St. Paul fall block party reaches out to community

GREENVILLE—Goodbye, fall festival, hello, Fall Block Party!

This year, St. Paul United Methodist Church gave its former fall festival a makeover, transforming it into a Fall Block Party designed to serve as an outreach to families all over the community.

The festival had been designed primarily for families and kids inside of the church, but the block party is designed for families outside of the church.

The church received a permit from the City of Greenville to block the street in front of the church, along with police support. Kids were invited to come in costume and to trick-or-treat at the booths. The church set up many of its usual festival activities outside, including pumpkin decorating, face painting and a photo booth. Groups within the church sponsored the activities, so the women’s community ran the photo booth, the men’s community ran the bounce houses and street games (corn hole, chalk, hula hoops, etc.), the choir set up a church information and mission booth and the children’s ministry ran the balloon animal booth. The Margaret Smith Sunday School Class gave church tours and guided people to the restrooms.

“We set it up this way so people would be intentional about engaging with our guests and introducing them and inviting them into our church family,” said St. Paul’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Goldston. “We had a DJ, Joey Sprinkle, who donated his time. Reedy Rippit, the mascot of the Greenville Drive baseball team, came to lead the costume parade for the kids. We also brought in our community partners. The youth conducted a bake sale to raise money to buy Christmas presents for kids at Legacy Elementary, a local charter school with children primarily below the poverty line. We invited Legacy families to join us. We brought in the Project Host food truck, whose proceeds go to funding the soup kitchen and culinary school for people seeking better employment. The truck is staffed by culinary school graduates. United Ministries, our area homeless ministry, and Stirling Community Center, from the historically black neighborhood of Stirling, also set up tables to inform people of their work and to pass out candy.”

The Whale, a new craft beer collective across the street from the church, was open and sold wristbands. The church had several hundred people attend, from neighbors living in the community to people from Paris Mountain and Anderson who found the event on Facebook.

“All of this was made possible because we had worked hard earlier in the year to set aside some funds designated for ‘Growing Our Family,’” Goldston said. “We had formed a new team to set up outreach events to serve our community and invite people to become a part of our God-created family at St. Paul.”

Goldston said the church support was almost universal, the turnout was incredible, the community participation was much better than he expected and the event lived up to its billing.

“It was really, really fun. In a changing community, with lots of new people moving in, we invited people together to form relationships and established the church as an anchor for families in our neighborhood,” Goldston said. “I believe we did our most fundamental task in the world, which is to witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ. We showed people what God is doing at St. Paul to build a new family that loves, cares, invites, welcomes and accepts.”

The lay leaders who led the event were Jim Storey and Lori Cheshire.

“When people ask why St Paul is more like a family than just a church, I would show them the amazing (fall block party),” Cheshire said. “I had so many people tell me afterwards how wonderful the event was, and how it was amazing to see us reach out to our community and make everyone feel welcome. We gave children a Halloween experience that they might otherwise not get.”

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