This Saturday, April 27, the Seventh Day Adventist Refuge Church at 2102 N 40th St. (on the corner of 40th and Meridian) will hold a Kids Fun Day. This free event will feature games, face painting, a bouncy house and other diversions for your young one. Festivities begin at four o’clock in the church parking lot.
The Refuge Church is a relative newcomer to our neighborhood. I dropped in on their services on a recent Saturday, and was able to meet a busy pastor Kenneth Martinez and his very young congregation. Martinez says his church hopes to use this event to introduce themselves to the neighborhood. “We just want to provide some fun for the kids! Because of our age group, we barely have kids at Refuge. And yet our members love children and would love to bring a smile to the kids of the neighborhood. We are also using this as an opportunity for Wallingford to get to know us more.”
The group ascribes to three core values:
- Gospel centrality. Everything we do, plan, and preach is about the Gospel, meaning the Good News that there is a loving God who cares for us, who is there in our struggles, and who provided a way for saving us from ourselves.
- Unconditional friendship. We want to be a community where everyone is welcome, regardless of their background, religion, lack of religion, etc. The name of our church, Refuge, comes from our desire to be a Refuge to absolutely everyone.
- Sacrificial Service. We want to serve the city, and specially the most vulnerable groups, including immigrants and refugees. We actively work with both groups at an individual level and partnering with NGOs.
As to what drew the Refuge Church to Wallingford, Martinez says, “The core group was called to ministry in the city, and that’s where we tried to find a place. We know that in Wallingford there are many young professionals and College students who can connect with our membership and our vision. And then pastor Jami from Gift of Grace got excited about our project and let us rent their church building. GoG has been very flexible with us.”
And he has this announcement:
We are turning one year old on May 5th! We’ll celebrate by having a special series from May 4th to May 11th. The speakers will be a young couple from Berrien Springs, MI. The series is called “Clean Slate: repainting our view on God”. We’ll have live music and a local painter painting as the speakers deliver the message.
And what of Gift of Grace Lutheran Church which is co-located with the Refuge Church? Well, that isn’t going anywhere. The Refuge Church holds services at Gift of Grace through something of a lease arrangement.
While Wallingford has many churches, I feel I’m on pretty safe ground when I say that Gift of Grace is the only one that has chickens. They’ve been outside in their coop by the sidewalk for a number of years now not far from an expanding garden. A smart-looking bench was recently added to make a sort of mini park.
Of all the things going on at Gift of Grace, it seems that it’s the garden that Pastor Jami Fecher is most proud of. We met up at Irwin’s for a chat a few weeks ago, and he presented me with a three-page document describing the “urban farm.” No mere garden in his eyes, the urban farm was started by his son, Micah, several years ago, and leverages the tenets of permaculture — sustainable farming. Quoting from the document he gave me, “The farm project dedicates us to stewarding our little parcel of land to produce food, energy and beauty in a sustainable way and inviting others to join us… It helps us honor the self-sustaining designs God built into creation.”
The chickens, considered part of the farm, are more of a community project as numerous neighbors have pitched in over the years. I happened by one tragic morning just a few months ago to find several concerned neighbors viewing the aftermath of a coyote attack (perhaps perpetrated by our own Wally Coyote) on a couple of the birds. (All seems well now.)
The bench in the mini park has a mini story to it, too. The wood, sourced from a neighbor’s house, dates back about 100 years. It was sanded smooth by Fecher’s kids years ago, and it then sat in the basement prompting cries of, “Dad, you never use that for anything!” Well, now … it’s used!
Readers with long memories will recall that a controversial shelter for homeless persons opened at Gift of Grace back in 2010. This was written about and much discussed here on Wallyhood. In retrospect, this seems to have been a tempest in a teapot. While the shelter, operated by SHARE WHEEL and housing 10-15 persons each night, continues to operate, not a bit of drama has resulted. And I think I would know; I live just two blocks from there.