Heard in Holston: Living out the faith from Norton to St. Louis

Heard in Holston: Living out the faith from Norton to St. Louis

Nov. 28, 2018 | Briefs from around the conference

How was your Thanksgiving? In my house, the big pans of leftover dressing and macaroni and cheese are finally finished, and the china is washed and put away. I’ve got visions of Advent stories dancing in my head, but I couldn’t resist looking into this Thanksgiving tale that just came out of the Appalachian District:

“I heard a wonderful ‘loaves and fishes’ story this morning at district clergy meeting,” the Rev. Nancy Hobbs wrote on her Facebook page yesterday. “While serving 500 guests on Thanksgiving, the ecumenical group of volunteers realized they were going to run out of food. So they went home and brought their own Thanksgiving dinner back to the church to share.”

Wow! I wanted to hear more about that. So I made a couple of inquiries and ended up with the Rev. Ken Taylor on the phone. Ken is pastor of Norton United Methodist Church, where the annual Norton Community Thanksgiving Dinner started 25 years ago.

Ken explained that Norton is the smallest city in Virginia, “in the heart of a poverty-stricken area.” The annual community Thanksgiving meal has grown and grown, so this year about 500 neighbors were expecting a free dinner provided by the town churches.

“It’s become a family tradition for about 50 volunteers,” Ken said. “They cook their meals early, go to the church to volunteer, and then go back home and eat their own dinners.”

Except this year, the food prepared for the community started to run out before all the meals were delivered. “We never know who’s going to come,” Ken said, explaining that the number of requested dinners swelled to about 540 this year.

So, several of the volunteers went home and toted out their own turkey and dressing. They served up their own sweet potato casseroles. They doled out their own deviled eggs and portioned out their own pumpkin pies -- all so their neighbors’ tables would be blessed and full.

Now that’s a story.


And here’s another. Surely you’ve heard about this big United Methodist meeting that’s coming up in St. Louis, Missouri, in February?

Last week, we heard from Emily Ballard and Laura McLean, who both attended the National Youth Workers Convention Nov. 15-18 in America’s Center Convention Complex. That’s the same place where General Conference will meet Feb. 23-26 to address some divisive decisions about how our church will deal with human sexuality in the future.

While attending the youth workers’ convention, Laura and Emily joined about 30 other United Methodists as they walked around the building and prayed for the upcoming General Conference. “It was incredibly powerful,” said Emily, who happens to be one of our 12 Holston Conference delegates to General Conference. (Laura is Holston Conference’s staff director of youth ministries.)

Emily was so moved by the experience, she made a short video to share with her fellow delegates. “No one here had any agenda except to love on the people that will be coming through these doors in February,” Emily said.

Amen. So, watch the video.


Wait, before you go, here are a few follow-up items:

In October, The Call did a story about a ministry, related to First United Methodist Church of Sevierville, that will be featured in a Hallmark Channel Christmas show. Rev. Jeff Lambert and Mary Patterson are expected to appear on “Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas” when it premieres Monday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. EST.

In September, “Heard in Holston” reported on the confusing leadership changes at Holston Methodist Federal Credit Union, based in Knoxville. On Nov. 20, the credit union announced that Adam Reynolds, a member of First United Methodist of Sweetwater, had been hired as CEO. His first day was Nov. 26.

This morning during a prayer vigil and tonight during Bible study, members at First United Methodist Church of Gatlinburg observed the second anniversary of the Smoky Mountain wildfires. "So many people are still trying to rebuild their homes, their businesses, their lives," said the Rev. Barbara Clark. "Lord: In your mercy, hear our prayer."



Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper. Contact her at annettespence@holston.org.


Past columns

Oct. 16: Espiritu Santo congregation needs a home

Oct. 2: Good news outweighs the bad

Sept. 10: Credit union runs toward the future


Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.