Christ Community Church of Nisswa commemorated the return to school and the renewed ministry activities that comes with autumn by hosting what they call a Loyalty Sunday, centered around an old fashioned church picnic, last Sunday.
Parishioners and guests enjoyed perfect picnic weather and traditional picnic fare -- grilled burgers and hot dogs, long tables filled with all of the typical Minnesota picnic side dishes, a selection of rich desserts, and of course, watermelon.
"We do the cooking. We do the setup. We do the cleaning," said CCC's Minister of Evangelism Jim Rogers. "The congregation can just sit back and enjoy it." But they did get on their feet to work off some calories and engage in friendly competitions like gunny sack races, tug-of-war and ring toss.
"In previous years we used to call it Rally Sunday," Rogers said. "But now we've changed it to Loyalty Sunday. In a lot of congregations, Rally Sunday is usually a kickoff for fall ministry opportunities that may have been on hold over the summer. For us, the AWANA (All Workmen Are Not Ashamed) starts up again, and that's a huge ministry for us. Youth come in and study and memorize scripture and are encouraged to bring a friend, a neighbor, or a classmate, so that they too can get exposed to the word of God," Rogers said.
On Loyalty Sunday, Rogers says, church ministry leaders take the opportunity to talk to people about possibly joining one of the church's ministry teams. "We used to put up a display of all ministry opportunities," Rogers said, for their Rally Sunday event. But since last year, they've opted for the church picnic approach.
Parishioner Lori Hall, who's an instrumental member of the church's Congregational Life Ministry, says Rogers, "had a heart for doing this old fashioned picnic." Hall also organizes Christmas dinners and other special dinners for the whole congregation. "She has a heart for serving the whole congregation and making it special. She is the one who really orchestrated the old fashioned picnic and the event surrounding it," Rogers said.
Sunday school hours for children, youth and adults will all resume after a summer break at Christ Community Church following their Loyalty Sunday kickoff. "Because we're in a resort area, a lot of our people will be more regular in attendance now, because summer vacation is over; and they aren't maybe staying up at the cabin up north," says Rogers. "What happens up here in resort land is that people are scattered all over the place, and it's a time for people coming back to together. And the kids are back in school."
"We just wanted it to be a Sunday where we want to just kind of say a special thank you to the congregation. Which doubles as a transition from summer into the fall. It's kind of a day where we're saying you're special, you're loved. Summer's over, let's gather together as we come into the fall."
One church member who in recent years has been disabled by illness arrived for the picnic in a wheelchair accompanied by a woman who used to work for him in his construction company, along with his current caregiver. "That's kind of the beauty of when you have a picnic event like that," said Rev. Rogers, who was pleased that the three showed up. A family of "alumni" parishioners who moved to Minot, ND, also appeared for the event, to the delight of those who know them.
Rogers thinks the availability of many people to attend the event on this particular Sunday related to it being Labor Day weekend. "We normally would have done it the next weekend (Sept. 9). Typically what you'll see is that churches have their Rally Sunday the following weekend," Rogers said.
A few of the other churches in the lakes area who will be hosting a Rally Sunday this coming weekend include Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, ELCA, in Brainerd; First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd; and Zion Lutheran Church in Brainerd. At Zion Lutheran, Rally Sunday services are scheduled Saturday at 5:30 p.m., as well as Sunday at 8:00 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday school and adult Bible study will be held Sunday at 9:15. It's a time for Zion Lutheran members to meet new ministry teachers, who will be installed this weekend, and to get back to a ministry routine for the coming nine months a church representative said.
Crosslake Evangelical Free Church is holding its own church picnic this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Crosslake Community Center (though it's unrelated to rally day). Everyone who attends the "log church" is welcome. "Fun for all! Please sign up in the church office or the church foyer," says the church's community website. The church is resuming their church picnic this year after a picnic-less period of about seven years.
Next Sunday, Christ Community Church holds its annual Stephen Sunday. Everyone putting on the worship service, and all those participating in two dramas which will be presented, will be members of the church's Stephen Ministry. The name originates in the Bible's book of Acts. The ministry connects people with certain needs, even small and temporary needs, to people who wish to help.
The church's September
newsletter poses the question: "Who May Need A Stephen Minister?" The answer contains a list that includes, in part, "People who are dealing with illness, family frustrations and challenges, loneliness, chronic illness, families of the chronically ill, loss of a loved one, separation or divorce, newborn, terminal illness, aging, struggling with faith in God, and so on. "What Does A Stephen Minister Do?" comes the second question. Answer: Offers Christian fellowship and love. Listens. Encourages. Keeps confidence. Prays. Supports. "God cares for people through caring," stresses Rogers.
"At the picnic we were promoting Stephen Ministry and other ministry opportunities open to parishioners," Rogers said. "We want to create awareness of the ministry opportunities where those ministries will minister to them or they have the chance to minister to others. If they need a caregiver, maybe they'll make a connection that that ministry is there for them either to serve in or maybe they need somebody to step over to them."
Christ Community Church is an evangelical church whose mission is "To know and make known Jesus Christ and His love!" says church literature. "We invite you to come and share with us. If there is any way we can help meet your needs, or if you desire information, please contact the church office at (218) 963-2626 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. You may also contact one of the elders or staff." The church is located just off Highway 371 north in Nisswa.
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