It’s easy to think of church as physical location: a place that you go. According to Senior Pastor Jason Fry, on Sunday, March 29, “the church left the building.” For the second time on this date on the liturgical calendar, Fredericksburg United Methodist Church took its Palm Sunday worship service out into the community.
The congregation got the idea from First UMC in New Braunfels, who has been holding “Palms in the Park,” for the last five years as an outreach effort in their community. Fredericksburg UMC normally holds two worship services on Sunday –a contemporary service at 9:00 a.m., and a tradition service at 11:10 a.m. However, on this Palm Sunday, the congregation vacated their building and held one combined worship service right in the most visible spot in town – Marktplatz, the central park in downtown Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg UMC called it “Palmz in the Platz.” The congregation printed up t-shirts and members of the congregation wore them all over town in the preceding two weeks to advertise and invite other community members. Hospitality stations were staffed on Sunday to distribute information about the church’s ministries and Holy Week and Easter services to guests. After the service, everyone was invited to stick around and enjoy a free lunch of hotdogs, chips, and cookies. The children were invited to participate in an Easter Egg hunt. The congregation received a donation from the local H.E.B. of to cover the cost for the food. Chicken Express of Kerrville provided the tea and cups.
“A major focus of the Healthy Church Initiative is for the congregation to focus attention outward to serve the community and to reach those who are not yet disciples of Jesus,” according to Pastor Fry, “and ‘Palmz in the Platz’ is just one effort to do that.”
For the past year and a half, the Fredericksburg UMC has been involved in the Healthy Church Initiative through the Office of New Church Development and Transformation. In November of 2013, a weekend consultation was held which resulted in a report identifying strengths, concerns, and prescriptions to address the concerns. The church adopted the prescriptions last January, and began their implementation. One part of that was to adopt the mission statement, “The mission of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church is to make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”