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Witnessing to the neighborhood: Over 200 attend Milwaukee parish’s 13th annual neighborhood block party

MILWAUKEE, WI [MW Diocese Communications] — Well over 200 people attend the 13th annual Neighborhood Block Party hosted by Saints Cyril and Methodius Church here recently.

Witnessing to the neighborhood: Over 200 attend Milwaukee parish’s 13th annual neighborhood block party“We hold the annual gathering — complete with free food, entertainment, and games — as a witness to our neighbors,” said Archpriest Thomas Mueller, the parish’s rector.  “This year’s attendance was the highest ever, and we served 250 meals.”

Sixty percent of the attendees were non-parishioners, many of whom took advantage of the church tours offered in conjunction with the party.

“This year, we were joined by a couple of youth groups from a local organization called Arts at Large, which provides arts activities in public schools,” said Father Thomas.  “We had seen their kids’ soul music group performing at a recent gallery night and invited them — the ‘Skai Aacadmy Singers’ — to entertain.  They were great.  A few of our kids also sang afterwards, which is typical.  Arts at Larges’ Junior Aztec Dancers also performed — and were very well received by parishioners and neighbors alike.”

Witnessing to the neighborhood: Over 200 attend Milwaukee parish’s 13th annual neighborhood block partyOnce again, the party also featured a moonwalk, water balloon toss, pinata, and other activities, which according to Father Thomas “attract a lot of neighbors and generates a tremendous amount of good will.”

For many years, the clergy and the faithful of the parish have ministered beyond their own walls, “shifting gears” with the neighborhood’s ongoing transition and always looking for new opportunities to reach out.  The parish recently installed new, improved playground equipment in its playground — the only one in the neighborhood — which has been a gathering place for local children, as well as parish kids, for years.  After school programs have also been held over the years, especially for neighborhood children.  And with the arrival of recent immigrants in the neighborhood, the parish began to offer English language classes at the end of July.

“We have a professional ESL teacher whom we’re paying, and all books and materials are distributed free of charge to the students,” said Father Thomas.  “On our first day, we had two of our Ethiopian parishioners and five Mexican ladies from the neighborhood in attendance, and we anticipate more at the next session.

Witnessing to the neighborhood: Over 200 attend Milwaukee parish’s 13th annual neighborhood block party“The English classes already have made a big impact with our neighbors,” Father Thomas added.  “During the first session, the students asked if they could tour the church — and for some, it was their first encounter with Orthodox Christianity.”

Father Thomas admits that he’s “always afriad that we’ll get old, stale, and complacent here, although our faithful are fully supportive of those beyond our walls.  No one ever asks why we’re doing what we’re doing or questions whether we’re ‘getting something out of it.’  We’ve been planting seeds, and those seeds continue to grow.”

While the block party only cost $800.00 — Father Thomas chuckles that he “knows how to shop and network in Milwaukee!” — and the ESL classes cost an equal amount, the cost is irrelevant when compared to the witness and good will that’s generated, and in part responsible bringing new life into an old neighborhood.

Photos of the event may be viewed here.

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