Dozens gather at Sports Complex for picnic praise event

Walter Hammond raises his hands in praise while attending a non-denominational Christian worship event featuring live music and prayer Saturday afternoon. November 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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More than five dozen people gathered at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex Saturday for what organizers called a nondenominational, Christian worship picnic for an afternoon of praise, prayer and gospel outreach. 

The event featured live music and a message and prayer with speakers from various congregations in and around the Santa Clarita Valley with a goal to “unite with the greater body of ‘The Church’ as a whole and to present the gospel to those who do not know our Savior,” according to organizers in a statement. 

Speakers included Dr. Sam Kojoglanian with the Beacon of Hearts Ministries, Pastor Dennis Stoneman of Valencia Hills Community Church, Messianic Rabbi Gary Derechinsky and Pastor Steve Lively of Bridge Bible Fellowship. 

Saturday’s overarching theme, where attendees mostly distanced themselves on and around the large grass field while others watched from their parked vehicles, emphasized the importance of continuing to gather, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic where several places of worship faced shutdowns in California. In L.A. County, services and other activities run by places of worship can only be conducted outdoors, according to Public Health guidelines.  

“The Bible clearly says, as I read earlier … ‘You are not to forsake gathering,’” said Jay Byam, the event’s host, who referenced a scripture passage on Hebrews 10:25. “We’re supposed to gather together for strength and for fellowship and to strengthen our faith, and once again, the First Amendment says we are allowed freedom of religion and we are allowed peaceful assembly. We can be out here safely.” 

Byam said he had received hundreds of messages via social media, text and phone calls from churchgoers thanking organizers for the event and offering a place to congregate and worship. 

Among the attendees was Santa Clarita resident Karen DiPaola. 

“I just think it’s important and great to be able to come together to pray, especially with everything being canceled,” she said. 

Her friend and Chatsworth resident Danette Faller, who attends Santa Clarita Baptist Church, reiterated the importance of unity. 

“We need to be together and when you’re down and things aren’t going well, you come to church, like this,” she said pointing to the service. “We can sit at home but when you come to something like this, where there’s so much room here for people to easily be 10-feet apart and still have room, it’s like a legion of angels praising God. You will be blessed.”

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