When Batavia native Jason Norton returned from a life out west with wife Michelle, they had a goal in mind to live in a more rural environment and slower-paced country life.
After settling into their first home, the couple spotted a cow in a neighboring yard. Rural it was.
“We’re home,” Jason said.
That was in 2000. Zoom ahead to this year, and they have been pastors of Everpresent Church at 4 Batavia City Centre for five years. Although most churches suffered loss of attendance due to COVID’s shutdown, the Nortons feel blessed that their small congregation was able to withstand the parameters of social distancing and only closed for 11 weeks.
The couple — and parents to 6-year-old Camilla — are in rebounding mode. Michelle said that some statistics show that 50 percent of the people that stopped going to church during the pandemic haven’t returned. She and Jason are “very community oriented” and family-friendly. The non-denominational, Bible-based church has previously been involved in outreach and she wants to resume those efforts.
The church will be hosting an event, Fun in the Son, catering especially to children with 10 carnival-like games; facepainting; a petting zoo with bunnies, a goat, chickens and ducks; bounce houses; a basket raffle; and hotdogs, chips, pop, snow cones and waffle cakes.
It will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 16 in the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.
“It’s our way to get back out to the community,” Mrs. Norton said. “We're very family oriented. We are very kid oriented. And we just wanted to create this event to bring families back out together, because I noticed the community has a lot of things for adults, but not a whole lot for families together.”
A sheet of 25 tickets is $5, and kids can throw axes — little plastic ones that stick to the target — get a ping pong ball in a cup and other similar games. The sheet also includes a raffle ticket for each a girls and a boys bicycle. Other prizes will be given away throughout the day, such as gift cards to McDonald’s, Subway and Pizza 151.
Every child is to get at least one small prize, Michelle said, and those collected prizes can be turned in for bigger prizes.
This will be a church event that’s not so much about church, or preaching, she said. Fun in the Son is an opportunity for people to meet and get to know the Nortons and their church family, she said. Jason added that many events of the past are no longer around — St. Joe’s parade and carnival, and other town and village fundraising events — and he’d like to see activities return for families to enjoy.
Proceeds from the event will go to support “much-needed building repairs” at the church.
“Our church needs a new heating unit. And so we're doing a fundraiser,” Michelle said. “Whether we make money or we break even, it doesn't matter, because, like I said, we want to do it anyways for the community.”
The congregation has 35 to 40 members, and the Nortons would like to see it grow. They offer a Tuesday prayer service, Wednesday Bible study and Sunday service. Everpresent’s mission is “to foster an atmosphere of genuine love, where people can encourage one another and grow in their gifts and talents.”
“We love our community,” Jason said. “We just really want our community to know we’re here, and there will be a blessing.”
For more information, go to Everpresent Church.
Submitted photo of Pastors Jason and Michelle Norton and their daughter Camilla.