Noisy Parade – From Nuisance to Ministry Opportunity

Post a Comment » Written on March 17th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (March 17, 2008) – Beverly Covenant Church opened its doors March 9 to revelers at the large St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the city’s south side, reflecting a change in the congregation’s attitude toward reaching out to people in the community, says member Janet Borggren.

In recent years, the church has embraced the parade – which draws 260,00 people – as an opportunity to minister to the visiting crowd, as opposed to resenting its presence, Borggren says. Several hundred people walked to the church, located a block off the parade route, to take advantage of clean washrooms, hot beverages, a warm place to rest, and food.

The congregation was not always so accommodating. “For many years, the parade was just a nuisance,” Borggren says. “As the parade grew, parking became more and more difficult. Traffic snarls kept many members from attending.”

The revelry also upset some church members. “The level of drinking, particularly under-age drinking, was disturbing,” Borggren says. “We resented the way the parade interfered with our ability to worship. Slowly, God changed our mindset. Increasingly, we began to see our location as an opportunity.”

Beverly Covenant began the day with a 9 a.m. worship service celebrating the ministry of St. Patrick and the Christ he worshipped, Borggren says. The service incorporated Irish dancing, Irish hymns, readings from The Breastplate of St. Francis (a dramatized interview with the saint), and a postlude on bagpipe.

Church members welcomed visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  “Although many guests limited their visit to a quick bathroom break, others stayed to chat or ask about our programs,” Borggren says.

The response of several people was evidence of deeper needs. “Many pamphlets about domestic abuse were taken from our women’s restroom,” Borggren says. “A young man about to enlist in the U.S. Army asked for prayer.” Pastor Don Nelson prayed with a cocaine addict.

The church didn’t intend to use the event primarily as a fundraiser, but donors contributed $400 to help finance the youth group’s summer mission trip to Montana, Borggren adds.

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