For most of us, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for personal blessings, then feasting to the point of misery. But for many churches in Holston, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share the love of Jesus by sharing a meal with the community. Here are outreach updates from five church groups.
Unicoi United Methodist Church
Johnson City District
Unicoi UMC once again hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the community. More than 125 people came to the church to eat or pick up carry-out dinners on Nov. 25. Church members delivered an additional 100 meals to the county jail, to elderly shut-ins, and to others in need. Volunteers remarked on the gratitude shown by people receiving the meals; some would have had nothing for Thanksgiving, otherwise.
Our administrative assistant, Norma Linville, came in on Thanksgiving morning and personally called and reminded each person who had signed up for the meal. She will do follow-up calls to our guests next week. – Rev. Todd Kingrea
Spring City United Methodist Church
Spring City UMC has a Community Thanksgiving Meal at noon each Thanksgiving Day. The Community Ministry Team works many hours to prepare the meal. Members of the church and community – some from as far away as Knoxville -- volunteer their time for this special meal. A menu highlight is the variety of pies, cakes, and other desserts made by church members.
The church offers the meal as an annual gift: an open invitation to anyone in the church and community to come and share in the fellowship and food. Many of our guests are senior adults who, if not for this meal, would spend Thanksgiving Day alone. Many Thanksgiving guests are also regular guests at Spring City UMC’s monthly community meal. This Thanksgiving we had 120 diners – about 25 more than in previous years. It was truly a blessing. – Rev. Dale Wyrick
Salem United Methodist Church
Salem UMC hosted a free community meal on Thanksgiving Day. The congregation furnished and prepared the food consisting of about 70 pounds of potatoes and seven large turkeys, not including tables laden with all traditional fare and desserts.
A first-time guest to Salem was invited by a church member working at the public library. He retired to the area from a career with American Airlines. He responded to the invitation to join in the meal. He later told us, “My Thanksgiving is complete. I have had my turkey, cranberry salad, and pumpkin pie. My mom died two years ago and I have no family in Tennessee. However, she was Methodist before marrying Dad in New Jersey, and I was raised Roman Catholic." He continued," At this point in life, I want to reconnect with my spiritual roots. I think this will be my regular place of worship."
He returned to the United Methodist Men’s breakfast the following Saturday and attended his first worship service on Sunday, after many years away from church. He’s interested in receiving information on how he can become a member.
Another family of eight received a home-delivered Thanksgiving meal – they were so grateful. The parents are unemployed and times are hard for them. Their children are interested in attending our youth activities. – Rev. Will Shewey
Auburn United Methodist Church
Three years ago, the United Methodist Men at Auburn UMC started an outreach to needy neighbors by hosting a Thanksgiving meal. They started by publicizing the meal through area agencies serving the poor. That year, after preparing a delicious meal, exactly zero persons attend.
Undeterred, the men decided to try again the following year, except this time they delivered boxed meals to a nearby neighborhood. It was a great success.
Since then, the men have led the congregation in several outreaches in the community, including coat drives, toy giveaways, and hot dog cookouts. During our last vacation bible school, we offered an adult class and provided transportation for the neighborhood residents to the church.
This year, other church groups got in on the mission. The United Methodist Women baked pies, while the youth prepared "Agape Bags" (including peanut butter, grape jelly, white bread and gospel messages) to be delivered to each household. Everyone joined in preparing the boxed meals. Men and women teamed up to deliver the meals. (We learned that people are more ready to open the door when a man and a woman are both there.)
On Nov. 20, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Auburn served 47 meals and delivered 18 Agape Bags to our neighbors. An additional 23 meals were delivered to the Women's Resource Center, a domestic violence shelter in Radford.
Since we began our neighborhood outreach, one young man professed his faith and was baptized. Six children and youth now regularly attend worship. We’ve had as many as 12 individuals join AUMC for Sunday school and worship as a result of the United Methodist Men’s outreaching love for God and neighbor. -- Rev. Katye Fox
Here at Jubilee Project we had a Thanksgiving food box giveaway last Friday, Nov. 19. A total 341 families received turkeys with the all trimmings, including desert and dinner rolls, thanks to Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee and listeners of WQCR Radio in Gray, Tenn. Jubilee added toiletry kits, cornmeal, and bottled water to the dinner boxes. Total number of people served was 994, including 396 children and 221 senior citizens.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, our youth cooking class prepared their annual Thanksgiving dinner – a full feast for about 70 family members and friends. The menu included turkey, ham, green bean casserole, sour cream mashed potatoes and chives, dressing, cranberry sauce, gravy, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, peanut butter pie, peach cobbler, and chocolate cupcakes. What a great time we had! We were stuffed. –Doris Burton