By Carrie Townsend
LANCASTER—On the first Friday of every month, Lancaster County residents make their way to the end of Heyward Hough Road, preparing their taste buds for a home-cooked meal at Hopewell United Methodist Church.
A handful arrive at five and grab a plate to go, while most get there at the beginning, fill their plate and stay until seven for an evening of food and fellowship.
People from all over the county are welcome to come, as the meal isn t just for congregation members.
Two-thirds of the attendance are community, and one-third is Hopewell congregation, said Kitty Eargle, head of the Hopewell Missions Committee, who noted one goal of the committee is to feed as many in the county as possible.
According to Eargle, Debbie Snipes began the meal a few years ago with the hopes of doing something generous for Lancaster. Snipes got the idea from nearby Lynnwood UMC.
The Hopewell meal has grown from a small group of church members and nearby residents to, today, hosting dozens monthly. It has become a well-known event, serving masses of community members, shut-ins, children from the Lancaster Children s Home, residents from the convalescent center and fellow church members. Even if someone can t drive to the church, Hopewell still helps through a delivery system. Members pack the meal in a to-go box, and church member Laura Outen, delivers each box personally to the homes of shut-ins.
The Rev. David Inman, pastor of Hopewell UMC, said not only does the monthly meal benefit people from the community, but it also strengthens the congregation as a whole.
This provides an opportunity for church members to be more actively involved, and be the hands and feet of Christ by being able to feed people, Inman said. We need to reach the needs of the community, which is the boys and girls children s home, the needs of young people and elderly people. This allows them to fellowship amongst other people.
For two hours each month, a sense of community is created among people who may live within 10 miles of each other but rarely cross paths. This gives them the opportunity to come together and make that connection. Attending the meal allows people to get out of their regular routines and come to a place where new friends can be made and previously existing ties can be strengthened.
We hope to bring sunshine to people who do not normally see it, Eargle said.
Eargle said Hopewell members will continue their efforts in meeting the needs of all people in the area. Whether that is through food or fellowship, she said, the community will be served by the UMC.
Hopewell hopes to get other UMCs in the community involved. Ideally they would like to have the meals on rotation, so churches can serve the largest amount of people while sharing the work. Zion UMC, Lancaster, has already echoed the trend by starting a soup kitchen.
All are welcome to attend Hopewell s Monthly Community Meal between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. located at 3734 Heyward Hough Rd., Lancaster, SC 29720. For more information, call Hopewell UMC at 803-286-4999.