Saturday Night Fellowship Celebrates 50 Years of Downtown Community
By Timothy Ramsey
The Saturday Night Fellowship has been a fixture in the community for half a century. The event celebrated its 50th birthday on February 4 at First Baptist Church on 5th street, one of the churches that started the ministry, along with Augsburg Lutheran, Centenary United Methodist, First Presbyterian and the Friends Meeting.
The churches initially partnered together because they saw a need for the downtown churches to work together to form the Downtown Church Center. Churches reached out to their downtown neighbors and worked across congregational boundaries to create community.
In the early years, downtown residents gathered every Saturday night for a time of fellowship, food and Bible study. Over time, it became clear that it was the older adults who were most in need of this social time, so Saturday Night Fellowship became a ministry specifically focused on the older population.
Downtown Church Center evolved onto Winston-Salem Churches in Ministry and then in 2003, Churches in Ministry closed its doors. Calvary Moravian advocated for the continuation of the fellowship and soon thereafter the Shepherd’s Center was asked to take over the coordination of transportation and scheduling. Support has expanded to include churches beyond the boundaries of downtown and guests come from the wider community as well.
Seniors are picked up from ten different locations from around the city. Each month the participants are treated to a meal, entertainment, and the opportunity to congregate with friends.
Linda Lewis of the Shepherd’s Center said for her it makes it all worthwhile to see all of the smiling faces each month.
“Just to know we are carrying on something that has been around this community for 50 years is certainly a wonderful feeling,” Lewis continued. “It’s building community and creating relationships and that’s what the original intention was, and that’s what continues. It’s something that I really look forward to. I thought committing myself on a Saturday night would get tiring, but it doesn’t. This is something that’s so meaningful, it’s worth every minute of it.”
The fellowship is held at a different church each month and for the anniversary First Baptist Senior Pastor Emily Hull McGee she says she was so proud that her church was part of such a storied tradition.
“For me, it hits home because that’s part of why church exists in general,” Hull McGee said. “I loved the mission of what this organization does and what this gathering is intended to do and for me it seemed natural for us to be a part of it. It’s an honor really to be a part of this.”
Some of the elderly have been coming to the fellowship for well over a decade. Jacqueline Self has been coming for 15 years and says she just loves to fellowship with others and to meet new people each month. She said she was attracted to the Saturday Night Fellowship because it was a way to get out of the house.
Ozella Alston commented, “I enjoy fellowshipping with others and the programs. It means a lot to meet new friends so we can talk and sing and praise God together.”
Janet Gray said, “A lot of time we dress up for this because it’s the only place we go. We meet new friends and don’t have to cook!”
For more information about the Saturday Night Fellowship, contact Linda Lewis at The Shepherd’s Center at 336-748-0217.
Timothy Ramsey is a reporter for the Winston-Salem Chronicle. This story is reprinted by permission.
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