"In His Midst" – Our Summer BBQ Park Ministry amid strangers (and at once who are also neighborhood family)
“Alright good people, hot dogs and hamburgers are on, so come on over!”
I shout this out on Wednesday summer evenings during our church BBQ ministry, where we bring a grill into Trowbridge Square Park in the Hill (in New Haven, CT). The good people of Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill bring dishes, fruits, a salad, and some dessert. We offer a small feast to whomever happens to be in the park that evening. Sometimes, for some, it will be there only meal for the day. Anyone in the Park at that time is invited to join us for a short message (i.e., some park preaching) and prayer—and they do, indeed, come to hear the Word. 40, 60, and even sometimes, 80 gather. Listen. Pray. And, then, eat. It is a remarkable 90 minutes.
Our BBQ park ministry is called “In His Midst.” When we refer to the summer ministry as “In His Midst,” there are two meaning behind this:
1) God is already there in the Park. He has been working in the lives of the people who are there—already. We aren’t starting something so He’d show up. We are showing up in a place He is already working. We are going to be “In His Midst.” We don’t show up so God will be there; we show up because God is already there in that park.
There is another reason we call our BBQ Park ministry “In His Midst.” The Bible tells us that somehow Jesus is among the hurting, marginalized, and the stranger. So, we choose to be “in His midst” at Trowbridge Square Park on at least eight Wednesday evenings during the summer.
The good people in the Park are both strangers and family (a slice of the Hill). At the 6:00pm hour on Wednesday summer evenings, there are dad’s spending some time with their kids (just trying to do right and make the best of things), plenty of single mom’s with their kids (just trying to get some relief from the day and give their kids some energy release), drug addicts (some even smoking 420 right there), dealers, alcoholics (some who can’t even walk and some just so happy we’re there), too many homeless hanging on a thread, hungry, and at a loss for what they should do (and some with kids who will be outside that evening—well, at least it’s summer, right?), and way too many unparented teens just hanging out. Did I mention gang members? And, there are a number of Park neighbors, good families who love seeing something good and positive happening that evening.
We cannot solve all their issues or problems, not even a few of them, but we can feed them, love on them, and open up some space for strangers to be a large family of neighbors just for an evening. "In His Midst" teaches us who we are as His body and puts us right in the middle of where Jesus said he'd be, in the midst of strangers.
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.