Wanting to reaching out and provide encouragement to members of the community, Troutman First United Methodist Church offered a free, outdoor evening of food, fun and conversation.
Calling the event “Inside Out Church,” the Wednesday event was the first of three such occasions that the Troutman church is planning to offer a community-wide, family fun evening. The remaining two are scheduled for July 14 and Aug. 11 from 6-8 p.m. at the church, 204 Mills Ave., Troutman. The community is invited and encouraged to come.
With the difficult year dealing with COVID, and the loss of jobs or many having to work from home, the event was planned as an opportunity to “hear from our neighbors how this year has been, to get to know our neighbors and invite them to come celebrate,” said Jeff Hamrick, pastor of the congregation.
“At Inside Out Church, the faith community wants to listen to you. They want to listen and connect with you,” Hamrick noted. “We just want the community to know we love them, and we want them to know we are praying for them. It’s not about gaining church members, but letting them know we love them with the love of Jesus.”
Hamrick shared that the church had previously had special themed-events during holidays called Food for Thought prior to COVID. These programs began with a devotional message and songs, after which they would have a meal followed by a time of family and various games or crafts.
Because of COVID, those programs had to stop; however, now that the restrictions have been lifted, they decided to move outdoors and gather where they could be safer, Hamrick noted.
With a grant from the United Methodist Church, Hamrick said they could host Inside Out Church free to the community complete with a meal, games and more fun activities for all ages.
Tony’s Taco food truck was onsite providing tacos for Fiesta Night, which was the theme for the premiere Inside Out Church.
Nachos and cheese, dessert and drinks were also on the menu for the evening, and Tim Lindley was on hand with his snocone and popcorn machines, along with a variety of his handcrafted, team-building games for anyone to give a try. Picnic tables were available for those that wanted to sit and enjoy the meal and fellowship.
Close by was a piñata filled with candy for the youngsters to take a swing at and claim some of the goodies which were inside.
To one side of the playground area, a table set up by the church’s Compassion Crafters group. The table was filled with examples of their handiwork, which they in turn share with others in the community. The group, which currently has five members, started two years ago and meets Thursday at the church and are “back in full force” since they had to stop meeting because of COVID, said Sonya Yager.
Yager and Hope Bridges were at the table showing the various crafts items, including cuddle bags, which are donated to those at My Sister’s House and Fifth Street Ministries, walker caddies for patients at the Iredell skilled nursing unit, fidget blankets for Alzheimer’s patients and wheelchair quilts.
Those wishing to learn more about the group, or donate materials or money for them can contact the church.
In the parking lot, a prayer tent was set up, as Hamrick said, “for those wanting prayer or for anyone seeking encouragement during this difficult time.”
Food pantry boxes were also available, and the church’s clothes closet was open as well for anyone needing to seek out clothes.
For the car enthusiasts, several cars, a 1934 Ford Coupe, a 1955 Chevy Bel Aire and a 1965 Ford Fairlane, were on display in the parking lot as well, offering visitors a chance to see them and chat about the classic automobiles with owners Richard and Janie Dixon and Ralph Dagenhart.
About half-way through the evening, Gilda Pryor, administrative assistant at the church, who was greeting church members and visitors to the event, noted that about 80 people had come.
“That’s great for the first night,” Hamrick said.
While Sheila Dagenhart and Joyce Clodfelter were busy serving the nachos and cheese, Clodfelter noted that the event had “been great.”
While getting some of the food, Julie Yager, shared that they came to support their home church to which daughter Jillian added to “have fun too.”
Tina Helms, who was visiting the event, said she decided to attend to have fun, communicate and meet new people.”
“We are a welcoming church,” said church member Donna Miller, who was on hand to enjoy the event.
By the end of the evening, they had counted 97 in attendance, which, was “better than expected with the threat of rain,” shared Pastor Hamrick. “We were ecstatic for this being the first one and look for the next to be better.”
The next event July 14 is planned to be an Americana evening with bluegrass music and Wilson’s Weenie Wagon of Statesville on hand providing hot dogs, chips and drinks. All are welcome to attend and enjoy the second community Inside Out Church.