The fall is harvest time. The hustle and bustle around the Pumpkin Patch at Marvin energizes the entire congregation. Organized by the Marvin Men, the Patch draws the attention of motorists and shoppers to the corner of Wheeler and Belair in Martinez.
For the past eight years all ages have come together to unload pumpkins. Some are baby-sized while others are humongous.
Let me describe Marvin’s Corner Pumpkin Patch
First the process of preparing is all the traditional holidays rolled into one. It has the excitement of Christmas mornings, the bounty of Thanksgiving dinners, the awakened splendor of Easter mornings, and the ageless presence of families with all generations working together.
The patch is surrounded by fluorescent orange fencing that went up weeks before. Then the wooden pallets were added. Some have been turned into benches for seating to take pictures while others hold the pumpkins. At the center of the Patch is a cross-shaped pallet that holds pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. There are white pumpkins . . . lumpy and bumpy pumpkins . . . red turban-shaped . . . and patchwork orange and white. Some are long while others look like someone sat on them and went squish.
Last minute preparations
On Saturday the decorators—those with an eye for photographs—came and added scarecrows to the bales of straw stacked throughout the Patch. On Tuesday the mums arrived and the Patch began to come alive. This addition of autumn-colored flowers gave the first signs of life to the Patch. Wednesday the truck from New Mexico arrived with over 2000 pumpkins to be unloaded.
One minute there was a hushed silence in the Patch, and the next minute there were little red wagons, and wheelbarrows, and carts being loaded and moved out across the Patch. The sports teams from Aiken Tech dressed in their practice uniforms worked alongside Girl Scouts and dads and moms and cousins and friends. Our littlest volunteers unpacked the palm-sized pumpkins and gourds and carefully placed them in just the right spot.
Once the work was done all settled down for Wednesday Night Fellowship Meal. Homemade chili that simmered all day and desserts from many home kitchens filled our stomachs.
What’s so special about this Pumpkin Patch? It is more than a collection of pumpkins for sale. It is the love of Christ active in the hearts and souls of a church community willing to share His love with all who come for a pumpkin and to volunteer.
Bishop Robert Schnase in his Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations proposes that "Generosity enlarges the soul, realigns priorities, connects people to the body of Christ, and strengthens congregations to fulfill Christ's ministries."
In biblical times, first fruits came from the giver's sharing of livestock and harvest with the community and the temple. Today our first fruits may not include a new crop of corn or sheep. Even though our basic needs remain the same--food and shelter--our simple, basic desires have been replaced with a super-sized, extravagant version.
Instead of being more generous with our giving as we have more, we may choose to keep the best for ourselves and give what is left to God. When we do give, we give out of guilt, shame, or obligation. Add to this the expectation to receive something in return immediately, and we may give grudgingly.
Tithing, one-tenth of what we have, requires us to look at how we earn, give, save, and spend money. How we balance and relate to money is not a financial decision but a spiritual decision. Yes, how do we choose to honor God with our spiritual decisions about giving our money, time, and talent through the church community.
If we make decisions based on giving, we show a greater trust in God as the creator and source of all. We show spiritual discipline with our financial choices. Instead of that new expensive pair of shoes, we may buy a less expensive pair or avoid buying at all. Instead of sleeping in on Sunday, we come to church to be refreshed in community for the next week.
Thank you God
Giving our first fruits is a "thank you" to God for all the blessings we have already received. Instead of worshiping money we worship God. Spiritually we grow from self-centered acquiring, no-time-for-church activities, and avoiding mission projects to a willingness to give and share what God has given us with the church community. Through these spiritual decisions, we gain self-control in all parts of our life.
Together we can give more
With each of us giving to one pot of money, we are able to do more for others together. Remember, our giving is through the church, rather than to the church. In our giving we provide for ministries that help the church community reach out to those in need.
Yes, we are a community of believers (1 Peter 2:9)--one body with many different parts linked together with no one part being more important than another (1 Corinthians 12). We are linked together by our belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who came to live and die for the forgiveness of our sins. Who we are to each other is clear.
As followers of Christ, we are all called to go into the world to all people . . . to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . and to teach them to obey everything that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Our mission is clear.
Our power for this awesome task comes from the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent to dwell within us (John 14:15-21). Our love for Christ will be revealed to the world through our good works. We are to care for those who cannot take care of themselves and those who are victimized by others (Luke 4:18). Our power source is clear.
Church is a spiritual, living, breathing, growing social organism not just a building (Ephesians 4:11-16). We are God's peple . . . we are a community of believers . . . we are Marvin united with other Christians throughout the world.
There’s a lot of new stuff going on in churches today, but there are some traditions that still have value.
Vacation Bible School is one such tradition that continues to make room for children in the church. Yes, we have moved from all-day to evening sessions, and our teachers at Marvin include our youth.
More than anything we are alive, thriving, and training the next generation. Our children change and grow, yet our story of God’s love for them remains the same.
With an African Safari theme, our volunteers began working weeks ahead preparing for the annual event. From Bible lessons and crafts to decorations and music the church was a-hum with life.
When the children entered Marvin’s doors their dinner was ready, games were planned, and characters were in costume. Children of all ages learned thanks to the Safari volunteers.