Softball Games Gather Neighbors, Faiths Together for Summer Fun
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 7, 2022
ROCKFORD—Around 30 people of all ages, skill levels, races, and religious affiliations gathered June 29 for an evening game of softball at St. Bernadette Parish on Rockford’s northwest side.
 
Some played ball, other cheered them on and visited, with an occasional couple of kids shooting hoops off to the side and some adults doing needlework as the game progressed. 
 
The average weekly gathering at this Recreational Softball series now in its fourth year, draws 30-40 people according to Kevin Rilott, head of religious education and evangelization at St. Bernadette Parish. He laughs as he explains that more people, some 50-60, show up for the barbeque dinner on the final evening, this year on Aug. 3.
 
The cook for that barbeque is Pastor Jeremiah Griffin of Halsted Road Baptist Church.
 
“My love language is food,” Pastor Griffin says with a grin, noting how Jesus often fed his disciples. He explains that churches spanning Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-Denominational, Full Gospel and Catholic are all part of the NW Christian Communication Development Corporation (NCCDC) who work, play, worship and live in the area. Many neighborhood kids, some unchurched, have joined in the fun this year, “and we’re glad to have them,” he says.
 
St. Bernadette Church is centrally located among the NCCDC churches, and its baseball diamond is a natural gathering place. Its gym and basketball court welcomes everyone once a month in the winter months, Rilott explains. Two randomly picked team captains each week pull together teams that vary in composition week to week, helping everyone get to know others’ names. Older players mix with younger, experienced players coach the inexperienced, and, yes, a score is kept but only for fun and a bit of motivation.
 
Popcorn and water are regular offerings, and this week everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to 13-year-old Justin before ice cream sandwiches and popsicles were passed around.
 
Then it was back to the diamond for a final round or two as everyone enjoyed this laid-back, 
ecumenical, summertime fellowship evening.
 
As Pastor Griffin says with enthusiasm, “This is our neighborhood!”
 
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