Charlie Short, 4, of Nashua, shoots a ping pong ball with a slingshot in a homemade kids arcade of biblical theme games at Calvary Chapel's neighborhood block party. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO)
With hoses spraying cool water, Santos singing cool '50s style versions of religious songs and volunteers doling out watermelon, frozen yogurt, lemonade and all sorts of other free treats, Nashua's Calvary Chapel on Bridge Street invited the neighborhood and anyone passing by to join them for a summer block party.
"We just felt we were supposed to do this," said Maria Boren, who along with her husband, Pastor Scott Boren, founded the church in Nashua back in 1996. "It's a tough world and we just want to love on people."
And if they convince a few people to join them at a Sunday service, well that's good too, but there wasn't any pressure on any of their guests to do that. Just a reminders here and there that the church door is open and everyone is always welcomed.
The Borens, who came to Nashua by way of Philadelphia, said they felt called to start their church in New Hampshire. Members originally met in the Borens' kitchen but in 1999, they set up in a mill building at 48 Bridge St., where they've been ever since.
"One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is, 'I never knew you were here,' " said Scott Boren. "So we decided to go out to the highways and byways, make some noise and let people know we are here."
The church, which has somewhere from 40 to 50 members, is tiny and both Borens acknowledge if they had more members and more support they could do more work in the community.
But they're also going full throttle with their current resources, volunteers and friends and that allows them to do a lot of reaching out to people in need.
Like other Calvary Chapels throughout the United States, the Nashua church is affiliated with Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif. Although each church is separate and independent they share a similar approach and mission.
"We teach the Bible, verse by verse, book by book," said Scott Boren. "It's not the church that helps people or changes lives, it's Jesus."
And what the Borens understand most is that life is difficult and people need support and understanding. They feel they can help people tap into some of that support from God by reading the Bible.
Booby Shifflett, who has been a member of the church for several years, said it's the open atmosphere of friendship that drew him in.
"I went to another church but I never found my place there," he said. "When I came here, I felt like I was home."
And a lot of the guests at the block party who were not church members seemed to feel very at home. Kids played in a makeshift arcade at Biblical themed games. They could blow down the walls of Jericho with a plastic horn, shoot down cans with a sling shot in David and Goliath style or fish for play fish like the apostles.
Brenda Weber, a founding church member who was making the rounds with some animal puppets, said the church focuses on the positive lessons on the Bible.
"There are some thing we don't understand but the things we do understand will keep us busy for the rest of our lives," she said. And reaching out to people with friends like Santos, a former member of the '50s band Dion and the Belmonts, who may be best known for the 1961 hit, "Run Around Sue," helps.
Despite the heat, Santos had people up dancing and clapping to his doo-wop style hymns. "We just want to share the love of Christ," said Marie Boren. "People need to know they are loved."