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One day last winter, three Simpsonville ministers of different denominations sat down to have lunch together, and discovered that despite their theological differences, they enjoyed each other's company very much. They continued to get together and eventually decided they wanted to share that spirit of unity with the entire community.
They came up with the idea for their Salt and Light Festival, which is Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the soccer field behind City Hall in Simpsonville. The event will be hosted jointly by Simpsonville Baptist, Christian and United Methodist churches.
Pastors Steve Boyd, Joey Pusateri and Ric Holladay, respectively, choose three volunteers each from their churches and the preparation began for the festival, which is free and open to the public.
Pusateri said the event embodies not only a spirit of unity between the three church families, but also reaches even further.
"In the past we had done a combined worship service. The Methodist and Christian Church did that over Thanksgiving and it went really well, and in the past, the Baptist, Methodist and Christian churches had done Holy Week, and we were looking for something kind of beyond that," he said. "We wanted to do something not only for the benefit of our congregations, but for the broader community."
The very nature of the joint event will speak for itself, Pusateri said.
"It accomplishes things on different levels," he said. "One, it shows unity to the community. It shows that while there are reasonable differences between our three congregations – we come from different traditions and histories – what’s most important is enough to keep us bound together, and we are glad to be able to do that in a public way."
Church members who have volunteered to help organize the event say they are extremely enthused and can't wait until Sunday.
"Each of us are putting the talents that we have to good use," said Lisa Wright of Simpsonville Christian. "It’s great; the idea that it doesn’t matter where you worship church-wise, we’re all getting together under one faith."
Wright said she doesn't have just one particular job to do.
"I’ll be helping with everything, food, the children’s workshop, logistics," she said.
Stacy Griggs, a member of Simpsonville Baptist, said he is looking forward to the event.
"I’ll be helping with the set up and the logistics," he said. "I just think it’s a wonderful thing for people all around the community to get come together like this. I’m very excited to be a part of it. I’ll be helping to set up the big tent on Saturday."
Said Pusateri: "Phase three was we got our youth ministers and music ministers involved, and beyond that, we recruited groups of people to set up and tear down, manning craft and food stations, the Boys Scouts here are going to be helping out."
Since the event is outdoors, Pusateri said he is praying for good weather.
"It's rain or shine, so we're hoping for shine," he said with a chuckle.
There will be music, food, children's activities and preaching, he said.
He said that church members have distributed more than 400 flyers throughout the community. Also, between the three combined congregations, there are at least a couple hundred people, so he expects a good turnout.
"I would be very surprised if we don't have at least five hundred people," he said.
Pusateri said he is so jazzed about the event that he is hoping to make it a yearly occurrence.
"That's why we're calling it the first annual [event]," he said.
Why is it called the Salt and Light Festival?
"It's in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is talking to his close followers, and he's telling them, 'you are the light of the world'...and as the salt of the earth, he's saying that you are the most valuable thing in the world, because salt in the ancient world was so prized that it was used as currency," Pusateri said. "So we saw ourselves as aspiring to live that out, to be the salt and the light of this community."
He added that the event is an invitation to everyone in the community to join together in faith.
"Most importantly, this event is meant to let the people know that we are here and listening, and eager to respond to the needs of God’s children as the hands and feet of Christ. I think it shows that we are more interested in what unites us than what divides us."
WHAT: A festival to celebrate unity and community
When:Sunday, 4-7 p.m.
Where:Soccer field behind Simpsonville City Hall
More info:Free and open to public