Reviving Fuller Park
As we were preparing for the revival in Western Massachusetts, the planning team realized that we needed to do something more than simply invite church folks to be part of the event. Since I work as Urban Missioner in the Main South neighborhood of the city of Worcester, we decided to target my neighborhood as part of our efforts.
I work out of a storefront on Main Street in Worcester, serving coffee and snacks each morning, helping people connect with detox and community services, but also helping them connect with God and each other. Social isolation is one of the most pressing problems for homeless and marginally-housed people.
[Are you interested in the amazing work of Walking Together: A Ministry with Southeast Worcester? Click here to learn more.]
With that in mind, we decided to create a community event in a public park located between the storefront and the theater where the evening event was to take place. The park is a lovely space, and has a pavilion where our DJ could set up his equipment.
Of course, it is also a public park in a troubled neighborhood. We decided that if we were going to use the space, we needed to claim it first—by cleaning and then consecrating the park for the day. A group of volunteers showed up early in the morning with work gloves, trash bags, sharps containers and open hearts. We cleaned up trash, cigarette butts, discarded clothing, broken glass, and hypodermic syringes. We talked with our neighbors as we did so, and accepted all offers of help.
After the trash was safely disposed of, we gathered for prayer. We offered a prayer of blessing, and then walked the park again, consciously asking God’s blessing on the space, on the work, and on all those who would enter the space over the course of the day.
[Learn about the Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life.]
And then our friends started to show up. Tables and chairs came from local churches. Our DJ, BamBam, came with his equipment and his music and his infectious joy. Folks from Simple Church, a United Methodist ministry in our area, came with a portable pizza oven. We had tubs of craft materials and boxes of hats and scarves. We had small toys for kids (and adults) and notebooks and puzzles and bracelets to share.
Over the course of the afternoon, we made fascinators from headbands and tulle and pipe cleaners (an homage to the Royal Wedding). We painted wooden crosses that folks could bring back to the places where they sleep. We made and decorated God boxes—small boxes where people could tuck their prayers and worries. And we sang and danced and ate good pizza and talked and prayed.
That afternoon, we saw a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. People were fed. People had an opportunity to be creative. People showed their talents for singing and dancing. Young men showed up on their bicycles, bishops wore silly hats, and church ladies from Cape Cod made God boxes with street people from Worcester. And we shared love and prayer and hope and light. And God showed up, because whenever two or three gather in the name of Jesus, with or without pizza, Church happens.