Church near uptown delivers faith, fuel

Members of New Life Fellowship Center went to church Sunday seeking spiritual inspiration – and walked away with a token for discount gasoline.

Church members who pumped gas at the Pilot Travel Center on Sunday afternoon showed a receipt for their purchase, then were given $1 for each gallon they bought.

John P. Kee, pastor of the church near uptown, said the idea was sparked a few weeks ago when gas prices were at $4 per gallon. He said church leaders were especially worried about the impact the rising costs were having on congregants who live in the nearby Double Oaks Apartments, where some residents have been relocated to make way for new houses, townhouses and condominiums. Early this summer, some residents were worried about the rise in crimes in the vacant units.

But the church decided to extend the offer to all members – a tall task, since each service can draw more than 1,000 people.

Overall, the church spent about $3,000 on the gas, and drew several hundred of its members, said business manager Jeanette Taylor.

Taylor said one congregant told her she was able to put a little extra gas in her car and planned to deposit the money from the church into her bank account.

Schonna Banner, 39, lives in Lenoir and drives more than an hour to attend the church. She and other volunteers helped members move through the gas station Sunday. Before she left, she bought $14 in gas for her car, receiving $4 in return.

“It's a blessing for everyone because everyone knows that gas prices are high,” she said. “It's affecting everyone.”