By Tony Reid
Decatur Herald & Review
DECATUR -- Grace United Methodist Church in Decatur believes the mission to reach souls for Jesus doesn’t have to involve a lot of travel.
In fact, the church believes all the opportunity it needs is right in its own backyard at 901 North Main Street in the Old Kings Orchard neighborhood.
The latest Grace outreach effort came Sunday evening with what it billed as a free Neighborhood Block Party that featured games, bounce houses, cake walks, music, hot dogs, burgers and refreshments.
The neighborhood from blocks around was invited and dozens showed up ranging from moms with babies in strollers through to entire families and older, lone adults on a pleasantly warm but not too hot evening. The Rev. Sig Bjorklund, who co-pastors the church with his wife, Beth McLaughlin, said the aim is simple: reach as many people as possible with the message God loves them.
“This is really not a church growth strategy, it’s really just an opportunity to tell others about the love of Jesus,” he added. “We look for opportunity and this is another one that presented itself -- we’re just walking through that door.”
Bjorklund said the block party or some variation of it could become a more frequent event as the church gauges reaction to it. “We’re feeling our way, that is what we are doing,” added the pastor.
As a city neighborhood with low income and many related issues, Old Kings Orchard offers much to engage any church congregation. Bjorklund said that is why Grace United Methodist Church took a decision 35 years ago to stay and serve, rather than joining an exodus movement that has seen some churches decamp to vast new homes amid green fields but no surrounding neighborhoods.
“We can look out any of our windows and we can see our neighborhood; we look at that as our mission field,” said Bjorklund.
The Grace approach appeared to be winning hearts and minds as parents relaxed while their kids had a great time exhausting themselves.
“It’s something new and it’s keeping my kids busy,” said Taylor Comp, 32, who was there along with fiance Matthew Comp and children Matthew Comp, 6, Jayden Bullock, 2, and Cameron Bullock, 1. Mom spoke shortly after watching Jayden repeatedly zipping down a large blow-up slide. “Yeah, this is a really good idea,” she said. “And my kids will be ready for bed tonight.”
(Reprinted with permission from the Aug. 19 issue of the Decatur Herald & Review, www.herald-review.com)