We were blessed to be able to use our parking lot to host a block party, organized – very competently – by our local “Costanso” neighborhood watch group. Since they began to meet at St Luke, this group has grown and become one of the best in the city.
The party was held Saturday, May 5th, from 4-6pm. I’m not so good with numbers, but would estimate that there were over 100 people there at any one time, with lots of people coming and going. A number of activities and information centers were set up: Officer Sean Dinse and some friendly cadets gave tours of a “real police car” (my own 1 1/2 year old Paul appreciated it greatly) as well as bringing coloring books and a little discipline to the big bounceroo (my kids were pleased that a real police officer told them to not hang on to the netting!). Home Depot folks were here with a tile painting activity while other businesses provided cuban baked goods, ice cream, and free hot dogs. There was a raffle with prizes donated by various businesses (two tickets to “under the sea” won by my kids), and there was live music provided by one of our neighbors – who set up an elaborate array of instruments and electronica, showing his talent and versatility.
There was a dog judging contest – we have quite an assortment of canines in our community, all shapes and sizes, and when they find themselves together in a parking lot, they seem to get along pretty well. A number of St Luke members came to help out – one of our members helped organize the event. Besides providing information about ourselves and free jelly beans with Sunday School invites, St Luke folk helped by providing baskets for food pantry donations. As we have found in the concert fundraiser series we have hosted, our neighbors are very willing to pitch in. We took in quite a haul, and had to empty them inside the sanctuary several times. Some asked for a way to donate cash. Something to remember for next year …
My favorite part of the day was getting to meet people. There were lots of lovely kids and parents around. My kids recognized a couple of acquaintances from Serrania. One family lives just across the street from the church – in apartments I’d barely noticed. I got introduced to some friends of friends. One woman, a dancer, had just returned from living in Australia that week and was readjusting to California. One man shared passionately his thoughts on Spinoza, Einstein, and religious belief in a pluralistic world.
I am a relatively new resident of the San Fernando Valley, and really, to suburbia. The basic challenge, it seems to me, is that while people may live here, their jobs and their lives are all somewhere else: “downtown.” It’s not great for community. When you don’t get home until 7:30pm, you don’t have much energy to lean over the fence and chat with your neighbor while he mows the lawn. This block party helped me to see that people do want to feel connected, like an actual “neighborhood” and not just a number of “dwellings.” For that, let’s be thankful and try to be helpful! One aspect of our vision for this congregation is welcome: which doesn’t just mean seeing our neighbors as potential members but as friends, allies, people we are here to serve. This was a rewarding way to do just that.