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Alliance of churches welcomes others

The development of the Alliance of Cumberland Churches (ACC) has provided an opportunity for churches across Cumberland County to come together in order to achieve bigger goals and help more people. As the year comes to a close, the alliance is extending an invitation for more local churches to join and become a part of something bigger.

The Herald sat down with ACC representative and Senior Pastor at Fitzgerald Memorial Baptist Church the Rev. Barry Vassar to learn about the alliance’s beginnings.

According to Vassar, ACC was formed Dec. 2018 after Vassar and a few other pastors from local churches began meeting earlier in the year to discuss events and make plans together.

“Myself and two of the other local pastors were meeting throughout the year of 2018 and just said, ‘You know, we could open this up. We could make this bigger. Instead of just the three of our churches working together, let’s invite all the pastors to show up.’ And so, we just formed it.” said Vassar.

“We got together. We started having lunch. We started having meetings, just hanging out, and we recognized that … this is a concentrated area with churches in Cumberland County. There’s over 100 churches in Cumberland County, and some things look counterproductive,” explained Vassar. He noted that often, several churches within one mile of each other hold the same holiday event or festivities at the same time, when often the residents could be celebrating together in unity.

He continued, “If you were just driving through here as a stranger on a Saturday and you see that Church A has a brunswick stew at 12 p.m. Two miles down the road Church B has one at 1 p.m. Three miles down the road Church C has one at 2 p.m. If you were driving down there, you’d say, ‘Do these people not have it together?’ There’s three churches within five miles of each other doing the exact same thing. Is this McDonalds and Wendy’s and Burger King all fighting, or are you all together?’”

“And so, we started looking at these things and saying, ‘You know, this is setting it up so that it looks like there’s competition, and there’s not competition in the churches. So why do we have 20 people showing up here Christmas Eve and 10 over here and 50 over here?’” he commented. “If you put all the churches together, guess what? Now you have a bigger choir from three churches. You’ve got three different speakers. You’ve got a larger crowd. So, we just started looking at things like, ‘How can we unite churches to a certain degree in Cumberland County?’”

Thus, ACC was formed.

Vassar highlighted that ACC is open to all denominations of Christian churches, and that pastors/representatives of ACC churches usually meet once a month. Members of the group use the meetings to make announcements, plan events and ensure that overlapping does not occur.

“The biggest part of it is that whatever your church is doing, my church is also going to announce it, put it in our bulletin and advertise for your church,” cited Vassar. “And we’re going to tell our folks, ‘Hey, Church A is having this on Tuesday. Spread the word.’ Likewise, you’re going to do the same for mine. So, it’s really about the churches promoting each other. So, instead of having churches that are saying, ‘Ours is better,’ or ‘We’ve got this and you don’t,’ we’re saying, ‘Hey, this one has this and this is a good thing. You need to go check it out.’ So, that’s kind of what we’re doing.”

Vassar noted that ACC currently has six “core churches,” although many more churches are involved in the alliance. So far, ACC members have come together in order to perform a community Easter service, Thanksgiving service, Christmas Eve service, a Fall Festival and Coast Drive and a Community Trunk-or-Treat. Last year the alliance worked together to hold one large vacation bible school. Additionally, many of the alliance’s churches send volunteers to the Cumberland County Elementary School in order to help take over some teachers’ lunch duties.

“The ACC is slowly moving forward on a quest to include all churches in Cumberland County for the purpose of fellowship, joint service to our community, cultural exchange and a deep desire to bring Christ to our community outside our churches,” said ACC member and Senior Pastor of Shiloh New Covenant Church Kyle Corbin. “We have no desire to proselytize from each other, but rather introduce people in our community to a God accessible through His Son Jesus Christ. A God who loves and is full of grace and forgiveness. This journey should be fun and fulfilling for all ages! We have a pastor’s breakfast on the last Tuesday of each month at 9:00 a.m. to fellowship, to meet and enjoy each others company, to build relationships, to discuss what is happening in our churches and individual lives, to rejoice over what God is doing and to pray for struggles, personal or church related.”

As 2019 comes to a close, Vassar explained, ACC is eager to reach out to other local churches and send an invitation to become part of the alliance.

“As we say, ACC is open to all Christian churches that would like to be a part of becoming something more than an individual church,” said Vassar.

Those interested in attending the pastor’s breakfast can contact Corbin at (804) 314-9497 to be placed on the notification list for where the next meeting will be held.