Open Crowd Community Festivals
Two Christian agencies have gained considerable experience in helping churches work together in festivals, and both have resources available and suitable for both the Jubilee and 2012 Games.
Fusion Open Crowd Community Festivals, started in Australia and is growing around the world to resource churches and churches together groups in serving their local community. They have collected a considerable amount of experience in the UK and all this is available: information, videos, and resource materials for a wide variety of activities, as well as the overall planning, on the Fusion website.
Countdown to a street party
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A key part of the Fusion vision is to see churches working together, which they have seen across a wide spectrum which includes Greek Orthodox and Pentecostal churches working together.
Share Jesus International is a Methodist home mission agency, based in London, with a long history of resourcing local churches in mission. In recent years SJI has run the Pentecost Festival in the heart of London with a wide variety of contributing partners. SJI has written a detailed resource book for local churches who want to run a festival in their own community. For the resource book and further details visit the SJI Local Festivals site.
Both Fusion and Share Jesus International resource churches to run festivals at all times of the year, as part of a local ongoing process of reaching out and serving community. They developed their experience long before 2012 and will continue beyond the Jubilee and 2012 Games.
Top Ten Tips - for churches working together in Festivals:
Think 'community first' rather than any one of the local churches. What could work in your local community - and how do you define it? Consider the mix of people and what resource networks are already available.
Start asking around the community groups to see what is already being planned, and then ask 'what are the contributions the churches could make?'
List all the churches in the area of 'community' you have identified, and find out the church leaders and key Christian network leaders who serve the area. Share the vision for a, Open Crowd Community Festival with them.
Bring the church leaders together, especially if you have good links with community resource people, and start the conversation as to what everyone can contribute to a united festival.
Celebrate diversity and see what gifts each church community can bring to the table - every one can bring something even just a pile of chairs or a tea pot!
Think big and creative, for all ages. The 90 year old lady limbo dancing - or the Police joining in the Hokey Cokey are the fun elements to celebrate - be surprised!
Work to strengths. If one church can lead on CRB checks, while another provides a Peace Movement display, then all can contribute to the whole. Diversity is one of the great gifts a festival celebrates.
Think of networks across churches especially for hospitality, 'meeters and greeters', refreshments, 'street pastors', committee members, stewards etc - volunteers from all the churches are welcome and make the festival possible.
Think how all the churches working together make the festival grow - especially with the ideal of making it a free gift. It might not be possible for one church to host, but 'together we can' - and pay for it!
Don't stop there! If you have had a taste of working together, what other 'festivals' could fit with some other major community event that the churches and community networks can do together.
Advertise the fact that the festival is the work of the combined churches in the area, and contact the media and publicity networks to celebrate the fact. This is a major statement and one which reflects Jesus prayer in John 17.
Celebrating the Christian faith
Use the resource of church websites to promote the festival and say how one church is working with another. At the festival use the web link www.christianity.org.uk as a key resource and advertise everywhere. This resource works on behalf of all churches.
Celebrate your life together
Produce handouts that list all the churches - and have them available on coffee tables, at exhibitions etc. Consider advertising your Mother and Toddler Group, Alpha course, Times of Worship etc - ideally on one piece of literature that celebrates your life together.
Stories of churches working together in festivals:
Wheatley, Oxfordshire. Several churches work together and have been running festivals for 5 years on St Georges Day. They also run a Holiday Club in the summer. At the St George's Day festival, everything is free as churches have contributed to finance together, and offer in the local town centre, with sponsorship by local shops, community groups eg: bouncy council, face painting, climbing wall, games, toddlers area, tea tent, as well. (A Fusion story)
Raines Park, London where Methodist, Fresh Expression Cafe Church, A church that meets in a pub, the Catholic Church and Salvation Army, held 20 events over a week. The Methodist building had land for events, while the Fresh Expression ran film night at the pub, the Salvation Army organised a Theatre event exploring homelessness, the Catholic Church provided a prayer room and icons and an exhibition, while the Cafe Church provided food. (An SJI story)
The Portabello estate in Wakefield where Baptist, Church of England and Methodist churches have served the estate and the nearby park with a summer festival for 6 years. Starting as a holiday club which included games e.g. teenagers playing the Police at football, it has grown to a community cafe, with ongoing events in partnership with local community groups throughout the year.
Quotes to inspire festivals
'After our community festival I discovered that festival is one of the most effective ways of creating a strong sense of common belonging and bonding through fun games, free food, dance and creative activities like face painting in our communities with effective follow up ..' Rev Osaba Otaigbe, Tooting Junction Baptist Church, London.
'For us the Festival marked a breakthrough into being more a part of the community. We had some youth clubs running but the Festival gave a vision for more and a determination to see that 'more' come in to being'. It wasn't just for more groups (we now have lots more) but also for the church to be right at the heart of the community. God has amazed us in the doors he has opened'. Richard Colbrook, Oxford Community Church.
'More to Life' from Grovebooks. Ongoing programme of mission events throughout the year.
This booklet describes a local community which held a year long festival of mission events, with contributions from a very wide network of church and community groups contributing to the whole. It can be bought as a book or download from this direct link to 'More to Life' at Grovebooks.