OAKLAND — Since establishing itself in Oakland in 2013, the Kingdom Life Church has been working on building a relationship with the town. So for the second year in a row, the church held one of its biggest annual events, the Candleight Christmas Service, at the town’s Waterfront Park on Sunday.

Area residents gathered at the gazebo to make holiday-themed crafts, ride on a horse-drawn sleigh, sip hot chocolate around a fire and sing carols together and listen to pastor Jamie Dickson deliver a “mini-sermon.”

Amanda Arroyo, head administrator of Kingdom Life Church, said that she hoped hosting the event in a public space would help draw in people who otherwise might not attend a Christmas service.

“We’ve tried to do services inside, but they never ended up (full), so we decided to take it outside and into the town of Oakland,” Arroyo said.

The strategy seems to be working. Last year, Arroyo said the first-ever outdoor Christmas event the church hosted had upwards of 75 people attend, spanning “many generations.”

Sunday was the first time Fairfield resident Katie Lancaster and her children came to the event. A friend of Lancaster’s, who is a member of the Kingdom Life Church encouraged her to celebrate at Waterfront Park.

“We came to sing Christmas carols and ride on the wagon, and we’re really excited about the event for the church and for the community,” Lancaster said.

Her five-year-old son Jackson said he was looking forward to singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in particular. He added that he hopes next year, there will be “different things.”

Arroyo assured that the church will continue to grow the event.

“Every year, we’re probably gonna add a couple things to create new activities and create a neutral place to come create tradition for (the community),” she said.

This year, the horse-drawn sleigh and crafting station were new components. Children and adults made paper snowflakes and pipe-cleaner candy canes. Selah Tea Cafe, in Waterville, donated coffee and hot chocolate. After Dickson’s Christmas sermon, people formed a circle in the gazebo and lit candles, one by one.

“It alludes to the idea that we all have a light inside of us,” said Arroyo.

The event is not intended to be overtly religious, according to Arroyo.

“Today, religion is very outside of government, which is fine and awesome,” she said. “That we can come together as people and not with labels — that’s our goal. To be people loving people.”

Twenty-two year old Samantha Ocock, who belongs to the church congregation, enjoyed a warm drink with friends by the fire. She said that she thinks the event had a positive impact on the Oakland area.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I think it encourages the community to come together and to just have fun, celebrate Christmas and have a good time.” Ocock lives in Fairfield.

Arroyo noted that she hopes that Kingdom Life can continue to strengthen its relationship with close-knit Oakland-area residents. This summer, the congregation participated in Oakland Cleanup Day. Kingdom Life Church is also a member of the Oakland Business Committee, which is dedicated to “(helping) make Oakland be the place to live, work and play,” according to a flyer from the town office.

“We have some people in our church who … were born in Oakland, live in Oakland, know everyone in the town and have been on the town (council),” said Arroyo. “It’s kind of in our blood — the original leadership of our church has that. It’s important to us to be connected to the physical roots of where the church is, to go into the community, help and love them well without any expectations or needing anything back.”

Kingdom Life Church is located at 191 High St.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

@megrobbins


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