Downtown Springfield was filled with kids eager to show off their “family-friendly” costumes Oct. 31 at the Christian-themed Family and Faith Festival, sponsored by church members and Sunday school classes from Springfield United Methodist Church (SUMC) and the First Baptist Church of Springfield (FBCS).
More than 1,000 family members participated in the joint-sponsored activities in a safe, “non-scary” environment as an alternative to door-to-door Trick-or-Treating
From toddlers to teens, kids made their rounds to the 28 car trunks/booths positioned along Laurel St. that showcased messages of Jesus’ love. Children collected candy, played games, and for many, competed in a best costume contest in their respective age groups.
Nearby, Cleveland St. held the overflow of car trunks and served as the staging/ seating area where SUMC parishioners gave away 828 hot dogs and cups of chili from 18 crock pots that were donated by volunteers.
In addition to the meal, Sunday school class members from FBCS gave out free popcorn, cookies, cupcakes and conducted hayrides.
There were musical performances by The Smileys, along with praise bands from the Corinth Baptist Church and SUMC. Mars Theater opened up with free showings of TV Halloween specials and concessions. Local businesses and citizens also contributed electricity, lighting, lots of candy, and tooth brushes.
Bebe Reed, SUMC children ministry director, said it was the tenth year that the church has sponsored a Trunk-or-Treat event, which has grown larger each year. Last year, about 500 participants attended.
Leaders believe this type of event gives non-affiliated church families a chance to get acquainted with local church members and learn about different ministries. Most importantly, it gives parishioners the opportunity to show the love and light of Christ.
“This is one way God can call us to reach out to our community with all barriers put aside,” SUMC Pastor Randy Mosley said. “This event was all inclusive with any and all being invited. Through this event, God calls us to be His church to everyone.”
Molly Marchese, FBCS children ministry director, agreed.
Reed and Marchese met in February during “Good News Club” training and decided it would be better if their collective Christian community of brothers and sisters combined their faith and their resources for a festival, rather than do it alone.
In the past, FBCS held its fall festival at Ulmer Park but Marchese thought the church should bring it to the heart of the Springfield community and join with SUMC to create a family atmosphere.
Because of increased participation, Marchese decided the venue should expand onto Laurel St., which required closing it down prior and during the event. She got the okay from Springfield City Manager Brett Bennett and the Springfield Police Department.
“I wanted people to come, see and feel the love that we are called to share, along with the gospel of Christ,” Marchese said. “We wanted a non-threatening approach that would connect us with community members and begin to form relationships with them. This is not about an individual church, it’s about creating a real family and community event where Christians come together to show His love and bring Him glory and praise.”
Feedback from the community indicated that the churches met that goal, according to Reed. They also enjoyed the friendly competition in the Trunk-or-Treat Car Decorations contest and the Best Costumes competition.
“It is always great to engage in ecumenical efforts with churches of other denominations,” Mosley said. “It shows that people care for them, love them, will be there for them and are willing to reach out and help support their needs, whatever they may be.”