Small church, big heart

When torrential rain pummeled parts of the Southeast, the good people of East Asheville UMC did what they’ve always done: Figured out a way to help.

The church’s Administrative Council called a meeting and quickly voted to withdraw a significant amount in earnings from its Foundation-managed investment accounts to put toward local and national storm relief efforts.

Anyone familiar with this 110-member congregation wouldn’t be surprised.

Mission is core to the identity of East Asheville UMC, located in the Parkway Forest neighborhood near Tunnel Road. The church delivers meals to veterans, volunteers with elementary school children and hosts a coat drive every winter.

“When you’ve got that kind of heart, you want to share the love of Christ any way you can.”

- Rev. Phillip Hurst

“I’ve been around a lot of smaller churches over the years, and I’ve found they have a heart for the community,” said Pastor Phillip Hurst, a retired Methodist minister who serves in a part-time capacity.

“When you’ve got that kind of heart, you want to share the love of Christ any way you can.”

The remnants of Tropical Storm Fred dropped more than 10 inches of rain on Haywood County. Flooding killed six people and left the community of Cruso devastated.

WNCC Mission Engagement and the Committee on Relief are working to assess the damage. Thus far, WNCC Disaster Response has been able to deliver flood buckets, PPE and a shower trailer.

East Asheville UMC exemplifies the importance of vital, sustainable local churches. With in-person worship brought to a halt, church leaders quickly assembled equipment to host their first ever livestream service. The parking lot soon became a gathering place for outdoor worship.

Worshipers even came up with an alternative to Passing of the Peace. They call it Honking of the Horns.

“It really just thrilled people to be in the parking lot where they could see each other,” Rev. Hurst said. “You would have thought they were back inside the church, as much joy as there was.”

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