Black Mountain Presbyterian Church tackles food insecurity

(PNS) – When Margo Smith thinks of the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church’s commitment to addressing food insecurity and other community needs in western North Carolina, she recalls an engraving inside the church sanctuary.

“The words engraved on our communion table at the front of the sanctuary are ‘Has everyone been fed?’ This message is the reason I joined BMPC,” Smith said. “It’s hard to feel satisfied when we’re continually reminded that service is our mission.”

BMPC, which is located in the town of Black Mountain, about 15 miles from Asheville, North Carolina, is among more than 100 churches that have earned the distinction of being called Hunger Action Congregations of the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP).

Churches like Black Mountain that are active in six areas can become certified HACs (Go here for more information. Deadline is in September.) These areas are Hunger Relief, Development Assistance, Hunger Education, Lifestyle Integrity, Public and Corporate Policy Witnessing, and Worship.

“The Hunger Action Congregation process celebrates the faithful work of Presbyterians across the country who respond to the biblical call to help alleviate hunger and end its causes,” PHP notes on the HAC webpage. “Through stories and encouragement, we want to be mutually inspired to pursue broader, more justice-focused ministries.”

The fight against hunger has been a high priority of the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church for many years. The church, which is also a Earth Care Congregationis located in an area where the price of accommodation can be a hardship for those who have little money left after paying for accommodation.

“Even if you live in Montreat or parts of Black Mountain that are really nice neighborhoods, you can’t drive into town without realizing that there are needs everywhere,” said Smith, a member longtime Mission Committee chair who chairs the Strategic Planning Committee and is also on the meeting. “You are not isolated from the needs of the community.”

Much of the work done by BMPC is done through collaborations with various religious groups and organizations in the region, which has multiple active denominations.

The teens participate in a program to help feed families for Thanksgiving. (Photo courtesy of Black Mountain Presbyterian Church)

“It’s hard to find someone who isn’t involved in social action,” Smith said. “We have a concentration of good old Calvinist Presbyterians, and you know, service to humanity is service to God.”

One of the ways BMPC gets involved is to help support bounty and soula local organization committed to providing nutritious food and wellness education, and the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministrywhich offers crisis services, ranging from food pantry to utility assistance.

“We’ve had a close connection with both of these organizations since the organization began and throughout everything that’s happened since, including Covid,” Smith said.

Bounty and Soul, a non-profit partner of BMPC founded by Ali Casparian, shares hundreds of boxes of local food with the community at their free fresh food markets each week.

“We believe our community is at the center of all our work and so being in this movement together helps us better reach a wider range of our neighbors,” said Karla Gardner, Director of Community Engagement for Bounty and Soul. “Overall, our community can thrive and be healthy (and) connected if we all come together.”

One way to do this is to use BMPC volunteers, Gardner said. “Volunteers are an essential part of our work to continue sharing food with our community. In the past two years alone, our community has doubled during Covid. Not only are we stocking up on record amounts of food, but we also need the support of volunteers to keep things going.

The BMPC also helps support Christian ministry in the Swannanoa Valley, whether through member volunteering, collecting canned goods, participating in fundraisers, adopting families for holidays, or providing furniture. for transitional apartments, said general manager Cheryl Wilson, who also happens to be a BMPC. member and former leader.

Black Mountain is “a very, very involved congregation in ministry, for which we are very grateful,” Wilson said. The church is three or four blocks away, “so it’s very close and there are a lot of retired Presbyterian pastors – my father’s – and missionaries, and so hands, feet and hearts others are just, I think, rooted in so many people who are part of our congregation, and it just helps us instill that in our young people.

Another way BMPC is active in the community and fighting hunger is through gardening projects.

“We have a community garden where people get plots and make their own plot” and some of the proceeds go to Bounty and Soul, Smith said. In addition, “we have an ecumenical garden with the Baptist Church, which is opposite our house” which also helps to provide products to the community.

Other projects BMPC is involved with include youth making Thanksgiving baskets, and there is a preschool program that includes a garden and composting as well as farm-to-table snacks.

The church is also involved in advocacy efforts, such as the Bread for the World letter-writing campaigns and assists the Western North Carolina Presbytery in efforts such as medical debt repayment.

“Black Mountain Presbyterian is doing so many great things to fight hunger and poverty in all six areas as a Certified Hunger Action Congregation,” said PHP National Associate Andrew Kang Bartlett. “But remember, no matter the size of your congregation, every act and ministry you do to end suffering and injustice reflects Christian compassion and God’s healing power flowing through us.”

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Jerry B. Hatch