DREXEL — A Drexel church is taking the next steps in its plan to connect with the people in its neighborhood.
Christ United Methodist Church in Drexel will hold a community festival from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in its parking lot. The festival is part of the church’s larger strategy to support its community by bringing people together.
“The church used to be the hub of the community,” said the Rev. Cindy Wechter, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church. “In recent years, though, churches have gotten away from that, so our goal is to try to make better use our campus for the good of the community.”
To accomplish this goal, Wechter led the church to become an official Imaginehub site last year. Imaginehub is a faith-based organization dedicated to helping churches move from “community engagement to community ownership.” According to its website, the organization does this by assessing churches and helping them repurpose facilities and training leaders to maximize a church’s impact on the community.
As part of their Imaginehub training, church leaders learned how to transform the church into a community space where people can gather together around shared interests. Wechter hopes this festival will be the next step toward building lasting connections between Christ United Methodist and the community of Drexel.
“We feel like people want to be together, and certain interests are a great connection,” she said. “So, we’re opening up the doors of our campus to provide places for people to gather for free, take classes, have groups, do events and other things like that.”
This weekend’s community festival will feature several interest stations, including quilting, beekeeping, jewelry making, facing painting and sewing. It will also feature free vision and blood pressure screenings provided by the Valdese Lions Club, as well as a community yard sale. Wechter said anyone in the community is invited to come to the festival and set up a yard sale table at no cost. She only asks that participants notify the church ahead of time so they can make sure to have enough spaces available.
“This festival is all about connecting with the community without any ulterior motives,” she said. “The motive here is not to raise money or get people to church on Sunday morning. The motive is to build relationships with the community and figure out how we can be a friend to people.”
The interest stations were chosen based on the results of a community survey the church conducted to gather data about the needs and interests of their neighbors.
“We put out a survey to find out what people’s interests are,” Wechter said. “These interest stations at the festival are based on the feedback of what people are looking for.”
She said one of the day’s highlights will be the animal welfare booth that Burke County Animal Services will staff.
“When we did the survey, we found that a lot of our neighbors are animal lovers,” Wechter said. “We want to provide opportunities for our neighbors to connect around their pets.”
Imaginehub member David Coffin will provide people with updates on BCAS.
“Since Aug. 5, 2019, animal welfare has undergone drastic changes in Burke County,” Coffin said. “The chances of going to Animal Control and going out alive before that were almost zero, but now they’re considered a no-kill shelter, with about a 90% survival rate.”
He also plans to use this opportunity to promote pet adoption and fostering to as many people as possible. Additionally, Dr. Jennifer McGrady of the Animal Hospital of East Burke will provide pet owners with health information.
In addition to interest stations, the community festival will feature live music and lunch catered by The Picnic Basket in Valdese. The event will culminate with a Blessing of the Animals service available to anyone in attendance, as well as drawings for gift cards and other door prizes.
Wechter hopes that, in addition to becoming an annual event, the community festival will be the first step toward building a lasting connection between the church and its neighborhood.
“Jesus was all about us loving our neighbors,” she said. “It wasn’t about the church building. Our church has come a long way in learning that we can’t just work to support our building and believing that what we have should be shared.”
The inaugural community festival and yard sale will take place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 12 at Christ United Methodist Church at 2314 Starnes St. in Drexel. In case of rain, the festival will be postponed until Saturday, June 19. To reserve a yard sale table, call the church at 828-433-1100. There is no charge for tables.