A block party on Sabbath? That’s exactly what the Breath of Life church staged on Aug. 19 as a way to reintroduce itself to local neighbors and to lay a foundation for long-term relationships. More than 450 area residents converged on the church campus and the adjoining streets in Inglewood and engaged in an array of activities and programs during the event.
Adults engaged in worship with the BOL congregation under the main tent and listened to inspirational music and a relevant sermon by Pastor Eugene Hamilton, who tailored his gospel message for people from diverse cultures and experiences. He extended an open invitation to guests to engage with the church and take advantage of the various community
services and family-oriented programs BOL offers, including the food bank and thrift shop. After worship, several guests signed up for Bible studies, requested prayer and were prayed for.
Meanwhile at the KidZone, neighborhood children engaged in a number of interactive activities with BOL youth. They participated in dramatic Bible stories and arts/crafts, played with animals at the onsite petting zoo, rode ponies, got their faces painted, and feasted on popcorn and refreshing watermelon on a warm summer day. The kids also marched to the beat of the BOL Pathfinder drum corps. Impressed with the group, several parents immediately enrolled their kids in Pathfinders and Adventurers.
To wrap up the day, everyone mingled, devoured tacos, and lined up to receive one of the hundreds of free backpacks filled with school supplies — all donated and packaged by BOL members.
“We wanted our neighbors to know that we value education and want to help our youth succeed, even if it just means providing them with some basic tools — pens, pencils, paper, binders, and a backpack to store everything in,” said Hamilton. “This is our way of showing we care and are here to ease their burden in these tough economic times.”
Regarding the overall block party concept, Hamilton acknowledged that the idea — especially as a Sabbath ministry — was unconventional and would raise some eyebrows. But he envisioned the event as a “creative way to get our neighbors on our campus who otherwise may never walk through the doors of our sanctuary for formal worship. We wanted them to get to know us as a caring, welcoming congregation that provides hope, support, and services that address their spiritual and practical needs, which was Jesus’ ministry model.”
Inglewood Mayor James Butts agreed. He was among notable guests who attended the block party, in addition to Royal Harrison SCC’s Greater Los Angeles Region director. Butts commended the BOL congregation, noting, “What you’ve done here today aligns squarely with our efforts to revitalize Inglewood and serve our citizens with their most basic needs — economic, social, and spiritual. God bless all of you for being a blessing to our city.”
“The block party also was instructive for the church leadership,” said Hamilton, who was installed as BOL pastor in May. “We learned a lot about the community we plan to evangelize. Our neighbors are diverse, largely Latino, which means we, as a largely African-American congregation, must consider cultural factors in our outreach efforts going forward. We have now sown the seeds for an evangelistic harvest in the very near future.”
–By Clarence Brown