On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 9, 2022:

The leadership of Believers’ Baptist Church puts a big emphasis on building relationships among the church family and the community. The Sunday morning schedule is set up with a fifteen minute gap between Sunday School and Morning Worship to allow time for members and visitors to meet new friends and touch base with old friends they haven’t seen in a week or so. It works so well that it’s often difficult for Pastor Jason to settle the congregation when it’s time for the service to begin.

On the last Sunday of the month, we have a casual Brown Bag Fellowship where people are encouraged to bring food from home or pick up fast food and spend some time together over lunch. We also have cookies and tea following business meetings, occasional potluck dinners, and an annual chili cookoff. And several times a year, we suspend regular Sunday evening studies in favor of Family Fun Night which usually takes place in the church parking lot. People bring lawn chairs, desserts, and outdoor games and enjoy more time together. This past Sunday we did something different and had Family Fun Night at Sandy Creek Park.

My research, which included a few minutes on Google and a note to Heather Rollins, indicated that the City of Emory purchased the land for the park sometime before 2015. With the help of various grants and other funds the City added bridges over the creek areas, a beautiful walking trail, several picnic tables and a concrete pad with some electricity for events. Recent City add-ons have included a splash pad and permanent restroom facilities. In addition, funds raised by dedicated people like Heather Rollins and her Keep Emory Beautiful projects have paid for an amazing children’s playground and a number of covered picnic tables as well as restoration of the arch bearing the Sandy Creek sign. They also planted some trees, but unfortunately, these were stolen. The hard work of all these people has turned Sandy Creek Park into a lovely retreat in the heart of Emory – the perfect place for Church in the Park.

Since I no longer work in the Church office, I’m not privy to everything that goes on, so I’m not sure how our normal Family Fun Night evolved into the extravaganza we had Sunday night. We normally try to schedule one of these events earlier in the year before it gets too hot, but somehow we let the spring weather slip away. As the thermometer approached triple digits, someone probably suggested that a site with more grass and less cement might be more appealing. And someplace with water – like a really fun splash pad – would be a hit, especially with the children. When word of the tentative plans leaked out, Red Lewis immediately thought of the freezer full of fish he had been stockpiling. He and his wife Lori suggested a fish fry and offered to not only furnish the fish but also to cook it. Of course, when church ladies – and men – hear about a dinner, they immediately want to know what they can bring, and the emails and Facebook posts began to fly.

The event was scheduled to begin at 6:30, but when David and I pulled into one of the few remaining parking spots, the party was in full swing. At least fifty people had arrived ahead of us, undoubtedly enticed by the beautiful weather, and more continued to gather throughout the evening. God had favored us with a thunderstorm that passed just close enough to lower the temperature and humidity without raining on us. The children weren’t affected by the cooler weather though, and most of them were making full use of the splash pad – some in swimsuits and some fully clothed. While a few of the adults watched the kids, others were busy cooking or setting up the already overloaded food tables. Still others were lounging in lawn chairs, sipping an iced tea or root beer, visiting with old friends, and meeting new friends.

Shortly after David and I settled into a good spot and a good conversation, we heard Carla Weddle’s whistle – something I’m sure she developed during her career as a teacher at RISD – and Pastor Jason announced that it was time to eat. After he blessed the meal, we lined up and began to fill our plates. For the next hour or so the conversation centered generally around who brought what and which dessert was a must have. Some of the more energetic in the crowd, mostly the teens who felt they were too old for the splash pad, and some of the younger adults, gravitated to some of the outdoor games that had been set up – corn hole, Frisbee, and football to name a few.

Shivering children who had been too busy playing to worry about dinner began to drift over from the splash pad in search of a towel and food. Duffy, the Music & Media Minister, broke out his guitar, and he, Phillip, and Tyler led us in a couple of songs, and then Pastor Jason gave a brief summary of the summer schedule. After that, the conversation continued for a while, but as the sun crept behind the trees, people began to fold their lawn chairs and gather their empty or near-empty bowls. It took a while to say goodbye, but we eventually made it to the car and headed for home.

The consensus on Sunday at church and on Monday on Facebook was that Church in the Park was a huge success and that we should do it again sometime. Thank you to the City of Emory and to people like Heather Rollins and others who work diligently to create spaces for events like this. Thank you to church leaders who encourage and nourish a spirit of fellowship that makes events like this a joy to be a part of. Thank you to Red and Lori and all who contributed to the food and other details that made the fish fry a success. But most of all, thank you to the Lord who founded His Church on the Rock so we might love and support one another as we wait for His return.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,



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