Not wanting another year of shutting the curtain and pretending nobody was home when the trick or treaters came knocking this Halloween, Kingsgate Church in Bury St Edmunds, UK decided to take their light out into the world instead. Justin Hook tells us more:
This was our second year of hosting ‘Light Stations’ across Bury, after we saw the idea in another church. 2017 saw two Light Stations, with two other locations handing out bags of hope to neighbours or those who knocked on their doors. This year we had three full Light Stations in different locations across the town, and a fourth team knocking on their neighbours’ doors.
We start off with Bags of Hope which are provided free from UCB in collaboration with World Vision. You get the bag, a colouring sheet, and a Bible story book, to which we add some sweets, a glow stick, a Halloween tract, some information about Kingsgate Church and our other upcoming events and - new this year - a very cool finger torch!
The various light stations work in slightly different ways, but all are armed with plenty of bags, extra glow sticks, and lots of Cadbury’s Heroes. We set up tables or gazebos in prominent positions with our Kingsgate flags and wait for the crowds to come flocking - oh, and we also served hot chocolate with marshmallows from two of the stations!
In 2017, we handed out just over 300 bags and served about 145 hot chocolates. This year we almost doubled the bags, giving out just over 600, and more than doubled the hot chocolates at a record 350 cups!
It really is a fantastic opportunity to share the love of God with the community and it has been so well received. This year, we pushed the events on social media groups to get a little extra traction, so more people were aware that it was happening and where, so we saw people coming to us from further afield. The mood on the night is always so much fun, as the team get stuck in together handing out bags or making hot chocolate. The children get involved too, with handing out bags, making pumpkins, and signs etc.
This year we got each Light Station to pack their own bags, so the children were able to help with this too and people of all ages were involved. Those that couldn’t be there were supporting us in prayer.
Some of the highlights from 2018:
One little boy when given his bag shouted ‘I love you’ and another was heard to say “this is the best Halloween ever"
Two teenage girls were heard to say “I feel so special" as they walked away with their hot chocolates
One older chap claimed it was the best hot chocolate he had ever had!
We got to stand and pray with one lady, who was facing difficult situations
Seeing people blown away by the generosity, when they get their purses out to pay and then find its all FREE
The fact that people remember us from last year, and remember us from some of the other events we have put on in the estate over the summer
Off the back of our social media advertising, we made contact with the Families and Communities Officer from the local council who wants to meet and find out more about what we are doing in the community
And lastly, hearing that it wasn’t just us, that other churches across the town were also doing similar things.
As a church, we have the vision to see ‘everyone a handshake from the King' and one of our goals for this year is to see 10% of the population of Bury St Edmunds reached through one of our outreach channels. 600 Bags of Hope and 350 hot chocolates is a significant step towards that goal.
Next week sees us on the streets again for the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Lights Switch On & Charities Night. Local charities are invited to have a stall in the town centre from 2pm to 8pm, during which time the Christmas lights are switched on. This will be our third consecutive year and we’re aiming for bigger and better this year! We have a FREE lucky dip as well as craft tables for the children, more glow sticks and more chocolates and we hand out invites to our Christmas Service. Last year we wrapped 500 lucky dip gifts and ran out, and we handed out 550 invitations, with handwritten messages or a blessing in each. This year we’re busy wrapping 800 lucky dip gifts and writing 1000 messages in invitations. We also have a double plot this year which we want to see part of turned into a prayer space where we can offer to pray with people.
Please pray for Kingsgate as they go out again this week. They have a big, courageous vision for their town, and it really embodies the ‘Everyone a Witness’ theme. From the youngest to the oldest, and the shyest to the boldest, everyone has a part to play, and everyone’s role is vital.