LAURINBURG — For young parishioners at Jerusalem United Methodist Church, a recent vacation Bible school was truly like a day at the beach.
A portion of the church was decked out in what appeared to be beach grass, along with brightly colored umbrellas and florescent buckets for sand. There were life buoys and posters of surfboards on the wall.
The group leading the classes — GodSpeed, a youth choir — wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words: “Catch the Wave of God’s Amazing Love.”
Organizers say the fun-filled week that included Bible study along with music, drama and dance, was part of an Christian outreach sponsored by St. Mark United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The goal was to learn about God, but to also gain a better understanding of other people and places.
Ella Gibson, chairman of Christian education at Jerusalem, said her church is one of three United Methodist affiliates in Scotland County to have the Alabama youth group perform worship concerts and help lead vacation Bible schools. The group also visited St. Luke United Methodist Church and Caledonia United Methodist Church. The week-long partnership was held earlier this month.
“It was a real blessing to have them here,” Gibson said. “Our kids just loved it and don’t want to see them go home.”
Dan Carter one of the group’s leaders, said the visit to Scotland County is part of his church’s mission project. But Carter said the tour that goes all over the country also allows young choir members to “broaden their horizons.” The Saint Mark group included about 40 students ranging from seventh to 12th grade.
“One of the things I love to see is for young people to get out of their shells and do something that they aren’t used to,” said Carter, a middle school choir teacher. “They become more outgoing. They say you learn more by teaching and all the kids from all the churches learned a whole lot in this process.”
Rev. Gypsie Murdaugh, pastor at Jerusalem United Methodist, called the visit “amazing.”
“It was a great opportunity and a chance for children from our church and theirs to get out of their comfort zone,” Murdaugh said. “You could see the faces of many of the children just light up.”
Murdaugh added that it also allowed Christians from different races to worship together — something that she said does not happen enough. Jerusalem’s congregation is black and St. Mark is mostly white.
“We are all United Methodists, but we sometimes worship differently and it is nice to have to that interaction,” the pastor said. “Some of the most segregated places on earth are churches on Sunday mornings so it is important that white children and children of color were able to come together and see God in concert and be inclusive. There is too little of that in church.”
During the visit, GodSpeed also performed at Prestwick Village. A youth Praise Band is also a part of the performance with members rehearsing throughout the school year.
“To me the best part was during the bell choir’s second set, when they started to ring “Amazing Grace” and two little ladies near me at the back of the room started to sing along,” said Billy Olsen, pastor at St. Luke UMC. “The residents also loved the variety of the music; it was a worship service more than a performance.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023