The Underground Skatepark: 'Redefining church walls'

Amanda J Cain
York Dispatch

Two things that can commonly be misunderstood: skateboarding — which could honestly constitute fun to most people — and church.

Aaron Wilson, of New Cumberland, sits in front of a graffiti wall at the Underground Skatepark Thursday, March, 23, 2017,  in Dillsburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

Putting them together makes perfect sense to members of the Underground Skatepark in Dillsburg

The Underground Skatepark is a ministry and a skatepark located at Celebration Community Church, 1048 S. Mountain Road, at least for now. The skatepark ministry will move out of the church on April 30.

While the ministry is unsure where the next home will be, the organizers are positive that "God will provide," says board member Aaron Wilson. And since it is also a mobile ministry, it can easily set up shop pretty much at any skatepark — for example, the group has held gatherings at Reid Menzer Memorial Skatepark at York City's Veterans Memorial Park.

Until April 30, the operating times are from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays and from  3 to 5 p.m. Sunday. That's mostly out of necessity and need for volunteers. Open to both girls and boys of any ages, it costs $4 to come and skate without a membership, and with a $10 annual membership it's $2. Underground Skatepark also gets support from members who actively raise funds for the ministry.

On any of the three days, the skate park can see anywhere from 12 to 40 skaters walk through the doors, and for the most part they're regulars who travel from areas such as Harrisburg and Lancaster.

Aaron Wilson, of New Cumberland, gives a message from Matthew 10, during bible study Thursday, March, 23, 2017, at the Underground Skatepark in Dillsburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

On Tuesday and Thursdays, skaters take a break at 7:15 p.m. for a Bible study session, which usually lasts about 30 minutes. Before and after is meant for fellowship and skateboarding. Sundays are just skateboarding and fellowship. The venue encompasses 5,000 square feet, with handmade mini ramps and small half-pipes. 

Wilson, of New Cumberland, has seen it all. While he wasn't around from the beginning in 2003, he was introduced to the ministry in 2010.

Originally a Catholic, Wilson was born again at the Underground Skatepark. He says he knew a lot of religion and knew God, but that "God didn't know him." 

Then the original president, Dave Brouse, invited him, as a skate shop owner in Mechanicsburg, to partner up with the ministry.

"And it was through that he noticed he wasn't seeing God the way he should have been, and it was a beautiful loving understanding that just came about through time," Wilson said. 

Going forward, Wilson said he would like to see the skatepark move to a more centralized location in the Harrisburg area so that it could be more accessible to people in the East Shore, West Shore, York and the Carlisle areas.

Aaron Wilson, left, of New Cumberland, talks with Dave Fenstermacher, of Dairy Township, after giving the message during bible study Thursday, March, 23, 2017, at the Underground Skatepark in Dillsburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

His vision for the Underground Skatepark is that it would come under the covering of a church. After all, its motto is "Redefining the church walls."

"We need a shepherd; we need a spiritual leader. The building just needs to be acceptable for a skatepark," Wilson said.

As for the future, he said, "I wish I had an answer to what to expect for the future. That would be really awesome.

"We have projections of what we would like to see. The Underground Skatepark is one of the greatest things I've  had the opportunity to participate in," Wilson said. "I have a passion for skateboarding, the Lord put that on my heart and he changed me here and he put the calling on my life to speak his word, to be bold enough to stand up and share with people."  

For more information about the ministry, contact undergroundsk8prk@gmail.com or Derek Shatto at 717-432-8148.