by Marc and Julie Anderson
SABETHA — Bold.
That was how Shannon Stapleton, a resident of Sabetha, described Sacred Heart Parish’s invitation to the community and surrounding region to come and join parishioners for an evening of fun and relaxation.
As a member of First United Methodist Church in Sabetha, it’s not often he participates in events hosted by the Catholic church. Still, on Sept. 16, he — along with more than 125 others from the parish, nearby parishes and the community at large — found himself sitting in a lawn chair on the west side of the church, listening to dueling pianos from Kansas City-based Howl at the Moon as they took requests from the audience.
Requests ranged from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” While enjoying the music, those in attendance had the opportunity to purchase refreshments served by Christian Motorcyclists Association Chapter 858. Known as Shepherd of the Road, the chapter is based out of Hiawatha. For Troy Lay, chapter vice president, the event provided a perfect opportunity for Christians to come together.
“It came to us,” Lay said of the event.
“We felt it a blessing to be asked,” Lay said later. It was easy to say yes.
Founded in 1975, the Christian Motorcyclists Association is a nondenominational nonprofit organization whose members love God even more than the motorcycles they ride.
“As Christians, we are walking alongside each other,” Lay said. At a time when marriage and family values are under attack, it’s important that Christians work together to preserve the God-given sanctity of the family as well as values of hard work and discipline.
The event, according to Annie Deters, director of faith formation for Sacred Heart Parish, grew out of the parish’s wish to invite others to “come and see” what the church has to offer the community.
But it was also an outgrowth of Sacred Heart’s “Quo Vadis” celebration in the spring, which brought parishioners together to celebrate the “year of graces” the parish had just completed. That year had been one of discerning its mission and hosting retreats, Bible studies, etc., all aimed at helping parishioners grow in holiness as individuals, couples and families.
Held in the parish hall, the “Quo Vadis” celebration simply couldn’t accommodate the entire parish. So for the community-wide event they were planning, organizers searched for a place where they could not only bring the entire parish together, but also the community at large. In February, the Sabetha Chamber of Commerce had hosted a similar event in which hundreds of people participated, so according to Deters, the thought was: “What if we had [the event] back here? What if we could make the church the center of community life?”
Organizers got right to work, and through the past several months, personally invited people from other churches, distributed fliers around the community, advertised on Facebook and put notices in the community’s newspaper, The Sabetha Herald.
According to Greta Heiman, one of the organizers, the “opportunity to bring people onto our campus” provided those within the parish and those within the community at large to simply enjoy an evening together.
“We want everyone to know they are welcome here,” Heiman said.
It seems as if the event accomplished its mission in the minds of at least two people.
Like Stapleton, Martin Mishler is Methodist. Sitting in a lawn chair up front near the dueling pianos, he sat back in his chair, scanned the crowds and pronounced the evening a success in fulfilling its goal — that of bringing people together — as he saw scores of people from the parish and the community at large talking, laughing and singing along (with a few dancing) to the music.
Yet, it was perhaps Stapleton who offered the best take on the evening.
“I wish every church would be bold enough to invite the community to an activity like this,” he said.