Worshipping outdoors in God's creation
What a better way to enjoy God's creation than to worship outdoors during a beautiful summer Sunday morning?
That was Mike Phay's thought when he began planning a service in the park for not only his congregation, but for anyone in the community who would like to worship outdoors.
"The rhythm of life in Central Oregon during the summer is definitely outdoors, and the weather is beautiful, so just to get out and enjoy God's beautiful creation is a good thing for us," said Phay, who has been the lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Prineville for a year. "So, instead of just gathering for a picnic in the park, we thought, why don't we try to make a day of it and worship together outside and also follow it up with a barbecue and enjoy each other and play games and be in community together."
The service in the park begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, July 29 at the Crooked River Park amphitheater.
"Anybody who wants to come is invited to be part of it. We'd love for people to join us," Phay said.
The 90-minute service will include music, a short message, guided prayer, and Phay hopes some will share their stories or testimonies.
The music and arts director, Melissa Barker, and worship leader Dallas Hall, who Phay called an accomplished musician, will lead the music portion of the service.
"It'll be pretty laid back and relaxed," Phay said.
At the conclusion of the service, the congregation will make their way over to the covered area in the south side of the park for a potluck barbecue, games and activities for the kids.
Those planning to attend are asked to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets for the service as well as a side dish or drink to share. The church will provide the hamburgers and hot dogs.
"We generally do a Fifth Sunday Family Fun Day during the year because there are certain months that have five Sundays in them," Phay pointed out.
For the last several years on those Fifth Sundays, instead of having kid's classes, the kids are all with their parents in the service, and they have a more family-friendly and kid-friendly service.
"For July, this is our Fifth Sunday, so we thought, well let's take it outside because the kids love to be outside. We'll be family together in the park," Phay said, noting that other churches, including Calvary Chapel of Crook County, hold outdoor services in the summer.
They're planning for around 125 to 150 people to attend.
First Baptist Church has hosted picnics and afternoons in the park, but in Phay's history there — he was a teenager in the 1990s when he first came — he doesn't know that they've ever held a service in the park.
If this service is well-received, he envisions a community-wide worship service for next summer, where several congregations will come together on a Sunday morning to worship outside together.
Until then, however, he will continue to plan for his congregation to attend this event and welcome others to join them.
"For folks in the community, it's a time to be together, especially if they're followers of Jesus, an opportunity to be with other believers and worship together in the midst of God's creation. And if they're not followers of Jesus, then a time to maybe hear the message for the first time and be in fellowship with other people in the community," Phay said. "It's a good opportunity to be in a relationship with people, and summer is a great time to do that."
First Baptist Church Service in the Park
Date: 9:30 a.m. Sunday, July 29
Place: Crooked River Park amphitheater, 1377 S. Main St.