In our third essay on Friday Family Meal (FFM), I’d like to share some of the creative ways we’ve used this platform to build community in Ocean Beach. FFM has become a known entity in our part of town, with friends inviting friends who in turn invite their friends, to the point where now I now meet people who’ve heard of FFM, but don’t know our family! Because it offers a built-in sphere of influence, we have used the FFM platform to organize neighborhood events which draw families closer together while reaching out to both neighbors and visitors alike.
For the last four years, we’ve taken a group to sing Christmas carols up and down Newport Avenue, OB’s main drag. Most of the bars, tasting rooms, and restaurants on this street have open windows or fronts, so the carolers can stand on the sidewalk and serenade the folks inside. This has grown every year – in 2017, we had over 60 people join us to sing! We are accompanied by guitars and mouth keyboards; harmonicas and tambourines; drums and cowbells and even a bagpipe! I’ve rewritten a few Christmas classics to be OB-themed, which goes over great with the audience. We have some favorite spots where we know they look forward to caroling every year (one of our most enthusiastic welcomes is always at Cheswick’s, a bar favored by motorcycle gangs)! This is a great event for the whole family and a wonderful way to spread joy and good will during the holiday season. It also can be done most anywhere! (In fact, we originally got the idea from Simon Mainwaring at St. Andrew’s in PB, who’d take a few folks “bar caroling” in December).
Another annual highlight has been a house concert by the artist Heatherlyn. I met Heatherlyn at The Garden Church in San Pedro, and for three years she has shared her music with us at FFM. Heatherlyn offers her music in a gift economy model, which jives perfectly with the mindset and goals of our gathering. Her concerts offer a unique opportunity to invite new friends into our midst. We always offer a free dinner, of course, before the concert!
After the 2016 election, I sensed that a space for grieving was needed in my community. We had a deeply meaningful time of sharing, contemplating, and discussion. Everyone who came said it helped them take another step towards healing.
For the last two years, my daughter has taken charge of hosting a Lunar New Year celebration. This year we had over 40 guests (half of them children) enjoying dumplings, tossing prosperity salad, playing games, and making crafts. This event brought together several new families from the Point Loma area (where the hostess goes to school) with our regular OB crowd. Bringing in the families of our kids has always been a primary way we invite new people to join FFM.
In the summers, we have a lot of fun: just this year we’ve done Harry Potter Trivia Night, a photo Scavenger Hunt, a Beach Bonfire, and two picnics at Summer Movies in the Park. Our final movie was at Ocean Beach Elementary, and we brought a huge stack of pizzas to share with the community. Not only did people appreciate being fed, but they stuck around to chat with us and find out why we were freely passing out dinner. We were able to invite many new families to FFM that evening.
I offer these examples as encouragement; they were all relatively easy events that just about anyone could put together in their own home or community. We’ve been able to host so many more Friday Family Meal events this year, thanks to the Fearless Love grant. They make our neighborhood a friendlier, safer, and more connected place; a place where people feel like they belong, and where they can experience God’s love and blessing.
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