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August 26, 2013

Following the cross

Three downtown churches unite for ‘Holypalooza’ combined service and block party

TERRE HAUTE — The sound of bagpipes announced a procession along Seventh Street Sunday morning as three neighboring downtown churches and United Campus Ministries got together for worship, food and fun.

At around 9:30 a.m., church members from Centenary United Methodist Church, Central Presbyterian Church and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church gathered at the National Road Plaza, at the corner of Seventh and Cherry streets in downtown Terre Haute, to start a block party dubbed “Holypalooza.”

But unlike other block parties, this one started with a prayer.

The procession led the members to Centenary United Methodist Church for a joint service, with sermon from the Rev. Joni Clark of United Campus Ministries.

During the procession, church members followed a familiar symbol that unites the three Christian traditions: the cross.

“The importance of the event to us is to enjoy coming together. … This is an effort to reach out to one another and to celebrate what we have in common,” said the Rev. Lant Davis, pastor of Central Presbyterian Church.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church’s interim rector, the Rev. Mary Slenski, described the day in two words: joyful worship.

Slenski said that it is important “to recognize that unity is greater than any of our differences.”

And with unity comes collaboration.

Centenary United Methodist Church senior pastor the Rev. Jimmy Moore said that he hopes to increase “our ability to work together on events and ministry.”

The event also shows that downtown churches are very much alive.

“We want to be a witness to the community that the churches on Seventh Street … are active [and to] display to the community the kinds of things we are involved in,” Davis said.

“There’s something about having a church at the heart of the city,” Davis said of the importance of downtown churches.

“We support … the renewal going on in downtown,” he added.

The service was followed by a carry-in lunch in the Great Hall at St. Stephen’s and fun activities at the “Palooza Plaza” (parking lot south of Central Presbyterian Church). Fun activities included a Velcro wall, bungee run, carnival games and cotton candy.

Informational displays about the churches, the 7th Cents Youth Group, United Campus Ministries and the community agencies the churches support were also available.

It was very much a family event.

“We’re here to have a good time and enjoy worship with other churches,” said Rachael Spencer, a member of Central Presbyterian Church, who brought her seven children on Sunday.

“To get to know our neighbors,” Spencer added as she carried her youngest child, 10-month-old Sophia, during the procession.

Another church-goer, Rachel Carl, spoke of unity.

“I think it’s fantastic that all three churches serve as one in unity. This is something we’ve actually never done before. It’s great to see people from other congregations,” said Carl, who is a St. Stephen’s member.

Another person attending has been a member of Centenary United Methodist Church for 35 years.

“This is the program they’re having today so I don’t want to miss it,” said John Dadzie, who moved to the United States from Ghana in 1976. He attends church with his wife and kids.

“They fulfill my spiritual needs. … The people are so nice to me,” he said.

“They made me feel at home,” Dadzie said.

Organizers said they expected more than 300 people to attend “Holypalooza.” During the morning service, there were about 200 people inside the church.

The idea was conceived earlier this year when Central Presbyterian Church and Centenary United Methodist Church’s joint youth group planned for the year’s events. Soon, the group was talking about a block party and invited St. Stephen’s and United Campus Ministries to get involved.

“It flowered,” Moore said.

“We started dreaming and it became a bigger experience,” he added.

The name “Holypalooza” is meant to describe their plans.

Davis said a lot of fun events have “palooza” included in the names.

“We wanted to broadcast that it will be a festive event,” Davis said.

The “holy” part is to “help everyone understand that it is a church-sponsored event,” he added.  

With a purpose.

 “We can be a heart, a hand, a voice of good news in Terre Haute,” Slenski said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@ tribstar.com.

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