Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We go to Community Family Night

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the traditional congregation decided to provide bingo in the Family Center -- with one of the most appealing attractions in Fresno this time of year: air conditioning. A number of families were already in the room when the games started up, and many little kids had bingo cards.

Bingo was just one of the activities available at Community Family Night at Butler Church. The four congregations of Butler came together it put on the event for the neighborhood with free bounce rooms for children, along with face painting, free snow cones, and a free bike repair clinic. Mindy and I were quite pleased with the $1.00 tacos. (A server told us, “I haven’t tried them yet but they look and smell good.” No worries, they tasted as good as they smelled.)

As I mentioned, Butler, which belongs to the Mennonite Brethren conference of churches, has four congregations. While Mindy played a game of bingo, I talked with Pastor Jim Holm. He’s pastor Faith Community, an English language congregation that gathers for a traditional worship service. He told me about the three other congregations: the other English language congregation, Common Ground, that celebrates with a contemporary worship service (both of the English language congregations meet at the earlier service time, 9:30 am); Amor y Fe, the Spanish language congregation; and Asian Grace, the Laotian congregation (the Spanish language and Laotian worship services meet at 11:15 am). All four congregations came together to put on this community event.

Each congregation has their own pastor, with one pastor, Scott Holman, as lead (or administrative) pastor for all four congregations. Each congregation supports their own pastor, but a “common pot” from each congregation supports the facilities, office staff, and other shared needs.

Seven times a year (including Christmas Eve), the four congregations meet together. The morning after the Community Family Night was going to be one of those times, with the new president of Fresno Pacific University as the speaker. The church and the university are in the same’s right across the street.

This month we’re focusing on community churches, and since 1957, this church has been committed to Southeast Fresno. The church has a monthly community meal for the neighborhood and a food distribution program for the poor. During the Family Night there was bicycle repair available for those who needed it. The church’s website says, “We cooperate with local organizations to help make Fresno a better place to live, and will continue to work against social injustices.”

I spoke with Calvin, who’d introduced himself to Mindy and who’s been a part of the church since 1980. He had work to do and really didn’t want to take time for an interview, but he did say it’s important that the church “makes people in the neighborhood know that God loves them as God loves us”.

Fresno is a multi language, multi racial, and multi ethnic city. I’m glad that there’s a multi language, multi racial, and multi ethnic church working to show that unity is possible and it is what God desires.