This past week marked 75 years of the Strawberry Festival at College Hill Presbyterian Church! Although it was only my fourth time, it felt like something I’d been a part of for a while already – like now it feels like I can’t officially start my summer without it. For a few hours in the afternoon the church has tons of food, music, desserts and cakes for a cakewalk, strawberries (duh), and the youth put on games and “rides” for children. It’s open to the entire neighborhood, and so the way the church is situated makes it perfect for families and people to walk over and enjoy an easy gathering. The weather was gorgeous, which always puts people in a good mood (me, in particular).
I remember the first year for me being incredibly stressful since I hadn’t done it before and didn’t know what to expect for such a large church event. And I thought, “Seriously, what’s the point?”
Since then, I’ve looked forward to it (I confess though still with a little dread thinking about how tired and sore my feet will be the next day) since it’s a chance for the whole church to be involved in some way another in the effort to…be a good neighbor…to each other and to the folks on College Hill and in the surrounding neighborhoods. I love hearing about the folks that come early in the morning to hull strawberries, set up hundreds of chairs and tables, help bring out the little games for kids, and trickle in all throughout the day with desserts and cakes.
The synergy of all the people is distinct and infectious…I wish we had more moments like this one, though perhaps our Deacons wouldn’t relish trying to organize more than one of these per year. But something like this ministers and reaches out at so many levels – we make money to give it away to local service agencies, we give our church community a chance to work and be a part of something neat, and we offer a venue for people to intersect and gather in a “third place” (to use Oldenburg’s words on Tony’s blog).
The funny thing is that when I got home, I read a chapter called “A Cast of Thousands” in This Odd and Wondrous Calling – it was by Lillian and happened to be about a church she worked with that loved doing a Strawberry Festival every year, but it was the same group of older ladies that organized it from when they were young moms. They finally got tired of it and put out a call, and instead of the expected young moms, etc. they got a lawyer and father of two young kids. From then on, they were the ones that organized it along with other unexpected folks. I guess it has kind of come full circle for me: I feel thankful for the reminder that there are really sweet and gracious moments when people have a chance to connect, serve, and give and if we give them that opportunity, how cool…