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A Presence On the Boulevard - Issue #70

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As part of an Innovative Leadership Project, First United Methodist Church in Ontario, California was challenged to do something during the Season of Advent that would connect the ministry of the church with the wider community. They decided to take advantage of their location on a very busy street to share with their neighbors and those who passed by the good news of the birth of Jesus.

Here is how Judy Lewis, one of the coordinators of the project, described the living, changing nativity scene they created:

"A stable was put up in front of the church. We called it a 'presence on the boulevard!'Instead of having designated characters, costumes for all ages and sizes were put on rolling carts. This allowed church members and anyone who passed by to spontaneously take whatever role they wanted for as long as they wanted. We had young and old Josephs, angels, Marys, camels, cows, shepherds, and a little boy who wanted to be in the scene without a costume. We provided a worship table with a Bible, children's books, and a reading lamp as well as a cart with hot cocoa and coffee. There were Christmas carols playing and sometimes people stopped and sang along. One night a homeless man put on a crown and was a rich and wise man for an hour. We encouraged participants to talk about what they were doing and feeling in their character roles and invited questions from onlookers. It was a very joyful and spirit-filled experience for all of us — those who know the story well and those in cars or on foot who stopped and participated in their own way."

Some Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways does the location of you church offer opportunities for connecting with the wider community?

  • What unique opportunities do the Seasons of Advent and Christmas provide for your congregation to share the good news of the birth of Christ with others?

  • How might you reenvision traditional church activities to make them a more joyful and spirit-filled experience for both mature Christians and those investigating the Christian faith?

Craig Miller is Director of Pastoral Leadership at the Discipleship Ministries. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about the Innovative Leadership Project go to http://churchleaderUMC.com.

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #69. © 2010 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.