On December 16, Centre First United Methodist Church opened its doors to people in need through “The Christmas Miracle Workshop.” In four hours of ministry, more than 200 volunteers served more than 700 people in need. The opportunity to serve in a big way came about through an anonymous donation the church received on November 13.
Rev. John Mullaney, Centre First UMC’s pastor, said, “We received a letter and a check from a person who doesn’t attend Centre First. The letter simply said, this gift is to help families and children this Christmas and to get more people involved in the life of the church.” The gift was for $25,000.
The following Sunday, more than one hundred youth and adults gathered in the Sanctuary to pray and to share ideas of how the church might best utilize this gift. The ideas that generated the most energy revolved around giving away electric heaters, helping children in foster care, and holding a big event where the church could reach out and serve those in need.
Committee chairs were selected, equipped and given budgets. From there, the church went to work. In a whirlwind five weeks, toys, clothing, non-perishable food items and more were purchased for an event that the church called “The Christmas Miracle Workshop.” Volunteers mailed letters to more than 150 families in need in Cherokee County inviting them to come to the event. Servants began planning a large scale meal unlike anything they had prepared before in the church kitchen.
John Mullaney said, “The church dreamed a big, God-sized dream, and our congregation went into action becoming the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.”
On December 16, the church had no idea how many volunteers would show up or how many families would come to receive what they were giving away. At 3 o’clock that afternoon, more than 200 people showed up to serve.
“In a church that averages 300 in worship, it was amazing to see that two-thirds of our worshippers came to serve in the middle of December,” said John Mullaney.
Around the time the volunteers arrived, people began lining up outside the church. The line stretched to the end of the block and then all the way to end of the church’s driveway. In all, more than 700 people were served that night.
Each person who entered was greeted by a church member, identified as a "shepherd", who walked with them throughout the evening. The night began with a warm meal served by youth and adult volunteers. Through the church’s media ministry, families were able to get pictures made with Santa Claus as well as family portraits.
Bill Scroggin, who is in charge of media at Centre First UMC said, “For so many families, this was the first family portrait they had ever had made.”
Shepherds then lead families to the church gym, where children could play on inflatables, play games, and get balloon animals made. Centre First’s Youth opened their youth room to teens and tweens to play ping pong, air hockey, and Wii. While the children played, parents and grandparents were taken to Sunday School classrooms filled with blankets and clothing vouchers, sacks of non-perishable food items, parents got to pick out presents for their children. Each family also got to fill out a form for delivery of a space heater later in the season. As families left they were invited to come and worship at Centre First on Sunday mornings and especially on Christmas Eve.
Church member Amber Morris said, “To say I am in awe doesn't even describe it. I am humbled, honored, blessed, and emotionally overwhelmed. God showed up and showed out in a big way at Centre FUMC tonight.”
John Mullaney said, “Centre First’s vision statement is ‘We grow our faith to give it away.’ I don’t think any of us could have imagined we’d get to give so much away this Christmas. We were blessed to be a blessing. Our prayer is that this is just the beginning—several people are already making plans for next year!”