by Scott Hackman, Salford, firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrate Souderton was a missional faith experiment birthed from the imaginations of the Open Hand Initiative, a group of people who want to help local communities become places of belonging, using generosity and collaboration.
The context of society has shifted over the past several decades and the church has been pushed to the margins. Many people believe this offers an opportunity for the church to reclaim its mission. Celebrate Souderton gave Mennonite leaders the opportunity to take risks and experiment with missional impulses, as we attempted to answer what it might look like to express our faith in a local context during Lent.
The goal of this event was to collaborate with local faith communities, businesses, and non-profits to create space for belonging and opportunities for generosity. On Friday, March 11th we started by hosting a concert and coffee in downtown Souderton. Over 200 people participated in the evening, which included free local music and the opportunity for conversation at Main Street Java. From there, we continued the conversation at Main St. Java with Sunday evening gatherings to share stories about faith in the neighborhood in the context of themes from the Sermon on the Mount. Over 150 unique people came out during these weekly gatherings.
Our final event happened on April 23rd when 12 churches, 13 business sponsors, and several Main Street businesses joined together to celebrate the people in their neighborhood. Over 1,000 neighbors showed up. There were three art galleries displaying art by local high school students, local artists, and those in the community with disabilities (through Peaceful Living). A kids’ station was presented by Salford Mennonite and congregations like Blooming Glen and Souderton Mennonite provided free food. We also took over the main street parking lot for a large KidsZone managed by BranchCreek Community Church, complete with inflatables, hot dogs, cotton candy, and face painting. The youth group of Franconia Mennonite starting things right by dressing up as Scooby-Doo and Elmo to invite the neighbors to join in the fun.
The vision for this faith experiment comes from the underlying impulse to participate in the reign of God by following Jesus. We do this through sharing stories, events, and education. Together we’re exploring the next steps for the common good in the neighborhood whether that’s in Souderton or beyond.