Posts Tagged ‘ York ’

The Pork ‘n More Prayer Group: A Churchspotting Special Report – Visited on 5/7/12

In early January, 2012, Churchspotting attended a film screening at Filbert Presbyterian Church.  The film was One Nation Under God, a production of the nonprofit group United In Purpose.  It was intended to rally Evangelical Christian voters for the 2012 election cycle, and former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich featured prominently.

Though the screening was held at Filbert Presbyterian, that organization served solely as a venue.  The organizers of the event were affiliated with neither Filbert nor United In Purpose.  Rather, they were an informal, multidenominational Christian prayer group started much earlier, for the purpose of praying for American social and political issues.  The group meets early each Monday morning, in a York, SC barbecue restaurant called the Pork ‘n More.

The group starts to trickle in between 6:30 and 7:00 AM, just after the Pork ‘n More opens its doors for breakfast.  Its members congregate in a private room just off the restaurant’s serving floor.  They take their seats at the room’s long dining table, with cups of coffee furnished by the house.  Nine people attended the meeting held in the early morning of May 7, which Churchspotting observed.  They were three women and six men and among their number were Glenn McCall, chairman of York County’s Republican Party; Matthew James, pastor of Trinity Bible Church, previously interviewed by Churchspotting; and David Duncan, an activist in York County’s branch of the Tea Party.

A little after 7 AM, once all the morning’s attendees arrived and exchanged greetings, the group sat down to begin their devotions.  On the morning of the 7th prayer opened with a reading of the Bible by John Hunter, the oldest member of the group, a retired schoolteacher and delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2008.  Following the reading, the assembled members of the Pork ‘n More group took their turns at spoken prayer.

John Hunter opened the prayers by asking forgiveness.  He said that though God gave great gifts to America, American Christians grew apathetic in their plenty.  He said that they neglected to steer public policy in the US, and failed to spread their beliefs and worship, to ‘witness’ as thoroughly and aggressively as they should.  He prayed that God would forgive America for this failing, and that “[He] would heal our land.”

Progressing down the table, David Duncan prayed next.  He asked for forgiveness, as “We’ve not only ignored you, Lord, we’ve taken advantage of your children.”  He said that God was love, and that he and his companions should seek to emulate that, and to show compassion to their enemies even though he’d often prefer to “tell them to shut it.”

Duncan bemoaned that God was removed from prominence in public spaces, and that America has “codified sin in so many places.”  He mentioned abortion, which he described as “killing children by the millions.”  He claimed that Americans’ inalienable rights are found in the Bible, and that these have been legislated upon and changed at will, citing marriage as an example, as “we didn’t invent marriage, you did.”  He asked forgiveness for America making things God found offensive legal.  He prayed that if America would “clean up our act, Lord, and turn back to you,” God would “heal our land,” echoing Mr. Hunter’s words earlier.  “Our land is sick, and needs a cure only You can provide.”

In ‘healing our land,’ Duncan prayed that God would start with the prayer group, and that his churches would “start abiding by Your word, and not selectively.”  He prayed for “boldness” in the clergy, that they would follow the Bible literally, and that “the churches would wake up.”  He prayed for guidance for politicians “who are following their human instincts, not Your will, don’t care about Your will.”  He prayed in particular for the soul of President Obama, that he would “recognize You,” and follow God.

Next came Fred Duncan, brother to David.  He opened by praying for the staff of the Pork ‘n More and for John Lee, a member of the group unable to attend that day due to potentially terminal illness.  He asked forgiveness for “all those in this country who believe that the Bible and the Constitution were written by a bunch of old men,” and lamented that people want to reinterpret the Bible or the Constitution.  He claimed that such revisionists feel they “are superior, that [they] have infinitely wise judgement, that [they] can see things as they want to,” and said that this was not the case.

He asked forgiveness for ‘we’ letting this country “run off-track,” by allowing God to slip from a central place in society.  Though he prayed that America’s course would be corrected immediately, he said that God was in control, and that such correction would only occur according to His plan.  As the meeting was held just after the French presidential elections, he prayed for the French people “who just made a terrible mistake.”  He hoped that “their sojourn into additional socialism” would be a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, and that they would correct their course “before it’s too late.”

Matthew James, pastor of Trinity Bible Church, spoke next.  As the only religious leader in attendance that day, the group took special interest in his prayers.  Often his speech was accompanied by grunts and murmurs of assent from his neighbors.  He said the prayer group originally came together because “we see a great need on the landscape of our beloved land.”  He asked for mercy, and that God would “restore the broken foundations that have been systematically dismantled and departed from.”

He said that “over about the last century the church has grown soft and complacent while the Christian majority seemed to be the backbone of our culture, and now that that culture is eroded in its Christian influence the church is being revealed for what it was.”  He said that American Christians have been lax in their service to their God, and he asked for the strength to do better.

James called the United States an attempt to create a nation “founded on principles of righteousness,” though he acknowledged that that experiment involved the enslavement of human beings and other “mistakes.”  He said that “not all ideas are created equal, not all approaches are equally valid,” and prayed that God would return America to the correct one.

James also prayed that North Carolina Amendment 1, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman in that state, would pass.  He said that he did not wish anything ill on those that disagree with him politically, but said that “many of them are the victims of some evil lies that have been perpetrated against them by the father of lies.”  By the end of that day, Amendment 1 did indeed pass.

He prayed for the security of the president, his cabinet and the country at large from the plots of “madmen,” and that God would “bring the light” to “all of those who are attempting a violent overthrow of the status quo,” especially “the Occupy Wall Street movement and all its spawn.”  He said that the secret of America’s greatness is “the truth of our history,” and that his political opponents feel the secret lies in “getting away from America’s history,” to which he could not disagree more strongly.  He prayed for unity in the United States, but said that we must be united “around the truth.”

When James finished his place was taken by Evelyn Johnsee, formerly involved in pharmaceutical sales, now retired.  She prayed that God would restore the offices of president, congress and the supreme court, “that we would be a light to the world.”  She prayed for the state of Israel, saying that its establishment was God’s will, that “it has a right to the land.”

Ms. Johnsee prayed for what she called “the situation in the Middle East,” saying that it “has to do with prophecy.”  She hoped that Israeli Jews would recognize their God, and that secular Israelis would “have their eyes opened.”  She prayed that there would be a “movement of revival” across America as it enters the election year, and that the election would put men and women in power who would “fulfill Your word,” and “bring back honor to this country.”

As Johnsee closed her prayer, her place was taken by Susan Chiasson.  There was a quaver of tremendous emotion in Ms. Chaisson’s voice.  She prayed that the church “would wake up, and remember that there’s power in Your word, and in prayer,” and that and said that power “indwells” in those who believe.  She asked for mercy in “these times of darkness all around us,” and asked that God would raise a movement towards repentance in America.

After Ms. Chaisson’s relatively brief speech Glenn McCall, chairman of York County’s Republican Party, took his turn.  Mr. McCall rocked back and forth gently as he spoke, eyes shut.  Like Fred Duncan, he prayed for John Lee, an absent member of the group.  He too prayed for a revival, and asked that God start with him, and asked for strength for the next week.  Mr. McCall’s speech was brief, and chiefly concerned with calling for strength, good conduct and good fortune for the group and their families.

When he finished Jeff Harris spoke up, a middle-aged man in jeans and a t-shirt, dark hair gone gray.  He immediately asked for mercy on America, which he claimed is straying far from its foundations.  He said that the group “did come against the high and lofty principalities that have raised their heads up arrogantly against You, Father.”  He prayed to break the “power of the enemy” over America, and break the “mist of apathy” over the land.

Mr. Harris asked that everyone capable of it be drawn to God, and asked that they be called to start a “movement of restoration” in America.  He asked that God protect those few in Washington, D.C. not yet corrupted by “the power of the enemy.”

As Mr. Harris closed his brief prayer, John Hunter spoke up again with a closing benediction.  He prayed for four members of the group absent that week, and for the US Supreme Court.  He voiced strong praise for Justices Roberts, Thomas and Alito, while disparaging Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, and asked that God would guide them as they judged the Healthcare Bill case.

With this final prayer the group ended their devotions.  The time was approximately 8 am.  Only one member of the group, Ruth Schilt, chose not to take a turn at praying aloud.  With their spiritual work finished they ordered breakfast from a Pork ‘n More waitress and set to their morning meal.

Divine Saviour Catholic Church, Part II – Visited on 12/9

Last Sunday Churchspotting visited Divine Saviour Catholic Church of York, SC (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-5q).  Today we sit down with Father Adilso Coelho, the presiding priest at Divine Saviour, to learn a bit about him and his church.

Father Adilso is a genial man in early middle age, of middling height and build.  A native of the state of Santa Katarina in southern Brazil, he entered a seminary administered by the Franciscan order at age eleven and studied there for the next twelve years.  At age twenty-three, troubled by doubts of his course and vocation, he left the seminary and moved to the United States.

After a few years in American Fr. Adilso returned to his religious education; in his words, he “realized that God was really calling him to the priesthood.”  After reviewing the United States’ Catholic religious orders, he decided to join the Oratory of St. Phillip Neri in Rock Hill, SC, 1998, where he resides to this day.

After a year as a novitiate in the Oratory and two more years of theological study at Notre Dame University, New Orleans, Fr. Adilso was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church in 2001.  His first post was as an assistant priest at St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill, where he became pastor after a year and a half.  For the next nine years he was the priest of St. Anne’s, until he was transferred to Divine Saviour in 2010.

According to Father Adilso there are approximately ten thousand Catholics in York County, SC.  Though Catholicism is a minority denomination in the area, the last several months of Churchspotting show that the Protestant majority is divided into any number of smaller groups and associations.  In terms of united religious associations, the Catholics of York County constitute a powerful minority.  Fr. Adilso’s church associates with its Protestant neighbors during each year’s Holy Week, and Adilso himself is a member of a multidenominational ministerial association that meets each month.

In terms of charitable works, Divine Saviour provides needy parishioners with approximately $600 in relief each month, distributed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and also offers an open food pantry that parishioners can avail themselves of in extremity.

On the subject of Church and State, Fr. Adilso echoed sentiments Churchspotting has heard from other religious leaders of York County, who believe that the State is acting to curb and ostracize Christian practice.  Uniquely, however, Fr. Adilso tied this effort more to large corporations than to the government.  He complained of Wal-Mart and other large retailers removing religious elements from their holiday products.  He believes that the heads of such corporations are not Christians themselves, and are acting to change the way Christians think about themselves and their religion.

Divine Saviour Catholic Church, Part I – Visited on 12/4

By the time the traveler comes within sight of Divine Saviour Catholic Church of York, SC, he’s stopped expecting it.  The long cruise down Highway 321 into the outskirts of York passes several churches—white walled one-story affairs, Baptist and Methodist churches with seating within for a few dozen, their modest spires perched atop structures that could easily convert into auto part stores or hardware suppliers.

By the time the seeker turns down Herndon towards Divine Saviour, those buildings are well past.  The journey has taken her into residential blocks, brick and wood family homes garlanded with trees.  There’s a creeping suspicion that she’s taken a wrong turn, that the church is already somewhere behind.  And then, in the midst of respectable suburban housing, there it is: a broad, two-story structure of red brick, the arch of its roof topped with a modest black cross, surrounded by a lean horseshoe of parking with a broader lot across the street.

Without that cross and the church’s sign by the road, it could be a neighborhood library or a small civic building, but the white plaster statue of Jesus out front soon dispels such notions.  The plaster is weathered with age, the fingers of one hand snapped off some time ago, but the robed figure still beckons in parishioners as they make their way to Mass.

Inside, Divine Saviour is all red brick—walls, ceiling, floors, everything is warm earth tones and yellow light.  From the outside the church is unimposing—which makes the size and grandeur of its sanctuary all the more impressive.  With seating for over a hundred, the principal space of Divine Saviour is two stories of empty air, the rafters of its arched roof bare and dark above, hung with cylindrical electric lamps on long, black cords that dangle from on high.

The walls are adorned with remarkable artwork: all the ‘Stations of the Cross,’ the ritual progression of Jesus’s march towards crucifixion, with the figures of each scene done in abstract, wrought iron sculpture upon backgrounds of bare wood.  The far wall, behind the silk-hung altar and the speaker’s pulpit, is dominated by a high arched alcove within which hangs the church’s crucifix.  In like style to the portraits at either hand the wrought iron figure of Christ crucified projects from the alcove, lit from beneath, moored by iron spars extended from the wall behind.  Viewed face on the crucifix seems to hang in midair, stark and mournful, as befits the representation of a man in the midst of one of Imperial Rome’s more inventively torturous execution sentences.

Two columns of pews fill the sanctuary’s floor space, and on the morning of the 4th of December, the second Sunday of Advent—the month-long Christian celebration of the birth of their savior—at least a hundred and fifty parishioners filled their bare wooden seats.  There are few affordances for comfort on those rigid benches—like the slave-carved pews of Allison Creek Baptist Church, they are meant to keep the worshipper focused on matters spiritual, not temporal pleasures.

The parishioners themselves arrived in a mixture of casual and formal dress, a distinction that seemed due more to personal preference than any defined tradition.  There was no separate ‘Children’s Church’ as one finds in some Protestant worship services—the congregation’s children stayed with their parents throughout Mass, and more than once the cries of the little ones made their presence felt.

Music in that morning’s Mass came from a proficient, well-drilled choir fronted by a trio of singer-guitarists and backed by a strident keyboard.  Their performances filled the spaces between each article of the Catholic Mass, prescribed by centuries (if not a millennia and more) of tradition and followed by Catholic churches the world over that morning.

That morning’s sermon was delivered by the church’s deacon, not the priest.  In recognition of Advent he drew upon the early verses of the Book of Mark, advising the listening parishioners that, like John the Baptist who baptized early believers in the wilderness, it was their role to speak out in their society and prepare the way for the second coming of their savior, as they believe John did for his first appearance.

This is the first of two articles on Divine Saviour Catholic Church.  Come back later this week and we’ll sit down with Divine Saviour’s resident priest, Father Adilso Coehlo.