By Natalie Strait
This weekend Amazing Grace, the church I attend here in Baltimore, hosted its annual Spring Fling. I had no idea what to expect from it, details were vague, but intriguing, and the plan for a block party that would close down the road for the day was reassessed due to the gloomy and snowy forecast. However the pastor had been talking up since January to the point that attendance seemed mandatory! Despite the dismal weather the event really did turn out to be wonderful, about half and half church members and residence of the McElderry neighborhood around the church were in attendance. Booths were set up inside a large church gym space with art activities like candle painting, making yarn balls, and adding to a community art piece; local organizations many focused on sustainable and healthy living; and lots of sensational healthy cookout food. The emphasis was on celebrating the arrival of spring and strengthening the connections between the church and community; which they did in spectacular fashion! I don’t often see large church events that have something other than fundraising or evangelizing in some way as the primary goal. I don’t think there’s inherently any problem with these types of events but they tend to spread a more narrow view of the church to the community than what the church itself really represents. Events I have seen though, like this one, that allow for simple goals like community building to be at the forefront are vital to the health of a church and their relationship to the neighborhoods and communities that they are a part of. I am so thankful to be a part of this community at Amazing Grace this year, and I am so proud of the commitment they have made to be part of and partners with the McElderry neighborhood.