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Preaching love and fun at annual picnic at Evergreen Park church

unity comage photo 7 25

Photo by Kelly White

Unity Comage, 8, of Evergreen Park, played an over-sized game of Jenga on July 13 at the First United Methodist Church’s fourth annual Neighborhood Picnic at the church, 9358 S. Homan Ave., Evergreen Park.

By Kelly White

A barbecue and sunshine is the perfect way to bring neighbors together over the summer months.

The congregation at First United Methodist Church, 9358 S. Homan Ave., Evergreen Park, held its fourth annual Neighborhood Picnic on a Saturday afternoon on July 13.

The free event was held in collaboration with the Temple of Promise Church and featured live music, games, food and activities for all ages.

“This picnic provides us the opportunity to celebrate our diversity and our unity,” said Larry Paris, pastor of First United Methodist Church. “In a time when we are being polarized by politics, race, and economic issues, this event demonstrates that the love of God and loving our neighbor provides a way forward to mutual respect, joyful coexistence, and unity in purpose.”

This June marked Paris’ five-year anniversary at the First United Methodist, and he said he takes great pride in both his community and his church. Both were equally reflected in the coming together of the community with its Neighborhood Picnic.

Even with temperatures nearing 90 degrees, more than 150 people attended the picnic throughout the day.

“You get to see so many people throughout the day,” Paris said. “It’s the middle of July and it feels like the middle of July, but we are going to make the best of it and have a wonderful time.”

With the event open to the entire community, there was something for everyone in the family to enjoy, including: games for children, interactive board games, and bean bags and chess for adults. This year also featured a Taekwondo demonstration and an Irish dance celebration with local residents.

The event brought neighbors together and provided them with the chance to meet people they might have seen daily but never spoke to, Paris said. Jontae Smith, of Palos Hills, agreed.

“I really love how the picnic is open to everyone in the entire community,” Smith said. “Anyone is welcome.”

Children were encouraged to mingle with other neighborhood children, while adults were encouraged to mingle with other neighborhood adults.

“It’s a nice way to get together with everyone over the summer,” said Unity Comage, 8, of Evergreen Park. “I get to have fun with my cousins and my friends, eat some good food and have a great time.”

“Everyone is able to get together and really take the time to enjoy one another’s company,” said Unity’s mother, Rubbie Comage, of Evergreen Park.

Food available was grilled burgers, hot dogs, ribs, salads, fresh cut fruit, and desserts. Water and soft drinks were also provided. All food and activities were provided on a volunteer basis by members of both of the churches involved. Playing a big role in the setup of the event and the food preparation were The United Methodist Men’s Club.

“This is an opportunity to blend a time honored tradition with the current need for a new experience of open hearts, open minds, and open doors,” Paris said. “Individuals can experience the spirit of community in a welcoming and fun-filled event.”

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