Quotes from Open Crowd Festivals

Running our first festival was a huge step of faith for us, as a small church in central London. But with 2000 people coming along, and 5 churches joining us, we were delighted with the result. It was a “no-brainer” to do it all again this year, and next. The festivals have been hugely helpful in raising the profile of local churches and bringing us all together under one banner, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who wants to make a difference in their community - Stuart Cathrow – Quaystone Church- Isle of Dogs 
“Open Crowd” Festivals are the best missional activity we have done in our Church over the last 2 years. I would recommend every Baptist Church across London consider it as an effective way to connect with your community. It certainly is working for us.”  Reuben Martin - West Croydon Baptist Church
 Getting out of the building and throwing a party is a great way of connecting with people and giving them a flavour of what the Kingdom’s about. With fun and food, laughter, games and music, God works his magic on people in unexpected and wonderful ways. Simon Jones – Bromley Baptist

We live in a society where the sense of togetherness or bonding is lacking – there is often no community cohesion. After our community festival I discovered that festival is one of the most effective way of creating a strong sense of common belonging and bonding through fun games, free food, dance and creative activities like face painting in our communities and effective follow up. 

I highly recommend community festival and training to any church that truly wants to connect with its community.  The training for the festival is very important, if you want to get it right. Rev Osoba Otaigbe, Minister Tooting Junction Baptist Church
Chair London Baptist Association Mission Strategy Forum 

or us the Festival we ran with Fusion marked a breaking through into being more a part of our community. We had some youth clubs already running but the festival gave us a vision for more and a determination to see that ‘more’ come into being. It wasn’t just for more groups (we now have lots more) but also for the church to be right at the heart of the community. God has amazed us in the doors he has opened.

Richard Colbrook Oxford Community Church



Comments from people attending festivals:

“All I did was listen to this lady about what it was like to move interstate.  Then I offered to make them some stilts for their son.  Then she asked me about youth groups and churches and how they used to go and she asked me what did I believe.  She said do you know any good groups for kids this age.  I said I could pass her phone number on to one I could recommend if she liked.  She came in to get the stilts and I chased up the youth group leader for her.  The kids went along and now I think she and her husband have ended up joining the church too.”

“This young mother had been watching from the edge of the oval for ages.  I offered her a drink and asked her if her little girl might like her face painted.  She wanted to know who was putting it all on.  When I told it was the local churches, she said, “so this is what God is like? ’”

“This man seemed fascinated watching us paint the faces of children.  I don’t know how he knew, but he said, “This is a Christian thing isn’t it. ” I said, ‘Yes’.  He said which church do you go to.  I told him.  He said what time do they meet.  I told him.  He said, “I’ll be there tomorrow” . . . and he was.

“During a church service in Sydney an Associate Professor of Law spoke of how he had recently become a Christian.   He shared with the congregation that his journey to faith began when he went along to an Open Crowd Festival.  He hadn’t been for many years to anything put on by Christians.  He was impressed by what he saw and during the Festival was invited to an Alpha course.  He decided to go along.  The first few weeks he argued his way through the course.  Near the end he gave in to God.  The next year he joined the team organising the festival!

Comments from volunteers:

Here are some comments from those who helped organise previous “Open Crowd” Community  Festivals
“It was the first time that I can remember when our Church threw open our doors to the community”
“When you see what it is about – meeting local people on their turf, you realise it works”
“We were able to change the climate of how people see the Church.”
“It is a wonderful opportunity to see Churches working together. It broke down barriers between us. Our town is buzzing that these crazy Christians are doing this for nothing!”  
“This is the Church of the 21st century”
“If I had known it was going to be like this I would have pushed it much harder.”  
“I am really grateful for the initiative that says it’s OK and right for Churches to work together.”
“The Churches surprised itself by what it did”
“This certainly isn’t the Church that most people expected.”



Some comments from those from different communities
attending to the Festivals…

The local Chemist described the opening Night Festival for the Olympics she attended as the best night of my life.
“It is great that Christians are doing this. I don’t know whether I am a Christian or not”
“This is the safest place my children could have been”
“Look, the Christians have left their Church buildings and come out into the open!”
“There is something different about you people running this Festival..”
“This is how the Church should be”

Stories

South London
“We met Patricia when she came to our Festival. She wandered in with her mum and 2 little children. She was being temporarily housed at a Council Housing Unit just around the corner from where we gather as a church.  Several people from our church community made conversation with her and the girls and she joined in the Games and sports. It was a great joy to see her turning up at our Sunday morning gatherings over the following weeks. She felt welcomed becoming more confident, trusting people with her children. A few weeks later 30 of us from the Church helped her move. We’ve become her friend and as a result she has been inviting some of her friends to come to Church, all are completely unchurched. The “woman at the well” has turned up to our Church with her friends.”

Albania
“Open Crowd” Festivals began in Albania in 2005 after an Albanian had witnessed the Community Festivals in Athens during the Olympics. Over the years it is hard to quantify the impact of Festivals in changing cities across the south of Albania. This past summer the local teams ran 30 Festivals in 40 days often with teams of over 100 young trained people. Comments from local Mayors include, “You are my best friends, you are able to do what I cannot achieve”, “We are proud to have you in our city.”

The Mayor of Korce in the south of Albania acknowledges how the team through Festivals are changing the city. Now young people line up to have their faces painted, children co-operate and a strong level of social capital is growing in the city. One city Church has many new members through the impact of the Festivals. There are now over 400 in this Church and growing as the team runs monthly Day Trips and works in local schools. They plan to start another 10 church communities over this next year spearheaded by Festivals.

West Indies

A story from the Cricket World Cup in Jamaica 2007.

 As a part the Cricket World Cup, Fusion Caribbean partnered with local people of goodwill and 17 different churches in 5 communities across Jamaica, Trench Town, Central Village, Majesty Gardens, Marverly and John’s Hall (outside Montego Bay).

Throughout the weeks while cricket matches were being played, 20 community “Open Crowd Festivals” were held in these communities.

In Trench Town, where tensions were high due to ongoing gang rivalry, three days of festivals where held with the last festival having over 1,200 local people came together for the World Cup Cricket Opening Night festival.  Over 9,000 people attended these events. Following on from this over Easter a March was held where community members from the rival territories marched together behind a banner painted by the children.

At a meeting of community leaders and other interested parties including local School Principals they were asked what would help the community? The comment came that the local festivals that had been held during the World Cup Cricket in Trench Town run by the churches was what was needed to bring the community together.  Many people throughout the area had heard great things about the festivals even if they had not been there. All the Principals agreed that the most effective way of bringing the community back together would be to hold more community festivals.

In between these Festivals, there has grown weekly contact with many of the children through Kids Clubs, and with teenagers through Youth Basketball Clubs and monthly Youth Day Trips.

Recently in seeking to document the impact of the Festivals in Jamaica the Police reported over the past years in the areas where Fusion has been running Festivals the stats show that in each community the level of crime, particularly violent crime has significantly been reduced.

Fulham- London

Two months ago, our church ‘left the building’ for an afternoon – going to the park behind the housing estate next to the church to run a Community Festival. A couple of hundred people came to see what was going on. On an estate where there are very few community events, people appreciated the church making something happen. Many said it was the best community event they had ever been to and asked when the next event would be.

The next event – a ‘Last minute Christmas banquet’ – happened with  80 people packing out our church hall – for a full Christmas dinner. We invited everyone from the festival to come. Everything was free and we made sure that everyone felt welcome. Quite a lot of people from the festival had given us their contact details and we invited them to join us in preparing the meal, serving food or helping in some other way. We had our regular church service and then stayed on to peel, chop, stir and bake. While another group of us knocked on every door on the estate - an hour before the meal - to personally invite everyone who opened their doors.

A group of young people came together – about 8 of them. They had all been at the festival. One of them had done the barbeque that day. Another had been so inspired by the festival that he had filled out one of our feedback forms saying he wanted to volunteer for our next community event. I had popped round to see them both last week to invite them to come and let them know we had things we wanted them to do, and they came.

Several of these young people spent their afternoon serving others. They told me they didn’t realise serving others could be so much fun. They were the last to leave.. In the New Year we’re going to start a monthly youth event on a Saturday night. Another young woman, Shanice, is going to do an internship at the church. She starts tomorrow at 10am.

About six other people told me yesterday that if this is what church is like, they’d like to start coming on Sundays. Many others asked to come to the next community event.

Our congregation has really caught the vision for this kind of mission. Although historically the church wouldn’t have described itself as a missional church, that is definitely what we’re becoming. Our congregation can now see how it works – everything is free, we welcome people, we invite them to come and do things with us (it us not ‘us the church’ doing things for ‘them the community’), we model what the kingdom of God is all about, and through hospitality and friendship, they start to see a hope, purpose and joy in our lives that stirs in them a desire for something more in life, that they may never have been aware of.

 


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