abundance of God’s goodness and grace. Although simple on the surface, it was a significant time of becoming family.
Through engaging the community, churches become part of the community. It is extremely important for the body of Christ to build relationships where we dwell and become a valuable resource to the people around us in order to better serve our neighbors. Hosting events that encourage fellowship between people from all walks of life is something all churches should consider, and this is what Uptown Church will cheerfully continue to do.
Visit https://uptowncov.org/events for more information about upcoming community events including a Global Refugee Crisis Forum.
In addition to being an attorney at Mauck & Baker, Terry Lu is the coordinator who oversees small groups and prayer ministry at Uptown Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information about Uptown Church on their website: www.uptowncov.org.
Posted on Tue, October 30, 2018 by Mauck & Baker