A Story of Ministry, Community & Thanksgiving
By The Rev. Chance Perdue, Rector of Trinity Myrtle Beach
Wherever you are right now, there are hungry people nearby. In Horry County, where I live, more than 53,000 people experience food insecurity. Caring for the poor is a biblical mandate. God commands His people to feed the hungry and, as St. Augustine said, whatever God commands, He also grants. The people of Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach, and the Georgetown Deanery know this to be true in a fresh way. For the God who commands us to feed the hungry also granted us the grace to gather with brothers and sisters from around our deanery on September 30 and pack over 36,000 shelf-stable meals to be shared with local food banks and various other ministries. Folks from parishes around our deanery came to join in; Bishop Chip and Beth Edgar were in attendance – and not as casual observers. Prince George Winyah, St. Paul’s, Conway, and the Chapin Foundation of Myrtle Beach also graciously donated to help cover the cost.
Trinity Church conceived, planned, and hosted the event, which we decided to call “Feed & Feast.” We partnered with a wonderful organization called Meals of Hope, which my family and I have worked with in the past, and we were excited to share this ministry with our parish. We gathered on a Saturday afternoon to package meals in assembly lines. It was fast-paced, it was multi-generational, and it was a lot of fun! After we’d exceeded our goal of 35,000 meals, we set out chairs and shared an actual meal with one another, celebrating the goodness of both receiving and sharing the love of Jesus. The chicken bog was the best in Myrtle Beach (if you know, you know) and the shrimp for the shrimp and grits were caught, cleaned, and donated by a beloved parishioner. To share the love of Christ by fighting hunger and to receive that love around tables with one another was, as far as I’m concerned, nothing less than an icon of the Kingdom of God.
The whole event, which was capped off by our annual visitation from Bp. Chip the following morning, is the sort of thing that can easily make a rector’s head swell to proportions which make normal-sized hats problematic. Pride, as I’m sure you know, is sort of the grandaddy of sins. This means that, as the Rector of Trinity Church in Myrtle Beach, I do a good bit of repenting and have to work at staying watchful because my parishioners frequently tempt me toward prideful bragging that I’ve got the best group of folks in our diocese. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with me, because this parish has a history of God’s love flowing through His people which long precedes the incumbent. Folks who’ve spent time here will also tell some version of that same story – ask Hunter Jordan or Rob Sturdy or Paul Feuner. They’ll corroborate the facts. What that leaves me with, then, is gratitude. What can I do but give thanks to the God whose grace is poured out so abundantly in this place, through these people?
Yes, I’m writing this to encourage others in our diocese to find ways of bringing their deaneries together. Yes, I’m hoping that a ton of you will want to host meal packing events with the wonderful folks at Meals of Hope. But I’m also just terribly grateful to have the opportunity to bear witness to the very real, tangible, holy presence of Christ right here in our corner of His world. The needs of the people around us are not abstract – they are very real. So, too, the mercies of God and the healing power of his grace are not abstractions – they’re as real as your heartbeat, and just as shareable as bread and wine. How good and pleasant it is when the needs of a community intersect with the grace of God being poured out through His people. It just makes you want to bless the Lord, doesn’t it? Thanks be to God.