By Rev. Carl D. Tribett, Pastor, Wellsburg-Franklin UM Charge, Northern District
Easter calls the church to be a “resurrection people,” those who live within the new life we find in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, we are also called to live out that resurrection in our community and in our world by being witnesses to the living Christ – the Christ who lives within each of us. The congregations of the Wellsburg and Franklin United Methodist Churches in the Northern District had the opportunity to do exactly that….and did so with faith, trust, and obedience leading to an Easter Sunday of outreach to the community of Wellsburg and the surrounding areas.
It all started with what can only be called a “God Moment.” A meeting was breaking up at the Franklin UMC when a woman from the community driving by noticed folks leaving the church. She stopped by and told the handful of people still there about something she felt God was laying on her heart. Rita Smith felt that God was telling her there needed to be an Easter dinner held in the community for those who did not have a place to go on Easter Sunday. After some investigating, she found that no other charitable organizations, churches, or even local restaurants were offering anything to the community, as so many places had done at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As it was, she drove past a local assisted living apartment complex, where she initially thought of seeking a place for such an event, and found herself on Washington Pike approaching the Franklin church. So Rita took the chance, pulled into the parking lot and approached the folks coming out of the church.
To her great joy, Rita found herself talking to John Hosler, who started Wednesday Soup Lunches at the church a few years back, along with Ad Council chair Betty Lou Harris and others. Rita pitched her idea to the group and received an immediate affirmation to her idea: provide a free Easter Sunday dinner to the folks of the community. Of course, the details would have to be worked out…and it was on TWO WEEKS until Easter. I was then approached about the idea, gave it my blessing, and we were off and running.
The decision was made to hold the dinner at the Wellsburg UMC because of its central downtown Wellsburg location. The time and menu were set, the public relations work was put into place, and the soliciting of donations began. The local media enthusiastically got on board with news articles in the papers and a spot on the local television station. Local merchants donated food and paper goods, a few local churches donated canned goods and money. Even the local tire store gave us billing on their marquee sign. The two weeks flew by, and when Easter Sunday arrived, we waited anxiously after the last worship service let out.
The kitchen crew had been at it since 8:00 in the morning. Food was set out for a 1:00 pm opening. The TV station crew showed up around 2:00 pm. And the people came in slowly…a few at first, then more groups. Elderly widowed folks, single parents with their children, young and old. One person even stated he smelled the food cooking from across the Ohio River and decided to bring his kids! When the day was over, approximately 60 persons were fed at the church, and another 55 or so take-outs were delivered to the assisted living apartments, as well as to the local police station, where personnel were working instead of being home with their families.
Were we a little anxious about the way things would go? Of course. Did we consider the event a success? Yes! Did we accomplish what we set out to do? Absolutely. And in the end, we were blessed! Guest cards were placed on the tables so our guests could rate our hospitality. The responses were shared the following Sunday in worship at the Wellsburg church. The verdict? A resounding, thumbs-up “YES” to our efforts…and the discussion of doing it again next year.
On the first day of the week, while it was still dawn, the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and new life began. On the day of Easter, a community came together, opened its collective hearts – and some church doors – and new life, new opportunities for ministry, began. A resurrection people gave witness to the Risen Christ serving others and sharing love.