Picnic: Nashville Baptist Church Style

Sunday, August 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:12 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Splot. Splot. Shriek. People pelt each other with water balloons. The adults are as into it as the children, and soon the structured water games devolve into all-out bucket drenchings.

  There’s no accounting for the weather. Last year members of Nashville Baptist Church, on Route N near Easley, held the community picnic in September and everyone froze. This year they moved it to August and are dealing with extraordinary heat — so the entire picnic is hauled indoors. But either way, church members make it a fun and unusual way to express their faith and foster the church community.

  The annual potluck picnic is a time for the congregation to get to know one another better and meet new people in the community. The entire neighborhood is invited, and anyone can join in. “Expectations: To have fun!!!” is printed on The Nashville News announcement along with reminders for people to bring lawn chairs, food, neighbors, friends and outdoor games. All are in abundance.

  “We have 65 to 80 people attend Sunday service but the point of the picnic is to invite everyone, have people meet each other and get people familiar with coming to the church,” says The Rev. Verlyn Bergen.

  Verlyn became a pastor at the church two years ago after retiring from the Missouri Baptist Convention in Jefferson City. He began working as an interim pastor until the church could find a full-time pastor, but the congregation decided a part-time pastor would do, and Verlyn took the job.

Even though he’s only in his office Wednesdays and Sundays, he says the job is never part-time because there are always hospital visits and other ministering to do. But he really likes the church.

  “It’s a very relaxed group of people here — I love it,” Verlyn says. “I’ve never been anywhere like this before — it’s a relaxed service and a casual atmosphere. It’s a rural church, but unlike some rural churches we don’t have a lot of tradition we follow. Some of the members have come for generations and others are new but we’re all rural folks.”

  After greeting everyone who’s taking refuge in the air conditioning, Verlyn heads outside and bravely joins the water balloon toss. This is followed by games of tossing washers, water balloon volleyball and a fireman’s brigade. Soon entire buckets are filled with water and the adults flee the scene. As soon as the kids are thoroughly wet it’s time to head inside for homemade food, and plenty of it.

  Then it’s back outside for more water fights. The challenges become controlling the water spigot and soaking the one dry kid. He manages to stay out of reach until the buckets are packed away.

  “You’re so wet, you’re going to have to walk home,” one man says to his granddaughter. As the kids wring out their clothes and hair, parents joke about their having to chase the car home to dry off.

  As the sun sets, kids and leftovers are gathered into mini-vans. It’s the close of another successful church picnic.

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