Preachers, clergymen and laymen came en masse.
But it was no ordinary lunch, where church leaders break bread and fellowship. Instead, it was a challenge to step up and address social issues in Fort Mill.
"If we weren't sitting here having lunch, our stomachs would be grumbling," Rob Brehm said during the lunch held last Tuesday at Fort Mill's Spratt Building on Main Street. "We have people down the road who didn't have breakfast."
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And that's the problem -- how best to address the absence of basic necessities for some residents. Enter Mission: Fort Mill, a collaboration of local churches that would minister to the spiritual body as well as clothe and feed the physical bodies of those in need, Brehm proposed.
"This has been the mission of the church all along," said one of the event's organizers, Derrick Bucy of Fort Mill's theGathering.
"The church has failed to do what God called them to do. We've let the government and social agencies take over. It's time for us take it back and make a difference."
Mission: Fort Mill aims to unify local churches and merge their outreach services to help those who need help the most. And last week's meeting was not just lip service.
"What would it look like for our churches to develop programs for moms to come?" keynote speaker and theGathering pastor Derwin Gray of Charlotte asked as about 23 church officials looked on. "What would it look like to develop programs for men who have just gotten out of prison? What would it be like to mobilize our churches together?"
So the group dreamed and planned how best to pool their resources. A preliminary vision embraces a collective outreach among the churches to help eliminate social ills such as homelessness or the lack of food, clothing or after school child care for elementary and middle school age children.
"That's where we're going to start," Bucy said. "Our hope is that with all of these churches working together, we can be more effective than working separately."
But to reap a harvest, organizers had to plant the seeds.
"What if three of your churches have the passion to feed people?" Brehm asked.
"Not just in [the] Paradise [neighborhood]. What about the old mill homes? What about the people who have been kicked out of their houses? They're poor today."
Recovering addicts have to drive to support meetings, sometimes in other cities, Brehm said. But what about the recovering addict who doesn't have a car or needs support more than once a week, he asked.
"What if three churches in our town had a heart for helping addicts?" Brehm asked.
"What if somebody doesn't have clothes, but they know three churches that have a passion for getting clothes?" he asked.
And what if there was after school care for people who can't afford to put their kids in after school programs?" he asked. The proposed Mission: Fort Mill would change that, Brehm said.
"What if these kids could play baseball or somebody could read to them," and "fill that need in our community," he said.
And the seeds planted by the vision found roots, commanding attention from church leaders such as the Rev. Kenneth A. Krestan of Fort Mill-based South America Mission.
"This is really good," he said. "It corresponds with what Christ called to us -- to be unified. This is a collective way that we can use resources together to serve the community."
"The church has failed to do what God called them to do. We've let the government and social agencies take over. "
Want to get involved?
Fort Mill residents who need help can call Derrick Bucy at theGathering at 1-866-562-9406.