South Charlotte

Faith focus: St. Stephen United Methodist Church members let work be their sermon

Volunteers from St. Stephen United Methodist plant flowers at Greenway Park Elementary as part of Missions Sunday.
Volunteers from St. Stephen United Methodist plant flowers at Greenway Park Elementary as part of Missions Sunday. COURTESY OF TOM HENDERSON

Mark Casper fretted for days about the last weekend’s rain.

As chairman of the St. Stephen United Methodist Church’s missions team, this was the first year Casper had overseen the church’s annual Missions Sunday, where the morning service is canceled and the congregation instead works in the community.

A number of the projects planned for April 19 were outside, including sprucing up the Greenway Park Elementary School grounds and working in Boyce Park near Sardis Road.

But the rain held off until the last mulch was shoveled, and the overcast morning kept outside temperatures comfortable.

“The temperature was just right for that,” Casper said. “You weren’t too hot or too cold. It just seemed to work out, amazingly.”

This is the fourth year St. Stephen has spent a Sunday morning out in the community, which members describe as “being the sermon.” Former senior pastor Tom Latimore, who was transferred to Jamestown United Methodist Church in Jamestown last summer, initiated the annual workday, and new pastor the Rev. Keith Bingham fully supports the annual event.

Bingham washed all the windows at Matthews Free Medical Clinic this Missions Sunday.

“I loved doing it,” Bingham said. “There was a fellowship among those who were there working together and knowing the good we were doing.”

More than 130 participated in this year’s Missions Sunday, including choir members who sang in an outreach service at a church in Shallotte. The rain did not affect volunteers’ attendance, Casper said.

Many people stayed at St. Stephen for the morning, where they made table decorations for Ronald McDonald House and a Matthews Free Medical Clinic fundraiser. They also worked on teachers’ projects from Greenway Park Elementary, including making copies and cutting out shapes for classroom activities.

Others went to Matthews Free Medical Clinic, where they cleaned and painted. At Greenway Park Elementary, volunteers planted flowers, power-washed concrete, installed bird feeders and picked up six bags of trash.

Volunteers assigned to outdoor projects that were canceled joined the Boyce Park team, which spent the morning spreading a pile of mulch around the playgrounds and natural areas.

“The people who were there said if we hadn’t had those extra people, we wouldn’t have finished the project by the time the real rain started,” Casper said.

The church plans to complete its rained-out projects soon, including painting four-square courts at Greenway Park Elementary.

Bingham said St. Stephen will continue to look for ways to live out its mission statement, “to be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ.”

“That statement is incorporated into everything we do,” Bingham said. “Missions is not one aspect of the church. Missions is what the faith is all about.”

St. Stephen meets 9 a.m. Sundays for a traditional worship service, 10:10 a.m. for Sunday school for all ages and 11:15 a.m. for a contemporary worship service.

For more information, visit The church is at 6800 Sardis Road.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at