By Denise Morgan
I would imagine that after 40 years of wandering the desert, Moses and the other exiles would have gotten pretty tired. From time to time, a little pick-me-up different from the usual manna would have been welcome.
Now imagine the day that Moses heard a voice from the burning bush telling him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Well, with a little jolt of caffeine and a few thousand years later, Moses might want to be in Pelzer, with his shoes on, visiting with other travelers at a place called Holy Grounds.
Augusta Road United Methodist Church in Pelzer has a beautiful building and lovely neighbors. What it lacked was a place nearby to sit and chat with others over coffee and snacks. Much as in the case of Moses, the inspiration of the burning bush came from someone other than Moses. At ARUMC, the inspired person is a member of the congregation who stood on “holy ground” at a local Lutheran church that was doing the same thing.
Debbie Welborn, chair of the Worship Team, and the Rev. David Smith, senior pastor, traveled from Pelzer to Mauldin to learn about the coffee shop idea from the pastor and volunteers at Messiah Lutheran. Both returned energized with coffee and ready to submit a proposal to the trustees.
With that, Holy Grounds began operations at ARUMC in January.
Simply put, Holy Grounds is a group of some 10 round tables with two or three folding chairs each. The rest is magic, members say. Volunteers accept donations of coffee and snacks, cups and other items. There is no charge for food or beverages, but each individual who attends profits in personal ways. Some attendees share devotionals or Bible stories. Some come for companionship and leave with new friends. Some were looking to get more exercise and now walk as a group before sitting down as a group.
And just as the burning bush was unexpected, ARUMC has discovered a champion square dance caller amongst the regulars who now leads a class on Monday nights for the church.
Since ARUMC also offers AARP Tax Aide service on Wednesday and Friday mornings, Welborn and her crew of volunteers are open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8 to 11. Given the signage at the street about tax assistance, there are a few folks who try to get taxes done at the same time they’re enjoying their coffee. They just make appointments to come back.
Similarly, the volunteers who work the tax program field questions from taxpayers who praise the lovely quilted tablecloths on the bistro tables in our narthex. Those were supplied courtesy of another group at ARUMC: Sew What. This group focuses on preparing quilts for seriously ill members but also used their skills to make Holy Grounds’ table coverings, which do double duty as conversation starters for our visitors.
Holy Grounds has given ARUMC neighbors and church members another opportunity to get to know each other and share creative ideas for service to God and community. Some of the coffee drinkers come back on Sunday, or to dance, or to look at Welborn’s bulletin boards to find other activities to enjoy with the congregation.
As members say, at Augusta Road UMC, no one’s just standing at Holy Grounds.