Bethel, Old Bethel observe Lent together

An event called Lunch & Learn has become a tradition for United Methodists in Charleston during Lent. For the past three years, the Rev. Susan Leonard, pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church, and the Rev. David Washington, pastor of Old Bethel UMC, have shared a lunch hour every Wednesday during Lent with 30 parishioners.

Members of the two congregations (whose churches share common origin) also find other ways to come together during the year through worship, praying, singing, learning, listening, eating and talking together to celebrate commonalities while valuing their diversity.

In February, both churches celebrated their 227th anniversaries. During Lent, every Wednesday at noon they gathered at round tables and enjoyed bowls of homemade soup and baskets of sourdough bread prepared by church family members. The pastors discussed the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary, then encouraged conversations based on the Scriptures around each table. Sweet talk and laughter almost made up for the “no dessert during Lent” observance. The two congregations learned more about Sunday’s sermon, learned a few new recipes and learned more names and faces of those who worship most Sundays across the street.

Founded in 1797 by Bishop Francis Asbury, Bethel and Old Bethel UMCs share a common history and their Feb. 14 founding date. The first wooden church building was finished in 1808 and served Bethel until their new building was completed in 1853. The wooden structure was moved to the rear for use as an educational building until it was relocated across the street in the 1880s to become the home church of Old Bethel (the third oldest church edifice in the city of Charleston).

Both churches see the need to continue finding opportunities to cross the street, grasp hands, mesh hearts and say no to the status quo that seeks to point out differences. Bethel, the Hebrew word for House of God, stands true to its name in Charleston as both congregations seek to honor the house of the Lord with open hearts, open minds and open doors.

Their next joint endeavor is a Red Cross blood drive slated for a Sunday in late summer.

Get Periodic Updates from the Advocate We never sell or share your information. You can unsubscribe from receiving our emails at any time.