Last Sunday morning I spent a few hours with a small team of volunteers on the streets of Peterborough carving pumpkins. Seriously.
These ‘Sundays out’ are a breath of fresh air to me and I’m not ashamed to confess that they are my favourite way of doing church. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good old sing song-along and listening to someone preach their heart out, but put me in an environment where I can actually put into practice what I believe and I’m happy as a pig in poop.
So, once a month I drag as many people who will be up for joining me out onto the streets of Peterborough to be among the vast majority of people who wouldn’t consider going to a church service. Instead many encounter Church out on the streets and since last Sunday was still in October, on this occasion people encountered a bunch of people carving pumpkins!
Together we carved 38. Yep 38 pumpkins! Each pumpkin found 38 welcome homes, and to be honest we could have carved 3 times the amount and not satisfied Peterboroughs eager families who wanted to have a free carved pumpkin.
People could choose one of three designs which corresponded to 3 different patterns:
- Stars and a cross.
- Smiley face.
- Two hearts.
For each pumpkin we gave away we prayed the matching prayer over the recipient. However we were also there to answer questions, get to know people and talk freely about our faith.
What particularly got me this week was the way people connected with the gesture. I mean really ‘got it.’ Some families commented about how good it was that ‘the church’ was doing this. One Muslim family encouraged us with what we were doing and wanted to speak about ‘faith’ and how we were sharing our beliefs with people. However alongside meeting people in the hubbub of the city and while we were giving out our 38 carved pumpkins there was also a street preacher near by us shouting very loudly. He wasn’t shouting directly at us, rather at everyone! He was the stereo-typical street preacher even down to the grey suit, white hair and big black leather bible!
While this blog isn’t an opportunity to pop insults at street preachers worldwide the contrast between what he was doing and what we were offering was stark. Very stark.
It was as if we were representing two very different ideals and messages. Yet we were both using similar words in our explanation of what we were doing. We both used the word ‘Jesus’ a lot. (!) We both used words associated with God’s love. Yet the messages ‘felt’ world’s apart.
The difference in the means of delivery served as an affirmation to me, rather than getting me annoyed at the shouting angry man!
What I was reminded about was:
The vechiel of the message is as important as the message itself.
Good news needs to be seen, felt and understood as good news otherwise it is ‘no news.’ It just becomes nonsense. Our message on Sundy morning was, I believe, felt and seen through a free carved pumpkin with an accompanying explanation of what the symbols on it meant and with a simple prayer too. Please, don’t get me wrong: Sharing good news isn’t all about packaging and gimmicks and things. However, the message more often than not needs fleshing out. It needs a ‘thing’ for which it can then make sense. If you like, it becomes a prophetic symbol for which the receiver of the symbol gets a load of explanation through the visuals aid of the symbol as well as the power of the words that accompany it.
By the way, if you would like the simple prayers of what we did I can send them to you via email or leave a message below in the comments box.
How will you share good news this Halloween?
Here’s a link to the pumpkin prayers: Pumpkin prayers