“The harvest is bigger than you can imagine” ~ Luke 10:2
Did you know: Fresh Expressions of Church are forms of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet involved in a Church community. You may already have the start of a Fresh Expression in your daily life!
Example: Bill & Mary Lou Gray have been involved in a chair volleyball team for about ten years. Most of the participants are elderly and spiritually open, but some are not involved in any church. This group prays together, has potlucks, visit one another in hospital, and more. This group is transforming lives! One man whose wife passed away was depressed and cried all the time. When he finally was convinced to join, he found a fellowship of laughter! They are missing volleyball, but are continuing to connect and find new ways to connect as they re-frame their thoughts about this fellowship as a Fresh Expression of Church. One couple has even had Bill perform their wedding during Covid!
How one Fresh Expression of Church begins to take shape during a pandemic
When Ohio began closing things down in March, Timber Creek Apartments closed down the clubhouse, the pool, and the playground. Even carefully planned, socially distanced events were banned by the corporate offices. Zoom events were attempted, but not well attended.
Then Joyful Neighbors was created! This Fresh-Expressions team is made up of Timber Creek Residents, Management, and members of Milford Trinity UM Church. Together we came up with a plan for bringing “Pizza and Picasso” to Timber Creek. The goal was to create an event that still fostered community without bringing people physically together.
Residents were given goodie bags which included a flier explaining the event, a couple small gifts, and a piece of sidewalk chalk. On Labor Day, residents were invited to chalk their walk. Winners of “Most Creative,” “Most Uplifting,” and “Best Use of Materials” got a free family meal from local pizza place, Angelo’s, and a Joyful Neighbor’s sign showing their achievement.
While taking an art walk, judging, and giving prizes to the winners was fun, we decided everyone needed something. While we walked, we left encouraging messages in chalk alongside the art. Additionally, we made thank you cards for each participating unit with a photo of their artwork and an affirming note.
Twenty-four units participated in chalk art outside their units (20%). Service Coordinator Tina Lytle raved, “I am super excited about the amount of participation, it far exceeded my expectations!!” From adorable scribbles to true works of art, the entire neighborhood was brightened. As judges and spectators roamed the neighborhood, smiles were on every face. Parents and children joined forces. Siblings worked together. Adults got to let their artistic side shine. Everyone received affirmation and appreciation!
Colorful drawings depicted nature and animals, cartoons, holidays, rocket ships, and abstract. Uplifting messages people included with their art included: LOVE, Black Lives Matter, and summertime, along with sayings that encouraged people to “be a butterfly” and “fear not”.
Everyone was moved when we reached the end of the road. Outside the home of a family of young kids whose father just tragically died, was this work of art titled Heaven drawn by one of his young daughters.
We know that the creativity of this Fresh Expressions team, led by the Holy Spirit, will lead to many more opportunities to serve, connect, and share the Good News with our neighbors at Timber Creek Apartments.
– Written by Pastor Jennifer Burns,
Associate Pastor for Mission and Evangelism in East Cincinnati