Worshippers living on the Key Peninsula may find empty parking lots and locked church doors Sunday morning July 15, as KP churches gather together for an open-air service at Gateway Park. 

“The project came out of a discussion Key Peninsula pastors had over lunch last fall in response to a desire of some of our people to see a community-wide prayer and worship event,” said pastor Dan Whitmarsh of Lakebay Community Church. 

Several pastors reported congregation members independently suggesting a collaborative event. After the meeting, “the pastors all went back to our churches, to make sure there was support for the project. And in each case the response was enthusiastically positive,” Whitmarsh said.

The event is a collaboration of six Key Peninsula churches: WayPoint, Grace Evangelical Presbyterian, Longbranch Community, Lakebay Community, Key to Life and Wellspring Fellowship. Pastors estimate that as many as 500 people could attend. The congregations often promote each others’ events and a group of several KP pastors meet monthly for lunch, but multi-congregation events are rare.

The group of pastors decided that an outdoor space would be required to host such an event. Gateway and Volunteer park were considered and Gateway was ultimately chosen. The pastors met at Gateway in the spring and walked the park grounds, “dreaming and envisioning what the event will look like; that was probably the most important meeting with respect to finalizing a plan and figuring out the details that needed to be addressed,” Whitmarsh said. 

“We’re trying to keep it simple,” said pastor Tim Stobbe of WayPoint Church, who noted that all the pastors involved are trying to share the workload of planning the event and to avoid disrupting their regular pastoral work. Planning has focused on taking care of the basics. “There’s always stuff you can’t anticipate, but as long as we (the pastors) are organized, we feel like the event as a whole will stay organized,” said pastor Ed Longabaugh of Grace EPC.

The plan for the event is to bring in a small stage and some sound equipment and encourage attendees to bring their own seating. The service will consist of a few worship songs performed by a multi-church worship band, communion and a message from speaker Dennis Fuqua. Fuqua is the executive director of International Renewal Ministries and author of several prayer-focused books. 

 “I’ve spoken at several congregations on the Key Peninsula, so when they wanted to do this, they thought that I was a neutral choice, known somewhat by people in their congregations,” Fuqua said. The primary theme of the event is going to be unity among the Christian community and between believers on the peninsula.

“My text is going to be from Psalm 133; that’s the psalm that says, ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity,’” Fuqua said.

“We’re not running this like a crusade, although there is an aspect of doing this out in public on purpose,” Stobbe said. The service and message are mostly aimed at KP residents who are already part of a church community, though anyone is welcome to attend.

The service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. July 15 at Gateway Park. The six participating churches will close their doors on that Sunday and encourage their congregations to attend and bring their own seating.

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