Local event celebrates 50 years of serving the community
BY TIMOTHY RAMSEY
The Saturday Night Fellowship has been a fixture in the community for half a century. The event celebrated its 50th anniversary last Saturday at First Baptist Church on Fifth Street. It’s one of the churches that started the ministry, along with Augsburg Lutheran, Centenary Methodist, First Presbyterian and the Friends Meeting.
The churches initially partnered together because they saw a need for the downtown churches to work together to form the Downtown Church Center. Churches reached out to their downtown neighbors and worked across congregational boundaries to create community.
In the early years, downtown residents gathered every Saturday night for a time of fellowship, food and Bible study. Over time, it became clear that it was the older adults who were most in need of this social time, so Saturday Night Fellowship became a ministry specifically focused on the older population.
Downtown Church Center evolved onto Winston-Salem Churches in Ministry and then in 2003, Churches in Ministry closed its doors. Calvary Moravian advocated for the continuation of the fellowship and soon there-after the Shepherd’s Center was asked to take over the coordination of transportation and scheduling. Support has expanded to include churches beyond the boundaries of downtown and guests come from a wider community as well. The elderly are picked up from 10 different locations from around the city. Each week the participants are treated to a meal, entertainment and the ability to congregate with friends.
Linda Lewis of the Shepherd’s Center said for her it makes it all worth while for her to see all of the smiling faces each month.
“Just to know we are carrying on something that has been around this community for 50 years is certainly a wonderful feeling,” Lewis continued. “It’s building community and creating relationships, and that’s what the original intention was and that’s what continues.
“It’s something that I really look forward to, and I thought committing myself on a Saturday night would get tiring but it doesn’t. This is something that’s so meaningful, it’s worth every minute of it,” Lewis said.
The fellowship is held at a different church each month, and for the anniversary, First Baptist’s Senior Pastor Emily Hull McGee says she was so proud that her church was part of such a storied tradition.
“For me it hits home because that’s part of why church exists in general,” Hull McGee said. “I loved the mission of what this organization does and what this gathering is intended to do, and for me, it seemed natural for us to be a part of it. It’s an honor really to be a part of this.”
Some of the elderly have been coming to the fellowship for well over a decade. Jacqueline Self has been coming for 15 years and says she just loves to fellowship with others and the ability to meet new people each month. She said she was attracted to the Saturday Night Fellowship because it was a way to get out of the house.