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Church puts forth its friendly face

September 10, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Members of Emmanuel United Methodist Church said one of the misconceptions about places of worship is that they are stodgy, humdrum places.

As part of an effort to change that, the church hosted its third annual Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday. Attractions included a petting zoo, children's games, live contemporary Christian music and concessions, all free of charge.

The Rev. Ken Hawes, the church's pastor, said church members conceived of the idea as a form of outreach to its Summit Avenue-area neighborhood.

"This is an opportunity for the community to come out and see church members in a different light. It's a place where we can show love and support for one another in the context of having fun," Hawes said.

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Hawes said he expected approximately 300 people - most of them from the surrounding neighborhood - to participate in activities on the church grounds throughout the afternoon.

Edith Hahn, 66, of Williamsport, co-chaired the block party along with Sharon Cline, 58, of Frederick, Md. Hahn said church members distributed hundreds of fliers to neighborhood residents, inviting them to the event.

Steve and Sharon Womack took their grandsons, Dylan, 7, and Gavin Womack, 4, and their friend Corey Tyler, 9, all of Hagerstown, to the block party. Sharon Womack, 53, said she heard there would be llamas at the petting zoo and thought the boys would be interested. Dylan and Corey both said they liked the animals, especially the porcupine. Gavin went from game to game collecting small plastic compasses as prizes.

Sharon Womack said she was glad the church offered the outreach.

"It helps the kids to see that churches are caring places, and that's important. The boys got all this stuff for free and that really surprised them," Womack said.

Jimmy, 39, and April Benner, 41, of Hagerstown, took their daughters, Myla, 6, and Jaima, 2, to the block party for the second year in a row. April Benner said they live in the neighborhood and received an invitation.

"It's a really nice event for the kids," April Benner said. "Everyone is always so nice here."

Louise Wyant, 66, of Smithsburg, is a member of Emmanuel United Methodist who worked at an informational booth at the block party. Wyant said she liked seeing new faces at the event.

"Some people are intimidated by a big building and wonder what goes on in there. Here, they can see what we are about, and see that we are everyday, normal people and maybe it'll make a difference," Wyant said.

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