Park Day 2019
Since the inception of Reunion, we’ve wanted to be a church that isn’t limited by the walls of the spaces where we gather. Our vision of “church” extends beyond a Sunday morning through discipleship and communion in the Monday through Saturdays that follow. We’ve also sought opportunities to be creative with our Sunday mornings. Sometimes that looks like a house church potluck, sometimes it looks like serving a Thanksgiving lunch with local churches and nonprofits. This summer, it looked like extending an invitation to families who attend the Family Center to join us for a fun Sunday in the park.
We’ve done church in the park at least once every summer, and we’ve always loved the chance to “do church” out in our community. This year, we defined “do church” differently. Rather than have our band lead us in worship in the park, followed by a sermon and time together in prayer, we decided to “do church” with a bounce house, tons of burgers and hot dogs, and some face painting and balloon animals, inviting families with whom we’ve been building relationships to join us.
While we’ve been in relationship with these families since last fall, those relationships have primarily been built in the same warehouse on Saturday mornings. We wanted to create a space to see each other in a new context. We wanted this to be an even playing field. We wanted it to feel less like us serving these families, and more like us communing together. We all participated: everyone went through the same buffet line, and all the kids bounced or played while parents stood together watching. This was about creating a space to be neighbors, to become friends, to deepen relationships.
We had no idea what to expect, since we’d never attempted anything like this before. The pessimist in me was convinced we wouldn’t have any families want to come hang out with us. But then I saw the grandma of one of our families who consistently comes every Saturday for groceries, and I waved enthusiastically. This grandma was visibly skeptical of us back in October. But I’m convinced our shared enthusiasm over how cute her grandson is won her over. She now walks into our Family Center with confidence and a smile on her face as she greets us each Saturday. Seeing her there made all the work to coordinate the event worth it immediately. Even if no one else had shown up, I would have been so glad for the effort put in to create a space to connect with her more deeply outside of a Saturday in the warehouse.
We ended up having far more families show than this pessimist expected. I was so honored they’d chosen to spend time with us, and trusted us enough to enter new territory in our relationships.
But the thing that stuck with me the most that Sunday was the way so many of the Family Center parents jumped in to help clean up afterwards.
I remember our very first Reunion gathering in March of 2016. It was a Sunday afternoon in the basement of First Presbyterian Church, and as our first service ended, the reality of church plant life brought us back down to earth as we began to tear down and clean up. You know, those labor-intensive things that established churches don’t have to do. Things our launch team certainly didn’t expect our guests to do with us. But as service ended, people who weren’t a part of our volunteer launch team began to pitch in and help stack chairs and put our supplies back in our storage crates. I remember feeling so surprised and honored that people were choosing to be in it with us, even in the not-glamorous side of being a set up/tear down church; that they wanted to pitch in and participate.
I felt that same sense of surprise and awe as I watched some of the Family Center parents help us bag up leftovers, take down EZ ups, take loads of trash bags to the dumpster, and help us take things to our cars. So reminiscent of that first Reunion Gathering, we invited people into a space with us, and then were blown away by the ways they chose to engage in that space with us, fully participating alongside us.
I’m so excited for what the future holds for us. I’m excited for the next school year of the Family Center. I am grateful for the opportunity to know these families, to be allowed into their lives.
And just like I’ve been surprised and amazed by what God’s done in the life of Reunion since that afternoon in March of 2016, I am anticipating with excitement the surprises and exciting chapters that lie ahead for the Reunion Family Center.