The imagine/Northampton Halloween Team
(not pictured, but present earlier: Kristen Hastings, Trey and Amelia McCain, and Emma Olson - Hannah Sachs' roommate at Smith)
In 2010, we offered our first imagine/Northampton Halloween Community Event in response to a comment a mother of one of us made: http://oldmenplantingchurches.blogspot.com/2010/11/www.imaginenorthampton.org . What she said made sense to our ever-present missional mindset so we dove in. The day was a resounding success way beyond our expectations. We weren't sure anyone would trudge up our apparently foreboding stairs. But they did! The place was packed. It was something to savor and remember, especially for a first time.
In 2011 for some reason we decided to forgo the opportunity.
In 2012, we got ready but a huge, heavy, wet snowstorm (Hurricane Sandy) blew in shutting down Northampton and surrounding towns for 4+ days. What a mess and disappointment.
But undaunted, we decided to take a crack at it again this year. We're glad we did. The day was damp and light-rainy at times, and the crowds took awhile to gather, but gather they did in waves. Main Street was jammed with kids and parents all heading into the participating establishments displaying the orange sign on the door to get candy. The street was alive with wonderful energy from all the colors and shapes of the costumes and the excitement of the kids.
As we did in 2010, we decided to go over the top with a photographer, craft table, snack and drink table, and, of course, a bag of candy. Our friend for many years, Larry White, graciously volunteered to take the pics, and he reported somewhere in the vicinity of 119 when it was all said and done. He was both professional and warm. We also gave out 260 bags of candy; Tricia estimated with adults present, the attendance was 390. We had @350 in 2010. Some of the folks told us they had also come in 2010.
(Just a tiny sample of what was available to folks throughout the night!)
The second reaction also came from the adults: I'd invite them and they'd often look up our 20-stair staircase, crinkle up their faces and say, "Up there???" Some would blurt out, "I'm not going up there," and wouldn't. Others couldn't stop their kids from insisting to go up, or just bounding fearlessly up the stairs alone or way in front of a scrambling mom or dad. The funniest reaction was the "no way" response of adults with the "you gotta be kidding me!" look on their worried faces. I have to admit when it sunk in we'd be living on the third floor (20 stairs added to the first 20), I was wondering how I was going to manage that every day. Interestingly, if it a dad didn't want to venture up period, he'd just grab junior's little hand, look resolutely forward, and say, "Nope, we're not going up there," and off they went.
I need to mention how great the team was. Larry was a trooper, taking photo after photo, good-natured all the way. Tricia set up and orchestrated everything to keep it all flowing. Jenn and Karin greeted people and helped Larry so we could get the processed photo to each family in 5 minutes or so. Janet manned the craft table, and kept it all flowing there; Amelia helped. Trey and Kevin joined me manning the front door downstairs and inviting folks upstairs. Hannah and her roommate, Emma, welcomed and handed out the candy to the kids. Tricia and Karin replenished the food table often. Then went it was all over, Jenn and Kristen took food upstairs, and vacuumed the place of straw (we had 2 bales of hay and pumpkins), leaves from outdoors, and spilled food. I have to say, we know how to do this stuff!
Most importantly, we all had a grand opportunity to love and serve people because we are followers of Jesus. Halloween for us is a Kingdom mission to be outrageously generous, kind, and hospitable; to go beyond people's expectations; to surprise them with love and warmth. More than one happy mother and father wanted to know why we were being so nice; why were we offering what others weren't? Most of you realize we wanted them to know the Lover of their souls, Jesus Christ. He's the point, the only point for everything we try to do. We think helping them "see" him comes through genuine encounters and relationships which go above and beyond what people are used to from "strangers." They grow curious because they're surprised by delight, and it didn't cost them anything, but trudging up some stairs.
To top it off, yesterday, an employee I've recently met at the Northampton Chamber of Commerce (of which we're a member), sent me an email reporting a couple of families had shown up at their office that same night and mentioned what they'd experienced at imagine. We also heard folks were telling others on the street to come to our place because of what we were doing. I like that and want more. I want more because I want people to discover the deepest delight for their souls is Christ who is more than they imagine, and then some.