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Beyond church walls.

A congregation cannot survive if it does not reach beyond the walls of its building to touch the life of its community. But how can this be done? Obviously, through the witness of its members in their places of work and recreation and through their many volunteer services. But how can the church as an institution reach out and share with the community a glimpse of saving grace and hope?

St. Paul's Church in Simcoe, Ontario, found a way through the Friendship Festival the town sponsors each Civic Holiday weekend. The congregation entered a float in the Saturday parade which highlights the event. Last year, the theme was "Legacy 200" as the town celebrated its bicentennial.

Having observed the congregational bicentennial in 1993, St. Paul's was prepared to think of pioneer days. Before buildings were erected, services were sometimes held in the open air. Simcoe's location at the centre of one of the largest apple-producing areas of Canada suggested the theme of "Fruit of the Spirit."

At the back of the float stood a tree from which balloons and streamers were hung. Children of the church school had printed the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22) on the streamers. Members of the congregation in pioneer or quasi-pioneer garb sat on benches down the centre of the wagon while the minister faced them from behind a lectern at the front.

The impression was clear: the things that make personal and community life worthwhile are the fruit of the Spirit which come from being open to God in worship. It was a subtle and gracious way to invite people to "come to church." And the fruit of the Spirit grew within group members as they worked together on the project.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Presbyterian Record
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Albert E. Bailey
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:May 1, 1996
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