Around 200,000 people attend the Luton International Carnival, and this year Limbury Baptist Church made sure it had a very visible presence.
It hired the inflatable Baptist Union of Great Britain church, served 100 litres of free tropical punch, hosted puppet shows and craft activities, and gave away hundreds of helium balloons, leaflets and gospel tracts. There was also worship and simply a chance for carnival goers to sit down and have a chat. Altogether around 1000 people visited the church stall in Wardown Park.
‘It was an amazing day,’ said minister David Fleming. ‘We had some long conversations, there were lots of people stopping by and it’s the first event I’ve been to where we’ve run out of gospel tracts.’
David said he had been inspired by the Big Hearted message of Chris Duffett’s year as Baptist Union president in 2012-2013.
‘I know from these kind of events every stall wants your money, so I wondered if we could do something that was more generous.’
Around 40 members of Limbury took part, bolstered by another half a dozen people from Blenheim Crescent Baptist Church.
They gave away 700 glasses of free punch, running out in the afternoon, plus a hundred helium balloons, tracts and leaflets about their church. Their own teenagers organised the puppet shows, producing five throughout the day. Dozens of children took part in the craft activities.
The inflatable tent, which is in the shape of a church, was also a draw.
‘To take part in a carnival like this I think you have to be a bit brash,’ said David. ‘The inflatable church was a huge talking point.
‘If anything we were a little overwhelmed by the numbers who came, but the spirit among our people was fantastic, both on the day and in the run up to the carnival. We joined Luton in having a great time.
For a medium sized Baptist church, it was an amazing bit of outreach.’
David is determined to work alongside other churches to produce something as ‘bold and brash’ next year.
‘I’m pretty sure we were the only Christian group there,’ he said, ‘If we had known just many people were going to come, we could have done even more.
‘Already my church is saying “Let’s do it again”, so I think it will be a regular thing for us!’