Rev. Mark Fieger has seen a lot in his 25 years as pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Toms River but he didn’t expect to see more than 600 people show up on the church grounds for what was billed as the 10,000 Easter Egg Hunt on the last Saturday in March.
It was a first-time event for the church which made a lot of first-time contact with families who said after the event they were interested in attending St. Andrew.
“It was just unbelievable,” Fieger said of the turnout. “I’m figuring that maybe we would get 200 or 300 people, but it ended up being 600 plus. Oh, me of little faith. It was just a really neat thing. A lot of people said they were interested in coming here to worship. It was just so positive.
“We are seeing new people come into the church now. It makes a difference when you are meeting people with kindness.”
Fieger said what also made a difference for the event was working with the local Silverton Volunteer Fire Company and its women’s auxiliary, which helped advertise the hunt.
“Since we partnered with them, the flyers were able to go out to the elementary schools,” Fieger said. “The fire company was ecstatic with the whole event. They were saying it was incredible how many people showed up.”
Fieger said they actually ended up using about 13,000 plastic eggs, but the event wasn’t simply about letting the children collect eggs then go home.
“We had the fire company bring the Easter bunny. Our United Methodists men’s groups served free breakfast. There was face painting and arts and crafts. Our choir director even had a spontaneous concert with kids using tambourines and drumsticks,” Fieger said. “Everybody in the church was involved. We had our youth group and our men’s and women’s groups doing things. It was incredibly organized.”
Part of the organization was to collect all of those plastic eggs afterwards. That included giving away free bags of popcorn to the children who returned their eggs.
“The back field that we held this on is just behind the parsonage,” Fieger said. “I walked back there the next day and there was not one egg left.”
What was left, Fieger believes, are the feelings of goodwill that the church showed to the community.
“It was a wholesome family activity, especially for the little children,” he said. “What they walked away with here is a Christian community, along with the fire company, that didn’t charge a penny. It was great and it was free.”
Fieger said he was told there would have been even more in attendance, but the hunt happened to coincide with the Little League opening day parade in Toms River.
“This event was just great,” he said, “This was just pure grace.”