Momentum Church, located in the Baymeadows area, held their annual Fall Festival this past Sunday. It was a day filled with comfort food, games, and laughter, permeated by the crisp Fall air that is answering the yearly call of the calendar. The setting was just right for the forging of friendships, the filling of tummies, and the endowing of smiles upon kids’ faces.

The day started off with special guest speaker Wendell Parr from Charis Bible College, based out in Colorado. And by the way, Momentum Church is closely associated with the Jacksonville division of Charis Bible College, they’re even held in the same room, it just gets switched around for Sunday morning service.

I just love this costume. He wears the royal uniform so well.

Wendell taught on the simplicity of a relationship with Jesus, reminding us of this – there are many things in ministry that can keep us busy, but the most important aspect to keep in mind is to just be present with His presence. He took us back to Eden, to a time before prayer committees, praise bands, and pledge drives, when God made His daily visits to talk with the gardener. The concept was simple, and the truth is that it hasn’t changed since.

The whole time he was teaching there were numerous crock-pots filled with different takes on the quintessential Fall weather food – chili. Pumpkin chili, white bean chili, chocolate-coffee-Guiness chili, the list goes on. You could smell the fusion of aromas wafting from the kitchen into the sanctuary. Pastor Danon Winter claimed that the pleasing smell was actually coming from the hearty spiritual fare that Wendell was serving to us. I think I caught a wink in his eye, but don’t tell Wendell.

It was a fun-filled atmosphere, even waiting in the line for chili.

After service, the congregation made their way out into the large grassy field that accompanies the church building. There were blankets with pillows spread out, corn hole “courts”, photo ops, and a lengthy junction of tables purposed to hold the collection of competing chilies. Each of the chilies tasted amazing, but the First-Place prize was reserved exclusively for Bob Leonard and his pumpkin rendition.

In the adjoining parking spaces there were “Trunk-or-Treat” games for the kids. Christi Peterson had turned the hatchback of her Nissan Rogue into a web-laden booth boasting bowlfuls of witchy body parts (Now try to say that 5 times real fast!). It was the usual, you know, cauliflower for brains, carrots for fingers, and slimy grapes for eyeballs. Thankfully she offered wet wipes to her booth attendees.

The highlight of the day was when they attached a clear tarp to the side of the building with face-sized holes cut out. Or more precisely, pastor-sized holes cut out. The five pastors, Danon Winter, Marcel Salmon, Mark Buitendag, Adam Gordon and Erik LeMaster, took their places behind the curtain for what we call “Pie the Pastor.”

Here, the children’s pastor Erik LeMaster tastes the disaster. Sorry,I can’t resist a good rhyme!

Pie after creamy whipped pie was tossed at the Five, some parishioners throwing like Tom Brady bulleting across a 10-yard pass, others lobbing it in the end zone from 1-yard out. The crowd lovingly pelted their pastors in the faces until whipped cream was unequivocally lodged in every orifice available. But it was all fun and games until one young woman, who shall remain nameless, was caught unawares with a pie to the face. She was a good sport though and extended forgiveness to her assailant.

A baked goods auction was next in the lineup of events. Just to back up a little bit, when I arrived at church that morning I was asked to officiate the auction. My only qualifications for this came from an event that I attended this summer, a murder mystery dinner where the guests had to act as a quirky fictional character, and mine was someone who liked to auction off his friends’ things. This one turned out well, with lots of crowd energy and enthusiasm. Intense bidding wars were the norm, and an apple pie made by Danon’s wife even sold for a whopping $200.

Enjoying dessert with the kiddos.

All in all, the days events were the perfect way to celebrate friends, food, faith and Fall. If you have the chance to go to a Fall Festival this year, try to take it, you might find a killer chili recipe that you adopt as your own. You may even win a chili cook-off like Bob did. Or maybe, just maybe, you will get a chance to pie your pastor. If so, just tell him that you will atone for your unruly behavior on Pastor’s Appreciation Day. That trick will be a treat to him indeed.