In a world where everything costs something, a church in southeast London is giving a break to local families. For the last 16 years New Generation Church, partnering with seven other churches, has hosted a 16 day event called “Lark in the Park”. Mel Newsum on the planning team says, “It’s quite expensive to go places, this event provides something for families to do, [completely] free.” Free activities, free meals on Saturdays, and free admission: Lark in the Park is “giving a gift from the church,” says Paul Weston, event coordinator.

This event has something for the whole family. From preschool to over-sixties, there are volunteers at Lark in the Park ready to serve. The 16 days is divided into three weekends and two weeks. Everyday there are many things going on. There are creative spaces for mums and late teens, and various clubs for kids of all ages. “We have a real policy of wanting to include children,” says Paul Weston. Lark in the Park is also really keen on investing in the youth. Dan Dark, who heads up the youth department, shares about the changes he’s seen in the youth through Lark in the Park. “Last week we had a lady in sharing her story, normally after about 10 minutes the youth are getting antsy and begin chatting, but this time they were really engaged. Some girls who were causing a bit of trouble earlier in the week went up and talked to her after. They were crying and sharing their stories. Everyday since then they’ve come in and talked with this lady and she has been able to invest in them. The change is amazing.”

On Sunday nights, Lark in the Park hosts ‘Church for the Community’ in a marquee. People, who are not churchgoers, get a chance to experience what Church can be like. “A lot of people have been hurt or scared by the Church, or they think they can’t enter a church,” says Sarah Zaugg, a YWAM volunteer from Sweden. “If you bring the Church to them, they can be themselves.”

Dan Dark adds, “The Church is so much bigger and wider than you think.” This certainly becomes apparent when you see Church happening in a non-traditional way, with people who may not normally be involved. New Generation Church is demonstrating that the Church is more than a building. When asked what he thought of Church being outside, 10 year-old Zach Weston said, “It’s more fun because you get muddier.”

Lark in the Park brings members of the community together, to serve the wider community. The event is hosted by eight churches and local charities. Everyone is a volunteer, and anyone can help out. Charlie Weston observes, “It’s really different, I can actually help.”

This year Lark in the Park coincides with the London Olympics. This is giving a unique chance for people to come together with a common purpose and passion for the games. On July 27th, the community gathered together to watch the opening ceremony. “It’s good to be all together,” said 12 year-old, Charlie Weston. “We have the opportunity for the Church to come together as a whole,” Dan Dark adds.

The community is not simply gathering in one location, teams are also being sent to serve in the community. These teams do anything from weeding gardens to helping redecorate houses. Through such voluntary service the Church is able “to be generous,” says Paul Weston.

“We are here, we want to help you,” Mel Newsum says. Lark in the Park is a good example that the Church is not a building, it is the community of Christians living out their values in a wider community. “Lark in the Park is a way of showing God’s love; its a real blessing to people,” said Leanne Johnson, one of the parents attending. “People look forward to it year in and out.” Lark in the Park is making Church more accessible to local people. Mel says, “It’s about being where the people are. When people need help and don’t know where to go, they don’t have to come to where we are. We’ll go.”

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