Worship in the Park to debut Aug. 21

Christian church leaders often talk about venturing beyond their four walls to meet believers and seekers wherever they gather. And now 13 Columbus churches are literally doing that with a daylong, inaugural event called Worship in the Park.

With an obvious reference to Jesus, you might call it focusing on the son in the sun.

The Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches has organized six separate worship services that will unfold at six separate city parks on Aug. 21. The assembly’s worship committee formulated the idea.

Worship committee member Pastor Kristi Jones of Memorial Baptist Church helped lead an outdoor service with First Baptist Church on First Baptist’s lawn shortly before the pandemic. She loved it.

Now Memorial Baptist is joining with New Hope Christian Church for a 10 a.m. service at Pence Street Park at Pence Street and Vermont Avenue.

“I think this idea will provide an inviting space where people can easily show up, hear the word of God, be encouraged and experience some love,” Jones said. “And then you can stick around (for food at some services) when it’s over or you can leave.”

Kelly Daugherty, executive director of the assembly, also known informally as Love Chapel, likes the idea of church members getting to know other Christians from other congregations and denominations.

Plus, a practical aspect of all this makes it extra attractive to church leaders.

“As the pastor of a smaller church, I love the idea of partnering with another church and combining resources in order to do something that we wouldn’t quite be able to do just on our own,” Jones said. “And on top of all that, I like the idea of reaching to our neighbors in the community.”

Jones also emphasized that these services are open to members and nonmembers, believers and nonbelievers. Daughtery mentioned that the concept originally was planned last year, but a spike in COVID-19 cases cancelled everything.

“But I really think the idea can grow,” Daugherty said. “Part of the basic idea is give people a nonthreatening place for folks to feel more comfortable to come — especially for those who don’t normally go to church — to worship.”

Each gathering is distinctly differently. One will include a post-worship fish fry. Another will offer doughnuts and coffee. Yet another is including an ice cream social.

“Our goal was to leave those details up to the churches and allow them to come up with whatever works best for them,” Daughtery said. “This gives people not just a chance to worship, but, in most cases, a nice chance to socialize with others as well.”

How will organizers judge the success? Daugherty said the approach to that could be relatively simple.

“I think just trying it out and seeing a few new visitors at each one will make all of us feel really good,” he said.

In the future, different churches will be matched with different partner congregations to expand the bond among church bodies.

This time, Baptists are gathering with Methodists, Episcopalians are gathering with Free Methodists, and so on.

“I think we have some very interesting hookups,” Daughtery said.

Worship in the Park, Aug. 21

  • 10 a.m. at Pence Park: Memorial Baptist and New Hope Christian
  • 11 a.m. at Tipton Lakes overlook: New Zion United Methodist and Mount Olive United Methodist
  • 11:30 a.m. at Mill Race Park: First Baptist and First United Methodist
  • 3 p.m. at Donner Park: Latter-Day Saints churches
  • 6 p.m. at Clifty Park: Sandy Hook United Methodist and Petersville United Methodist.
  • 6 p.m. at Donner Park: Columbus Free Methodist and St. Paul’s Episcopal.