The leaders and church members at Pleasant Heights Baptist Church, Columbia, felt like one day simply wasn’t enough to honor the men and women who serve as first responders.
So, the church turned the celebration into a weekend-long event.
It started with a “whole-hog” cookout on the night of Sept. 9, and extended through the worship services at Pleasant Heights on Sunday, Sept. 11, when the First Responders were recognized, honored and prayed over.
Reaching beyond the walls
Senior pastor Maurice Hollingsworth said the church embraced the event and the excitement surrounding the weekend was felt for weeks in advance.
“The enthusiasm of the church family was contagious,” Hollingsworth said. “(For this event), we intentionally wanted to reach out beyond the walls of our church building into the surrounding community. Jesus told his followers to be ‘salt and light’ in Matthew 5 — and that was the sole aim of (this event).”
Church members from numerous age demographics participated in the event.
The list of activities prior to the weekend included:
- 23 groups in the church body prepared gift baskets for participants.
- Numerous church members wrote prayer cards with Scripture as a means of encouraging the first responders and their families.
- More than 50 individuals volunteered to make desserts for the celebration.
- Approximately 25 men volunteered to help the pastor smoke the hog.
- Roughly a dozen people came to prepare the meat after it was smoked. In addition, a large number came to set up and decorate the gym where the meal was hosted.
‘Great respect and appreciation’
Hollingsworth had overseen similar events while serving on church staffs in New Mexico and Kentucky.
He was also involved in ministry to first responders as the chaplain of the Shelbyville (Kentucky) Fire and Rescue Department and as a family chaplain at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“For a number of years, I have had a great respect and appreciation for those in the first responder community who serve so faithfully all year long,” Hollingsworth said.
The weekend-long celebration at Pleasant Heights officially started on the night of Sept. 9, when the church brought in items for the cookout — including a whole hog and 240 pounds of pork butts — to be smoked.
Throughout that evening and into the next morning, members of law enforcement dropped by to see the hog being cooked and to eat hamburgers and brats.
After 14 hours of smoking, the meat was ready, and the church hosted a BBQ lunch to thank first responders for their service to the community.
Roughly, 150 were served lunch and another 125 to-go boxes were prepared and distributed to those unable to attend.
On Sunday (Sept. 11) the church invited first responders to join in worship. Mike Frizzell of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shared a word of testimony and prayed over the first responders. One of those individuals was a firefighter who responded to the attack on the Pentagon in 2001.
Hollingsworth said the concept of having a weekend-long event was a continuation of a tradition he had been a part of while serving in Kentucky.
“There is always a level of excitement when we put the hog on the fire,” he said.