There are so many area church worship teams – and other inspirational artists – interested in participating that Moll can't accommodate them all in a single summer.
For 2017 there are nine churches, two bands and one solo artist leading the worshipful music Sunday evenings in Garden Club Park.
Musicians from Grace Fellowship Church in Comstock Park kicked off this summer's season June 4.
"This is Praise in the Park and I would love to hear everyone sing," said music leader Aileen Matheson joined by her seven fellow praise team members on the stage platform.
Song lyric sheets had distributed earlier to encourage singing along. The players led cover versions of Building 429's "Where I Belong," Phil Wickham's "This Is Amazing Grace" and Rend Collective's "Amen."
The team stayed in the contemporary vein with worship tunes such as "10,000 Reasons" and "Forever." Typically the event lasts around an hour.
DOWN BY THE RIVER
The informal setting along the Rogue River fosters a relaxed atmosphere for the uplifting music. There's no preaching or sermon – not even an offering, although donations are accepted.
The park is adjacent to the popular White Pine Trail which carries a good share of bicycle and foot traffic within easy earshot of the music.
The park area has a few benches and picnic tables, but bringing your own chairs or blankets is a must. Several hundred listeners were present on opening night under a warm evening sun. But attendance swelled to nearly a thousand last summer when larger Rockford churches such as Blythefield Hills Baptist and Resurrection Life had their worship teams on the stage/platform.
BROADENING THE BASE
Praise in the Park has benefitted from support by the wider Rockford Community. The city council has approved the necessary permits each year and received positive comments from citizens. The Chamber of Commerce has included the event in its publicity packages in print ads as well as on posters.
"The Chamber supported the live nativity scene we did last December in downtown Rockford," noted Moll of a first-time program he helped organize. "They would like that to be repeated this year."
Downtown businesses have also participated by offering price deals on Sunday evenings. Nearby spots such as Custard by the Dam and Grill 111 have buy-one and get-one half-price Sunday specials, and others have discounts, too (coupons available on line at http://www.rpmoll.com/praise/coupons/coupons.htm).
"You can come early and have a picnic with friends or whatever," Moll said.
BUILDING ON A FOUNDATION
Nearly all of the participating churches are from the greater Rockford area. The Springs Church (Aug. 27) is a Free Methodist congregation in Cedar Springs.
A first-time church at Praise in the Park is The Point, a newer church plant which meets in the Rockford High School Freshman Center. Their music team will be performing Aug. 13.
"There are more and more churches and different bands that want to get involved," said Moll, who said he may tinker with the scheduling process for the 12 Sundays next year.
Meanwhile, the June 4 opener kept alive a significant streak: not a single Sunday since its 2011 inception has the event ever been rained out.
"Leave the umbrella at home or in the car," Moll smiled.
"Praise in the Park"
6 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 27 in Rockford Garden Club Park just off W. Bridge St.
(along the east side of the Rogue River by the dam in downtown Rockford)
Free admission, donations are welcome. For more information visit http://www.rpmoll.com/praise/calendar/calendar.htm
The 2017 Praise in the Park Schedule:
June 11 - River Rock Church
June 18 - Bella Vista Church
June 25 - Carpenter's Cross
July 2 - Marty Miller
July 9 - Resurrection Life Church
July 16 - Rockford Reformed Church
July 23 -Bridgeway Community Church
July 30 - Rockford Baptist Church
Aug. 6 - Perfect Shelter
Aug. 13 - The Point Church
Aug. 20 - Blythefield Hills Baptist Church
Aug. 27 - The Springs Church