What happens when a church throws a party?
For the last five years, Auburn Grace Community Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Auburn, Calif. (Phil Sparling, senior pastor), has done just that. Directed by Lorin Miller, music pastor at the church, the congregation has reached out to the community by offering a festive Independence Day concert.
The event, called Homeland, is a collaboration between the church, Placer Pops Chorale (a local choir directed by Miller), Gift of the Heart Orchestra, and area businesses. This year, more than 2,000 people attended the patriotic concert.
This year’s event was held at the outdoor Library Garden Theater in Auburn on Friday and Saturday, July 4 and 5. It showcased a 30-piece orchestra and a 50-voice choir performing a wide variety of American music. In addition, the church held an outdoor worship service on Sunday, July 6, and invited the public.
“We try to focus on the God-centered origin of our country,” explained Phil Sparling, senior pastor.
“It’s a fun event,” said Miller. “We have people that come from all over. [During the event] kids are running around, and you can buy ice cream and kettle corn and hot dogs, and everyone brings their lawn chairs. It’s a little slice of America.
“On Sunday we have a big church service in the same venue. [We] invite everyone back to be part of it. It’s the only time during our year when our entire church goes to the same service. We probably have 50 to 100 extra visitors.”
Miller is the intern program director and junior college choir director at nearby William Jessup University, and in addition to directing the Placer Pops Chorale. Because of the attention the event has enjoyed from the community, it has attracted the attention of others as well.
“Last year we got a congressional award from our congressman in Washington and a commendation from the mayor of Auburn,” said Miller. “Our key congressman is coming to speak this year as well.
“The feedback is always huge and very positive. It’s well attended, and it’s becoming a bit of an area tradition.
“We wanted to be a bridge event into our community, where people who don’t normally go to church will come and try us out. That is really what has happened. I can name person after person. It’s also a great way for instrumentalists to be a part of our community of faith.”
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.