Singing praises in the park

By John Butters, Mt. Pleasant News


Taking the Lord?s message into public places is one of the ambitions of ?Praise in the Park?, an ecumenical gathering conducted Sunday in Mt. Pleasant?s Central Park.

Lori Werner, the chief organizer of the event for the past 10 years, said the annual gathering is more important now than ever. ?Now, when we have a divided world, it?s important that we gather together to thank God and share in his fellowship,? she said.

A member of the Mt. Pleasant Open Bible Church, Werner is the founder of the event and continues to work behind the scenes to pull it together. It?s a lot of work but also a labor of love for her. ?I have a lot of help,? she said.

Her church and the Faith Christian Outreach Center (FCOC) are the major sponsors of the event.

Pastor Gary Van Nyhuis said his church is proud to be a participant. ?What we want to do is unify the community for the purpose of praise. Irrespective of denominations, we can come together as one for an audience of one,? he said.

On a lawn chair placed beneath a large oak tree, Carolyn White spoke of her enjoyment of the meeting and the Christian Contemporary music coming from the sound stage. ?I enjoy the music. I like the camaraderie,? she said.

Much of the formality of public worship vanishes in the park setting. Children play and mothers juggle babies and snacks. Nancy?s husband Todd surveys the scene.

?In a few minutes, all the kids will be over by the water fountain,? he said.

The relaxed ambience of the setting lends itself to the intent of the worship service. Under the towering trees, people sit in lawn chairs and gather at picnic tables. The sounds of the city grow distant when the music starts.

?It?s really a good time for people to come and listen. Kids can go and play and people can talk with each other. People can sit as close to the stage or as far away as they like,? said Werner.

Some passersby stop and finally sit on an unoccupied bench. Van Nyhuis notices them.

?To have a service in a public square in a public part of town is special,? he said. ?People riding bikes or skateboards are drawn in by the music. Hopefully, they will hear the message of the Gospel and Jesus will be lifted high.?