Peace, Love and Pumpkins

Date Posted: 10/14/2021



By Lindsay Peyton 
 
The pumpkins are coming. That was the announcement Pastor Jeremy Wester posted on Facebook in late September. The excitement is brewing for the pumpkin patch, a fixture on FUMC Rosenberg’s campus, which is one of many destinations for fall fun at churches across the Texas Annual Conference. In addition to serving as fundraisers, the pumpkin patches offer opportunities for fellowship, outreach and service.
 
FUMC Rosenberg welcomes fall – and families – to its pumpkin patch
At FUMC Rosenberg, preparations for the patch began on Sept. 25. About 50 volunteers transformed palettes into a pathway and began hanging decorations. Then, on Oct. 2, a full truck of pumpkins arrived, ready to be unloaded and placed on the land adjoining the church. “We’ve got it down to a science,” the Rev. Wester said.
 
Proceeds from pumpkin sales will benefit the church’s children’s ministry. “But it’s free to show up and walk around,” Wester said.
 
He encourages families to celebrate the fall season by wandering through the pumpkins and taking time to pose for photos. Volunteers have created several photo opps around the patch.
 
Wester’s first pumpkin patch at the helm of FUMC Rosenberg was last year, during COVID. “We were wondering what we should or should not do,” he recalled.
 
A pumpkin patch, however, seemed like one of the safest ways to continue to reach out to the community during the pandemic. The church decided to go ahead with its tradition – and neighbors rejoiced when it opened last year. “It went really well,” Wester said. “Everyone loved it.”
 
In 2020, 75 volunteers responded to the call to unload pumpkins. Some were church members, and others were not. Seeing neighbors serve side-by-side was heartwarming, Wester recalled.
 
“That’s one of the blessings of the patch,” he said. “It’s not just selling pumpkins. We find a lot of little ways to connect and serve together.”
 
There’s community spirit and fellowship that happens in the patch. It’s also an opportunity to step onto church campus with zero barriers. “It helps us break the ice in really meaningful ways,” Wester said. “You get a simple victory of people showing up on our property. Our pumpkin patch makes it possible.”
 
And that’s a first step of getting individuals to connect at church. “If you can do that, there’s a lot of hope,” Wester said.


Meeting families on the lawn at Cypress UMC
The pumpkins arrived on Sept. 30 at Cypress UMC, and director of student ministry Chris McCollum said crews were ready. “It’s a church-wide project, with everyone from our youth to senior adults helping out on the yard,” she said. “We also sell pumpkin bread, and people are baking.”
 
Neighbors look forward to the patch each year, McCollum explained. The tradition has been running for at least two decades. “We have parents who come with their kids who tell us how they used to come when they were in preschool,” she said. “We’ve been doing this a very long time.”
 
In fact, many area residents know Cypress UMC as “the pumpkin church.”
 
“People might not know our name, but they know who we are,” McCollum said. “People call us their church home, even if they haven’t worshipped with us before. We’ve made relationships in the patch.”
 
After all, that’s really what the pumpkin patch is all about, she explained. Proceeds fund outreach activities, mission trips and summer camp at Lakewood. “But it’s not about selling pumpkins,” she said. “It’s about relationships, creating a space where families can spend quality time together.”
 
Last year, COVID closed the patch. McCollum said that often 500 to 600 families would come out, and that was simply too many for safety protocol. “We tried and tried to make it happen,” she added. “I pushed until the last minute.”
 
Instead, church members purchased a few pumpkins, set up the iconic photo backdrops and placed tables out on the lawn. “We encouraged families to come out, take pictures and have picnics,” McCollum said.
 
This year, the pumpkin patch is back. “People are just ecstatic,” McCollum said. “They can’t wait.”
 
She considers the patch a huge outreach event for the church. “People don’t have to come indoors,” she said. “We can be the church that meets them on the lawn. That’s our mission – to let everyone know that we’re here – and that they’re welcome.”

Peace, love and pumpkins at Wesley UMC
Each year, the pumpkin patch at Wesley UMC in Beaumont features a new theme. This year, it’s
“Peace, Love and Pumpkins” – complete with a VW Bug.
 
There are tons of backdrops for photos, lots of pumpkins to choose from and wagons for kids to ride through the field. “Kids love that,” Jonathan Martin, youth director, said. “Their parents pull them all around the patch.”
 
He explained that the church has hosted a patch since 1995. Last year, by adding sanitation stations and plastic shields for volunteers, the congregation kept the tradition going.
 
Pumpkins usually arrive the first weekend of October. “We unload the pumpkins together, which is a community event in itself,” Martin said. “We usually get more than 100 people to help.”
 
Volunteers are both members of the church and neighbors. There are students from the school who also jump in.
 
The patch is closed during the day to the public, but open for day schools. Church members take children on tours and read them fall storybooks.
 
Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit student ministry. When the patch closes on Halloween, the youth group often has a costume party and takes a photo in the patch.
 
At the end of the event, an appreciation dinner is also held for volunteers in gratitude for all they accomplished.
 
“The pumpkin patch opens up an opportunity for fellowship,” Martin said. “I’ve been able to pray with people or just sit there and listen. It’s a place where ministry happens, even if it’s not at the forefront.”