Church hosts Neewollah celebration

Michael Mayfield, Lenoir City First Church of the Nazarene youth pastor and Neewollah event coordinator, speaks Saturday in the church sanctuary.

For Halloween this year, Lenoir City First Church of the Nazarene opted for a new type of celebration spanning three days.

Neewollah, the inaugural Halloween event celebrated Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was used as a replacement for the church’s trunk-or-treat, the Rev. David Smith, senior pastor, said.

With the current health climate, Smith didn’t feel comfortable hosting the usual event.

“We normally do like a trunk-or-treat, and it’s just grown every year, but we did not feel like 500-600 people was very safe with COVID,” Smith said. “We just didn’t want to take that kind of risk. We decided to do a Neewollah weekend event. It’ll be church services-type thing, but it is specifically geared toward kids with social distancing just like we do our church services right now.”

Michael Mayfield, youth pastor and event coordinator, brought the idea of Neewollah from a church in Cookeville where he was a youth pastor for 8 1/2 years.

Each service was about an hour long and consisted of worship, prayer and games. Each child received a bucket of candy for each day they attended. If a child attended both Friday and Saturday, they received a special prize. If they attended all three days, they received another special prize.

Mayfield said the experience was “very lively, very high energy.”

“There’s five different colors of Halloween — orange, black, white, green and purple,” he said. “All of those have meanings associated with Halloween. I’ve got a bunch of boxes, over 100 boxes that we’ve painted those five different colors. That’s going to be the backdrop for the stage, and I’m going to tell them what the meanings mean for Halloween and what the spiritual significance of those colors are. That’s kind of the backdrop of all three days.”

Mayfield initially thought of offering Neewollah because of how low church attendance has been.

“Church attendance, not only our church, but all churches, has been very spotty,” he said. “I recently started working with the children’s ministries at the church — I had been working with the youth since January on a part-time basis — so I started working with the kids and was thinking of something to do and thought of Neewollah. Then I put the little tagline on it, ‘Turning things around for Jesus,’ you know, Halloween backwards, Neewollah, turning things around for Jesus, to try to get our people to come back to church and the kids to come back to church.”

With trunk-or-treat being such a large community outreach, the church looked for something to reach members before it took on the community because it was “just not ready for that right now,” Mayfield said.

Neewollah also showcases the future of the children’s ministries at the church and what Mayfield has in store.

“I would definitely like my initial thinking to do Neewollah again next year and invite the community because it’s an opportunity to present the gospel, and that’s the whole purpose of the church is to present the gospel,” Mayfield said. “We may do both, I don’t know. We may do the trunk-or-treat like the church has traditionally done it, and we may do this as well.”