That’s Right. My Church Is Throwing a Family-Friendly Transit Party

Pastor Caleb Crainer in front of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church. Photo: Damien Newton
Pastor Caleb Crainer in front of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church. Photo: Damien Newton
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Tonight at five, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church (11555 National Blvd, 90064) is throwing a transit-themed “First Friday Family Fun Night” featuring games, field trips on the Big Blue Bus, safety talks from Metro and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and even a giant “Thomas the Train” set built by a former Streetsblog editor who is also writing this article.

The event is free and open to everyone. More information can be found on Facebook.

While First Friday Family Fun Night is a monthly event put on by St. Andrew’s, this is the first time that they have done one that is transit themed. In fact, to the best of my knowledge and Googling, this is the first event of its kind being sponsored by a religious organization.

St. Andrew’s Pastor Caleb Crainer agrees. “These must not be common events, decorations were nearly impossible to find,” Crainer laughed over iced-tea yesterday.

Crainer and the volunteers that program these events felt the time was right. Crainer pointed to the new configuration of Venice Boulevard and the recent birthday of the Expo Transit Line and Bike Path as signs that the neighborhood is changing and that change provides a new chance for a church to interact with the community.

“Like a lot of modern churches, St. Andrew’s sees itself as an inside out church,” Crainer explains, “…not obsessed with itself but wanting to be part of, and bring positive change to, its community. But that’s a two-way street, and in a lot of ways the community helps change St. Andrew’s.”

Programming a unique event such as this one comes with the risk of low attendance. A typical First Friday event draws somewhere between two and three dozen people. But Crainer feels that the Church has built a base of support for this program that could lead to success. First, the First Friday program has been active over two years and has built a base of attendees from both regular church goers and people from the surrounding community just looking for something to do.

Second, St. Andrew’s has built a reputation as being a place that is supportive of transportation options beyond the automobile. It provides a place for “park and bike” rides to support the local bike to school day, advocates for bike racks, hosts fundraisers for Streetsblog and even sets up its own space on Park(ing) Day.

But these events were usually the result of a collaboration between the pastor and a lone transit zealot (and his patient family); this is an official church event. Crainer hopes that a successful event will lead to other churches programming similar things. 2014’s somewhat-kitchy Solar Sunday which saw Crainer and Bishop Guy Erwin ascend on a crane to bless the Church’s solar panel, drew the attention of The Lutheran Magazine, which reaches 5 million people.

Solar power and Solar Sunday are still topics of conversation when Crainer meets with other pastors at conclaves and conferences.

But the event’s focus is still to have a fun and informative night and for the community to think about life beyond the car. Just planning tonight’s event had that impact on the pastor.

“I’m not a great transit user in Los Angeles. I have been in other cities but I find that it takes too long here,” Crainer explained. “But while I’ve been planning this party, I’ve learned to navigate the bus system and I’ve taken Expo a couple of times.”

And after tonight, hopefully more people will be taking transit even more.

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