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The Origin of Worship in the Park

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Featured

On June 19, 2022 our congregation celebrated Juneteenth, co-sponsored the YWCA annual Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate, and continued to celebrate Pride Month.  That morning — a perfect June morning– First Church also began the 23rd summer of Worship in the Park.

With chairs, blankets, bikes, strollers, and at least one well-behaved dog, a congregation of 67 persons gathered in Evanston’s Lunt Park, for the first Worship in the Park service of 2022. 

The idea of an outdoor summer worship service was born of both inspiration and necessity in 1999.  Rev. Dean Francis, then serving as Senior Pastor, had heard about a United Methodist congregation in northern Michigan, that worshipped on the shore of the East Bay of Traverse City during the summer months.  Francis, who later retired to the Traverse City area, was quite taken with the idea.

But there was another reason to move worship outside.

“Fifteen years ago [in 1999] people still really dressed up for worship,” remembers Pastor Dean Francis. “Wearing a suit and tie in the sanctuary in August was not very comfortable.”  Air conditioning was not installed in Tittle Chapel until around 2005. 

 Read more about the beginning of Worship in the Park. 2013 marked the 15th anniversity of Worshp in the Park.  That year First Church ran a newsletter article (linked above) on the beginning of this outdoor service in Evanston.