Community Day brings together neighbors on Fulton Street
By Hugh Fisher
“These people were able to come, and they were accepted as they are,” Bishop Carolyn Archie of Higher Grounds Christian Ministries said of the families enjoying themselves all around her.
She was standing in the parking lot next to the church, on Fulton Street, at yesterday’s first ever Community Day.
Responding to what several members called a vision from God to help the community, the church invited the neighborhood for free food and fellowship.
Children, and some young adults, played loudly on an inflatable obstacle course and climbing wall, cheering each other on as they bounced and slid.
Families lined up for fresh-grilled hot dogs ó all they could eat ó and cold drinks.
Kids sat under another tent nearby to get their faces painted while adults and kids alike played bingo under another tent.
“It’s been great,” said Tomika Harris, one of the organizers of the event. She said turnout was better than expected, with many coming in from the neighborhoods around the church.
“The majority of the people here are new faces,” she said.
That’s just what organizers had hoped for. She said it was part of the church’s goal to minister to the complete person, mentally, spiritually and physically.
“We’re small, but we’re big in heart,” Harris said.
“We want to show people that there’s still love in the world.”
Community Day opened at 10 a.m. By lunchtime, with gospel music playing through loudspeakers and the smell of hot dogs on the grill, the parking lot was alive with activity.
“It is awesome,” Carolyn Archie said. She has led the church since its founding 11 years ago. Higher Grounds has about 70 regular members.
But she said this event wasn’t just about growing the church.
“We do have a lot of outreach efforts,” she said.
She and several others emphasized the fact that Community Day was meant in part as a way of giving back to people who had given of themselves to aid the church’s ministry.
Higher Grounds has held fish fries and clothing drives to raise money and materials to help the needy.
They provide clothing for the homeless and school supplies and assistance with school uniforms for parents.
Tracy Moore, an assistant pastor at Higher Grounds, said the church’s goal was to meet the “immediate needs” of the community for food and fellowship, leading by example.
The event brought out those who had never visited the church before, and those who only learned about the event as they passed on the sidewalk.
That was the case with Libby Kerns, her son Noah and his friend Christopher Keller. They passed the event on their way to go shopping, and church members invited them to stay and eat.
“I think it’s very nice that they just had this,” Libby said as her sons raced off to play on the climbing wall.
Brianna Pruitt and her friend Nasiah Pulley came to see what the event was about.
“We wanted to try something new,” Pulley said. She said she currently attends another church but might be interested in coming to Higher Grounds.
“We wanted to listen to the Holy Ghost and see if this church feels good,” Pruitt said.
Rodney and Ellissa Smoot came out to enjoy the afternoon with those they knew; his sister is a member of Higher Grounds.
They sat with a young church member, Kijah Sloan, 5, who joined them to play bingo.
“This does a lot of good with the economy the way it is,” Rodney said. “It gives families something to do.”
Robert Archie, Bishop Archie’s husband and a leader at the church, stood by with literature to give out to those who wished to learn more about the church or about Christ.
“This is a chance to bring different cultures and different races together,” he said.
He said his wish was that all would leave yesterday’s party knowing that they were cared for ó “that whatever situation they’re in, there is hope,” he said.