OnSunday 4 July,Stratton Team Ministry held their annual Picnic & Praise event, an amazing act of witness and worship in the community.Curate Helen Baber explains how this has grown year on year and helped to strengthen local relationships.
Stratton Parish Council holds a festival every year, whichis well supported by local businesses and very popular with the local community. It runs over twodays and our service has become very much a feature of the events programme.
It is primarily a Stratton Churches Together event. I first attended it in 2013 as a new curate, and Bishop Lee was preaching. Following the service in the sports hall, they organised a bring and share lunch.
For the last twoyears volunteers from localchurches have focused more on making this act of collective worship, an act of witness in the local community. Last year we decided to move outside after the serviceto share a picnic together in the park. This year both our service and our picnic was in the park.
Our theme this year was Christ's presence in Stratton. The event encourages Christian's from all denominations (or none) to join together in a celebration of worship and praise. We are joined by some who just happen to be passing; some come and sit having come across us on a dog walk.
It is organised by a mixture of lay and ordained people across all the churches. Our music group and the choir are volunteers from all churches.
This is a well attended event, over the last threeyears we are increasing in number. There were more than 150 present this year.
This year we also had a presence on the Saturday, offering prayer and information about our local churches. Inspired by the service, next year we intend to grow our presence at the festival especially on the Saturday with a ministry team, but also to continue to witness in a very public place with no walls to shut people out.
In planning and praying for the event we are encouraged and welcomed to use the leisure centre coffee area, a hub for the local community.The parish council kindly supplies the venue and the sound system, as well as sound engineers. They also supply refreshments and set up the venue for us. They publicise it for us in their programme and on their website and a representative attends our planning meetings.
Last year the council asked us to deliver a Christmas Carol service as part of the Christmas Extravaganza, and we have been asked to lead another one this year. Planning will start in September.
Following the event and listening and talking about it with members of the congregations, people were inspired and motivated by this act of shared worship and felt blessed to be a part of it.