By Brett Hetherington*
On a bright and beautiful Halloween Saturday Grandview United Methodist Church (Canal District) welcomed to the church’s front yard “pumpkin patch” children from its Cuyahoga Falls community. In the weeks leading up to Oct. 31, unsure whether the city would permit trick-or-treating due to social-distancing requirements put into place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, church leaders decided to offer something new this year.
“The city is doing trick-or-treating later tonight, but we weren’t sure, and we wanted to offer something safe for people to do,” said the Rev. David Hull-Frye, adding that the church is a regular participant in the Halloween tradition of passing out candy.
“Normally we do trick-or-treat with the neighborhood at the same time, so we still decorate,” shared staff member Adrienne Jones. “Last year we had a skeleton playing spooky music on the organ, and we just make sure we have different treats for kids with food allergies.”
Each child received a pumpkin balloon to go along with their bag of candy and treats, and parents were encouraged to take pictures of their loved ones in front of the fall backdrop before heading home. In order to make certain that there would be enough treats this year, families were asked to register via the church’s Facebook page and event organizers prepared extra goodie bags just in case there were extra children who found their way to the pumpkin patch. One volunteer informed me that there were over 100 reservations made and she personally had prepared 192 bags!
Jones shared that having to adjust the church egg hunt plans earlier this year helped leadership during the uncertainty leading up to Halloween. “We did a drive-thru for Easter when the shut-down first happened and I think it helped prepare us for this.”
The pumpkin patch festivities were livestreamed to a private Facebook group so that shut-ins and other housebound members of the congregation were able to witness the fun and join in from a distance. The office of Mayor Don Walters issued a certificate thanking the church for “making Cuyahoga Falls a fun place to live” and recognizing its “Spooktacular Halloween display.”
For the two hours that the church hosted this pumpkin patch outreach, children and their parents filtered in dressed in their costumes, and thankful for the chance to show them off. Everyone who came through left in high spirits and had been able to connect with no less than five different people from Grandview UMC, being blessed with both joy and openness. Exactly the kind of neighbor that the church wants to be in its community.
The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.