The two ladies who were first in line arrived at 9:30 am for an event that was scheduled to begin at 11:00. By 10:30 am, everyone and everything was in place awaiting the pastor’s cue stating that it’s time to get started. The anticipation to begin the Holiday Food Drive to celebrate the historic Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church’s 172ND Anniversary was upbeat and electrifying.
The co-chair of the planning committee, Annette Oliver, who has been a member of Ebenezer since she was 10 years old, proudly said that “Ebenezer is not only the oldest African American church here in Caswell County, it’s one of the oldest Black churchs still in operation in the state of North Carolina.” When asked why the church decided to host a food drive, Reverend Teresa Jones Hardy said that, “We were going to have a big celebration…a banquet…to celebrate our 172 year anniversary. Since COVID and the restrictions on indoor gatherings came upon us, we decided to celebrate our anniversary by hosting a food drive instead. Working with our committee chairperson, Benita Graves, and her group of volunteers, this event was planned around giving away 172 blessing bags that consisted of non-perishable items and either a ham or turkey to our church family and the surrounding community.”
At 10:50 a.m., the decision was made to officially begin the event because there were close to 20 cars in the que that stretched from the parking lot entrance to the end of the street.
Like a well-choreographed ballet, participants remain in their cars and slowly drive through to each station. First stop on the tour was the receipt of the “Our Mission” card. This card outlined the church’s ongoing mission as stated in 1848 by the founding Pastor, Reverend Reuben Wilson: Serve with Love, Walk in Forgiveness and Grow in Grace. Next stop was the mailing list station that was set up with two tents with two teams of three people each gathering census data. The third stop on the food drive tour was the distribution of the blessing bags. This station had two tents and four tables that covered the bags to protect them from the weather; each staffed with plenty of volunteers handing them out to keep things moving at a steady pace…one per household. On the last stop, each household was given a choice to select either a ham or a turkey. The church deacons were responsible for safely placing these items in each vehicle.
All the while this was going on, three deacons made deliveries to church members who were not able to attend due to their sick and shut-in status. And, during the lull moments and to maintain the upbeat vibe of the event, contemporary gospel music was played on the loud speaker in the background and an impromptu pep rally was recorded on Facebook Live to remind and encourage followers to come on out, celebrate the 172nd anniversary with the church and receive a blessing bag.
Per Reverend Hardy, “Depending on how things shape up, I hope to celebrate our church anniversary like this again next year,” because toward the end of this two-hour event with a few minutes to spare, all of the bags, hams and turkeys had been successfully distributed. It was evident that all 20+ volunteers were happy to have celebrated their beloved church and its storied 172nd anniversary in the manner of its mission… with love, forgiveness and grace.