Taking our Heritage to the Street

As part of our conscious effort to leave the confines of the four walls at 153 Ocean Avenue and connect with our community, we feel that a celebration of our diverse culture and heritage provides a fitting context for us not just to hand out gospel tracts and information about our church but also to put on full display and share some elements of the heritage. The John Hus Heritage Fair, a project of our Outreach Committee chaired by Garilyn Martin, puts that celebration on the streets.

For this year’s festival on Saturday, July 18, tents were set up on the sidewalk in front of the Brooklyn’s John Hus Moravian Church sanctuary, adorned with the flags and colors of countries represented in our church and with context-appropriate music rocking in the background. Baskets were opened, foil pans unveiled, secret bundles unwrapped and coolers propped open proudly displaying their contents of food and drink free to anyone who desired to partake. It was a lot of tasty, spicy, flavorful and ‘seconds-inducing’ food in a very festive and welcoming setting.

Dukuna, pig heel souse, ackee and saltfish, fried bakes, bus up shot, rice and peas, rice pilaf, callaloo, hamburgers, hot dogs, curried, stewed, fried, barbecued and baked chicken, oxtail, fried fish, baked shark, puddings, pepper pot, hard dough bread, sweet bread were just a few of the culinary delights offered. This array represented the different cultures that make up our congregation from the United States, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, Nicaragua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As part of the celebration, we also shared articles of clothing and shoes free of cost to the community.

Even though this is the tenth year, there are always those who are hesitant to partake because they think there is a catch when we say just take a plate and stand wherever you see something that you like. “How could all this food be free?” they ask. While not said, one could deduce from the facial expressions the question: “Does this mean we have to come to church?”

The response is simple; No, you do not have to come to church and it is free because that’s how we want it to be. Sure it cost those who contribute, especially at a time when so many of our members have lost their jobs but those costs are offset by the combined joy and sense of reward that comes from seeing us connecting with the community in another meaningful way.

We have never done a serious evaluation of the effectiveness of the heritage fair because all we have ever wanted to do is to share with our community. That is always achieved, with this year being no less so.

Michael Johnson is pastor of John Hus Moravian Church in Brooklyn, New York.

From the October 2015 Moravian Magazine