REFLECTIONS FROM PASTOR AMY JO
Night to Unite
Night to Unite (formerly known as National Night Out) are community block parties and gatherings held on the first Tuesday of August. They are designed to help everyone get outside, meet their neighbors, and meet the first responders who serve our communities. This year, Night to Unite will be on Tuesday, August 7, and we will host neighbors in the front yard of Saint Paul’s UMC from 5:00-7:00 pm. We will have games, food, visits from the police and fire departments, and a time for friendly conversation with all of our neighbors, so please stop by, if you can, to meet and greet the people living near Saint Paul’s UMC, and say “thank you!” to the police officers and fire fighters who serve our community.
Some people have asked me why the Church participates in a secular event like Night to Unite and volunteers in service in secular places, like Garlough School and Lewis House. There are a number of reasons, some of which I share with you in the following reflections:
Love Your Neighbor! The central commandments of the Christian faith are to Love God and Love Neighbor (Luke 10:27). The first step in loving our neighbors is simply to meet them, and programs like Night to Unite help us with that. Many of us lead very busy lives, moving quickly from one group of friends to another, from work to school to home, to Church, to community groups, to musical groups, to sports, etc. When we dedicate an evening to pause from our busy schedule, sometimes we meet neighbors that we haven’t met before, or renew old friendships. Neighbors who have newly moved in to the area can meet everyone in the neighborhood and begin to build friendships. In other words, these events help us to build community and love our neighbors.
Seek Prosperity for the Community! (Jeremiah 29:7) When God’s people are in exile, God instructs them to seek the prosperity of the communities in which they are living right now. No matter where we live, people of faith are called to be light to the world and build healthy communities.
Supporting community events like Mendakota Days and Night to Unite, and volunteering in our community schools are wonderful ways to build up the community fabric of Mendota Heights and help our communities to prosper.
Go into the World! (Matthew 28:19-20) God sends us INTO THE WORLD to make disciples of Jesus Christ—this is the great commission. We are not called to wait patiently until people come to us and then make disciples. We are called to go to wherever the people are, which is often in secular places. This is part of our Methodist tradition, beginning with John Wesley, who preached in the streets and public parks, because that’s where the people were.
Similarly, we serve in mission and meet new people in many secular places in our communities today, including Garlough School, Lewis House, and community events. Meeting new people and making new friends are the first steps in being able to share our faith deeply and authentically.
Being Thankful! The Psalms are full of encouragement to give thanks and express our gratitude. Saying “thank you” to the first responders of community (police, fire, ambulance) is a part of expressing our thanks. We are called to serve one another, and to be grateful/thankful for the others who join us in service.
These are a few of the reasons that we participate in community events and step outside of the walls of our church building to meet others and shine God’s light.