Three Pennsylvania Congregations Team Up to Restore Peace to a Crime-Ridden Park
Fairmount Park in the borough of Red Lion, Pa., was a center for drugs, prostitution and violence, and a constant source of frustration for authorities. Through the involvement of three local churches, the park has been resurrected.
Five years ago, members of DOVE Community Cell Church discussed ways to “get out of their homes” and into the community. They talked about the park and created a plan. Soon after, on a Tuesday evening, they arrived with water, snacks and games. Playing bocce, badminton and Frisbee over the coming weeks, they distributed refreshments and invited the handful of people around to join them. Others walked around the park in prayer.
The following year members of Bethany United Methodist Church came, bringing a popcorn machine for Monday nights. One year later, Pleasant View Church of the Brethren arrived on Wednesdays. During warm weather months, all three churches still come every week.
The churches working together allowed additional nights to be covered, creating more relational connection points and more of a “Presence in the Park,” as the program has been named. But Wayne Inscore, pastor of DOVE Community, says it came with an added benefit—people could sense unity between the denominations.
“The community could see we’re not letting our theologies divide us,” he says. “We want to see Red Lion changed.”
After years of prayer, free games and food, the park is transformed.
“Other than the Fairmount Park sign, you wouldn’t recognize it,” Inscore says.
In early years, church members witnessed drug deals and even broke up a fist fight. The few neighborhood families around kept their kids “super-glued to their legs,” Inscore says.
Today the park is often filled with 100-150 people who let their children run and play. Local crime has plummeted, and the borough recently installed a $200,000 splash park and pavilion with future plans for an amphitheater and new basketball courts.
According to Kelly Henshaw, the president of the borough council and sexton at Bethany, local police have praised the change in the park, which should be attributed only to God.
“We came to the park without T-shirts or signs and just invited people to join us,” Henshaw says. “If man tried to do this, it would never work.”
DOVE COMMUNITY CELL CHURCH Red Lion, Pa.
Senior Pastor: Wayne Inscore
Affiliation: DOVE Christian Fellowship International