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Epworth Steeple Challenge

UM children to help Epworth children through pastor-led fundraising campaign

By Jessica Connor

COLUMBIA — This summer, United Methodist children across South Carolina are getting a unique challenge: raise $18,000 for a new steeple on the campus of Epworth Children’s Home.

The decades-old steeple “ raised in 1950 when Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church was first constructed “ is in sore disrepair.

It is in poor condition, paint peeling, just downright ugly,  said the Rev. Bob Huggins, senior pastor of St. John UMC, Sumter, who is spearheading the initiative. It s embarrassing, and it takes away from the worship center. 

Huggins visited Epworth s campus last fall for a meeting, and he remembers looking up at the steeple and feeling greatly disturbed, he said. Epworth provides child care, counseling and more for children ages 4 to 18. Started as Epworth Orphanage by the S.C. Conference in 1895, it is a place for children from broken family systems to grow, learn and be loved. Huggins felt that given all these children had been through, they deserved to worship in a church with a beautiful steeple that gives them pride in their new home and symbolizes Epworth s commitment to quality care.

These kids should be proud of their church and their steeple,  Huggins said. They ve already been through enough. 

Huggins dialogued with the Rev. John Holler Jr., Epworth president, and Andy Cox, Epworth chief financial officer, and his passion for a new steeple inspired them, too.

Every time I d look at the steeple, I d say, ˜We need to paint that thing,  Holler said.

After all, the church is at the center of the campus, and it is a highly visible symbol that Christ is at the center of all they do for the children.

We want the eye to go there, to look at the steeple and see that (Christian love),  Holler said.

Huggins spent the winter researching steeple renovation and construction firms, and the group selected Kivett s of North Carolina to do the job, which will cost $18,000.

But instead of raising the funds through traditional methods, Holler decided the project should be more meaningful. Many UMCs across the state support Epworth with volunteers and donations, which means a great deal to Epworth s children and to the church members themselves. So Holler had an idea: challenge the children across the state to help their counterparts at Epworth. All summer, UMCs hold vacation Bible school weeks, and most of them take on a special project. Holler felt working through VBSes would be a more connectional way to raise the funds.

I think the children will appreciate it,  Holler said. The thought of children helping children, and emphasizing that bridge, is so important. When we tell our children that people all over the state care about you, that emphasizes it, underscores it. 

They are setting a challenge goal of raising $1,500 per district. That amount, times 12 districts, gets them to the $18,000 they need for the steeple replacement. If the goal is surpassed any amount raised above the goal will be used for additional needs of Epworth Memorial UMC.

It s not that much money spread out among the churches. If every single church gave $20, we could do this,  Huggins said.

The church that raises the most funds for the Epworth Steeple Challenge will receive a special plaque, plus get recognition in the Advocate.

Cox said the project will be so much more than the physical. It will be a tangible way to show Epworth children the love United Methodists have for them.

It s just one of those things that shows them people “ particularly Christians “ care about each other and support each other and want Epworth to be the best environment these kids can be in,  Cox said.

All churches are being encouraged to support the Epworth Steeple Project. For more information call Andy Cox or Mitzie Schafer at 803-256-7394. Donations should be sent to Epworth Children s Home, earmarked for the Epworth Steeple Project, P.O. Box 50466, Columbia, SC 29250.

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