By Rev. Andrew Scott*
At its outset we knew that tailgate church was an uphill concept. The prospect of taking church into the Cleveland Muni Lot before a home Cleveland Browns game when fans are gathered to engage in a time of revelry and celebration, is one to cause any person apprehension and this was no different.
The idea behind tailgate church was to take the good news to a group of people who might otherwise be ignored by the religious people, and also to create inroads into the Muni Lot community with potential for future ministry opportunities. The event might not be considered a success from the perspective of metrics, however from the lens of mission and ministry we did have a successful day.
After a short musical intro about the Browns, provided to us by a local group, I delivered a short message comparing the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to a modern version looking at a Wide Receiver and a Punter. Following this short message, we instituted a time of communion for the various groups in the Muni Lot, engaging with a few in the reception of the Spirit through the sacrament of communion.
The most notable moment of the day though came when a gentleman, dressed in his best Brown’s gear, came up for communion but then engaged me and some of the gathered laity in a time of conversation and prayer. The gentleman was going through some difficult times in his life, especially related to his faith life. After a good time of conversation, Hope UMC Layperson Bill Cook prayed over this gentleman and his struggles.
While only about 20 persons engaged in communion the day was successful from the lens of encountering the Grace of God active in the world. Many were apathetic towards our presence in the Muni Lot, but one authentic encounter shifted the day from being about us and our work to being about the presence and inbreaking of the Grace of God into the world. We were blessed to be present in that moment in the lot, and our hope is that the Grace of God continues to be felt in that place and in the lives of those who were brought into contact with it.
*Rev. Andrew Scott is in his second year as pastor of Hope UMC in Bedford.