The former Barrett Jensen parking lot in Fredericktown was full of smiling faces Saturday, as children enjoyed free games, a bounce house, Gaga ball and goody bags at the Easter Block Party. A full lineup of food trucks was on site.
The block party was put together by Calvary Church with support from several local businesses including Madison County Service Coordination, which allowed the use of the parking lot.
Amber McCutcheon, one of the organizers, said the event was thriving and packed with people enjoying the free festivities.
"We’ve even had people from surrounding communities come through because they saw it, which is really cool," McCutcheon said. "Our purpose was 'relationships,' it’s just making connections for people. It was meant to be just a time to step away and make memories with your family— end of story, no other agenda."
McCutcheon said Calvary accomplished what it set out to do: create a space in which families could come and just have fun.
"They got to play games, no costs, everything was free except for the food trucks and yet there was even food provided for those who couldn’t afford it," McCutcheon said. "That was the intention of the snack baskets, because we wanted everyone to feel welcome at the table. We provided extra drinks and extra snacks and things like that."
McCutcheon said, as a mom, she has seen instances in which families could not afford to buy for every member, so she wanted make sure everyone was included, whether they were buying something or not.
"We had all kinds of chips and snacks and things like that so you could sit and enjoy and still not feel like an outcast," McCutcheon said. "It was helping to blur the lines so many people have. This is a family event, it doesn’t matter what your status or anything else is, everyone is really welcome."
McCutcheon said the block party was well-received. She was glad to see so many people come through from the community and not just church members.
"I have seen so many people come through here with nothing to do with our church and that is the beautiful part, they know they are welcome," McCutcheon said. "We are intentional about building those relationships and knowing where the people are. That’s why we had it downtown. Why would we ask them to come to church if we want to do it for the community. We have to be in the community."
All of the volunteers wore shirts that read "for," to show people the church is "for" people.
McCutcheon said when it comes to "for," that is Calvary Church Next Gen Pastor Seth Miller's vision and language.
"When it comes to 'for,'" Miller said. "First, I want to apologize to anyone who has ever suffered from judgmentalness, hypocrisy, or just broken people hurting other people. We are human, we make mistakes."
Miller said the church is supposed to be known for something. "God's word tells us that we are supposed to be known for the love that Christ had for us and I think for a long time the church has really struggled to be known for what we are 'for,'" Miller said. "People know what we are against and that’s not what we are called to be known for, and if God is for you, then so are we. We just want to love you and welcome you to the family. You are loved."
McCutcheon said Miller used to live in Tennessee and he brought the idea for the block party back to Fredericktown. "They realized by doing the egg hunts they really weren't making the connections in the community, so they created an event and they were able to connect with people," McCutcheon said. "That is really where it is at, it is really about building relationships."
Miller made sure to have fun while taking part in the day and building relationships. He could be seen busting a move, giving away raffle prizes, pitching in to keep the place safe and clean, and even racing through the inflatable obstacle course.
"We have a great group of people who gave up their Saturday morning, on a beautiful lovely Saturday to represent the love of Jesus we were always supposed to represent," Miller said. "From replacing balloons on kids games, Gaga ball, inflatables, standing in the sun, it was just really easy to know we could do this for the community when we already have so many people who naturally love the community."
Miller said he is thankful for all the businesses that gave all they did so Calvary could be generous. He said he is also thankful for the food trucks and their willingness to come out.
"Amber McCutcheon helped us organize the packing of 11,000 Easter eggs with random people from all of Calvary Church, Celebrate Recovery, our Madison Food Program, just so many awesome great people who are literally the hands and feet that are supposed to represent love," Miller said. "We got to give some love to our community. I know a year ago today we didn’t get to do anything like this so to be able to come and do this for the community, it's just crazy how many people were willing to volunteer and love, no strings attached."
This is Calvary Church's second community event to happen downtown. The Trunk or Treat back in October being their first. McCutcheon said they hope to have more free events in the future.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org