by Julie Hahn
The Upside Down Circus was born in 2010—an opportunity for families living in the northern suburbs of Adelaide to discover that Jesus turns our upside-down world the right way up.
It grew out of a group of church leaders meeting regularly for lunch and prayer, led by the Rev Lindsay Mayes of Elizabeth Church of Christ. They felt that there was a need for somewhere for families to go that would cost very little (if anything), where the safety of children was a priority and, most importantly, where they could hear of Jesus’ love for them.
In 2011, a handful of members of The Ark, Salisbury Lutheran Church, attended the first afternoon of Upside Down Circus 2, representing Mainly Music and Toolbox Parenting groups. We arrived early to set up our tents and were astonished to see hundreds of people queuing patiently outside the gates almost an hour before the event began.
The Upside Down Circus was held on the reserve where big circuses set up for the holidays. But this circus was different. It was free. It was child-safe: all adults needed to be accompanied by a child (though unattended children were welcome), and it was put on by about 20 local churches.
At the end of our first day we telephoned other members of The Ark asking for help for the next afternoon. Child-safe clearances made their registration as volunteers so easy! When we returned to church that weekend, we were all eager to tell of the good news: how thousands of children and their families had come to hear about Jesus. And how we believed our congregation could make a great contribution by joining with other churches in our area. It was an opportunity too good to miss.
So, at the debriefing meeting for Upside Down Circus 2 our team representing Salisbury Lutheran Church apologised for being a bit slow in joining, but affirmed that we were keen to be involved for UDC3.
The 2011 budget of about $15,000 barely covered costs. The organising team and volunteers were exhausted. But stories reached local churches in the next few weeks of teachers at government schools being asked about ‘this Jesus guy who we heard about at the circus’.
We jumped in whole-heartedly for 2012. What a privilege! More than 50 of us joined as volunteers. Some went to the circus and helped out on craft stalls, by making balloon animals, face-painting, handing out ‘toolkits’ for parents, clowning, supervising …